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There are so many options today, from well-known providers that have been around for fifty years or more to brand-new companies selling DIY-installed, wallet-friendly home alarm systems and automation all in one.
You've got plenty of reasons to use an alarm system, whichever route you choose. Not only can they protect you against break-ins while you're away, but they can also give you extra peace of mind if you're one of the millions of Americans who find themselves working from home on a regular basis. Need to know who's at your door before you open it? Many systems will send live video right to your smartphone, letting you decide if you should interrupt that conference call with your team!
Wednesday, May 18th
For more than 10 years, Frontpoint has been revolutionizing the alarm system industry. As the first company to combine DIY installation with professional monitoring, they're the leader in customer-driven home alarm systems. Over several years, Frontpoint has maintained its first-place ranking in a very competitive field, edging out their next-closest rival mostly because of their platform that expands to include most home automation components (even ones not purchased through Frontpoint itself).
Choose your equipment
You can customize your alarm system right on the Frontpoint website, or start with one of their three ready-made kits:
Add in any extras you like, including home automation
There's even more you can include with your home alarm system. Just look for the additional equipment choices as you set up your alarm system: there's a dropdown with categories like Best Sellers, Cameras, Intrusion, Hazard Sensors, Home Automation and Accessories for you to browse. At the time of this review, Frontpoint was offering a 25% discount on all equipment (though we suspect that it's not really a limited-time offer; there almost always seems to be a sale here). You may not find dozens of options for sale through Frontpoint, but fortunately their systems are compatible with most Z-Wave equipment and you can add your own.
How about monitoring? You'll pay $49.99/month for a system that includes up to four cameras (including the doorbell), and most customers don't use more than that. When we reached out to Frontpoint's live support chat, the rep said if we set up our account to debit automatically from a checking or savings account, the monthly fees would drop by $5. Be aware that when you get to the checkout page, it's going to list a three-year monitoring plan: that represents the length of time your monthly fees are guaranteed to stay the same and not a required contract. You can cancel your Frontpoint service at any time, and you also get a 30-day risk free trial to put your alarm system fully to the test.
Complimentary identity protection
One nice perk included with your Frontpoint service is ID Protect, powered by Allstate Identity Protection. If you're already paying for another service (like LifeLock), you may be able to ditch it and use this complimentary feature of your home alarm system's coverage.
Over 10,000 four- and five-star reviews
Compared with many alarm system companies, Frontpoint's reputation is excellent. They enjoy an "A+" rating and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, and out of 12,000+ independently-verified client reviews more than 90% of them give this service a 4- or 5-star rating. It's even more encouraging to read compliments from people who have used these alarm systems for several years, or even a decade, to protect both home and business with no issues. The only problem we've seen mentioned repeatedly in recent complaints is some challenges with reaching support for billing and equipment issues - but not with interruptions in the monitoring service.
Best choice for alarm systems
Once again, Frontpoint comes out as the first-place winner among providers of alarm systems. We love their reputation for quality, their straightforward pricing on both equipment and monitoring, and the fact that you get all of it with absolutely no required contracts. Especially if home automation features are important to you, we encourage you to make Frontpoint the first home alarm system you consider.
Cove bills itself as "DIY home security that's both effective and affordable" . Although they're fairly new within the alarm systems marketplace, Cove was already named as the Best Home Security System of 2021 by US News and World Report. That definitely got our attention.
Answer some questions for a recommendation
The simplest way to get started with Cove is by answering a few basic questions about what you're protecting; you'll find that in the "Want some help?" box usually at the bottom of the site. Indicate if your alarm system will be for a house, apartment or business, if you've got an existing security system, details about any pets you have, the number of windows and doors in your home, and so forth.
Transparent pricing on equipment
Here's what we absolutely love: the next screen takes you to all of the components you'll need for the living arrangements you described, from window sensors to outdoor cameras, and you can increase or decrease them right there. No guesswork, no premade packages with lots of stuff you don't even need, just a straightforward list of your alarm system's recommended equipment. Lots of alarm system companies keep your pricing a closely-guarded secret until you work with a sales rep, which makes Cove a big breath of fresh air by comparison.
