Depending upon where you live, you may not have much of an opportunity to think about your home’s security. But, you should. According to the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI), a burglary occurs in the United States every 13 seconds. That’s an alarming pace!
When your home is broken into, it’s not just your valuables that are at risk; your identity can be at risk, too. With more and more crime being committed in the virtual world, any time your privacy and confidentiality are violated, it could be a potentially serious issue.
Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to increase your home’s security and to ward off would-be burglars and identity thieves. That’s why we’ll be taking a look at home security systems – specifically those provided by ADT and Frontpoint, the industry leaders – as well as what can be done with a home camera system.
Having any one of these three systems can dramatically decrease the chances of your home being broken into. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that your home is three-time less likely to be broken into if there’s a security system of one form or another present.
And that’s the thing about home security systems. While they’ll be there to protect you should your home ever get broken into, the real benefit is this: a home security system acts as the ultimate deterrent. Simply, most burglars will check to see if a home has a security. If it does, they move on.
So, let’s take a look at your options. As you review the choices, you should be able to find a home security system that will work perfectly for your home and family’s specific needs.
Table of Contents
- Video Cameras: The Basic Solution
- Video Cameras: Getting Started
- Video Cameras: Additional Features
- Video Cameras: Other Considerations
- Home Security Systems
- Frontpoint: An Overview
- Frontpoint: Services
- Frontpoint: Equipment
- Frontpoint: The Pros and Cons
- ADT Security: An Overview
- ADT Security: Services
- ADT Security: Equipment
- ADT Security: The Pros and Cons
- Making the Choice
Cameras are everywhere these days; you probably have one in your pocket right now. It’s not surprising, then, that as camera technology has advanced, so too has it become an increasingly popular solution for home security. When you couple how cheap cameras have become with the way that they can be connected to internet-connected technology – like our smartphones – the benefits are readily apparent.
As a first line of dense, a camera-based home security system can work marvels. Would-be burglars, seeing that your home has a video security system present, will generally move on to another home where one is not present.
Of course, not all burglars are deterred by video security systems or are even capable of even noticing their presence. This is where the benefit of such a system becomes even greater.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), less than 13% of home burglaries are ever solved. The reason for this is simple. There’s often a lack of evidence that police can use to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. Burglars are aware that physical evidence can be used to catch them, and they often go to great lengths in order to avoid leaving such evidence behind.
Video cameras change all that. Rather obviously, if a burglar is caught on camera perpetrating their crime, it’s far easier for police to identify the burglar, generate leads, and recover your stolen property.
In terms of considering a video security system as the solution for your home, you’re likely thinking about cost. Generally speaking, such a system is relatively inexpensive to set up, especially when you compare the cost of doing so to the potential loss you’ll suffer in a burglary.
That said, with a larger budget you can do much more than you might think with a video security system for your phone. As we move forward, we’ll be examining all of the camera options that are available, as well as what the options are for having those cameras monitored. In the end, you should have a strong idea as to what cameras you’ll need to protect your home, as well as how much such a system will cost.
If you’re going to set up a video security system for your home, the process begins here: you need to determine what areas of your home (inside and out) you’ll want on camera. Deciding what areas you want on camera will make the process of choosing the right cameras for your system easy.
For example, do you want cameras trained on your home’s front and back doors? What about the garage? If you have an exceptionally large property, do you want a camera at the bottom of the driveway? Do you have a pool house that needs to be covered? Is there a room in your home where valuables are stored? Should that be on camera?
Take some time to consider what should be on camera and what shouldn’t. Often, homeowners that are exceptionally worried about home security will think that more is better. But, that’s not necessarily the case. While more cameras will increase the “security” of your home, many of them might be unnecessary. What’s more is that guests to your home (or even some who live in it) might feel uncomfortable being on camera at all times.
Once you’ve determined where you’ll need to place your security cameras, the next step becomes choosing the equipment. We’ll be reviewing the variety of specific choices you can make with your equipment below, but there are two major camera features that you need to be attention to most: frame rate and lens size.
