Your home presents an endless opportunity for creativity — even when considering how to protect it. Say hello to the new face of home security: the smart home.
Our Picks for Best Home
It’s not just frightening alarms and a ton of wire anymore. These days, you can unlock your front door with your smartphone. You can save money on your energy bill with a WiFi-connected thermostat. There are even remote-controlled that open and close on their own. After all, protection from burglars isn’t the only type of security that gives us a peace of mind.
From DIY get-ups for the budget minded, to the most advanced home automation systems for tech lovers, there is a home security system for you. And the best part? We’ve already done all the homework. So keep on reading for everything you need to know about the industry, the technology, and how to make the best decision when shopping.
Home Security Basics
A home security system is a conglomeration of sensors, detectors — even cameras — routed through a central control panel. This panel is your main access into the system; it’s where you input the various codes to activate and deactivate the system. If any of your devices detect a threat, your control panel will alert a monitoring station. Then, the monitoring station routes a call to the emergency services like the police and fire department.
What to Expect When You’re Shopping
There are generally two ways that home security is offered to consumers.
A bundled package is the most straightforward option. It is what it sounds like — a package deal that might come with the basic door and window sensors, a few other gadgets, and landline monitoring for set price per month. Each successive package will add more and more security features as well as probably allowing you to move to a wirelessly connected monitoring system. Prices are set, equipment is standard per each package, and it’s easy to know how your budget will react without much digging at all.
Custom packages are a favorite when it comes to your city’s local providers. With individuals on the ground and usually close by, most companies will send out a security assessment representative. They will evaluate the various portions (often called sectors) of your home for security strengths and weaknesses, and recommend what type of system would best fit your needs. The downside of a custom-built system is the vagueness of pricing. Most companies really want to do an assessment of the home before mentioning any prices, which means you will need to invest some time into an appointment before you have a clear picture of what your bottom line will look like.
Monitoring Your System
Most home security systems use professional monitoring, which costs anywhere from $15 to $50 each month. Alternatively, you could go the DIY route. Systems such as Piper and SimpliSafe usually come without professional monitoring, but will send a direct notice to your smartphone if something trips a sensor. This means that after the initial cost of the equipment, you’re in the clear with no monthly bills! But it will be your task to notify the authorities in case of emergency. Nearly every DIY system can be professionally monitored though, so don’t feel you’re stuck all on your own if you decide you need an extra set of eyes.
Understanding Your Needs
If you are a student, renter, or perpetual mover perhaps it’s best to stick to the DIY side of things. That way, you won’t risk breaking any lease agreements or damaging the home during the uninstallation. If your current home is not where you see yourself in the next five to ten years, a more fixed system can be an attractive option.Plus, home security systems can be a great value add when placing a house on the market.
You should also ask yourself how much security you need to be at peace in your own home. Security cameras on every corner of the house? Motion detectors in every room? What about monitored fire and carbon monoxide detectors? Just as every person is unique, so are their needs. Knowing what you want and what you need can save you precious time and money in the hunt for the best home security system.
Also remember to include your pets in your home security plans. If you have a dog or other animal that wanders freely in the house or outside, this will affect your ability to use some equipment like motion detectors. In our research we found the most common threshold was a 40 pound pet. Anything above that weight would probably trip the alarm accordingly.
Freshome’s Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in Louisville
A round-up of the top home security companies in Louisville left us with just over a handful of options to evaluate. We stacked a spreadsheet with all of the pertinent stats, like customer service reviews, the ease and accessibility of their contact options, monitoring prices and contract lengths, and a host of other qualifiers. We pitted the finalists against Freshome’s top national providers to see which options would be the best for you.
We recommend starting with Standard Security Services and JNE Security Systems. As two of the longest-lasting companies in the region, they marked high scores on our reputability evaluation. They each met the basic customer service requirements with accessible contact options and live phone operators. If you’re in the market for top of the line home automation features, however, you will be better off looking to the big-boys. And finally, for all you renters and students out there, these options are probably well out of your scope. DIY systems like Piper NV and Iris should be your go-to solution.