Big protection, little price
The following screen will display all of your monitoring details. You'll choose between two plans, Cove Basic and Cove Plus. Both plans include 24/7 alarm and environmental monitoring, 100% ATT 4G LTE connection, 24-hour battery backup, hourly automated system checks, and smash-and-grab protection. Equipment with the Basic plan has a one-year warranty. Cove Plus boosts the warranty to lifetime coverage and adds features like camera integration, smartphone/Alexa/Google Home controls, a lifetime monitoring rate lock guarantee, and a $5/month credit towards new equipment that you can accumulate and redeem whenever you like. We were stunned to learn that this highest monitoring package only costs $24.99/month, and Basic is just $14.99/month.
Cuts down on false alarms
We really like Cove's TripleTouch Alarm Response. If your system is triggered, you'll get a text immediately to confirm that you are actually having an emergency, and your control panel will activate the LiveAssist to speak with you. If neither of those gets a response, Cove's monitoring team will reach out with a direct phone call. If all three of those contact mechanisms don't get a response (or, of course, if you do confirm there's an emergency), responders will be dispatched. This is a fantastic way of cutting down on false alarm calls (and the corresponding fees you may pay to your emergency services).
No contracts, budget-friendly equipment
It gets better: Cove monitoring comes with no contracts. None. Zero. Yes, you'll need to pay for your equipment upfront, but even those costs aren't excessive; on the package we pulled together for our sample home with lots of window/door sensors, six remotes for a whole family, and so forth, our equipment price was under $500.
60-day money-back guarantee
What's the catch? We couldn't find one. You can install your Cove alarm system in minutes, with or without the help of a rep over the phone, or you can pay extra for a professional setup (starting at $79). You're also protected by a 60-day, 100% money-back guarantee, and Cove will even cover the return shipping fees on the equipment.
Reputation is steady and climbing
Reputation? The Better Business Bureau gives Cove an "A" rating and accreditation, and there were only a few dozen complaints filed with the BBB over the three years leading up to this review. Those negative reviews (and the handful we found elsewhere) almost always refer to challenges with getting equipment set up or refunded, as well as some customers' dissatisfaction with being routed to offshore support reps when seeking help. However, the vast majority of Cove customers are extremely happy with their alarm systems: more than 2500 of them give it a five-star rating, and plenty of clients say that the customer service team is helpful and easy to understand, the systems are simple to install and work exactly as expected, and the price is right.
Try this new kid on the block
Cove is our favorite new addition to the alarm system marketplace. You'll get affordable equipment and monitoring, plus upfront pricing with no surprises or bait-and-switch sales tactics. As this provider works out some of the small kinks in their customer service, we expect to see even more praise coming in from happy clients. Cove gets one of our highest recommendations among home alarm system companies.
Alarm Relay may be the best little alarm system company you've never heard of. In operation for nearly 50 years, this provider has a flawless "A+" and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, with absolutely no complaints filed there. That in itself is reason to give Alarm Relay a look.
Just the basics here
What you won't get here are a ton of bells and whistles: this isn't the alarm system company to choose if you want slick home automation and tons of fancy features controlled by your smartphone. However, if you need basic sensors and cameras and reliable monitoring. Alarm Relay definitely has you covered.
Plenty of equipment, affordable monitoring
The best way to get started with Alarm Relay is to browse their products online. It'll give you a good feel for what they have (and what they don't). As a sampling, their Cameras include several indoor and outdoor options, plus two different brands of video doorbells. Sensors cover everything from basic door/window equipment to smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, flooding, and more. If you already know what you want, you can add it to your cart and complete your purchase. Just don't forget about the monitoring: Alarm Relay offers landline, internet and cellular options, with annual pricing that works out to be $8.95, $13.95, and $19.95 per month in the first year (with slight increases in the monthly price each year for the first four years).
No problem getting help
If you're not sure what you need, it's easy to click on the "Need Help" button on the Alarm Relay site, or give their toll-free number a call. Your representative will give you a no-hassle, complimentary assessment of your home alarm system needs - the call shouldn't take longer than 10 minutes or so.
Bring over your existing equipment
Also, if your home already has an alarm system, this company will happily work with you. That's a service you won't usually find with other alarm system companies, who insist that you replace your existing equipment with their own. Be sure to mention it when you reach out to an Alarm Relay rep if you're hoping to take advantage of any alarm systems currently in place.
Happy long-term customers
We already mentioned this company's great track record with the BBB, but we were equally impressed by their customer reviews elsewhere. Alarm Relay has clients that have happily been with them for over a decade - and newer ones who switched over from some of the Big Name Alarm System Companies and are delighted by the lower rates and better service. Like any business, Alarm Relay experiences issues from time to time, but we've seen nothing but professional, prompt, and courteous responses from their support reps when problems have come up.