Frame rate refers to the frequency of individual pictures that are taken to form the recorded video. The higher the frame rate, the more natural the video will appear. For example, when you watch television, the frame rate is generally 24 frames-per-second, resulting in perfectly smooth, natural-looking video.
However, perhaps you’ve seen grainy surveillance footage on the nightly news, where it looks like people are moving from one spot to another in the blink of an eye? Such surveillance footage is set to a lower frame rate – generally 5 frames-per-second or 10 frames-per-second.
Now, you may think that higher-quality video (and higher frame rate) is ideal for your home security system. However, you need to consider the following: recorded video takes up a lot of storage space, and a higher frame rate means that you’ll need more storage, or else you won’t be able to keep a backlog of as much video. This is the precise reason that most security footage you’ve ever seen is shot at a lower frame rate.
While frame rate affects the “smoothness” of the video shot, the lens size affects what the camera is able to see. The larger the lens size, the more narrowly focused the camera’s field of vision and the greater capacity for zoom.
Here, you want to make sure you’re choosing an appropriate lens for the application of the camera. For example, with an outdoor security camera, where you’ll be watching a large swath of your property, you’ll want a shorter lens. In a narrow hallway, you may want to choose a wider lens, as the wider field of vision will be unnecessary and the ability to zoom could be beneficial.
If you don’t want to play around with lens size too much, then we recommend going with a 3-millimeter lens. Such a lens provides a field of view that’s most similar to the human eye, which means you’ll find it much easier to determine precise placement for your cameras.
The above diagram shows the field of view that you can expect from different security camera lens sizes.
Also, as a final note: don’t cut costs with lenses. The lens, more so than the camera itself, is directly responsible for the visual quality of the video that’s shot. Put another way: a good lens on a bad camera is far better than a bad lens on a good camera.
Beyond frame rate and lens size, there are a number of additional features that you’ll want to consider with your cameras. The necessity of these features will depend upon where the camera will be located and how you’ll intend to use it. Let’s take a look.
Indoor Cameras vs. Outdoor Cameras
On a very basic level, home security cameras will be rated for indoor or outdoor use. Always pick the camera that’s appropriate for its application. Using an indoor camera outdoors is not a wise idea, as such cameras will be unable to withstand the environmental conditions that they’ll be exposed to – everything from UV light to rain, wind and snow.
You can, if you want, choose to use an outdoor camera indoors. However, you’ll be paying extra money for all of the “outdoor features”, which will be entirely unnecessary in an indoor environment. So, it doesn’t really make economic sense, unless – of course – the outdoor camera happens to be the only one that offers the other specific features you need for your indoor camera.
Wired Cameras vs. Wireless Cameras
There are a few things that you’ll want to think about when choosing between a wired camera system and a wireless one.
If video quality is of paramount importance, then a wired camera system should be your choice. Simply put, cables are much better at transmitting video than wireless technology. However, installing a wired camera system will be much more involved and expensive – the cables will need to be snaked through your home’s walls, and cables will need to be run from outside cameras into your home. In some cases, the cables may even limit the placement of your cameras.
Wireless cameras, obviously, get around this difficulty, as these cameras can be placed anywhere that’s within range of the wireless network. However, there is a drawback to wireless cameras that’s worth pausing over. Given that the signal is translated through the air, it is possible that the signal can be hacked. However, the risk is not extreme, as wireless technology and security has become quite advanced thanks to advanced encryption techniques. Still, it’s worth considering.
Bright Light vs. Low Light
Generally speaking, you’ll be choosing bright-light cameras for your home security system, as these are the most common and are designed to work in a well-lit home. However, you may have a need for low-light cameras, particularly if you’re going to be adding cameras to darker, shaded areas.
If you have an area of your home where light will be an issue – in a basement or garage, for example – then a low-light camera will be perfect. When selecting one, you’ll want to find a camera that offers 1 Lux of light sensitivity or less.
Generally speaking, though, you’ll most often be looking for “day / night” cameras, specifically if you’re going to be placing cameras outdoors. These cameras are capable of determining the level of ambient light and adjusting accordingly.
