You put a lot of effort into decorating your home, but do you give enough thought to protecting it? According to the US Department of Justice, it’s not just the super wealthy that have to worry about break-ins. Lower-income homes are often prime targets for thieves because they’re less likely to have a security system in place. Even if the burglar doesn’t get away with your valuables, the stolen peace of mind is damaging enough.
Our Picks for Best Home
The good news is protecting your home is no longer as difficult or as expensive as it once was. DIY systems cost very little and can be installed in minutes. And if you’re looking for something more advanced, there are plenty of local and national companies that offer customized systems with 24/7 monitoring. For total control, tack on some home automation extras. These let you control your lights, locks, and thermostat right on your phone from anywhere in the world.
Wherever you live, whatever your budget, there’s a home security system that’ll work for you. We’ve researched some of the best national, local, and DIY options for San Diego residents, so start with one of these if you’re not sure where to begin.
Home Security Basics
DIY and professionally monitored systems generally offer the same types of equipment — door and window sensors, security cameras, motion detectors — all connected to a central control panel via wires, Bluetooth, or WiFi. When one of the sensors is tripped, the alarm goes off.
If you have a DIY system, you’re counting on the alarm itself to scare the thief away. The advantage to this approach is the low cost. The only upfront expense is the equipment itself and there are no monthly charges at all. These systems generally use a WiFi connection, however, so if your internet or power goes out, so does your security system.
If you can afford them, professionally monitored systems are usually better than standard DIY options. They are more expensive (most require professional installation and monitoring fees ranging from $15 to $50 a month), but they provide a greater level of security by immediately notifying the appropriate authorities. The call center may also try to reach you either by phone or through the control panel to ensure you’re safe.
Some DIY systems, like Canary and SimpliSafe, are compatible with professional monitoring, so one of these might work for you if you want to test out the system for a bit before committing to a long-term monitoring contract.
Shopping for a System
Home security systems are sold as bundles or custom-built packages. DIY systems and most national home security companies offer a variety of options to choose from. These bundles include a control panel, a few door and window sensors, and sometimes additional equipment. The nice thing about these systems is the transparent pricing. In most cases, you can just go to the company’s website, look up all the fees, and compare packages side by side.
Custom systems are more complicated. Pricing is almost never listed online, so you’ll have to speak to a representative in order to get a quote. Sometimes, they may need to visit your home before they can give you an idea on the cost. The benefit of going with a custom-built system is that it gives you complete control over what type of equipment you have in your home.
Whichever company you go with, the hardware is likely to be the same. Most companies use Honeywell, 2GIG, or GE control panels and sensors and give you the option of landline, broadband, or cellular monitoring. That means price is often the deciding factor in which company to choose.
Pay attention to the length of the contract as well. Three years is the industry standard, but there are a few companies that offer shorter terms or even month-to-month contracts. In order to get a shorter term, though, you may have to pay more for the equipment up front. In a three-year contract, this charge is usually built into the monthly rate, much like how the cost of your cellphone might be factored into your service plan.
What to Consider When Choosing a Home Security System
The first question you need to ask yourself is what type of security system is best for your situation. If you’re renting a place or you plan on moving within the next few years, a DIY system is best. They’re not hardwired into your home, so they’re easy to take with you. But if you’re planning on staying in your current home for a while, you may want to consider upgrading to a professionally monitored system.
Think about the level of protection you need as well. The size of the home is going to be a factor — the more potential entry points for a thief, the more sensors you’re going to need. If you have a representative come out and look at your home, they may be able to offer suggestions about how to best protect your property, but ultimately, the decision rests with you, so you have to think about what you need for your peace of mind. We recommend door and window sensors and an audible alarm at minimum.
Freshome’s Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in San Diego
In order to determine the best home security system providers in San Diego, we evaluated several bundled, DIY, and local security companies. We looked at a ton of factors, including customer service, transparency of pricing, and ratings from Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau. Then, we compared our results to Freshome’s home security recommendations.
Two local companies stood out from the pack. Alarm2000 and Alarms Unlimited are both long-established companies operating in the San Diego area and they’ve garnered a lot of positive feedback from customers. The same can’t be said of every local business we looked at. There were a few companies that never responded to our calls and emails at all.
