Home is where your favorite people are and your most cherished memories are made — which is probably why you're looking for extra ways to keep it safe and sound. But with countless brands, equipment options, and features to consider, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed.
If you want to skip the stress of opening 30 different browser tabs to compare every system on the market, take a look at this handy guide. We'll help you narrow down your options so you can skip to the fuss and go straight to having peace of mind.
Factors to Consider Before You Buy
One of the easiest ways to narrow down your options is to consider which factors and features are most important, from price ranges to monitoring options. Here are a few things to consider before you start shopping.
Self-Installed Home Security vs. Professional Installation
There are two types of home security systems to choose from: ones that you install yourself and ones that require a professional. You typically have to pay for professional installation, but you won't have to worry about getting anything set up (although you will have to be home during the technician's service window). With a self-installed home security system, you can buy it outright and install your equipment whenever you want — and most brands offer step-by-step instructions, so anyone can handle setup like a pro.
Ring offers both options! Nearly all Ring devices are easy to install yourself and with a single scan of a QR code, the Ring app takes you step by step on how to get your device set up and online in minutes. If you'd rather have someone else do it, we offer professional installation!
Not sure whether self-installation or relying on a professional is right for you? Learn the pros and cons of each process.
Self vs. Professional Monitoring
If you're willing to check your alarm notifications and handle potential security situations on your own, self-installed home security systems allow you to self-monitor. If you have Ring, you can set up and customize the notifications you want to receive, when you want to receive them, so you don't miss a beat and can check in from anywhere all from the Ring App.
If you want an expert monitoring your system alerts around the clock while you focus on taking the important meetings at the office, driving your kiddos to dance and soccer practice, or getting a few hours of shut-eye, look for a system with professional monitoring. Most professionally installed systems require you to pay for 24/7 monitoring, while many self-install home security systems give you the option for a monthly or yearly fee. With Ring Protect Plans, you can opt-in for professional monitoring and have the best of both worlds.
The total cost of your security system will depend on several factors:
- Equipment costs: Self-installed systems are usually cheaper than professionally installed systems, but you may be able to finance equipment costs over the course of your contract (if you have one). Some self-install security systems also offer financing options.
- Monitoring fees: Many professionally installed systems require you to pay a monthly fee for professional monitoring services, and you may be able to subscribe to a monitoring plan for your self-installed equipment.
- Installation fees: You don't have to pay any installation fees when you take care of it yourself, but some companies give you the option to hire a professional. If you go the professional installation route, be prepared to pay an upfront fee to get your equipment up and running.
If you choose a professionally installed home security system, there's a good chance you'll have to sign a contract for monthly monitoring. A contract may not be a big deal if you plan to stay in your home for the long-term and like your equipment provider, but if you want the freedom to switch systems, you should opt for a contract-free system.
Going contract-free doesn't mean you won't have the option to add professional monitoring later. Many self-install system providers let you join their professional monitoring plans at any time — and you may even get some extra perks, like video storage and sharing, plus extended device warranties.
Smart Home Compatibility
Smart home devices can make your life a whole lot easier, but they can also be an inconvenience if you choose incompatible equipment. If you already have a smart home hub, smart locks, thermostats, lights, or all of the above, make sure to check which home security systems are compatible. Many systems will allow you to control your other smart home devices via their app and use voice controls to arm and disarm sensors.
Your Home's Footprint
The more doors and windows you have on the ground level of your home, the more sensors you'll need, which is why you should take your space into account when considering different systems. Many self-install kits allow you to add extra sensors, but you may need a range extender for a larger home. Professional installers will usually build a customized system based on your needs, so you won't have to worry about trying to find the kit that aligns most closely with your home.
If you're a renter, you may be limited to self-installed systems that won't require wires or drilled holes. Check your lease agreement or talk with your landlord to see what your options are.
Common Equipment Options to Look for When Buying a Home Security System
Although every security system is a little different, most come with the same core devices and a few extra options for added safety. Here are the devices you'll come across when shopping around for a system.