Fixed vs. Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ)
Some home security cameras remain in a fixed position, and others offer you the ability to pan, tilt and zoom. In most cases, a fixed camera should suffice – say if you’re placing a camera in a hallway or in a room. However, you may wish to consider a PTZ camera for large rooms or for outdoor areas. With such a camera, you can use a control to change the camera’s line of sight and zoom.
Remote Viewing vs. On-Premise Viewing
All of your cameras are going to connect to a central system, which will be comprised of a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system and a digital video recorder (DVR). Such a system allows you to view your camera’s footage in real time and go back to review older footage that’s saved on the DVR. In most cases, this will be all you need.
However, if you travel frequently, you may wish to consider a camera system that allows for remote viewing. There are a lot of options here, and many companies now offer systems that can be accessed through your smartphone anywhere in the world, allowing you to keep an eye on things while you’re away from home. Keep in mind, though, that there is a risk of your system being hacked if you go the remote-viewing route.
The above features are the major ones that you’ll want to consider when choosing cameras for your home security system. However, there are a few more that may warrant your consideration, depending upon your needs. Let’s take a look.
Earlier, we discussed outdoor cameras; the Cadillac of outdoor home security cameras is the dome camera. You’ve likely seen these in many public places. They provide the ultimate in weatherproofing and protection from the elements, while also offering a number of other features you might like – for example PTZ functionality and infrared viewing. Dome cameras can be mounted in a number of different places, and they can also be used in indoor environments too.
Given that your phone has a camera, it should come as no surprise that there are also small cameras you can use with a home security system. Unlike the other cameras we’ve been discussing, though, mini cameras do not provide a burglary deterrent. Instead, they’re meant to be use for surreptitious recording – say for keeping an eye on maids or other workers in your home. If you think someone you’ve invited into your home could be stealing, then these cameras can help you to catch that person.
For the ultimate in low-light functionality, you’ll want an infrared camera, which films at a wavelength of light that’s beyond human vision. Such cameras are able to literally see in the dark. However, not all infrared cameras are created equally. Ideally, you’ll want to select a device that offers “smart infrared”, as these cameras will be able to adjust to what they’re looking at, capturing the clearest possible image.
Your cameras can only protect your home if they’re receiving the electricity they need in order to work. For this reason, you should strongly consider outfitting your home video security system with backup batteries, which will keep the system functioning even if the power goes out. Experts recommend that you install 1000VA backup batteries on the cameras themselves, as well as the DVR. However, if you want to ensure that your system can run even longer if the power goes out – say if your home is located in an area that’s prone to severe weather – you can go for backup batteries with a higher VA rating.
In most cases, a well put-together camera system for your home should be enough for your security needs. However, depending upon the area you live on, or in your level of concern for your valuables and home, you may wish for a more comprehensive solution. This is where home security systems (and their providers) come in.
Below, we’ll be reviewing two of the major and most highly rated players in the home security system market: Frontpoint and ADT. Both of these home security providers offer a variety of services, equipment and features, and either may prove sufficient for your home security needs.
For those who want to go the DIY route when it comes to having a home security system installed, Frontpoint is the best option. Instead of having someone come to your home to install the system, Frontpoint will mail you all the equipment you need. Making DIY installation even easier, all of the Frontpoint’s equipment works wirelessly, which means you won’t need to snake cables and wires throughout your home.
If you sign up for Frontpoint, you’ll be required to enter into a three-year contract, for which the monthly fee ranges from $35 to $50, depending upon the plan you select. Because all of the equipment is self-installed, you won’t need to worry about installation fees. However, some of the equipment that Frontpoint offers is subject to activation fees, which can range up to around $200.
Let’s take a look at the major points of Frontpoint’s services:
Wireless: All of Frontpoint’s equipment works wirelessly, meaning you won’t have to tear apart your home to install the security system. Because of this, the system can also be controlled and monitored remotely from an internet-connected device.
Three Plans to Choose From: Depending upon your home’s specific security needs, you can opt for one of Frontpoint’s three tiers of service: Protection, Interactive and Ultimate.
