ADT Home Security System Review

ADT’s popular security service comes at a price, but you can get anything you want in a security system.

ADT’s popular security service comes at a price, but you can get anything you want in a security system.
Overall Rating4 out of 5
Professional monitored home security
Pet-friendly sensors up to 80 pounds
Expandable a la carte systems

OVERVIEW

Chances are if you’re thinking of a friend or neighbor’s home security system, they probably have an ADT sign out front. ADT has been considered the industry standard for home security, and although some of their stuff might not be as flashy, the equipment is solid and the monitoring aspect receives good reviews with customers (although sales and installation customer service could use some love). Plus, you can always expand your system with home automation options.

While some may complain about price with ADT, you can get a doors, windows, and keypad setup for less than your cable bill. Each plan has a 36-month contract, but given that the average lifespan of a home security system is eight to eleven years, this isn’t ridiculous.

ADT Review of Packages and Pricing

ADT (Defenders)Monthly priceMonitoringDetails
Basic$27.99LandlineView plan
Basic Wireless$48.99CellularView plan
ADT Pulse$52.99CellularView plan
ADT Pulse + Video $58.99CellularView plan

ADT home security system

ADT provides just about any type of security package you want, which is good news for first-time home owners, renters, or automation junkies. Whether you want a landline, broadband cable, or cellular connection, ADT provides professional installation (which we’d recommend).

For those who want DIY monitoring, ADT Canopy is the company’s newest offering that works with Samsung’s SmartThings (like the Samsung Gear S2 watch). Although we didn’t spend time with this system, reviews seem to agree it’s great for someone who wants an alternative to SimpliSafe or other DIY equipment providers.

What security equipment does ADT have?

  • Digital keypad
  • Touchscreen control panel
  • Keychain remote
  • Panic pendant
  • Entryway contacts
  • (Wireless) Door sensor
  • (Wireless) Window sensor
  • PIR infrared motion detector (pet sensitive up to 80 pounds)
  • Door chime
  • High decibel alarm siren
  • Digital thermostats
  • Automated deadbolt locks / smart locks
  • Light sensor
  • Smoke and heat sensor
  • Water flood sensor
  • Carbon monoxide sensor
  • Garage door sensor
  • Garage door openers
  • (Wireless) indoor camera
  • (Wireless) outdoor camera
  • Video doorbell
  • Backup battery
  • Safewatch Cellguard (prevents lapses in cellular service during storms, accidents, etc.)
  • Two-way voice intercom system

ADT’s basic home security system consists of a control panel, door sensors, window sensors, and anything else you could want to add. The system is expandable because ADT uses Z-wave compatible technology, so you can add stuff like the Nest cam, Ring doorbell, or Amazon Alexa.

Info box icon Info box icon

FYI

FYI

In the event of an emergency, you may need to coordinate with an ADT agent quickly. Verify the type of system you have: It’s most easily determined by the style of the keypad. You may want to remember this or write this down somewhere.

Motion triggers have sensitivity that can be triggered when you don’t want them to, like with a Roomba or your pets moving around. One of ADT’s standout features is its pet-friendly sensors up to 80 pounds, whereas most others stay around 50 pounds—Great Dane owners, take note.

Also, ADT does have medical backup features like pendants and other helpful tools for those who may not be able to get to the phone in case of an accident or injury. The medical alert integrates into the system, so you won’t have to find another company to coordinate with. ADT’s Medical alert pendants have GPS that works anywhere it can reach of a cell network.

ADT’s equipment and pricing are right on par with competitors like Vivint and Frontpoint, but ADT stands out in home automation and surveillance because of its ADT Pulse mobile app, which we’ll talk about later in this article.

Basic security features

ADT has a wide variety of products out there, so don’t be surprised if your equipment looks different from our gallery images or your neighbor’s. Don’t worry, though. Each control panel performs essentially the same functions, acting as the central device that relays information from your home sensors to both you and ADT security team responders.

ADT Pulse control panel displays functions clearly. (Source: ADT.com)

The ADT Pulse control panel is an effort to compete with Vivint, which solely uses proprietary gear—a fact that has historically separated Vivint from the rest of the pack. While we find no problem with the standard equipment from most providers, we do like to see proprietary equipment designed with the whole system in mind, plus they look a bit more sleek. The ADT Pulse is definitely easy on the eyes compared to the standard panels, but is it any better?