Whether you go with one of these companies or a national provider is largely a matter of preference. Some people may prefer dealing with local companies, as they can sometimes offer you more flexibility with the contract term. But if you’re interested in the latest high-tech security and home automation equipment, one of the national companies may be a better fit. And if you’re on a budget, you may prefer a DIY system instead.
Best Bundled Options
- Frontpoint: Frontpoint offers three home security packages, all of which include 24/7 monitoring and wireless equipment that doesn’t require a professional installation. The company doesn’t list its pricing online, though, so you’ll need to call for a quote.
- Protect America: Protect America’s five upgradeable packages require a 36-month monitoring contract, but there are virtually no upfront costs. Like Frontpoint, you’ll have to call the company if you want a quote.
- SimpliSafe: SimpliSafe offers four home security packages from $230 up to $540, and you have the option of saving up to 30 percent by going with a refurbished system. These are DIY solutions, but you can purchase no-contract monitoring if you’re interested.
San Diego’s Best Local Home Security Companies
With 20 years of service, an A+ with the Business Bureau, and a 4.5 out of 5 star review on Yelp, Alarm2000 has made a name for itself as a security company with integrity.
When you’re choosing a security company, trust is a huge factor. Alarm2000 guarantees that all equipment is the most technologically-advanced and all equipment (parts + labor) comes with an extended warranty so that you won’t have to pay for service costs or technicians traveling to your home. Likewise, because of its IQ Certification, Alarm2000 guarantees a quality security system installation by a trained technician — making sure that you get state-of-the-art, easy-to-use equipment and a knowledgeable installer that can answer your questions on-site.
Many factors can make purchasing a home security system a bad experience — long-term contracts, pushy salesman, and high additional costs — Alarm2000 strives to make your experience easy and enjoyable. With no pressure to purchase a system, a security specialist will visit your home for free to help you decide the best security system and contract for your situation and budget. Installation can also be done within a few days of making a purchase. All monitoring is 24/7 and the company refers you to monitoring centers to help you choose the most cost-effective option.
Another highpoint for Alarm2000 is their high-response time to customer concerns and their quick problem-solving — giving customers a peace of mind that a live person will be available to help them with any security system issues. In addition to security services, there are also additional options for fire monitoring, personal safety monitoring, and home automation services. The company also provides smart phone access to your security system through Alarm.com, so that you can connect to and control your system on the go.
In business since 1974, Alarms Unlimited has built up a strong base of long-time customers due to its top-notch customer service. Some companies’ employees may be friendly at the beginning — when they’re giving you a quote and helping you decide on a system — but change their attitude after you’ve signed the contract. Alarms Unlimited’ security specialists — from technicians to monitoring staff — maintain a friendly, courteous attitude throughout your entire relationship with them — treating you like a neighbor instead of a number.
Alarms Unlimited provides free, no-obligation on-site consultations and designs and installs affordable, custom-designed security systems for your specific needs. You can easily choose to have a basic system created — with an audible alarm and window and door sensors — or go more advanced with intrusion detection and/or video surveillance. Remote access to your system and videos via your smartphone or computer is also available, making it easy to check in on your camera feed or arm/disarm your system when you’re away from the house. Remote access also includes verification features so that you can turn off your system’s alarm if a false alarm occurs.
Along with fire monitoring, Alarms Unlimited uniquely offers environmental monitoring for adverse conditions in your home, including but not limited to temperature, water, humidity, and cooling/heating appliances. Environmental monitoring gives you extra protection from events that could damage your home by alerting you to the problem and sending help before it ends up costing you. The company uses its own Security Operation Center for 24/7-hour monitoring and is open 24 hours, so you can call at any time. Its cellular monitoring starts at $33 a month.
Best DIY Security Systems
- Lowe’s Iris: The Lowe’s Iris system is ideal if you want a completely customized system on a budget. It offers starter kits as well as dozens of accessories that can be purchased individually.
- Piper NV: The Piper NV is a great choice for small spaces, like a dorm or apartment. It includes a variety of sensors and a camera in one compact unit and can let you know via text, email, or phone call if someone’s in your home that shouldn’t be.
Local Companies that Didn’t Make the Cut
We considered these local companies in our research, but they didn’t make our list of the best home security systems. Some of them never returned our messages and some simply haven’t been around long enough for us to feel confident recommending them. By and large, though, all the San Diego home security companies we looked at received a lot of positive feedback from customers, so if you don’t find what you’re looking for with one of our top picks, one of these may work for you.