Great choice for low-tech alarm systems
For basic home protection, Alarm Relay is a fantastic choice. You'll get straightforward pricing without the hassle of a multiple-year contract, and it may be one of the only providers that will gladly help you link up any existing home alarm system equipment with their monitoring services. While you'll need to look elsewhere for cutting-edge home automation, Alarm Relay is well worth your consideration for alarm systems suitable for most customers.
With over a million customers in North America, Brinks Home is one of the leaders in the alarm system industry and was named as a Best-in-State Winner for Customer Service by Newsweek.
3 equipment packages
There are three main equipment packages to choose from with Brinks Home alarm systems:
Connect up to 100+ smart home components
Of course, those are just the three base-plan packages; you can customize your alarm system to include any other features you desire. Your Brinks Home alarm system can be a hub for nearly 120 smart home devices, and you may want to consider extras like a smart door lock, flood sensor, or smoke/CO detector.
Call for a quote, expect it to be $$
What will it cost? Unfortunately, like many of the bigger-name home alarm system companies, Brinks doesn't let you price out your alarm system online. You'll have to contact them for a quote to get the details for the configuration you want to set up. Our research indicates that the Essential package usually starts at $199, and monthly monitoring will run you $39.99+. Of course, you may find out otherwise, depending on where you live and any promotions running at the time you set up your alarm system.
Contracts? 3 years, minimum
Although you won't find this stated on the Brinks Home site, you should also expect a minimum of a three-year contract with your monitoring. In the past, they used to have a no-contract plan called Nest Secure, and we still found some references to that option in the FAQs, but it's not displayed anywhere in the current options. Again, this may depend on the authorized retailer you wind up with for Brinks Home service in your area.
Client feedback varies
Customers don't all report the same experience when working with a Brinks Home alarm system. On the one hand, the company earns a solid "A" and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, and nearly 3,000 clients say this service is worth a perfect five-star rating. On the other hand, almost 25% of those who rated Brinks gave it the lowest possible score, and there were over 1,600 complaints filed with the BBB in the year prior to this review. True, Brinks' reps seem to be doing a good job of responding to those complaints - but we weren't happy to see people having a hard time getting their problems resolved without turning to the BBB for help. And yet, when you have over a million customers, you can expect to have your fair share of not-so-perfect situations - some of which can depend on the contracted installers, the shipping carriers for the equipment, and so on.
Best of the big-name alarm system brands
Among the big-name home alarm system companies, Brinks isn't a bad choice. They seem to have alarm systems with the least amount of hassle, and their costs aren't over-the-top expensive. Like most of their well-known rivals, Brinks Home could improve by offering more transparency pre-purchase; why not let prospective customers know exactly what their equipment and monitoring will cost upfront, instead of making them call for a quote? We'd also like to see some kind of clearly-stated return/satisfaction policy. Beyond that, though, a Brinks Home alarm system should offer you all the protection you need - just consider their higher-ranked competitors first.
For over seven decades, Guardian Protection has been a name to trust for reliable alarm systems. In fact, it was the first company in history to receive recognition not once but twice as Security Company of the Year, largely due to their US-based customer representative team and their top-notch monitoring services.
9 not-so-helpfully-named packages
Unless you click on the green "Get Started" button to take a quiz to determine what you need, it can be a little overwhelming at first trying to sort through all of the package options at Guardian Protection. Why? They're not named in ways that immediately communicate what you're getting. What's the difference between "Family First" and "Healthy (Green) Home" alarm systems? Yeah, that doesn't jump right out at us either. You can click on any three packages to compare them, but there are a total of nine to choose from. Let's take a look at three of them to give you an idea:
No pricing without a phone call
Just like many alarm system companies, Guardian Protection doesn't come right out and tell you what it'll cost to use their home alarm system. You'll have to click to get a free quote or call their toll-free number to get your specific pricing. Our research indicates that this company charges anywhere from $34.95 to $59.95 per month for monitoring, and your equipment costs are extra.
Most plans have a contract from 1-5 years
Oh, and don't forget about contracts. We went poking around in Guardian Protection's Terms and Conditions (since they don't spell it out in the other pages on their site) and found that most plans come with monitoring commitments ranging from 12-60 months. There's a no annual contract option available, but customers have to purchase a control panel, motion detector and three window/door sensors for the whopping price of $1249 to qualify.
