Whether you own your home or rent a month-to-month studio, your home base is your haven, your landing pad—essentially an extension of you. We all take care of our space in different ways, from cleaning to renovating to deliberating over the perfect end table. But one top priority everyone can agree on is peace of mind: for your personal safety, your treasured possessions, and your loved ones.
Our Picks for Best Home
So what’s the lowdown on how to design that peace of mind in the most effective and practical way possible? Two words: home security. It’s not as exciting as a redecorating project or installing a surround-sound speaker system, but going through the brass tacks of total home protection ensures that the lifestyle you’ve worked for and enjoy is backed up by more than just a simple door lock. Luckily our team has the nitty-gritty on the home security industry and how it can safeguard your home, belongings, and loved ones without breaking your stride.
Home Security Basics
Not only does your home hold your stuff and house your loved ones, but it involves a host of complex energy systems that affect your finances and overall home maintenance. So home security isn’t just about blaring an alarm when a would-be burglar tries to make it past the citadel (though that’s certainly a key aspect of home protection), it’s about making sure there’s a whole network of functional systems, including sensors for fire, flooding and carbon monoxide, watching your back and ensuring that your house is using energy safely and efficiently. The companies we checked out and outlined here get that, and have created full-coverage systems to account for the various complexities inherent in maintaining a home.
From physical wires to Wifi to Bluetooth, the framework of home security can take a lot of different forms. Plus, innovation in home automation means a lot of 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).
Shopping for a System
Home security boils down to bundled and custom—and within each of those categories, there’s a DIY option, meaning you install the system and monitor it yourself (with alerts going to your cell phone or other tech devices). For DIY systems you can opt to install it yourself, but then pay for professional monitoring—in this scenario, Frontpoint is a key player as they provide top-notch cell monitoring with remote access control of energy systems. These more affordable and easily-installed systems offered by companies like SimpliSafe and Piper NV vibe well with the mobile university student life.
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-to-month service agreement, but designing the system is bound to be a little more involved, with a longer quote process.
For specific valuables like paintings, jewelry, or a safe, there are item-specific alarm systems called asset protection devices that activate an alarm or notify you if someone’s tried to tamper with it.
What to Ask Yourself
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.
So take a look at your unique living situation—what would work best for your life, your home, your people and your stuff? Not to mention what would logically fit into your financial reality. If you’re renting and aren’t quite sure what the next two years hold, a DIY system would be the most dynamic 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—i.e., you own a home—a more extensively wired system may be your ideal scenario. Considering the wide range of preferences you’re likely to have, we’ve cultivated a collection of favorites.
Freshome’s Top Picks for the Best Home Security System in Washington, D.C.
When it came to putting Washington D.C.’s local home security companies under our team’s radar, they came through with flying colors in the areas of customer service, reputation, and pricing. Wading through scores of consumer reports, reviews and official crime statistics led us to a finely-tuned array of the city’s best home protection companies: Ackerman Security Systems, Burtel Security & Fire Systems, N&D Security, and Advanced Security Systems, Inc.
If you’re going to 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.
Best Bundled Options
- Frontpoint: FrontPoint offers three upgradable packages, each requiring a minimum 36-month monitoring contract. A clean, updated, and professional site makes the quote process a breeze. All-wireless equipment can be shipped directly and requires no professional installation.
- Protect America: This Washington, D.C.-based national powerhouse offers a free lifetime warranty on all equipment. Protect America can back up its service lineup: five upgradable packages, no initial payment for equipment, no installation fees, and required 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. Four packages to choose from, all-wireless equipment, and a reasonable $230 for their standalone security kits are only made better by the fact that the units actually talk to you when you’re setting them up—no Ikea-esque installation hell here.
Washington, D.C.’s Best Local Home Security Companies
Burtel Security & Fire Systems
The largest privately owned security company in Baltimore/Richmond area, Burtel Security has been in business since 1972. Trusted both by business and government customers, Burtel offers the same peace of mind to homeowners. At Burtel, state-of-the-art equipment — from top brands like Honeywell and First Alert — is paired with highly qualified and experienced technicians as well as easy-to-use monitoring technology.
You’ll find various levels of custom options, which means you can be as protected as your needs call for. Starting out with a basic security system, packages include add-on options like glass-break detectors, motion sensors, smoke detectors and even water-leak sensors. (Ask about the three-months free monitoring offer when you call.)
You can also add a voice terminal that allows you to talk not only to family members at other terminals throughout the home but also to the professionals at the monitoring station. Other options include a wireless key for remote system control and a First Alert Home Security Alarm, a user-friendly keypad that helps you easily tell whether you have a burglary, fire or just a door chime.
In addition to security systems, the company offers home automation, home theaters, central vacuums, audio/video distribution and smoke-alarm detection, among other things — giving you the convenience of using the same reliable provider for a range of needs.