Alerts: Frontpoint monitors its security systems and will notify you by text, email or both should anything go awry.
Crash and Smash Protection: If the central security panel is compromised, the system will still alert Frontpoint’s monitoring center, and help will be dispatched.
Environmental Protection: Frontpoint will also provide equipment – such as smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors – that will be linked to the central monitoring center.
Intrusion Protection: Frontpoint’s equipment has also been design to be tamper resistant, and their central monitoring will be alerted if someone attempts to damage or bypass the equipment.
Geo Services: By connecting your system to your smartphone, you will be able to set up certain rules for the system that are based upon your geographic location.
Remote Control and Access: Using Frontpoint’s intuitive smartphone app, you can maintain complete control over your home’s security system, regardless of where you are in the world.
Energy Management: Frontpoint’s system can be integrated with your home’s environmental appliances (heat and AC) and lighting to give you full control from anywhere.
General Electric manufactures Frontpoint’s equipment. Depending upon your needs, you can get and use any of the equipment listed below:
Control Panel: This piece of equipment is the central hub of your Frontpoint home security system. Anything that needs to be controlled can be accessed through this panel.
Touch Pads: If your home is large enough to require it, you can add touch pads to different areas, which will also provide you with controls over the home security system.
Remote: A simple remote can be added to your keychain that gives you control over your home’s locks and lights.
Smart Thermostat: As mentioned, Frontpoint’s security system can be integrated with your home’s environmental controls. This means you can save on energy costs, and also ensure your home is temperate when you walk through the door.
Panic Pendant: This panic pendant can be used to alert authorities to an issue at the touch of a button.
Motion Sensor: These sensors will detect motion, and are perfect for use in larger rooms within your home.
Garage Door Sensor: Often, garage doors will be the point of entry that burglars use. This sensor will monitor the garage door.
Door and Window Sensor: These sensors will determine if a door or window has been opened. Their small size also means they can be used on cabinets and drawers where valuables might be stored.
Recessed Door Sensor: These sensors are recessed into the doorframe so that they’re hidden from view. This makes them perfect for back doors and front doors.
Glass-Break Sensor: One of these sensors will monitor the ambient noise in your home and alert central monitoring if the sound of breaking glass is detected.
Environmental Sensors: Frontpoint can also provide you with equipment such as smoke detectors, fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. They also provide sensors that can be installed on pipes to detect if they’ve frozen.
Light Control: These controls can be plugged into your home’s lighting system. If the alarm is triggered, the control switches on, bathing the intruders in light. This can be a strong deterrent. They can also be programmed to turn your home’s lights on and off at regular intervals.
Keypad Door Lock: Instead of a key and lock, you can use these keypads to protect doors in your home. The code can be changed through the control panel or through the Frontpoint mobile app.
Indoor Camera: Frontpoint’s indoor cameras come equipped with infrared technology and are capable of seeing a maximum distance of 20 feet.
Outdoor Camera: Also equipped with infrared technology, Frontpoint’s outdoor cameras are motion activated, and you’ll receive an alert if the camera detects motion and records subsequent video.
PTZ Camera: These cameras can be used outdoors and indoors, and they allow for control over pan, tilt and zoon through the Frontpoint mobile app.
Now that you know what Frontpoint’s service is all about, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Pros of Frontpoint
One of the chief benefits of Frontpoint is that everything is DIY and incredibly easy to install. You simply sign up for service, order the equipment you need, and – in most cases – your home security system can be up and running in a half an hour.
The wireless connectivity that Frontpoint provides offers a number of benefits as well. For one, you won’t need to poke holes in your walls and snake cables throughout your house. Also, since the wireless system can be easily controlled through an internet-connected advice, you’ll always feel like you’ve got a handle on your home’s security.
Because your system won’t need to be hard-wired, you can also make adjustments to your system over time. Additionally, if you ever move, the equipment can be easily packed up and then set up at another location.
If Frontpoint sounds like it offers the features you need, then check this out. When you sign up for service, you’ll be given a 30-day risk-free period for trying out the equipment and service. If it works, you can keep going. Otherwise, you’ll have lost nothing for your efforts.