Slight reputation drop
We weren't pleased to see that Guardian's rating with the BBB has dropped since our last review: not a huge decrease, from an "A+" to an "A-" , but still not the trend we'd prefer. Customer comments are generally positive, with over 1,600 clients giving these alarm systems a five-star rating and fewer than 10% of clients saying they'd give the company a rating of "poor" or "bad" . It's good to see that Guardian Protection's representatives respond quickly and professionally to all feedback, positive or negative.
Significantly limited service area
The biggest limitation of these alarm systems is the service area. Unless you live in one of their covered metro areas in Texas, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Delaware, Florida, Pennsylvania, or DC, you're not eligible to use their home alarm systems. That cuts out a pretty significant part of the US population.
Good alarm systems - if you can get them
Overall, Guardian Protection is a reliable choice for alarm systems if you happen to live in one of their service areas. There are enough package options that you can get the equipment you want without having to pay for extras you don't need, and while the monitoring costs are more expensive than most, you get some of the best service in the industry. You may want to shop around a little before committing to Guardian, but rest assured that you're in good hands if you ultimately choose this alarm system for your home.
Among all of the most recognized names in alarm systems, ADT is likely the biggest. The company regularly wins awards from Forbes, PCMag, Newsweek and more for being among the best home alarm system businesses around - as you would hope and expect from a provider that has been in operation for nearly 150 years, with over six million residential customers in the United States alone.
Extensive monitoring coverage
One of the big selling points of ADT is their 24/7 monitoring. The service is backed by not one or two but nine different monitoring/customer service centers. That's some pretty impressive redundancy and makes it more likely that you'll reach someone exactly when you need help.
3 equipment packages
You'll start your alarm system shopping by choosing one of three base ADT equipment packages:
Customized quote through ADT reps
When you work with an ADT rep (or request a free quote via the ADT website), you'll describe your home and your alarm system needs, resulting in an alarm system that has all of the components required to keep you safe - and with any fun home automation features you'd enjoy. Keep in mind that much of your customer experience will depend on the authorized retailer you're paired with in your area, from the quality of the installation experience to technician follow-ups after you're an established customer.
Get ready to spend a lot
ADT alarm systems are some of the most expensive around, especially when you consider the required contracts. Your equipment packages are automatically priced with a 60-month repayment term; you can pay more each month to get it repaid more quickly, but you still have to sign up for three years of monitoring. That monitoring starts at $45.99 and will usually be higher if you choose one of the more advanced equipment packages (specifically with remote video viewing and recording). Plus, ADT may have the most costly installation fees we've seen: again, it depends on what's in place at the time you get your alarm system set up, but in some of the fine print on the ADT site we found reference to fees of a whopping $599 - and that's just the install, not the monitoring or the equipment.
Terms and conditions apply to money-back guarantee
We appreciate that ADT has a 6-month money-back guarantee, but you should be aware that it has some stipulations: you can't just decide you don't like your alarm system and send it back. To qualify for a refund, you have to experience a system-related issue that ADT can't resolve within the first six months of your contract; your refund will be processed only once the equipment is fully removed.
Disappointing feedback for such an established business
When you have millions of customers, it stands to reason that you might get a higher-than-average number of complaints. That's absolutely true for ADT. Even though they have an "A+" rating and accreditation from the BBB - which indicates that they're doing a satisfactory job of responding to customer problems - they still garner thousands upon thousands of negative reviews. Yes, it's more common for someone to go online to file a complaint than a compliment, but that doesn't explain why some of ADT's rivals have numerous five-star reviews... while out of nearly 2,000 independently-verified scores 85% of ADT's are the worst possible one-star rating.
So what are the problems?
Equipment issues and challenges with getting them rectified are what we see time and time again. Remember that ADT relies a lot on their area partners for installation and service, so these issues are heavily dependent on the ADT partner in your area. We very strongly suggest that if you are thinking of going with ADT, you find out who your authorized retailer will be and take the extra step to look up their reputation as well.
Good but not great
Does the old maxim "you get what you pay for" apply with ADT? Yes and no. It's great to have extensive monitoring coverage and a longstanding reputation, but we're not sure it's worth the extremely costly installation fees, lengthy contracts, and much higher-than-average monthly service price. Unless you need the peace of mind that comes from choosing an alarm system from a well-established company like ADT, you're probably going to find similar protection for much less with another provider.