- Dempsey Alarms
- All Secure Alarm Company
- Bay Alarm
- API Security
- Scripps Ranch Security
- B&D Security
Preventing False Alarms
Once you have your security system installed, you should take steps to prevent false alarms. According to a 2011 report by the San Diego County Grand Jury, there’s an average of 100 false alarms in the city every day. That’s a huge problem for law enforcement officials because the time they spend responding to an accidentally tripped sensor may be time taken away from actual emergencies.
In 1981, the city mandated that all owners of a home security system have a permit. Too many false alarms (more than two per calendar year) can result in that permit being revoked. You have to pay to reinstate it and the fines are pretty steep:
- The first excessive response after the two-per-year limit results in a $110 fine.
- The second excessive response in a year results in a $220 fine.
- The third excessive response in a year results in a $440 fine.
- Four or more excessive responses in a single year results in a whopping $2,200 fine.
Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to minimize the chances of a false alarm. Make sure you routinely replace the batteries in your sensors and check that doors and windows are shut completely before arming the system. Otherwise, a little bit of wind could trigger one of the sensors. Take a look at our guide below for more suggestions on how to prevent false alarms.
How to Register Your Alarm System in San Diego
If you own a home security system, you’re required to register it with the San Diego Police Department. To register, fill out an application and pay the $100 permit fee. The permit is good for two years. You’ll receive a notification in the mail 30 to 45 days prior to its expiration, letting you know it’s time to renew, and you can pay the renewal fee right online.
Is a home security system worth it?
The short answer is yes. According to a study by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, half of all burglars will leave immediately upon discovering you have an alarm and just 20 percent will attempt to disable it if it starts going off. So even if you only have a DIY system, there’s a good chance the alarm itself will scare off any would-be thieves.
Installing a home security system can also save you up to 20 percent on your homeowners insurance premium — although DIY systems don’t count. A good security system decreases the risk that you’ll be burglarized, which in turn decreases the risk of you filing a claim with your insurer, so companies are willing to offer you a lower rate.
How much security is enough?
San Diego residents have a one in 49 chance of being a victim of property crime. That’s actually much lower than the national average of one in 36, but don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. Burglaries are crimes of opportunity and no matter where you live, there’s a chance a thief may decide to target your home. So the more you do to deter them, the better off you’ll be.
We recommend door and window sensors and an audible alarm at a minimum. That way, you’ll know the second someone unwanted tries to enter your home. And there’s a good chance the alarm itself will scare them away before they can steal anything. Monitored fire and carbon monoxide alarms aren’t a bad idea either. In an emergency, the central station will be able to send help quickly, even if you’re not at home when the alarm goes off.
What can I do to keep my home from being targeted?
Home security systems can go a long way in keeping your home and family safe, but they’re not foolproof. The rare burglar may continue with the robbery even if there are sirens going off. The real trick to home security is making your home look like a difficult target to potential thieves. Check out our guide below for some simple steps you can take to deter criminals from eyeing up your house in the first place.
“The most common items thieves are looking for are jewelry, cash, guns, cellphones, wallets, purses, iPads, laptops, tools, and car keys.”
Are cellular systems better than landline systems?
In short, yes. Landlines may seem more appealing at first glance because this type of monitoring is often cheaper, but it has one fatal flaw: Cut the phone lines and the security system’s useless. Internet monitoring is the same way. If service is down, so is your security system.
Cellular monitoring, as the name implies, uses a cellular connection, which is much more reliable. The only way to disable it is to completely cut power to the house and even then, most systems have a battery backup. So barring an issue with the cell towers in your area, nothing should be able to keep your alarm system from transmitting a signal to the central monitoring station.
The best home security systems utilize more than one type of monitoring, like a landline system with a cellular backup. That way, even if one means of communication goes down, the other will still be available in the event of an emergency.
What if I’m a renter or live in a small apartment?
If you’re a student or a renter, you may not have the option of wiring a security system into the wall or mounting a bunch of cameras and sensors. In that case, you’re going to want to focus on DIY systems that are easy to relocate. Here are some of Freshome’s top recommendations:
The Bottom Line
Your possessions are valuable and your safety and peace of mind even more so. A home security system can go a long way toward keeping you safe and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. No matter where you live, there’s a system that’s right for your lifestyle and budget. If you’re not sure where to begin, try one of our top picks below.