We’re not quite living in the smart homes that The Jetsons promised us, but we’re getting closer. Perhaps this is no better illustrated than when it comes to home security systems. Piles of wires and shoddy, beeping boxes are the stuff of yesteryear; these days it’s all about WiFi-connected deadbolts, remote-controlled doggy doors, and glass-break detectors that sync up to Bluetooth. The options are seemingly endless, so much so that it can feel a bit overwhelming. But never fear; we’re here to help you make sense of it all.
Our Picks for Best Home
We knew we had our work cut out for us if we were going to truly find the best home security system available in Charleston. Our research included a thorough investigation of both local and national home security companies. We conducted interviews, read reviews, and pored over consumer reports to arrive out our conclusions. Yes, it’s conclusions with an “s” because the most important thing about a home security system is that it works for you.
You might be a College of Charleston student on the cusp of graduation, unsure of where the next year will take you. Or you might be a long-time homeowner whose family has been in South Carolina for generations. Depending on where you are in your life, you’re going to want different things out of your protection plan. And just as important as your current life stage is simply who you are: what do you need to feel safe in your home? Our top picks take all of this into consideration.
So sit back and get acquainted with the expansive world of home security. We’ve got everything from DIY get-ups for the drifters to cutting-edge automation systems for those seeking the smartest of homes. Either way, we promise after you read this simple guide, you’ll be a lot closer to finding the home-security system of your dreams.
Home Security 101
At the heart of a good home security system is a central control panel. It’s where you go to access your system and input various codes to cater it to your needs. Connected to the control panel via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or hardwiring are the detection devices—these include motion sensors, surveillance cameras, and more. When any of these devices detects a threat, your control panel alerts a monitoring station—or you, who would then have to notify the police. So the first thing to decide is whether you want your triggers to be sent to a professional monitoring station or if you’d prefer the more economical alternative of receiving them yourself.
This is the major difference between a DIY system, which typically costs more initially but has no monthly payment, and a professionally monitored system. With a DIY system, your alarm goes off and you must assess the situation yourself. It’s your call to determine whether you’re really in danger and need the help of the police.
Professionally monitored systems are usually backed by emergency call centers. The monitors at the call center alert the police instantly. Then they contact you to let you know your alarm has been triggered. This setup will cost you a monthly recurring fee of $15 to $50 per month, and requires you have a cellular, landline, or broadband connection. Monitored systems add an extra layer of protection, but they also increase the volume of false alarms, something the Charleston Police have been working to curtail.
The Shopping Experience
Generally, there are two kinds of home security system: the custom built and the bundled. Both are great, wonderful, and equally deserving of love — but it helps to determine your priorities before you begin shopping so you know which type of system to focus on.
First up is the bundled package. Bundle packages are flat-rate, complete kits and most home security companies offer several varieties. You can select from the very basic (think landline monitoring and a few door sensors) to the more robust: wireless monitoring, cameras, and the works. The bundled packages are great for people who can’t wait to start securing their home and may want more flexibility understanding the pros and cons of individual devices.
The other option is the customizable package. Companies typically send an agent to evaluate the ins and outs of your home and then tailor the system to fit your needs. The cons? This typically takes a bit longer to set up and your pricing isn’t set from the get-go. The nice thing is that customizable packages are often offered on a month-to-month basis while bundled packages sometimes require a 36-month contract.
Last but not least: we want you to know that your security performance will be the same whether you go with a bundled or customized package. They both use the same devices and mechanisms of control, so we’d recommend deciding whether you want ease of installation and affordability (bundled packages) or a system that’s uniquely devised to keep your home safe (customized).
Time For Some Self-Reflection
Pardon us for getting a little existential, but who are you right now? What do you need at this point in your life? These are all critical things to consider when selecting a home security system. Take an honest appraisal of your lifestyle and temperament. Are you planning on moving within the next three years? A DIY package is probably your best bet. If you’re thinking of starting a family, consider a customized plan to ensure you have peace of mind over the safety of your new additions.
And another thing worth noting: will a bunch of high-tech gadgets detract or add to your sense of security? An elaborate system might be the thing you need to sleep sound at night, but for others, that can make the process of protecting your home another laborious chore. If you think you fall in the latter camp, we suggest going with the easy-to-install bundled security systems.
Freshome’s Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in Charleston
We scored six Charleston-based companies on criteria such as consistency of customer service, affordability, and local reputation. Our investigation pointed to two local companies that we can confidently recommend: Coastal Burglar Alarm and Charleston Security Systems.
It’s worth noting that if you’re just out for the easiest and most technologically advanced systems, you’re going to want to go for a national name like Frontpoint and Protect America. At $40 per month, our local options were also a bit pricier than the larger names. Still, we don’t want to discount the familiarity a local service can provide.
Best DIY Security Systems
Lowe’s Iris: We love Lowe’s Iris because they offer a ton of gadgets and devices a la carte, meaning you can pick and choose what you need for your home. First generation devices start at $15 with full setups costing around $200.
Piper NV: If picking and choosing your gadgets isn’t your style, Piper NV is the way to go. They offer an all-in-one tower with Z-Wave Technology, giving you everything you need to protect yourself and home. Systems start at $279.
Charleston’s Best Local Home Security Companies
Coastal Burglar Alarm
Coastal Burglar Alarm has been serving the Charleston area since 1959. Now in the hands of the third generation of the same family, the company has established a reputation of providing great customer service and great prices.
Services include burglar alarm installation and monitoring, video surveillance, home automation and fire alarms. Homeowners will also appreciate getting additional services — such as automatic-gate installation, central vacuuming and water detection and shutoff —from the same name they already trust.