ADT Pulse is the name of the system that includes a control panel, proprietary and Z-wave-compatible devices, and the interactive monitoring that includes two-way communication and video surveillance. It can control digital door locks and garage door openers. It also controls remote lights and thermostats so you can maintain the appearance that you’re home. ADT Pulse Live Video includes wireless video cameras, both indoor and outdoor, that work even in low light (night vision). You can watch this feed from private security TVs, your computer, or mobile devices. It’s all wireless, and you can control it with mobile devices like cell phones and tablets.

Home automation

Home automation refers to anything that you can control indirectly, either by remote control, mobile app, or IFTTT automation. (“If This, Then That” is a formulaic programming approach, i.e. “if I open my garage door, then turn on my living room lights and set my thermostat to 72 degrees.”) While some of this can seem a little convoluted or overboard with custom options, most operations are simple to set up.

You can control just about anything remotely with ADT’s Pulse app: lights, temperature settings, locks, and video equipment. We could go over the benefits of automating your home, but we’d be here all day, so we’ll just give you an idea of all the ways ADT’s home automation can help you.

Benefits of ADT’s home automation:

  1. Lights can be turned off after you’ve left to save on energy costs. Or you can turn on the lights while you’re on vacation to give the appearance that you’re home for security reasons. For those worried about a possible break-in, you can turn on lights before you enter your home, ensuring that your home is clear.
  2. Temperature costs can add up, especially in winter and summer seasons, so it’s a good idea to turn off the heat or air conditioning when no one’s there to enjoy it. You can remotely adjust the Nest thermostat with the Pulse app. That way, when you’re leaving work or school, you can kick on your climate controls so the atmosphere is perfect by the time you get home.
  3. Have you ever forgotten whether you locked the front door or not? It’s not a big deal when you have the app because you can get automated locks, too. Rather than driving down the road, realizing you’re not 100% sure you locked it, and driving back after that “oh shoot!” moment, you just turn on the app and select the door you want to lock—saving you the time and the trip.

Video surveillance can also be controlled from the app. You’ll get trigger event notifications and access to your streams. If you have kids or pets that you want to check in on during the workday, this is a surefire way to see what’s happening.

Mobile control

We’re big fans of mobile access because it’s what home security is for—knowing your home is safe at any time and doing something about it when it’s threatened. Most companies now allow you to control your system this way from a keychain remote controller, mobile device (iOS or Android mostly), or web-based app for ease of use and distant check-ins.

Remote control

ADT includes a keychain remote with some systems, and it’s optional on most systems. Your remote control will likely have four buttons:

  • Stay Arming — Arms your perimeter, but not inside motion sensors. This allows you to stay safe inside your home.
  • Away Arming — Arms both interior and exterior.
  • Disarm — Disengages the system without typing in your code.
  • Panic — Alerts police, must be held for 3 seconds (this feature helps to avoid false alarms).

ADT Pulse mobile app

ADT Pulse app displays video feeds and more.

The ADT Pulse app gives users a smart home experience anywhere they have internet access: light control, temperature adjustment, remote (un)locking, and two-way communication. And you can control all of that from your iPhone, Android, or the major web browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

The app is a relief for anyone who worries about what’s happening when they’re away, since it shows the status of security sensors throughout your home. And home automation fans will like the lights, thermostats, and locks, and energy-saving features controlled from the app.

You’ll save money by reducing energy bills without compromising your comfort. We like the idea of turning off the heat when no one’s home, but turning it on fifteen minutes before you arrive so you can enjoy a cozy home upon arrival is even better.

You can also use video surveillance if you’re away from home. On a day-to-day basis, you could get a little annoyed with text message alerts every time a video camera is triggered. But if you’re away on vacation, you may want to opt-in to make sure it’s just the paper-delivery kid, UPS driver, or house sitter that’s triggering your cameras.

ADT security cameras

ADT security cameras allow you to watch your footage from a computer or even your smartphone. And don’t worry about scouring hours of footage to find an event or watching live to catch someone—ADT’s cameras sync to motion detectors and will store triggered events for later viewing.

ADT keeps your camera footage in cloud storage secured by WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption, so you can access your recordings from anywhere with internet.

What types of cameras does ADT use?

