Reliable home security can offer peace of mind, but just getting started may seem difficult. From understanding which aspects of home security technology you truly need to actually installing the system, the wide range of options can appear convoluted. Our team has unearthed the best findings the industry has to offer and broken them down into several useful recommendations — so you can prevent a dreaded break-in. Design a system to protect yourself, your home, and your carefully curated livelihood, and you’ll have one less thing to worry about in your day-to-day life.
Our Picks for Best Home
Home Security Basics
Home security systems can offer numerous components — more than a lot of people might think. The expansive definition of home security doesn’t simply mean run-of-the-mill burglar alarms. Indeed, break-ins are at the core of homeowner and renter anxiety, but total home protection also encompasses natural disaster alerts — fire, carbon monoxide, and floods — ensuring that you have the proper systems in place to protect your home from damage, be it inflicted by fellow man or nature.
The various components of a home security system are usually connected via physical wires, WiFi, or Bluetooth and many companies enable you to control your pad from your phone — locking doors, controlling lights, turning off stovetops, and activating/deactivating alarms (to name a few examples).
Shopping for a System
It’s important to carefully examine the components of the system you design. For example, it may be overkill to have motion-activated lights at every entrance and window, and security cameras in every room of the house. Covering your bases is one thing, but sometimes going overboard can lead to an unhealthy and unrealistic sense of paranoia. You don’t want to think someone’s casing your house every time a raccoon or squirrel scuttles in the pathway of a motion-sensor light. Instead, think specifically about where you prioritize protection. Thieves often look for discreet areas of the yard that could serve as hiding places — install motion-sensor lights in these areas that aren’t in your immediate radar. You can also install asset-protection devices for paintings, jewelry, or a safe. These devices can sound an alarm and notify you when someone’s tampered with them (notably used for safes).
Home security systems boil down to two options: bundled and custom — and within each of those categories, there’s the ability to operate it on a DIY basis, meaning you install the system and monitor it yourself (with alerts going to your cellphone or other devices). For DIY systems, you can opt to install it yourself, but also pay for professional monitoring — in this scenario, Frontpoint is a key player as it provides top-notch cell monitoring with remote access control of energy systems. These more affordable and easily installed systems, like the Piper NV and options offered by SimpliSafe, are popular with students and other short-term residents.
With a bundled system, you’re likely to get everything — equipment and monitoring — at a flat rate, but most companies will tie you into a contract. For custom-built options, you can often get a month-month service agreement, but designing the system is bound to be a little more involved, with a longer quote process.
What to Ask Yourself
So what would work best for your life, your home, your people, and your stuff — all while fitting into your financial reality? If you’re renting and aren’t quite sure what the next two years may hold, a DIY system would be the safest choice. They’re relatively simple to both install and move (as they aren’t hardwired into the home), and you wouldn’t be tied into a contract if you opt to go for the self-monitoring option. But if you find yourself more anchored — e.g., you own a home — a wired system with more equipment could lend more stability and peace of mind.
Every home and lifestyle is naturally going to have different preferences. Most home security companies are more than happy to customize their existing packages to fit your needs, or give you the add-ons you require.
Freshome’s Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in Jacksonville
Jacksonville’s local home security companies came through with flying colors when it came to customer service, reputation, and pricing. Wading through scores of consumer reports, reviews, and official crime statistics led us to a finely tuned list of the city’s best home protection companies: Emergency Systems, Inc., Kentronix Security systems, and ACS Security Systems. While Emergency Systems and Kentronix Security scored the best in reputability and customer service, all three offered the widest array of system options, with video surveillance, security alarms, and detectors for fire and carbon monoxide.
If you’re going to choose a big-brand home security company, it’s going to come down to either Protect America or Frontpoint. Both names lead the pack in terms of highly acclaimed customer service, equipment quality, and overall reputation.
