Technology

New Security Systems Give Peace of Mind for a Dollar a Day

New home security systems are affordable, versatile and easy to install.

Not so long ago, home security systems were the domain of deep-pocketed homeowners in upscale neighborhoods. But you no longer have to spend a lot of money to protect your property and belongings.

New wireless home security systems are less expensive, easier to install and more portable than their hardwired, landline-based predecessors. In addition to notifying authorities about a break-in or other emergency, these systems can alert you to all sorts of threats, from a carbon monoxide leak to a furnace on the fritz. They can also help you keep track of the comings and goings of people in your home—a teenager or your dog walker, for example—and advise you when someone opens, say, a drawer with valuables or the liquor cabinet.

Most systems use your Wi-Fi network to communicate with devices inside your home, but they use a more reliable and tamper-resistant cellular network to send alerts. Most are also connected to a professional service that will contact the authorities about an emergency, such as a break-in or fire. You can expect to pay $25 to $60 a month for that service, but, unlike in the past, many companies don’t require a long-term contract. And some home security companies allow you to forgo professional monitoring. That will reduce your monthly cost, but you’ll be on your own when it comes to acting on alerts.

Smarter systems. Many of the new security systems still come with a wall-mounted keypad, but they can also be controlled using an app on your smartphone. Most can also communicate with Alexa or Google Home devices as well as other smart-home tech­nologies, such as smart locks, lights and thermostats. Once everything’s connected, you can instruct your security system to complete several tasks at once, such as lowering the temperature and turning off lights when you go to bed.

Before buying a system, check how the equipment is installed, the type of technology it uses to communicate with you or the service provider, and the monitoring plans that are available to keep an eye on your home. Many companies will send a technician to install the system, but you may be able to install today’s wireless systems yourself in less than an hour. You’ll generally place sensors on doors and windows and other areas of your home and connect the system’s hub—which controls and communicates with those sensors—to an electrical outlet and your home’s Wi-Fi network. With a professionally monitored system, you may qualify for a 5% to 20% discount on your home­owners insurance premium. Some insurers offer a small discount to homeowners with a self-monitoring system.

If you’re looking for a reliable but flexible setup that you can install yourself, your best bets are SimpliSafe, which starts at $230 for the Foundation kit, and the essential kit from Abode, which also starts at $230. In both cases, you select a kit that includes window and door sensors, motion detectors and a hub to control the system. From there, you can select additional components, such as a security camera or water sensors to detect a leak or flood.

Neither company requires you to have your system monitored, but both offer the service for an additional cost. Abode’s round-the-clock monitoring plan costs $30 a month, and Simpli­Safe’s full-fledged plan costs $25 a month. With both plans, you can control the system with your smartphone and receive video recordings from security cameras in your home. Both systems pair with Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home and other smart-home devices.

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