When you think of home security systems, what do you imagine? Probably an alarm that sounds when your door is opened, a smoke detector, or maybe a video feed of your front porch. But these days, there are security options available that will not only improve your safety — they’ll make your life more efficient. The smart home of the future is at your fingertips, and with a little research and a seamless setup, it could be yours.
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Imagine getting a notification on your phone when your kids are home from school, and watching TV instead of doing homework. Or realizing on your commute that you forgot to lock the front door, and auto-locking your home from the car with the touch of a button. Maybe you’re on vacation and get a notification that a stranger is in your backyard. With the swipe of a finger you could turn on the lights in your home to scare them off, and then ping the police to follow up.
Installing a home security system can do more than protect your valuables. It can make your life easier, and give you and your family peace of mind. There are so many things to worry about these days — the safety of your home shouldn’t be one of them. In this guide, we’ll help you make sense of security, and offer up some recommendations to get you started on your search.
The Basics of Home Security Systems
Your options for home security are almost limitless. Right now you’re either thinking, “that’s awesome,” or “I’m overwhelmed.” So let’s break down the basics.
When you install a security system, your home will be set up with a variety of sensors and devices that communicate with a control panel using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or physical wires. If one of those sensors detects a threat to your security, it will set off your alarm. This could be due to smoke in the house, unauthorized entry, or a broken window.
Here’s where you’ll make your first big decision when it comes to home security. You can choose a DIY system, or opt for a professionally monitored company. DIY will generally cost more upfront, but you won’t have a monthly payment. However, when your alarm goes off, it’s in your hands. You’ll need to call the police or fire department yourself — it won’t happen automatically. And if your internet or electricity goes off, your alarm could stop working.
If you decide to go with a professionally monitored system, your alarm will immediately trigger a phone call from a monitored call center, and emergency services will be automatically dispatched. These types of services start around $15 a month, with the majority of companies charging around $40.
Shopping for a System
Most home security systems will be referred to as “bundled” or “custom.” Oftentimes you’ll see several bundled systems with options to upgrade or customize. Bundles will generally show you the price up-front, while custom-built systems will require a conversation with a security professional. Bundles usually require a longer contract, while custom systems are often month-to-month. There are tradeoffs to each type of system, so we recommend you take a look and decide what’s right for your home and your budget.
One area you don’t need to splurge is hardware. Most of the sensors and control panels available are exactly the same quality, despite any price differences. So feel free to go with the cheap stuff — the difference is mostly in branding.
Before you Start
We think some form of home security is right for everyone, but your living situation may affect what type of system you need. If you’re a renter or think you might move in the near future, a DIY security system could be a good choice. It’s generally more portable, and you won’t have to worry about a contract tying you down. If you are planning to be in your current home for a long time, a custom hard-wired system with a longer contract may be a better investment, since a multi-year contract will typically lower your monthly payment.
While more security often equals more safety, there is such a thing as too much. If live video feeds in multiple rooms will add to your paranoia rather than to your peace of mind, skip them for something more basic. The best security system is the one that makes you feel safe and at peace in and away from your home.
Freshome’s Top Picks for Home Security in Houston
To find Houston’s best locally operated home security options, we dove deep into research with nine different companies. We gave them scores in four different categories: Customer Service, Equipment, Reputability, and Cost. We broke each category into different metrics, like Better Business Bureau ratings and ease of contact. After we tallied up the scores, we had three standouts.
For this review, we focused on local companies, but we’ve done our research on the big guys, too. We’ll summarize our findings below, but for more details on the national brands, check out Freshome’s guide to national home security systems.
Houston’s locally operated companies offered competitive rates that could be hard to beat. It’s a good idea to get a couple of quotes from national and local brands, but it looks like choosing a Houston provider could be your best bet for a low monthly payment.
Houston’s Best Local Home Security Companies
The Security Store has been locally owned and operated for 25 years, and is one of the only companies in Houston to feature a storefront where customers can try before they buy.
The Security Store is ideal for the homeowner, business owner, or DIYer who wants to pay only for the service he or she will use. The Security Store team creates a custom plan for each client and works around your existing technology and budget. Once you get a system, you’ll own the equipment and will only pay a flat rate on a month-to-month basis to maintain and monitor your system. Our quote was about $35 per month.
If you want to set up your own home security system, The Security Store also offers user guides and manuals to guide you through the process. Once your equipment is powered up, you’ll have the option to sign up for regional UL 24/7 home monitoring starting at $19 a month plus tax. There are no contracts, ever, and you’ll have access to a great team.
The Security Store also offers the latest home security technology, including remote monitoring from smartphones, tablets, and computers; smart home automation; real-time video capabilities; and even energy management (in case you forget to turn down the thermostat before a trip). The company specializes in security systems for residential and commercial clients, and offers closed-circuit TV camera systems as well.
Overall, The Security Store is a great option for the economical home security shopper who doesn’t want to overpay for service, but doesn’t want to skimp on the technology either.
HomeStar Protection is a great home security business for the one-stop shopper. The company offers professional installation and monitoring packages (which run about $35 a month) to ensure your home or business has the security system it needs, and each service is tailored to your needs specifically.
HomeStar is known for its customer service. One customer testimonial stated a technician visited his home and noticed the front door and windows weren’t locking properly, so the technician bought replacement parts and fixed it on the spot. Going above and beyond the call of duty is an understatement with these guys.
HomeStar prides itself on offering high-quality systems that are highly customizable. If, for example, your package is supposed to include a glass-break sensor, but you’d rather have a motion sensor, you can swap those features to best fit your needs.