ADT uses indoor, outdoor, night vision, infrared, or 360-degree vision cameras. We’ve listed some of their more stand-out features below.

Indoor color security cameras

  • Works indoor
  • HD video keeps details discernible
  • Color instead of black/white or night vision

Wireless security cameras

  • Works indoor and outdoor
  • Night vision with infrared
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • WPA2 Wi-Fi encryption

Dome-shaped security cameras

  • Works indoor and outdoor
  • Easy to set up
  • Night vision
  • Mount anywhere
  • 360-degree vision

Other video equipment from ADT

  • Quad screen splitter: displays video feeds from four different cameras on one screen
  • Video duplicator: share with another person simultaneously.
  • Digital Video Recorder (DVR): Store clear audio and video for viewing anywhere, records from all cameras simultaneously.

Customer experience

From what customers are saying, once you actually get the ADT system in your home, everything will be fine. It’s ordering and installing that usually give people a bit of a headache. Our advice is to keep an open mind about what equipment you may need, keep track of your budget, and schedule a work-from-home day or day off (if possible) when installation day comes. That way, you stay feeling in control and a part of the process.

ADT system ordering

Don’t expect to get a firm cost for service and equipment from a web chat. Without seeing your property, a sales agent can only estimate. Your home will specifically need to be evaluated by an ADT installer—which is free. Some may view it as an upselling scheme to get you to buy more stuff you don’t need, but we’re actually grateful that they provide someone who can point out weak spots in our home we might not have thought of. Plus, you can always say no to additional sensors you don’t want then.

And just so you know, if you request a quote from ADT, they will keep calling you until you either speak with an agent and decide to get a system or ask to be removed from their contact list. Fair warning.

ADT system installation

ADT charges $99 for installation, but some other companies offer it for free. You may be able to get the fee waived if you ask the salesman or sign up for a promotion. If you opt for a more expensive Pulse plan, we’d definitely recommend asking if you can get the installation fee waived.

If you’re renting or leasing, it may make a difference in whether you want a wireless setup or not. Wireless systems don’t require drilling, which your property owner may appreciate. But if you do end up needing to drilling, here’s a fun fact: in most cases you need only verbal permission from your landlord, so you won’t have to come up with a written agreement or anything like that.

ADT offers a 6-month satisfaction guarantee, offering to refund monitoring and installation costs (but not equipment).

ADT system incident procedure

ADT’s alert procedure is straightforward—when an event is triggered, the security center contacts you or other trusted contact’s phone numbers first, then determines the appropriate first responders to contact. Some claim that adding too many numbers is a bad idea because ADT will try to contact your entire list before calling the authorities if no obvious danger is present (i.e. a single upper-level window alarm going off as opposed to multiple sensors).

This changes if you opt for a two-way monitoring system that will allow you to communicate directly with the ADT security center team. We’d recommend this for parents, pet owners, or anyone who wants immediate responses in emergency situations. You can communicate from the Pulse app if you’re away or through the Control Panel if you’re home.

ADT Pricing

The perception may be that ADT prices are higher than average, which is partially true because it’s one of the few providers that doesn’t offer any non-DIY monitoring package under $35 per month, but beyond that ADT’s monthly cost sits right along with brands like Protect America, Live Watch, and Frontpoint.

Your bill covers two areas: equipment costs and monitoring costs—both of which fluctuate depending on which options you select.

Equipment costs

These costs can vary widely from home to home, and ADT is pretty tight-lipped about specific costs until you get a consultation. We can’t really give you an estimate, but we will remind you that the 6-month satisfaction guarantee does not cover equipment.

Monitoring costs

ADT offers four packages: Basic, Basic Wireless, Pulse, and Pulse + Video.

Think of the Basic packages as “monitoring + alarms and sensors” and the Pulse packages as “monitoring + alarms and sensors + home automation.” These ADT monitoring packages range in cost from $27.99 through $58.99 per month; you can add additional equipment and service so everything is customizable to your home. To put that in perspective, ADT costs less than most cable TV packages while potentially saving hundreds, if not thousands, in damages.

ADT (Defenders)Monthly priceMonitoringDetails
Basic$27.99LandlineView plan
Basic Wireless$48.99CellularView plan
ADT Pulse$52.99CellularView plan
ADT Pulse + Video $58.99CellularView plan

The Basic plan covers monitoring and the following equipment: door sensors, window sensors, and a control panel. Altogether, that’s enough to deter thieves and alert you to break-ins, fires, and more.