SimpliSafe was founded in 2006, and its alarm systems protect more than a million homes throughout the US and UK. This is one of the few home alarm systems on the market that come with options for both professional, round-the-clock monitoring and self-service if you prefer to keep an eye on things yourself without 24/7 external surveillance.
Lots to choose from
SimpliSafe makes it simple to get the equipment you want for the alarm system you have in mind: either customize it from the get-go, shop refurbished systems, or choose from their five packages:
Add what you need, including professional install if desired
Not seeing the equipment you need in one of the packages? No problem. You can add extra components without adding to your monitoring costs. These systems are designed to be easy for the average person to set up, but if you want professional help you can choose that for an extra fee (starting at $99).
4 monitoring options
There are four ways you can use your SimpliSafe alarm system: unmonitored, self-monitored with camera recording, standard, or interactive. All four allow you to arm and disarm your system remotely, keep you informed with push notifications, and send you alarm/error/camera alerts.
Unmonitored lets you DIY for free
The Unmonitored service only comes with the cost of the equipment you choose to install. It's a pretty bare-bones option; there's no police or fire dispatch, no SMS or email notifications, and you can only view a 7-day timeline of any events logged. As you might imagine, this plan isn't very popular among consumers who want a halfway-decent home alarm system.
DIY plus cameras for under $10/month
The next tier, Self-Monitoring with Camera Recording, costs $9.99/month. If you want a truly DIY alarm system from install to monitoring, this is your plan. You can view an unlimited timeline/history of your system, you'll get all possible notifications and alerts, unlimited recording on up to five cameras, and it can integrate some smart home components. There's no emergency services dispatch: you essentially are the monitoring center.
2 professional monitoring packages
To add in professional monitoring, you'll need to choose between the Standard ($14.99/month) and Interactive ($24.99/month) plans. The standard doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles: it's a basic alarm system that has round-the-clock monitoring but no integrations, SMS/email notifications, or arming reminders. Most people who want a well-rounded alarm system setup choose the Interactive, which allows you unlimited recording on up to 10 cameras and all of the other features SimpliSafe makes available.
No contracts, 60-day trial
No matter which plan you choose, you have a 60-day risk-free trial to see if your alarm system meets expectations. Plus, there are no long-term contracts with SimpliSafe; you can cancel at any time.
Features you won't see elsewhere
There are two novel features of SimpliSafe's monitoring that are available with the top-tier package that you might want to consider. One is Visual Verification; it allows SimpliSafe reps to confirm that your alarm is real so that police can be dispatched faster. The other is the Secret Alert: if you've got a cabinet or private area that you want to monitor without setting off an alarm, your SimpliSafe system can do that. You'll get a quiet alert when those places are breached.
Recent updates lead to sharp decline
As we went to check out SimpliSafe's most recent customer feedback, expecting it to be on par with the glowing reports we found in the past, we were surprised and disappointed. One huge detail is that the company had recently pushed two-factor authentication to all of their accounts: ordinarily, that's a good thing, but in SimpliSafe's case they were restricting it to a single username. In other words, unless you allow all of your household users to log in using the same account, only one person can access the system remotely. When we reached out to SimpliSafe's live chat online, the rep confirmed that this is the case - and that they had no projected date when the two-factor authentication would be available for multiple usernames on one alarm system. They also didn't respond to our question as to whether it would be feasible for everyone in a household to log in remotely using the same sign-on.
Reputation not trending upward lately
That lines up with a downward trend we see reflected in other client comments. While the company has thousands of five-star reviews, many of those are several years old; on the other hand, ratings left within a few weeks of this evaluation complain about struggles to get equipment repaired or connected, to get refunds for broken components (or even just during the 60-day free trial), or even just to reach support reps in a timely manner. Not a good look.
Not our favorite right now
While SimpliSafe used to be in a tie for our highest rating, these recent developments leave us wondering if their alarm systems are still a trustworthy choice. Because it's going to take some time to (hopefully) see improvements, we've downgraded SimpliSafe to a "just average" three-star rating and suggest looking at a different service in the meanwhile.
Ring is on a mission to make neighborhoods safer. From the flagship video doorbell (inspired by input from the inventor's wife, who called the idea "Caller ID for the front door" ) to the Neighbors by Ring app, these DIY alarm systems can be found just about everywhere you look.