Louisville’s Best Local Home Security Companies
For over 25 years, JNE Security Systems has provided customers with an alternative to high monthly monitoring rates and expensive installation. It is also one of the only companies in Louisville to use an award-winning monitoring center. Its monitoring center Monitronics is the winner of the 2011 False Alarm Reduction Award and is the three-time winner of the “Alarm Monitoring Company of the Year” award. Therefore, Monotronics gives JNE Security Systems some of the fastest monitoring response times in the industry, which is incredibly important when an incident occurs.
Another rarity that the company possesses is its lifetime warranty for security equipment. In most cases with a security company, you may get a warranty on equipment for a year. A lifetime warranty on equipment keeps your costs low by saving you from paying for services on your system if something needs to be replaced or repaired.
This cost-effective approach continues through the company’s services. JNE Security Systems offers both custom-designed systems and package deals and works with its customers to help them choose the right equipment and contract for their budget and situation. All installations are free and all monitoring is 24/7. Additional add-ons are available for fire and flood systems and monitoring.
Along with security services, you can also choose the latest in interactive and home automation technology. Interactive technology gives you the ability to manage your security system from your smartphone, tablet, or computer — making it easier to check in or your live video feed or make sure that your system is still armed when you’re away. Home automation gives you the ability to control many of your home’s features, including locks, shades, temperature, and lights. Just think how wonderful it would be to be able to lock you home from your phone or computer — no more wondering if you’ve locked the doors when you’ve left the house or worrying about you or a family member forgetting their house key.
If you already have a security system, the company may be able to monitor, update, and service your current system. However, you will need to call and find out.
Standard Security Services sets itself apart from its competitors by putting its customers first, which is why most of its business comes from its customers’ referrals. When you’re choosing a security company, trust is important. Along with top-quality equipment, you need to know that the company isn’t just out to get your money or giving you equipment that will fall apart. Standard Security Service is the 2015-2016 Readers’ Choice for best home security company in Clark County, with an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, making it a company that you can trust.
The company guarantees reliable, durable security equipment, fast response times to questions and concerns, and fair prices for security systems. Security specialists will visit your home for free and help you decide the most cost-effective, custom-designed security system for your situation, with no obligation. No-obligation means that the company won’t keep calling you to find out your decision or to push you into a contract. The company also guarantees no pushy or inexperienced salespeople. You won’t have to worry about being pushed towards a more expensive security system or being told to a choose a lower-priced security system that won’t fit all your needs. You also own your system and won’t have to worry about the company taking it back or disabling it.
Like JNE Security Systems, the company offers additional surveillance cameras, fire monitoring, home automation features, and remote access (access to system and/or additional home automation through your devices). You can also add an intercom system to your home to make it easier for elderly family members to reach you when you’re in another room, or to be able to talk to someone outside your door.
Best Bundled Options
Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers simple, customizable packages that are easy to install on your own. Free shipping and excellent customer service are the cherry on top. The only catch is that to get the best deal, you might have to sign up for 36-month contract.
Protect America: With even more packages available than Frontpoint, Protect America should be near the top of your list of package bundle options. No upfront cost on equipment with a 36 month contract also makes their products extra enticing.
SimpliSafe: SimpliSafe dominates the price category with cellular monitoring for only 14.99/month. Choose from any of their four packages and forget about the contracts; Simplisafe is hard to beat.
Best DIY Security Systems
Lowe’s Iris: Lowe’s Iris is a completely customizable DIY system with a literal plethora of options. Every feature is rated for easiness to install so you know exactly what you’re getting into, or if you might be better off calling a knowledgeable friend to help. There’s also the option to add professional monitoring for a low monthly fee.
Piper NV: The Piper NV is as simple as it gets. A single tower that incorporates a motion sensor and a 180 degree camera. Other wireless features can be incorporated into the system, not to mention compatibility with Z-Wave Technology.
Local companies that didn’t make the cut
Other home security companies we checked out just didn’t make the cut. Most of them couldn’t be recommended due to their lack-luster websites which had hard to find contact options or only one form of communication. Others didn’t have enough information, and never answered our calls or emails.
- Mid America Security Systems
- Care Security and Monitoring
- Derby City Security Service
- EZwatch Security*
* EZwatch Security only offers camera systems.
Preventing False Alarms
As reported by Wave3 News, the Louisville Police Department fields over 100 false alarm calls per day! That equates to close to $500,000 of extra expenses that are coming out of taxpayers’ pockets.