For Coastal Burglar Alarm, being a small company means being nimble and offering some of the market’s leading technology, answering to customer demand for having state-of-the-art equipment to protect their homes and property. The company offers Honeywell’s Vista Plus Series bundled packages, which include features like voice keypad, wireless keys and enhanced lighting control. Remote services are also available, including video viewing, mobile-app control, real-time alerts and GPS tracking — giving you 24/7 peace of mind. The monitoring facility is located right in Charleston, which allows the company to deliver more personalized service to customers.
Coastal Burglar Alarm customers rave about the staff’s great work ethic and friendliness — and some customers have been with the company since inception. It’s not surprising that local residents voted it “the best of Charleston” in 2015. The company takes obvious pride in its work, boasting that its familiar red signs, which can be seen all round the city, stand for “security, value and unmatched service.” Not just Charleston homeowners, but also numerous local businesses have entrusted their security to Coastal.
If you like to patronize a business that gives back, you’ll also appreciate the company’s deep community roots: Coastal Burglar Alarm supports various local causes and nonprofits, including youth groups and community events.
Charleston Security Systems
Established in 2009 and locally owned, Charleston Community Systems was founded on the belief that “everyone has the right to feel safe” — and that safety should not come at a steep price. The company offers all the latest gadgets in smart home technology, along with decades of combined expertise from its team.
Basic packages include 24/7 monitoring, cellular monitoring and remote arming/disarming. There’s a great number of custom options from there, including remote access to video surveillance feed, remote control of thermostat and lighting, and complete automation control that encompasses everything from lights and locks to thermostats and cameras. GPS tracking is also available for anything from lawn equipment to boat trailers, with a two-year life for the rechargeable battery.
The state-of-the-art services even allow you to track visitors to your home and receive instant notifications — a great option for those who have a lot of foot traffic from remodeling crews, cleaners, house guests and other visitors. Parents, too, will appreciate the ability to know that their children are home safe from school.
The packages start at $40. Contract is not required, and you can get a free consultation to assess your needs.
The business began with a passion for providing great customer service and the peace of mind that homeowners and businesses deserve — and the business has rapidly grown. Described by customers as an “awesome” company, Charleston Security has established a reputation for knowledgeable, professional and timely services.
In addition to home security systems and alarm monitoring, Charleston Security also offers complete home automation, including smart lighting and whole-house entertainment systems.
Best Bundled Options
Frontpoint: Customizable, wireless, and with a 30-day risk-free trial, Frontpoint is the best all-around option for your first home security system. Its customer service is top-notch too, so you’ll never be stuck with a confusing install on your own.
Protect America: It offers five packages starting at $20 per month and also requires a 36-month contract. With DIY installation, it’s one of the most affordable options out there. Bonus: no up-front costs.
SimpliSafe: If you’re torn between DIY and professionally-monitored, SimpliSafe is the way to go. DIY packages start at $230 but you can add on professional monitoring for just $15 per month.
Local Companies That Didn’t Do It For Us
We called in to one company and they sent us straight to voicemail, while another cursed us with a never-ending ringtone. If we can’t talk to you, how can we possibly know how great (or not great) you are? We want you to be able to talk to a human should you have any questions, so the above was grounds for elimination.
- Carolina Custom Security & Sound
- QEI Security & Technology
- Premier Sound Satellite & Security
Do I have to register my alarm system?
According to Ordinance 1557, Charleston County requires all burglary alarm systems to be registered. Unfortunately, there’s not a ton of info online about how to go about doing that, so we recommend you reach out to your local police department to acquire the proper documentation. We did find the application for permit for the City of Isle of Palms online. The application fee is $25 so expect to pay around that much no matter what municipality you live in.
Preventing False Alarms
The Mount Pleasant Police Department reports answering between 10-15 false alarm calls per day. This takes away from officers being able to do their real job — stopping actual crime and protecting your community. Plus, it wastes your tax dollars.
Each county treats false alarm fines a little differently, you can find the varying ordinances at the bottom of this article. The city of Charleston starts charging $50 after your third false alarm and increases the fine to $100 after your sixth false alarm.
Fortunately, there are easy steps you can take to avoid false alarms. They basically amount to checking your batteries regularly and doing a monthly systems check to ensure all of your equipment is fully working. Most false alarms are set off by a cracked window or even the blowing of a drape — so taking the time to make sure all your doors and windows are secure before activating your system could save you the headache of a false alarm.
Check out our quick guide for other steps you can take to avoid false alarms:
Are home security systems worth it?
Yes. First of all, your peace of mind is important and doing it for that alone could be well worth it. And, with DIY systems starting at just around $200, it’s easy to make home security an investment that ends up making your life a bit easier. A home security system often earns you discounts on insurance and even small tax breaks. Plus, monitoring your lights and thermostat means you may save big on utility bills.
What’s the difference between a cellular and landline setup?
A cellular connection is generally more reliable than landline. With landlines, you run the risk of a power outage causing your home security system to go down. Sometimes you have the option of using a landline with cellular backup, which can help avoid a situation in which you have no protection in place at all.
What if I rent or plan to move soon?
We highly recommend a DIY system for anyone who isn’t fully settled in their home. They are relatively portable and you don’t have to sign a contract, meaning you can take them with you wherever you go. Most DIY kits are easy to install and uninstall too.
The Bottom Line
Sometimes just having a home security sign in your yard is enough to deter a criminal. A study from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte interviewed over 400 convicted burglars and 60 percent of them said that the presence of an alarm system dissuaded them from robbery, while 50 percent said they never target a house with a system. No one is immune to burglarization, but these stats make a strong argument for putting some sort of home security system in place.