Jacksonville’s Best Local Home Security Companies
Since 1979, Emergency Systems Inc. (ESI) has provided reputable equipment and monitoring for burglar and fire systems. They offer highly affordable package deals compared to many neighboring providers. While ESI offers convenient home appliances like intercom systems, the local business is most dedicated to providing affordable and trustworthy security and fire systems as well as CCTV systems.
Security Systems – ESI personally designs every system to best accommodate your home and budget. In addition to burglar systems, ESI offers intrusion systems to protect you and your home. Intrusion systems allow you to select a “home” setting for your alarm. If a trespasser attempts to break in while you’re home, local authorities will be notified immediately. Basic monitoring rates for residents start at only $19 a month and all mechanisms are listed by the leading product safety testing company, Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
Fire Alarm Systems – ESI has an all-encompassing contract with residential fire alarm system experts who handle everything from design and engineering to installation and permit documentation. All employees and technicians are licensed by the National Institute of Certified Engineering. Having 26 years’ experience, ESI perfected their installations to be most efficient resulting in lower installation costs for you as the homeowner.
CCTV – ESI proudly deals expert commercial color CCTV camera systems including a digital video recorder containing a hard drive and internet module. These high definition day and night cameras can be hooked up to any LAN, WAN, or high speed internet so you can view your home while at work or sitting poolside. You don’t have to worry about constantly checking your cameras either, ESI’s central monitoring center provides 24/7 surveillance so you can rest easy while at home or away. Four camera systems start at just $55 a month.
The employees at Kentronix Security Systems are genuine in their mission to provide safety and peace of mind for their customers. After 38 years, Kentronix continues to provide basic and complete security systems for its Jacksonville neighbors. Quotes are free for first-time customers and are well scored in the customer service department. Kentronix’s website is easy to navigate and informative; we suggest visiting their page and inquiring about your free quote.
Kentronix built its reputation on customer fulfillment. The dedicated employees all work full time and are Fire Alarm System Agent and Burglar Alarm System Agent (FASA/BASA) certified. The equipment these devoted workers install is easy to use and provides highly effective security for you and your family. If your grandpa’s bulky plastic alarm boxes are preventing you from purchasing a system of your own, it’s time to reconsider. Kentronix’s alarm systems are sleek and discreet so they won’t take away from the beauty of your home.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about constantly checking your surveillance cameras and calling the neighbors while on vacation; Kentronix provides 24/7 monitoring. Kentronix Security offers the most progressive keypads, handheld access devices, telephone entry systems, card readers, and outside alert systems to provide you and your family the utmost security.
If you are looking for more high tech gadget and appliances, ACS is the ideal security company for you. Accompanying home security systems and fire alarm systems, ACS offers various home electronic appliances such as intercoms, gate automations, home theatre surround sound, audio and central vacuum systems and much more. (Imagine being able to tell your kid’s dinner is ready through an intercom system.) ACS obtains its products from well-established manufacturers like Samsung, Concourse, Intellex, and NuTone. The team at ACS is comprised of about 15 devoted employees.
ACS doesn’t offer any package deals as every system is designed individually to fit you and your family’s lifestyle. Local monitoring is available for $24 per month for landlines, $34 a month for cellular, and $29 per month for Internet connection. There is a $260 device required for monitoring; however, unlike many installations, this device becomes yours even if you disable your home monitoring service. This means you can use this device even if you move and have to switch security companies.
ACS is well recognized and has many affiliations within the state including the Alarm Association of Florida, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and the Fire Alarm Association. Give them a call today to schedule an appointment and get a free quote for your custom security system.
Best Bundled Options
Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers three upgradable packages, each requiring a minimum 36-month monitoring contract. A clean, professional site makes the quote process a breeze. All wireless equipment can be shipped directly and requires no professional installation.
Protect America: This Austin-based national powerhouse offers a free lifetime warranty on all equipment. It also boasts an impressive lineup: five upgradable packages, no initial payment for equipment, and no installation fees. However, the company does require a 36-month monitoring commitment.