The Basic Wireless is the same thing, but doesn’t involve drilling into your walls to run sensor wires; instead, it uses cellular technology that pings all nearby towers so you’re always covered. Sure, it costs more, but wireless is safer because potential intruders can’t cut landlines or other wires to disengage your system.

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What is monitoring?

What is monitoring?

Monitoring is a term often confused. In home security terms, the security center monitors only your system’s sensors, meaning they’re not literally watching you from a camera but systematically ensuring no detectors have been triggered.

ADT Pulse monitoring offers all the features of basic security and adds home automation into the mix, giving you power to personalize your system to your needs, whatever they might be. For anyone looking for more than just alarms and monitoring, this is the way to go. That way, you can add things like a video doorbell (Ring) or speech control with Amazon Alexa and Echo.

ADT Pulse + Video, like the name implies, gives you everything Pulse does but with video surveillance access as well. Opting for cameras and a video plan can be expensive through ADT. Some companies like Canary or Others would steer you toward a separate video system, but we prefer having everything through a single company so we can easily access everything at home or on the go.

ADT, like other security companies, will not charge you for interactions or calls. However, if you get multiple false alarms called from your residence, you may have to pay fines to the city for taking up police officers’ time. But we wouldn’t worry too much because ADT will test your system for flaws after installation, thus reducing the potential for false alarms.

Contracts

After selecting the appropriate package and signing off on the contract, you’ll be with ADT for 36 months, unless you opt to buyout your contract. And before you ask, yes—ADT offers 36-month contracts only.

On the bright side, signing an agreement ensures your package price won’t go up, and you’ll own the equipment once the contract is over. On average, most security systems last eight to eleven years, so the 3-year contract is a solid investment.

ProvidersContract lengthNo-contract option?Learn more
ADT36 mos. (24 mos. in California)NoView plans
Frontpoint12 mos. or 36 mos.NoView plans
VivintNone, 42 mos., or 60 mos.YesView plans

Once you own the equipment, you can move ADT home security monitoring to just about anywhere in the US and all you’ll have to do is pay a small activation fee (which you may even be able to get waived) to get it started up again. ADT also offers discounted equipment with its “Mover’s Guarantee,” so there’s no need to worry if you want the service but don’t plan on staying in the same spot.

Recap

  • ADT does basic security, smart home/home automation, and video monitoring.
  • ADT security systems have great security service reviews, but customer support isn’t on par with their technology and equipment.
  • ADT has its own mobile app, ADT Pulse.
  • ADT charges for an extended warranty.
  • ADT uses phone line, broadband cable line, or cellular service.
  • ADT cellular service has high monthly fees.
  • ADT’s sensors are pet-friendly up to 80 pounds, whereas most others stay around 50 pounds for pets.

ADT offers pretty much everything in the realm of home security, so just about anybody could find want they want from the company. If you need a simple setup, we suggest getting your doors and windows alarmed with Basic Wireless. If you want something to make your life a little easier (and cooler), we recommend the ADT Pulse setup so you can control just about everything in your house. If you want to be absolutely secure, it’s worth investing in ADT security cameras and video surveillance on top of the basic package.

Technology from ADT gets great reviews, despite the wide assortment of products. You can rest assured that everything from ADT is at least industry standard quality, if not better. While the monthly fees may seem high, ADT’s pricing doesn’t stray far from the pack, and in certain cases may be cheaper than other brands. You will lock into a 36-month agreement, but given the eight to eleven year average lifespan of a security system, this timeframe is relatively short compared to other providers’, which can be as long as a 5-year agreement.

FAQs on ADT

If you have a question you don’t see addressed here, let us know in the comments below!

Why should I get a cellular system over a wired system?

If safety is your main concern, cellular has the advantage of always being connected to the security center. Although it’s not one of our biggest worries, landlines can be cut if an intruder is savvy enough.

Beyond that, cellular systems won’t require drill holes into your wall. You can (finally) ditch your unused home phone line, too. The only time we can’t recommend cellular service is when it’s unavailable to customers in rural or remote areas.

Does ADT do a credit check?