N&D Security offers security-system installation in the DC Metro area, along with monitoring through a national emergency network called Emergency 24. Owned and operated by the same family since 1978 — originally as door-to-door security alarm sales — the company is now managed by the second generation of the family. It’s the kind of locally owned company that’s small enough to offer that level of customer service consumers appreciate from small businesses — yet large enough to offer reliable, 24/7 monitoring nationally.
N&D security products include the latest hardwired and wireless systems from Honeywell, and are installed and serviced by in-house technicians only. A variety of customizable features are available — and tech-savvy customers will appreciate the ability to arm, disarm and view the system status via their computer or mobile device. Other services include video surveillance, low-voltage wiring and installation of a variety of systems, from intercoms to audio distribution.
Described by customers as “very responsive,” N&D Security gets a lot of its business through word of mouth. The company offers free estimates and guarantees a lower cost of monitoring, especially when compared with the big companies. And you’ll get not only peace of mind that you’re in good hands, but also a discount of up to 20 percent off your homeowners insurance.
Advanced Security Systems, Inc.
Locally owned and operated since 1989, Advanced Security Systems offers state-of-the-art security systems and uses top brands such as Honeywell and GE Security. Known for personal service and fast response, the company promises an average callback time of 15 seconds.
Monitoring costs less than $1 a day. And with Advanced Security Systems, you don’t have to worry about being locked into a contract. If you like technology, check out the optional remote-access key fob that works with wireless sensors, and also find out about the system’s mobile-phone integration — not only do you have control at your fingertips but you can also get a text message or email alert when there are any problems.
As a small business, Advanced Security System has built its reputation one customer at a time. The small-business atmosphere means you’ll get personal attention — maybe even from the owner himself. And because the company uses a variety of brands and vendors, it can design the custom package that’s best for you. It also stays on top of the marketing, adding new product lines continuously.
In addition to security systems and 24-hour monitoring, Advanced Security Systems offers video surveillance, intercom and whole-house audio, home automation, home theaters and other services.
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. They offer three different kits (with different accessory options) ranging in price from $129 to $249, 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: an immersive view, streaming-ready camera, plus detectors for motion, sound, light, temperature, and humidity.
Local companies that didn’t make the cut
We found these brands to be a few strides behind the top rated in overall reputation:
- Urban Alarm
- National Security, Inc.
Preventing False Alarms
Preventing false alarms is inevitably part of managing a home security system. When you find one that works for you, maintaining it to ensure it only activates when it’s supposed to doesn’t require much extra effort. Simply installing new batteries on a routine basis can be a major deterrent to pesky false alarms, as can making sure doors and windows are fully shut before arming the system (keeping wind from activating the sensors). Consider what you’ll be doing for your community and local police force by keeping emergency responses dispatched to actual emergencies. In a lot of cases, the better the equipment, the lower the risk of false alarm activation. Unnecessary responses to false alarms result in wasted manpower and resources, all of which could be used in response to real emergencies. Make sure your community has all the help it needs by maintaining your own system! 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 you choose.
Check out the graphic below for some more simple tips that will lead to major false alarm prevention—it never hurts to take extra measures.
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 absence of passersby aren’t huge deterrents. 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.
If I’ve never experienced a break-in and live in a safe neighborhood, then how much do I actually need a home security system?
Studies have found that on average across the US, approximately every 13 seconds a US home experiences a break-in—that means two million homes a year. While these statistics take into account a wide variety of metropolitan areas, and you may very well be at low risk for a break-in, installing a home security system makes you, your family, and your home far less vulnerable to future risk (you just never know).
How does a home security system play into my homeowner’s or renter’s insurance?
In a lot of instances, even just having a security system established doesn’t just deter would-be burglars—it can also drive down homeowner and renter insurance costs, often saving you up to 20% (depending on your insurance company and plan, so be sure to check with your provider).
If I lose power, will my alarm system still work?
All of the battery-powered systems we’ve reviewed include a backup battery that kicks in should a loss of power occur. Some companies, such as Dyezz Surveillance, are equipped to notify you with a low battery signal, so that you can prepare yourself before the fact.
I’m thinking about choosing a large national home security brand. Does it matter how far away their monitoring center is from me?
We recommend selecting a company whose monitoring center (if you in fact choosing to elect for professional monitoring, that is) is less than 250 miles from your home base. It’s the best way to guarantee top-notch coverage and protection.
Are there any other simple measures I can employ to safeguard my home?
Any home maintenance that you may already be inclined towards can also play a part in preventing home intrusions. Pruning shrubs that hide windows (you don’t want to give burglars a hiding place) and trimming tree branches that could provide access to the upper level of your house can be huge deterrents to would-be criminals.
The Bottom Line
Home security is one of the most important things you can do to safeguard your quality of life and that of your family, so as many options as are out there, you’ll be glad you investigated. You know how important your home base is to you, and now you have a host of options for keeping it safe and running the way it should. All you need to do now is match them to the framework of your lifestyle.