2 basic equipment kits
While you can customize your equipment package as desired, there are two main kits sold by Ring: Alarm and Alarm Pro. The Alarm kit comes with a base station and keypad, four contact sensors, a motion detector and a range extender. On the product page, you'll also find packages that include a video doorbell, two-packs of floodlight or spotlight cameras, and an indoor camera. This kit starts at $249.99 and goes up to $949.97 for the Deluxe Pro Bundle that incorporates two video doorbells and two wired floodlight cameras.
Pro kit includes home network security
The Alarm Pro kit has a built-in eero Wi-Fi 6 router, giving you whole-home protection and network security at the same time - and it keeps your connected Ring devices online even if your primary internet connection goes down. This package starts at $249.99 (the rest of the alarm system components are the same as in the basic Ring kit) and goes up to $449.99 for a kit that includes the Amazon Echo Show 5.
What extras would you like?
Either as part of a kit or a standalone order, there are plenty of gadgets you can get from Ring. You may want to consider a flood and freeze sensor, electronic locks, smart wall switches/outlets/dimmers, or a smoke/CO alarm to add to your setup. You can also save a little more by shopping at the Certified Refurbished section of the Ring online store. Shipping is free on all Ring orders over $49.
Professional or DIY monitoring
You don't have to pay for 24/7 monitoring with a Ring system, if you just want a basic alarm setup that you monitor from your smartphone. Either kit can be set up with professional monitoring for just $20/month, and you can customize your system to minimize false alarms.
BBB rating in flux
At the time of this review, Ring's rating with the Better Business Bureau was under evaluation due to a couple of previously-closed complaints that had been reopened. That doesn't tell us much. There were around 400 complaints filed with the BBB against Ring in the year prior to this evaluation, but they didn't specify which ones triggered the pending status. That's not out of the ordinary for most alarm systems.
Many unsatisfied Ring customers
Unfortunately, looking at Ring's reputation elsewhere doesn't paint a pretty picture. 65% of the 3,000+ ratings we found give these home alarm systems an abysmal one-star rating; in contrast, only 16^% would say Ring deserves five stars. Billing issues, failure to make warranty repairs, poor quality equipment (including doorbells that don't seem to work in cold weather), and lackluster response (or none at all) from Ring's customer service are just a small fraction of the litany of complaints stacked up against these alarm systems.
Big-time privacy concerns
And none of that even scratches the surface of the potential privacy risks involved with using Ring alarm system equipment. Just do a search for "Ring" and "hacked" or even "Ring" and "police" and buckle up, because the ride is going to be bumpy. The company has made strides to improve in that regard, but it's an issue they need to continue working on, both with their product and public perception.
Better choices available
Is Ring convenient? Yes - you can buy the system online or at many local hardware stores. Is it easy to seup? Sure - the app does a good job of walking you through the self-installation process. In fact, Ring used to be - and maybe still feels like - the only name on the market if you want DIY security, especially with the readily-available video doorbell that goes right to your smartphone. But not anymore. Check out any of the higher-rated alarm systems in our review and you'll probably find everything you wanted Ring to offer: affordability, security, and top-of-the-line equipment that works (and doesn't have any surveillance issues to speak of). In such a competitive marketplace, there are better choices than Ring for home alarm systems.
Founded in 1991, CPI Security is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina. The company is "A+" rated and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
2 packages - or customize yours
There are three ways to set up your alarm system with CPI Security:
Free professional installation
All of CPI Security's alarm systems require professional installation: no DIY equipment here. This setup comes at no charge. Your system is also covered by a "No False Alarm" Guarantee: if it malfunctions due to an error on CPI's part, any alarm fines will be reimbursed to you. (But note that this doesn't cover user error, "acts of God" , or negligence.)
Extremely limited service area
CPI Security hasn't expanded its service areas since our last evaluation: you still have to be a resident of the NC/SC/GA/TN metro areas of Knoxville, Atlanta, Myrtle Beach, Greenville, Charleston, Columbia, Wilmington, Fayetteville, Greenville, Asheville, Greensboro, Raleigh or Charlotte to use these alarm systems.
Why so mysterious?
Another thing that hasn't changed is how opaque this company is about its equipment costs and fees. To get any specifics at all, you'll have to submit a contact form or call CPI Security: they don't disclose anything outright on their website. Even their "live chat" takes you to a "call us" or form to fill out, with no way to ask questions first. That's a huge disappointment compared with some rival alarm systems who make it easy to see what you can expect without talking to a sales rep to get it. When you dig around in CPI's terms, you'll discover that you can expect a minimum equipment purchase of $499; customer comments indicate that you can anticipate monthly monitoring fees ranging from $29.99 to $49.99 (or more), not to mention a lengthy contract of anywhere from 39-60 months.