Cons of Frontpoint
All of this functionality, you should know, does come at a cost. While you won’t have to worry about installation fees, the activation fee for some of the equipment is a little pricey. Also, the monthly service fees are a tad higher than you’ll pay with other providers.
Also, there aren’t a lot of options for customization with respect to Frontpoint’s equipment. Of course, the equipment that they do offer has all of the features that most people will need. But in certain instances, if a home’s security needs are especially complex, the stock equipment may not be enough.
Should anything go wrong with your system, it’s important to note that Frontpoint doesn’t handle the monitoring of its systems directly. Instead, a company called Rapid Response handles monitoring. In most cases, this won’t be an issue, but you may be the kind of person that prefers to deal with one company and one company only when handling your home’s security.
ADT may be the most recognizable brand in home security, and that’s for good reason. They offer cutting-edge technology and service, and all at an affordable monthly price. Unlike Frontpoint, though, ADT’s security systems are not DIY. Instead, they will need to be professionally installed.
Like Frontpoint, ADT service requires a three-year contract, which will have a monthly fee of between $37 and $48, depending upon the level of service you select. The installation fee will also vary depending upon the equipment and level of service you select. At a minimum, you can expect to pay $100 for installation, but that price could range all the way up to $600.
Let’s take a look at the features of ADT’s service.
Direct Monitoring: ADT has multiple monitoring centers throughout the United States which keep track of your home security system around the clock.
Burglary Monitoring: If a break in is detected, ADT’s monitoring center will contact you and the authorities simultaneously.
Environmental Monitoring: ADT will provide sensors and detectors for fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide. You and the authorities will be alerted if trouble is detected.
Flood Monitoring: There are also sensors available that will determine if your home has become subject to flooding, alerting both you and the authorities if this is the case.
Medical Monitoring: If someone in your home has medical issues, an intercom system can be set up that provides instant access to help through an ADT agent.
ADT Pulse: The smart home is here, thanks that ADT Pulse, which can provide you with remote control over your home’s heating and cooling systems, as well as lights, doors, locks and other appliances.
Email Notification: Should your home security system detect an issue, you will be alerted through email.
Video Encryption: ADT uses the latest encryption technology to protect video recorded by their home security systems.
Remote Video Access: You can view video recorded by your home’s security system through any internet-connected device, like a tablet or smartphone.
Home Video Access: You can view video recorded by your home’s security system through any television in your home.
Even Triggering: Your home security system’s cameras will record 30 seconds of video whenever triggered – by motion detection, for example.
With ADT, you’ll have a lot to choose from when it comes to equipment. Let’s take a look.
Wireless Cameras: ADT’s wireless cameras provide exceptional picture clarity and can be installed virtually anywhere. They’re battery operated, only needing to have those batteries changed periodically.
Indoor HD Cameras: ADT’s indoor cameras are dome-protected and offer high definition color video that works equally well in low light and bright light.
Dome Cameras: Similar to the other cameras, ADT’s dome cameras provide great image clarity. They can be installed indoors and outdoors, and they offer 360-degrees of vision that can be controlled remotely.
Digital Video Recorder: This is the nerve center of your ADT video security system, and it’s capable of recording and saving video from all of your cameras.
Video Duplicator: With this installed, you’ll be able to view footage from two of your home security cameras simultaneously.
Quad Splitter: With this installed, you’ll be able to view footage from four of your home security cameras simultaneously.
Wireless Motion Detector: Perfect for larger rooms, this sensor will watch for signs of motion when the security system is active, sending an alert if motion is detected.
Wireless Door / Window Sensor: When the security system is active, this sensor will monitor a door, sending an alert if that door is opened when it shouldn’t be.
ADT Pulse Mobile App: This mobile app allows you to take complete control over your home’s security system from your smartphone or tablet. In addition, you can also use the app to control your home’s environment, adjusting the temperature and lighting from anywhere in the world. Should anything go awry in your home, you will receive notification through the ADT Pulse mobile app.