That’s why Louisville implemented its False Alarm Reduction Program. This ordinance was built in hopes of reducing the amount of false alarm and hold-up calls that the police must respond to on a daily basis. If your system activates an alarm, but there is no sign of criminal activity when the officer arrives on scene, you could be penalized with a $100-300 fee. Granted, you will be given two warnings before you are subject to the fine.
If you do receive a letter informing you of charges pending, you might be able to get off the hook by completing an Alarm School Exam. Passing within 7 days of receiving your violation notice will subtract one false alarm call from your record, as well as the fees. You may only take this exam and receive its benefits once per year, so the best strategy to take preliminary precautions and stop false alarms all together.
First you should do a systems check to make sure that all of your equipment is in full working order. This means checking that anything hardwired, mounted, or installed is secure and in full working order. As simple as it sounds, checking your batteries regularly is another huge factor in maintaining a properly working security system, and is often the most overlooked part.
You should also make sure you — and anyone who may need to interact with the system at some point — is well versed on protocols, codes, emergency phone numbers, and general use of the system. Read the manual, understand the directions, memorize the various codes as well as writing them down and storing them in a secure but accessible place. If you still get the butterflies when you stare at the control panel, call your provider or installer. Most of them are more than happy to send a professional to teach you the ins and outs of the system — sometimes even at no cost!
Freshome has put together a short checklist that summarizes some of the best practices to insure the prevention of false alarms.
How to Register Your Alarm System in Louisville
Your home security system will need to be registered with the Louisville False Alarm Reduction Unit. Unlike other cities though, the burden does not rest upon your shoulders! The company who installs and/or monitors your system must register your system with the agency. There is no cost to gain the permit, so there is no extra costs passed down to the consumer (don’t let a dishonest company tell you there is). Unfortunately, if your system is not registered, any penalties received will be doubled. Therefore it’s good practice to bring it up with your alarm company and make sure they are on the ball with your paperwork.
The registration is not transferable, which means if you move you’ll need to have your security company register your new system at your new address. This applies as well if you take your existing system with you; any change will need to be relayed to the Louisville False Alarm Reduction Unit through your home security company.
Is home security really worth it?
A study from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte interviewed 422 incarcerated burglars (across three states, including Kentucky) on aspects that influenced their behaviors before, during, and after a heist. Over 60 percent of the participants said that the presence of an alarm system influenced their target selection, and 50 percent said they never attempt a robbery on a house with a system. When it comes to your peace of mind and feeling of safety in your own home, no precaution should be overlooked. Even if these numbers weren’t as impressive as they truly are, it would still be a worthy investment to reduce the chances of a home security emergency.
What kinds of security do I need?
Four main areas of protection exist in the home security market: Intrusion, Surveillance, Environmental, and Life.
Intrusion and surveillance occupy a similar space. They are important in protecting property from being taken from your home, as well as deterring any worst-case scenarios such as hostage or violent intrusion. The basics of an intrusion protection are door sensors and glass break sensors. Surveillance is most often considered as security cameras and motion detectors.
Another equally important area of protection is environmental. This group includes equipment like fire and carbon monoxide detectors. These kinds of threats have no bias; they don’t discriminate on any criteria — everyone is at risk. Having monitored environmental protection gives you the best defense against invisible and uncontrollable situations.
Life protection is often seen considered separate from the previous three types of protections, but to complete the best home security system you should consider it. Made popular by the familiar and often satirized catchphrase, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”, life protection is best recognized as a medical pendant or bracelet. But don’t think that this service is only for the elderly and fragile. Anyone — yes anyone — could be the victim of a physical emergency at home, and if you are unable to reach the phone or make a call the medical panic button could make all the difference.
How else can I protect my home?
In order for a home security system to provide its maximum benefit, there are a few common sense actions you can take. Being thoughtful and proactive can prevent intrusion from ever being attempted in the first place. Take a look at Freshome’s 7 Simple Ways to Prevent a Break-in, and put them to use that next time you leave the house.
The Bottom Line
Home security is more than bundled equipment, monitored devices, and monthly bills; it is the decision to be prepared for whatever might come your way. It is a peace of mind that let’s you and your family rest easy. It’s a step toward a smarter, more powerful home. Take a look at our recommendations and take the plunge.