Not dependable enough for all customers
This company gets some mixed client feedback with respect to performance too. On the one hand, the Better Business Bureau continues to give CPI Security its highest "A+" rating and accreditation, which is always a plus. On the other hand, we found hundreds of customer reviews that only give these alarm systems a rating of average, poor or even bad. The biggest complaint is customer service - or lack thereof. People describe being on hold for over an hour trying to get support for a malfunctioning system; one client even said he had to go to a hotel because the alarm wouldn't stop going off and he couldn't get anyone at CPI Security on the phone to help him out. How secure is your home if you can't reach the company protecting it ASAP?
Not a great choice for alarm systems
To recap: CPI Security has a very limited service area, requires prospective customers to talk with a potentially pushy sales rep instead of disclosing terms and fees upfront, and has a history of disappointing customers despite a good record with the BBB. It's no wonder their alarm systems continue to wind up at the bottom of our rankings. You'll probably have a better experience with another provider.
Vivint is pretty well known for its pleasant, door-to-door sales reps offering professionally-installed alarm systems that come with many smart home bells and whistles - like connecting to your favorite Nest, Amazon or Google tech.
Customize or look at packages
One of the reasons Vivint alarm systems are so popular is their integration: you can have all of your locks, cameras, lighting and thermostats connected through your hub or smartphone app, and they work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa too.
Equipment and monitoring is usually costly
We did some poking around, though, and found that you can expect monthly monitoring fees to start at $19.99/month (though most customers wind up paying at least $29.99/month with the equipment they select). In terms of the equipment, the Starter package tends to retail for about $599, which you can either pay for upfront or finance for up to five years interest-free; you'll probably get one motion sensor, one leak sensor, two door/window sensors and possibly a credit towards additional devices of your choice. You can predict that your equipment costs go up from there; we saw quotes for fully-featured systems with a base price of $1,700 just for the gear, not to mention the monitoring fees.
Unique video doorbell
On a positive note, we're really intrigued by Vivint's Doorbell Camera Pro. In an era when porch pirates seem to be more active than ever, having a video doorbell that not only notifies homeowners when a package arrives but also fires up an LED ring and a 65dB speaker when someone is spotted trying to remove a delivered package sounds like a pretty smart idea. Helpfully, you can create a surveillance zone too, so that your alerts don't go off every time someone walks a dog past your home.
Professional installation required
All of Vivint's systems require professional installation. When you call or go online to get your quote, you'll set an appointment with one of their "Smart Home Pros" who will give you a free in-home consultation. When you've chosen your system, expect installation fees of $99 - though the authorized retailer of Vivint in your area may have promotions that give it to you for free.
Vivint makes a lot of promises, but it's difficult to get past the company's reputation: an "F" with the Better Business Bureau and over 1,600 complaints filed there in the last 12 months alone. We're not seeing any signs of improvement in that regard, either, with Vivint entering yet another settlement agreement with the FTC due to fraudulent sales practices. Not so great, folks, especially for a company that's supposed to help consumers be more secure - not less.
Least recommended for alarm systems
Beyond sales, Vivint regularly disappoints with respect to service. Customer after customer describe systems that stop functioning for weeks or months at a time, with no-show technicians - yet ongoing payments. Spending money month after month, under contract for financed equipment, for home alarm systems that doesn't actually work? No thanks. You won't have a hard time understanding why Vivint once again earns our lowest ranking among alarm system providers.
What are the basics of an alarm system? Most packages come with a few window/door sensors and some kind of control panel. You can still find traditional equipment that includes a wall-installed panel, but most of today's systems have a portable tablet used to arm and disarm it. From there, the options are nearly limitless and can include indoor/outdoor cameras, video doorbells, smoke/fire and carbon monoxide detectors, and many other features to keep you feeling secure.
Beyond safety, alarm systems now give you plenty of choices for home automation. What might have seemed like space-age tech just ten years ago is commonplace: use your smartphone to turn down the thermostat before you get home from work, arm your system with a voice command even when you're already in bed for the evening, or sign into your system from your computer at work to make sure you really did remember to lock the front door (and take care of it if you didn't!).
With so many options, it can feel overwhelming to choose an alarm system. There are several things to keep in mind that can help make the decision clearer and lead you to the package that will meet your needs:
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