SimpliSafe: SimpliSafe sticks to the basics and makes it easy on you: no yearly contract, no middlemen, and no landline required. You can choose from several all-wireless systems, with the basic package starting at around $200.
Best DIY Security Systems
Lowe’s Iris: Pulling out all the stops when it comes to connected accessories and optional professional monitoring, Iris is the most tricked-out DIY system on the market. It offers different kits (with various accessory options) starting at about $100, and each only takes an hour to install.
Piper NV: Sleek and compact, Piper NV’s all-in-one security tower is tailor-made for a studio apartment, dorm, or any minimalist-driven home. Its relatively small size – comparable to a large jar — belies the host of powerful security tools in its arsenal: a wide-angle, streaming-ready camera, plus detectors for motion, sound, light, temperature, and humidity.
Local companies that didn’t make the cut
When it came to customer service, overall reputation, or having confusing pricing structure (Scout Alarm), these names ultimately came up short in providing the best home security service to the Jacksonville population.
- Atlantic Companies
- Scott Alarm
- Safe Touch Security Systems
Preventing False Alarms
As per Jacksonville city ordinance, you’re allowed up to six false alarms before fines start. After six false alarms, you’ll receive a $25 fine for each incident. To avoid the embarrassment, hassle, and overall waste of time and emergency resources, keep in mind a few guidelines to maintain your system and keep it false alarm-free.
- Familiarity: Make sure you know your system and password well, and teach it to all family members, neighbors, friends, and babysitters that will be in and out of your home.
- Once you realize the system has mistakenly been alerted, cancel false alarms immediately through your home security company.
- Before arming your system, make sure that all doors and windows are closed properly.
- Always keep areas equipped with motion sensors clear of moving items.
- Install new batteries on a routine basis.
Preventing false alarms is inevitably part of managing a home security system. When you find a system that works for you, maintaining it to ensure it only activates when it’s supposed to doesn’t take much extra effort. In a lot of cases, the better the equipment, the lower the risk of false alarms. That’s where a company like Protect America, with its lifetime equipment warranty could be a huge asset, as you’d have total insurance on the package and system components you choose. For more tips on how to prevent alarms check out Freshome’s Home Security 101 below.
How to Register Your Alarm System in Jacksonville
Yep — you need to register your security system. Luckily, the cost is relatively low at $10.
Have an application mailed to you by calling the City of Jacksonville at (904) 630-2399 or simply download the PDF here.
What does the typical burglar look for when identifying a target?
The most important thing to a would-be thief is the ability to accomplish the task quickly, efficiently, and without being seen. Therefore, qualities like landscaping (large bushes) they could hide in, lack of security system signage, and an absence of passersby are significant factors. If it appears that it would take them more than a few minutes to get in and out, many thieves will bail for an easier target.
How much do I actually need a home security system?
As noted above, the best home security system will be different for everyone depending on location and type of dwelling. Though it’s worth noting that the FBI estimates a burglary occurred approximately every 18 seconds in the US. The mere existence of a security system can also drive down homeowner and renter insurance costs (though it depends on what type of system you have installed; check with your provider to see what kind of savings are offered).
How does a home security system play into my homeowners or renters insurance?
Often, simply having a security system in place can not only deter would-be burglars, but also drive down homeowner and renter insurance costs, potentially saving you up to 20 percent (depending on your insurance company and plan — be sure to check with your provider).
I’m thinking about choosing a large national home security brand. Does it matter how far away its monitoring center is from me?
We recommend selecting a company whose monitoring center (if you choose that route) is less than 250 miles from your home base — it’s the best way to guarantee top-notch coverage and protection.
The Bottom Line
You know how important your home is to you, and you should now have a host of options for keeping it safe and sound. We’ve narrowed it down to the top contenders — all you need to do is see which system fits your needs and your budget.