Thermostat: If you want to use ADT Pulse to control your home’s environment, you’ll need to install an ADT thermostat.
Fall Detection Pendant: If someone is at risk of having a medical emergency from falling, this pendant will detect a fall, alerting authorities and getting immediate help.
Two-Way Voice Intercom: This intercom links directly with ADT’s central monitoring service, and can be used to receive immediate medical attention if needed.
Personal Help Wristband: This wristband provides push-of-a-button access to medical assistance if needed through ADT’s central monitoring service.
Personal Help Pendant: This wearable pendant provides push-of-a-button access to medical assistance if needed through ADT’s central monitoring service.
Now that you understand ADT’s service and the equipment involved, let’s take a look at ADT’s pros and cons.
Pros of ADT
ADT may very well be the biggest name in home security systems, and that’s for good reason. They’ve been in business for over a century, and they currently protect over 6 million homes throughout the United States and Canada.
If you want choice, then you’ll find it with ADT, as they offer 5 different levels of service. This means that you’ll be able to match your specific security needs to the right plan for meeting those needs. Within these different levels of service, there’s also plenty of room for customization. You can really tailor ADT to your needs!
As with Frontpoint, ADT provides you with the ability to maintain control over your home’s security from anywhere in the world, thanks to the ADT Pulse mobile app. In addition, the mobile app can be used to control the environment of your home, which can be great for avoiding things like busted pipes during the cold winter months.
One of the biggest benefits of going with ADT, though, is that their monitoring service is second to none. They have thousands of responders working throughout North America, and they handle all monitoring directly. This means you won’t have to worry about interacting with a third party when you have an ADT security system installed. Also, it means you’ll receive quicker assistance should anything go wrong.
And, on that last note, should your home ever be burglarized while you’re an ADT customer, you’ll be able to take advantage of their theft protection. The company will reimburse up to $500 of your insurance deductible following a burglary. That’s obviously a big help, and it demonstrates the level of confidence that ADT has in its systems.
Cons of ADT
For basic service, ADT is a much cheaper and more reliable option than other home security system providers. However, if you want to avail yourself of ADT Pulse program, you’ll have to pay a premium.
What you pay will depend upon your home’s location as well as other features and services you add. If you want the remote control features that ADT Pulse offers, but don’t want to pay the full price for ADT Pulse service, you can opt for the Premium Protection Plus package. However, you’ll find that this package is more expensive than what you’d pay with Frontpoint and many other home security system providers.
On the whole, though, the monthly fees for ADT service aren’t that bad, especially when compared to other providers. However, the installation fees can be a bit onerous, depending upon what equipment and level of service you select. For the most basic service, you’ll pay $100, but that figure can sky rocket as you add more equipment and security features.
Finally, there is one complaint you’ll hear a lot about ADT. Unfortunately, they don’t provide the best level of service through their online live chat system. If you need to get questions answered about pricing or need help troubleshooting equipment issues, you may find that the support you get is insufficient or evasive. It’s not a problem that everyone encounters, certainly. But, enough people have complained about it to warrant mentioning it.
To avoid this, you can always contact ADT over the phone. In general, ADT customers say this is the best way for getting questions answered and for troubleshooting equipment issues.
Above, we outlined the three major choices you have when it comes to selecting a home security system. Hopefully by examining the service, equipment, and pros and cons of each service, you should have a good idea as to whether any of these options will be appropriate for your home security needs.
Of course, a camera system, Frontpoint and ADT are not the only options out there. As a matter of fact, there are many other companies that offer home security systems and equipment.
So, if you’ve found that none of the above options work for you, then keep looking! At the very least, you should now have a great idea about what you do and don’t like about the above services, which should help you to make the right choice with another service.
Regardless of what you choose, though, protecting the security of your home is always a good idea. It’s a crazy world out there, and you can never tell when a would-be burglar might try to rob you of your valuable possessions and sense of security.
So, make the right choice. Protect yourself, your family and your belongings by having a security system of some form or another installed in your home. It’s a decision you won’t regret, especially if the worst should come to pass.