ADT must do a hard credit check, meaning it will count as an inquiry just like applying for a new credit card would.

What if my power goes out?

Your monitoring system will run on battery life for several hours after a blackout. You can also purchase an additional backup battery designed to last longer, in case of emergencies.

Can I check my alarm system remotely?

Yes you can, using the ADT Pulse app either on mobile devices or computers.

Do I need to know how big my house is?

Square footage isn’t directly tied to what system you need to buy. Just keep in mind the more entryways and windows you have, the more sensors you will need. But sensors alone won’t cause your costs to skyrocket.

What does ADT stand for?

American District Telegraph. The company was originally one of the early telegraph delivery companies but later transitioned into selling fire and security alarms. ADT’s history is filled with mergers and acquisitions.

What if I already have ADT equipment installed in my home?

If you move into a place that has ADT security already installed, just pay the $19.99 activation fee with ADT. The only problem is you might have equipment that is no longer compatible, considering ADT has largely grown by acquiring other companies. The only way to know is to call ADT for a free consultation—or as we like to think of it, free advice.

What are ADT’s approved Z-wave devices?

Touchscreen devices

  • UTC 7″ Touchscreen Device (Model: IS-TS-0700-B)
  • NETGEAR 7” Battery Powered Touchscreen Device (Model: HS101ADT-1ADNAS)

Wireless cameras

  • Sercomm Wireless Indoor IP Camera (Black) (Model: RC8025B-ADT)
  • Sercomm Wireless Indoor IP Camera (White) (Model: RC8025W-ADT)
  • Sercomm Wireless Indoor High-Def IP Camera (Model: RC8325-ADT)
  • Sercomm Wireless Outdoor High-Def IP Camera (Model: OC835-ADT)

Digital thermostats

  • RCS Digital Thermostat (Model: TZ45)
  • RCS Battery Powered Digital Thermostat (Model: TBZ48A)

Automated lights/lamps/switches

  • Jasco Dimmer Lamp Module (Model: 45602WB)
  • Jasco On/Off Lamp/Appliance Module (Model: 45603WB)
  • Jasco White Decora In-wall On/Off Light Switch (Model: 45609WB)
  • Jasco White Decora In-wall Dimmer Light Switch (Model: 45607WB or 45612WB)
  • Jasco White Decora Auxiliary Light Switch (Model: 45610WB)
  • Jasco Light Almond Decora In-wall On/Off Light Switch (Model: 45709)
  • Jasco Light Almond Decora In-wall Dimmer Light Switch (Model: 45715 or 45712)
  • Jasco Light Almond Decora Auxiliary Light Switch (Model: 45710)
  • Jasco White Toggle In-wall On/Off Light Switch (Model: 45740)
  • Jasco White Toggle In-wall Dimmer Light Switch (Model: 45716 or 45742)
  • Jasco White Toggle Auxiliary Light Switch (Model: 45741)
  • Jasco Light Almond Toggle In-wall On/Off Light Switch (Model: 45760)
  • Jasco Light Almond Toggle In-wall Dimmer Light Switch (Model: 45717 or 45762)
  • Jasco Light Almond Toggle Auxiliary Light Switch (Model: 45761)0

Automated deadbolt locks

  • Kwikset Deadbolt Lock Satin Nickel (Model: 99100-023)
  • Kwikset Deadbolt Lock Venetian Bronze (Model: 99100-024)
  • Kwikset Deadbolt Lock Polished Brass (Model: 99100-022)

Garage door openers

  • Linear Garage Door Opener Remote Controller (Model: GD00Z-2)
  • John

    Untrue, ADT auth dealers literally tell you its a contract when they run the credit. They go over it again with you at the end. So phone call you are told twice alone, not to mention confirm of appt email told me.

  • Andy R

    As a new home owner, I made the mistake of letting myself get talked into buying a home security system by an ADT sales representative who came to my door. I am writing this review in the hope of preventing others from making the same mistake I did. The contract I now find myself in and the monthly payments I will need to make for three years is completely my own fault for making a poor decision as a consumer. I have found my ADT service to be over priced and unnecessary. My advice for new home owners: When an ADT sales representative comes to your house, don’t worry yourself over talk of bumper keys and burglaries, different contract options, and taking advantage of the new home owner “deal” before it is too late — simply don’t answer the door.