Control Panel or Base Station
Every home security system has a central hub that receives signals from your sensors. Some allow you to arm and disarm your system from the panel, whereas others require a separate keypad or app.
Contact sensors trigger an alarm if someone opens a door or window when the system is armed. You'll want a contact sensor for every exterior door and window on the ground level of your home, but you can also add a few extra to interior doors if you don't want your young kids digging through your home office or drawing a mural on a wall in the guest room. Some systems also offer outdoor sensors, so you can know if someone — or something — opens the door to your shed or gate.
If you want to know what's going on inside your home, not just when a door or window gets opened, you'll want at least one motion detector. These sensors trigger your alarm when a person or large animal walks by, so you can use them to detect unwanted visitors.
While motion detectors won't act as your first line of defense, they add an extra layer of security if someone manages to get inside without triggering another sensor — which is why most companies automatically include at least one in their systems. And if you don't want to deal with constant notifications while you're inside watching the kids or whipping up dinner, many systems will allow you to customize your settings, so that interior sensors do not get triggered during select periods of time.
While most companies only include contact sensors and motion detectors in their standard systems, many offer add-ons for even more protection. These are a few of the sensors you may be able to add:
Glass break sensors: These sensors trigger the alarm if they detect the sound of breaking glass, which can help ward off potential intruders. If you're not home, you can call the authorities or ask your neighbors to check out the scene (in case your home has a history of being targeted by rogue baseballs).
Flood and freeze sensors: Keeping your home safe goes beyond warding off uninvited guests. Flood and freeze sensors trigger your alarm if they detect dripping water or cold temperatures (typically under 40° Fahrenheit), so you'll know if you may be at risk for a burst pipe or water damage.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors or listeners: Integrating your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors into your home security system helps ensure you never miss a potential safety threat. You can know if your detectors sense smoke, extreme heat, or carbon monoxide — even if it's just your teenager forgetting about a tray of cookies in the oven.
Sirens let potential intruders and anyone at home know that the alarm system has been triggered with a loud sound. A siren may be enough to ward off uninvited guests, but you or your monitoring company will also receive an alert, so you can request to dispatch the authorities if needed. Some systems integrate the alarm sound into the control panel or base station, but others may include a separate siren device. Plus, you may be able to buy a few extra devices from your alarm company if you want a siren on every floor.
Panic buttons let you immediately trigger your siren and alert loved ones in your home, or your professional monitoring company (depending on your contract or subscription), when you need help. Most require you to hold down a button for a few seconds to avoid false alarms.
With a few indoor and outdoor security cameras, you can keep an eye on what's happening at home when you're not there. And if you pay for video storage, you may be able to capture footage of potential crimes or even funny moments like your pet chasing their tail.
Many systems offer both indoor and outdoor cameras with a variety of features, like night vision, sirens, floodlights, and two-way audio.
Adding video doorbells to your security system can help you keep track of who comes and goes and spot suspicious activity before it happens. With Ring Video Doorbells, you'll be able to check all your notifications from your doorbell and your alarm in the Ring app.
You'll likely use your video doorbell more for day-to-day check-ins with family, friends and packages getting delivered, where Live View and Two-Way Talk will come in handy! And if video storage is included in your agreement or subscription, you can send footage of a crime to the authorities or your insurance company.
Ready to Create the Perfect Security System for Your Home?
Now that you know the most important factors to consider and the different security equipment you can use to protect your home, it's time to start looking for a system that's right for you. At Ring, we simplify the shopping process with customizable options for any space, from one-bedroom apartments to spacious two-story homes and beyond.
Whether you want to take a hands-off approach or you're excited to jump into a self-installation project, we give you both options. And if one of our kits doesn't precisely match your home, you can always pick up extra Contact Sensors, Motion Detectors, or add-on sensors to build the perfect system. Plus, we offer Ring Protect Pro for only $20 a month or $200 a year, which gets you professional monitoring, video storage, extended warranties, and more — but you can also go commitment-free if you're looking for a self-monitored system.