Installing a home security system used to mean spending hundreds of dollars to have professionals come and hardwire your house, then paying huge fees month after month in order to keep the thing running. Systems weren't flexible, false alarms were frequent, and if you were a lowly renter, you were out of luck entirely -- despite the fact that rental units get burglarized more often than any other kind of property.
Times are changing, though, and a smart new wave of home security systems is changing the way we think about protecting our homes. These new systems are built around plug-and-play, DIY-friendly devices and sensors that'll work with your smartphone, move when you need them to, and put you in control of how you manage your security needs, whether you own a five-bedroom townhouse or rent a studio apartment. Best of all, these systems come with no contracts, and in many cases, no monthly fees -- meaning that peace of mind is more affordable than ever.
Perhaps the prettiest-looking security device ever created, the $199 Canary is an all-in-one security system with an assortment of smart sensors built right into it. There's Wi-Fi, a night-vision-ready camera that you'll be able to access via a smartphone app, and motion, temperature, and humidity sensors all packed inside, along with learning technology that will adapt to your habits over time, leading to fewer false alarms. You won't be able to hook any external sensors up with the system, though (at least not yet), and in the event of an emergency, it'll call you, but not the police. Still, it raised over $2 million during its Indiegogo campaign, so it's clearly a device people are excited about, and one we're looking forward to getting our hands on when it's released in May 2014. Just one question -- why isn't it yellow?
There are plenty of IP cameras that allow you to view a location remotely, but few offer as simple a setup or as elegant an interface as Dropcam does. The Dropcam HD impressed us last year -- this year, the new Dropcam Pro is even better. Just plug the camera into your computer via USB, introduce it to your wireless network, then download the free Dropcam app to your Android or iOS device. You'll be able to monitor your Dropcam feed in real-time for free, or pay $9.95 per month for a DVR-esque cloud recording service. It even has a built-in two-way talk feature. At $199 per camera, the Dropcam Pro isn't a cheap home monitoring option, but it features some of the best video quality of any consumer-grade camera available today. Read the full review of the Dropcam Pro.
One of the first breakout smart security systems was iSmartAlarm, which we first saw at CES 2013. iSmartAlarm is a budget-friendly security alternative for DIY-minded homeowners. Packages start at just $199 and include motion sensors, panic sirens, keychain remotes, and contact sensors for doors and windows. There's also an optional camera that you can add to your system for $149 more. Once you do, you'll be able to view and control it from your smartphone, or program it to automatically snap pictures during a break-in.
The camera didn't operate as smoothly as I'd like, but aside from that, I was completely impressed with how well the iSmartAlarm system performed. Most exciting of all is that there are no contracts or subscription fees to deal with, making it one of the most affordable options in legitimate home security currently available.Read the full review of the iSmartAlarm.
Oplink Security's new TripleShield package offers similar functionality to what you'll get with iSmartAlarm, with open/closed contact sensors, a motion detector, and a nifty smartphone app. It also includes two wireless cameras with night-vision capability, and unlike the glitchy iCamera included in iSmartAlarm's equally priced "Premium Package," these cameras are a cinch to work with. Even better, each camera in your system will automatically record and save thirty seconds of video whenever the alarm is triggered, possibly allowing you to provide your insurance provider -- or the police -- with invaluable footage.
However, unlike iSmartAlarm, Oplink charges a monthly fee -- $19.99 for the TripleShield package. This will be a deal-breaker for some, but if you have a strong interest in video surveillance, Oplink might just be worth it.Read the full review of Oplink TripleShield Security.
The Piper smart security device is another Indiegogo darling, having recently hit more than three times its initial funding goal. Like Canary, Piper is an all-in-one system with an integrated pan-and-tilt camera and built-in sensors capable of detecting motion, temperature changes, and the like. What sets Piper apart is the fact that it doubles as a Z-Wave hub, meaning you'll be able to use it as a home automation control center and control any number of connected devices. Hooking it up with a Z-Wave-ready lock like ones we've seen from Schlage and Kwikset would be a great start for the security-minded consumer, but you could also use it to automate lights or a smart thermostat.
You'll be able to preorder Piper directly from Blacksumac soon, with the device slated to sell for somewhere between $210 and $250.Read our full preview of Piper.
If you're looking for a DIY security option that didn't come from the world of crowdfunding, you'll definitely want to take a look at SimpliSafe, winner of our Editor's Choice. With a variety of customizable, multi-sensor packages to choose from that range in price from $229 to $519, SimpliSafe promises complete do-it-yourself coverage for any home. Their systems are totally wireless (they'll keep working without power for up to four days), they offer optional smoke, leak, and carbon monoxide detectors, and they feature 24-7 live monitoring and a cellular backup. You'll need to pay a $14.99 per month fee if you want the live monitoring and cellular connection, plus even more if you want SMS alerts or remote controls, but we say that SimpliSafe's reliable, comprehensive protection and incredible ease of use is well worth it.
If you're looking for a home security system with a modern, sophisticated design, then you might want to consider Viper Home. Their DIY kit was a consistent performer in our tests, and it's the only option we've seen that integrates home security with automotive security. Their basic package is fee-free, though you'll need to pay $9.99 per month if you want to add a camera to your system. That's a better deal than most of the competition, but it can't quite beat the totally fee-free iSmartAlarm in terms of value, especially since iSmartAlarm costs $30 less up front. Still, we love that Viper Home will continue working in a power outage (iSmartAlarm won't), and we're excited to hear that the system will soon offer a Z-Wave control bridge as an optional accessory, meaning that you'll be able to add things like smart locks and smart lights into your system.