Remote connectivity also comes standard with all packages, so you can enable or disable your alarm from your phone. With their systems, you can receive two-way voice response, which allows you to notify a monitoring station operator of a break-in or medical emergency by the touch of a button. Central stations also include Alarm.com’s exclusive “Crash & Smash” protection, so security systems cannot be disabled, even if they are destroyed.
Like most companies, HomeStar offers 24/7 monitoring, real-time video surveillance, and professional installation. Unlike most companies, however, HomeStar offers a free moving program so your home security system can move with you, for free.
Each system is custom built, so you’ll have to call for your quote.
Fort Knox is the company for the affordable, hands-off shopper. The company offers solutions for both home and business owners, and can set up service on an existing system remotely. All they require is a phone call.
The company’s claim to fame is being the most affordable security provider with internet-based solutions. The company offers free home security setup, training, and activation, and a lot of their services can be set up without a house visit. With this, Fort Knox technicians are experienced, each with about 20 years of home security work under his or her belt. This allows the company to provide you with exactly what you need, no matter how niche.
Fort Knox offers several package types, based on your needs. Our quote was $32 for cellular monitoring, but packages begin at $18 monthly. It also offers smart solutions to fit your needs, but as the company’s main priority is beating the prices of the competition, add-ons like energy management features and personal identity theft protection come a la carte (but at least they are offered).
Fort Knox has four locations: Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Austin. As all of its packages are internet-based, and remote monitoring comes standard with each system. The company also offers coupons and discounts on its website. The offers change each week, but include deals such as two free weeks of service.
Best National Bundled Options
Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers three upgradeable bundles and wireless self-installation. All of its packages include cellular monitoring and a 30-day risk free trial. Since prices vary by location, you’ll need to call for a quote.
Protect America: If you choose Protect America, all of your equipment will be free up-front. Plus, with peel and stick backing on all of its products, you won’t need to break out the drill to protect your home. Protect America requires a three-year contract, and you’ll need to call for a quote, but with five customizable packages, it’ll likely have a solution that’s right for you.
SimpliSafe: Still not sure whether to DIY or opt for a professionally monitored system? SimpliSafe gives you the best of both worlds. You can buy equipment without a contract starting at $200, and add on call center monitoring whenever you want, for just $15 a month.
Best National DIY Security Systems
Lowe’s Iris: By selling sensors, cameras, and control panels a la carte, Lowe’s Iris allows you to build your own custom system that suites your particular security needs. Everything can be run from your smartphone, and first generation equipment starts at only $15.
Piper NV: If a simpler system sounds more up your alley, we recommend Piper NV. It’s an all-in-one tower that’s packed with goodies like motion sensors, cameras, and night vision. Piper NV starts at $279 upfront, with no monthly bill.
Local Companies That Didn’t Make the Cut
Out of the nine local home security options we looked into, six didn’t rank highly enough to top our list. The following companies were disqualified for one reason or another. For some, customer service ratings were too low for us to recommend — others just didn’t return our requests for a quote.
- Safeguard Home Security
- Nexlar Security
- ASAP Security Services
- Central Security
- Smith Monitoring
- Centerpoint Security Group
How do I Register my Alarm in Houston?
To help reduce the occurrences of false alarms in Houston, you’re required to submit an alarm registration to the city every year, along with an annual fee of $38.74. You can find the forms you’ll need to file right here. It’s important to keep up to date with your registration, or else you’ll risk a big penalty if you trigger a false alarm.
Can I Prevent False Alarms?
False alarms are a major problem for the Houston Police Department. If your alarm goes off when it’s not supposed to, emergency services could be dispatched to your home unnecessarily. That means valuable public resources are being wasted. Nationally, 94 to 98 percent of security alarms are falsely triggered.
If your alarm’s registration is current, you’ll have up to three false alarms forgiven per year. If you have a fourth or fifth false alarm, you’ll be fined $50 for each. A sixth or seventh will cost you $100, and anything after that will get your permit revoked. If you forgot to keep your registration up to date, you’ll owe $110.68 for each false alarm, with no grace period. Fines are higher for panic alarms, so make sure to read the fine print when you register your alarm.
|False Alarm Occurrence||Fee|
|8 or more||Permit revoked|
This is probably starting to sound expensive, but with a properly functioning system and a few precautions, there’s no reason your alarm should be crying wolf.
Is a Home Security System Worth the Cost?
In most cases, yes. There are alarm systems for every budget — whether it’s a couple of DIY sensors and no recurring fee, or a professional monthly monitoring contract starting at just $15. Not only do security systems protect your loved ones and your valuables — they give you peace of mind, which is priceless.
How Can I Avoid Being a Target?
Burglars don’t just go for the richest household on the block. They are looking for easy targets and lapses in security. Most are deterred by anything that appears to be an obstacle — whether that’s a home security system, window locks, or a dog.
Here’s a handy guide to help decrease your likelihood of being a victim.
Are Cellular Systems Better Than Landline Systems?
Many security providers now default to a cellular connection, although some still require an additional fee. But the benefits outweigh the small cost of upgrading, and we recommend opting for the cell system.
Your landline is vulnerable to power outages and cut wires, but your cell phone can’t be tampered with as easily. You don’t want to worry about your security going down in a blackout or storm, so it’s best to avoid that possibility and choose the cellular option.
What if I Rent or Plan to Move Soon?
A DIY system is usually easier to transport, and you won’t be locked into a monthly contract. Many allow you to add on professional monitoring if you decide you need that in the future.
The Bottom Line
These days, there are so many home security options available that it’s hard to imagine there isn’t one that could make your life a little easier. While Smart Homes may seem like a futuristic concept, they are actually quite accessible and customizable. We hope this guide helps you in your quest for a secure, safe, and more efficient home. Now it’s time to dive in and find the home security system that’s right for you. As a reminder, here are our top picks for Houston: