Best Smart Home Security Systems 2021
Home automation no longer requires you to “clap on, clap off.” With just the push of a button, you can now control more than your lights—you can turn on your dishwasher, lock your front door, and scare the pants off the FedEx employee by yelling “Thanks!” from your doorbell camera.
We think it’s a smart idea to pair home automation with home security. When we reviewed home automation systems, many of them were also top contenders for the best home monitoring and security systems.
|Provider||Monitoring price||Smart home integrations||Learn more|
|Vivint||$29.99–$44.99/mo.||Z-Wave, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant||View Plans|
|ADT Command||$52.99–$62.99/mo.||Z-Wave, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant||View Plans|
|Abode||$0–$20/mo.||IFTTT, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit||View Plans|
|Scout||$9.99–$19.99/mo.||IFTTT, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant||View Plans|
Data effective 2/1/20. Offers subject to change.
Vivint: Editor’s choice
Our top choice, Vivint, offers the best in home automation and security technology. Plus it has a no-contract option.
- Quick incident response time
- No-contract option available
- Proprietary technology and equipment
- High up-front costs
Vivint’s mobile app lets you add some mood lighting, turn up the heat, or lock your front door—all from your smartphone. It also allows you to get really granular with how you set up your security system. If you run to pick up your child from school every day at 2:30 p.m., your system can remember to set your alarm for you.
Also impressive is Vivint’s equipment, which is all designed in-house and comes with loads of extra features.
For example, Vivint’s control panel has a two-way talk feature that lets a Vivint rep try to contact you through your control panel—and you can answer back. No more scrambling to find your phone and answer their call to cancel a false alarm.
And you can also pull up live video feeds from your security cameras on the panel or in the Vivint mobile app to monitor your home in real time. Plus Vivint’s Indoor Camera has an outbound call feature, so your kids always have a way to get ahold of you.
|Package||Monitoring price||Contract length||Details|
|Smart Security||$29.99/mo.||None OR 42–60 mos.||View Plans|
|Smart Home||$39.99/mo.||None OR 42–60 mos.||View Plans|
|Smart Home Video||$44.99/mo.||None OR 42–60 mos.||View Plans|
Data effective 2/1/20. Offers subject to change.
“So what’s the downside?,” you ask. Vivint is on the pricier end of the spectrum in terms of equipment costs. Equipment packages start at $599, and you’ll have to pay all of that up front (and probably more, if you need more equipment) to qualify for a no-contract option.
Vivint also doesn’t have a DIY installation option, so you’ll need to factor in the $99 installation fee into your total cost. But we still think the price is worth it to get your hands on some of the best home automation technology in the industry, like two-way talk, live video feeds, and custom security settings.
ADT Command (formerly ADT Pulse): Most popular
A close runner-up, ADT Command provides a well-rounded home automation service, but steep costs keep first place just out of reach.
- Multiple professional monitoring centers
- Widely recognized security brand
- High monthly costs
- 3-year contract requred
ADT Command plans (formerly known as ADT Pulse) offer professional installation (no DIY) and allow you to dim the lights for date night, turn up the thermostat on a chilly morning, or open the front door for your partner when they forget their keys.
Its service is also compatible with Z-Wave devices, so you’ll be able to add in some third-party smart devices, like lights, locks, and thermostats.
That said, ADT’s equipment looks pretty standard and it has mediocre cameras. The ADT system definitely lacks the innovative qualities and overall panache of Vivint gear.
|Package||Monitoring price||Smart home support||Camera support||Learn more|
|ADT Command Tier I Remote Access||$52.99/mo.||No||No||View Plans|
|ADT Command Tier II Video Security||$58.99/mo.||No||Yes||View Plans|
|ADT Command Tier III Video Security + Home Automation||$62.99/mo.||Yes||Yes||View Plans|
Data effective 2/1/2020. Offers subject to change.
But where ADT Command really falls short is its high monthly cost—its cheapest home automation option is still a few dollars more per month than Vivint’s most expensive one. Plus, there’s no way around that ball and chain of a three-year contract. (Or is there?)
There is one caveat, though: for a security event to trigger the ADT monitoring service—and have them contact the police or fire department on your behalf—the event alert has to come from an ADT device.
Abode: Best for smart homes
Scrappy DIY system, Abode, offers a low-cost, smart home automation and security option. It’s a renter’s dream.
- Option for free self-monitoring
- No contracts
- On-demand monitoring available
- DIY installation
- Starter package doesn't come with a keypad
Are you all about getting hands-on and tinkering with technology? Then Abode’s do-it-yourself smart security system might just be your jam. For renters, the easy-as-pie installation is a match made in heaven since you won’t need to grab the putty knife and fill in holes when you move out. Instead, the control panel and sensors attach with adhesive backing.
An extra bonus: If you have to pick up and go because your lease is up, you changed jobs, or you’re moving in with your best friend’s sister’s cousin, you won’t have to worry about paying contract cancellation fees. All of Abode’s packages are contract-free.
|Package||Monitoring price||Contract length||Learn more|
|Basic||Free (self-monitoring only)||None||View Plans|
|Connect + Secure||$20/mo.||None||View Plans|
Data effective 2/1/20. Offers subject to change.
Abode is also Z-Wave, Zigbee, and If This, Then That (IFTTT) compatible, so you can mix and match a wide range of smart light bulbs, locks, thermostats, appliances, and more, including digital assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant.2 Additionally, the starter kit has a low up-front cost (compared to other companies) and comes with most everything you need.
We say “most everything” because the kit lacks a couple of items that you might consider essential. A wireless keypad will cost you extra, as will any security cameras. If your focus is mainly on home automation, these may not be a deal breaker and can be added on if you consider them a must-have.
What makes Abode tops for anyone looking for a budget home automation service is its Basic package that rings in at a whopping F-R-E-E. While you’ll have to rely on your own eagle eyes to self-monitor, this is the perfect option if you’re really only shopping for a home automation service.
If you think 24/7 monitoring might come in handy, you can always upgrade to the still-affordable Connect or Connect + Secure plans—or get three to seven days of on-demand monitoring for a one-time fee.
Scout: Best RFID option
Another top choice for renters and DIY-ers, Scout offers a low-cost, minimalist approach complete with full home automation control.
- DIY, non-invasive installation
- Low up-front and monthly cost
- No contracts
- À la carte equipment selection
- Monthly subscription required for full functionality
All it takes is a few minutes to set up the Scout smart home security system. And renters rest easy—there’s no need to get out your home improvement toolbelt. Just like Abode, Scout uses adhesive backing to stick to your walls.
Scout doesn’t really have a free monitoring option. If you want access to the mobile app, or you want to upgrade to full-on professional monitoring, then you’ll need to sign on for a month-to-month subscription plan.
|Package||Monitoring price||Contract length||Learn More|
|Always On||$9.99/mo.||None||View Plans|
|Always On +||$19.99/mo.||None||View Plans|
Data effective 2/1/2019. Offers subject to change.
There’s no contract required, and Scout’s monthly fees won’t make your jaw drop. It’s well worth it to pay for the plan to get IFTTT, Z-Wave, and Zigbee integrations, as well as support for Alexa, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, and more.
Recap: Which smart home security system is best?
- Vivint: Best professionally installed—Vivint lets you customize your smart home alarm system on a whole new level with feature-packed proprietary equipment.
- ADT Command: Most popular—ADT Command (formerly ADT Pulse) is a widely recognized home security brand that offers redundant call centers for an extra layer of protection, but steep costs keep it in second place.
- Abode: Best for smart homes—Abode comes with DIY installation and no contracts, but if you want a control panel, you’ll need to fork over a little more dough.
- Scout: Best RFID option—Scout is another top DIY pick with no contract, but you’ll need to pay month to month to get the full set of home security and automation features.
Still not sure which system is right for you? Check out our Best Home Security Systems review to compare more options.
How to keep your home automation system from being hacked
Hacks, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, breaches . . . keeping up is enough to give a security pro a headache. But the good news is, you don’t need to be a pro to take steps to add a layer of defense to your home automation system. Here are a few tips to help keep your home automation system secure.
Create strong passwords
It bears repeating: don’t just stick with the default password. This goes for anything connected to your network, like your router, cloud account, or smartphone. Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols to create a strong password—and avoid using anything that makes the list of most commonly used passwords.
It’s also a good idea to add two-factor authentication to your account if you can. This adds yet another layer of protection to keep would-be hackers away.
Stay up to date
New vulnerabilities are discovered every day, and responsible companies constantly publish software and firmware updates to keep you ahead of the security game. Set a reminder to check for software updates to your home automation and security system at least once a week, and don’t forget about your router and computer too.
Keep tabs on who’s keeping tabs
If you have security cameras as part of your smart alarm system, it’s likely you can check the history to see who’s accessed the feed. Take a peek at the logs regularly and make sure you recognize the IP addresses listed there. If you discover one you don’t recognize, immediately change your password and let your security service provider know.
Similarly, it’s a good idea to keep track of who has a passcode for your alarm. That way, if someone you no longer want to have access has the code, you know to change it.
A quick intro to home automation languages
IFTTT, Z-Wave, Zigbee, Insteon. Home automation languages don’t come with a Rosetta Stone course, but it’s not difficult to learn how each one works.
If you’re new to home automation, these are the languages that allow each smart device to “talk” to the hub and to each other, so every bit of your home’s Internet of Things (IoT) is connected.
But creating IFTTT recipes and learning how to make your devices “talk” to each other in the right way takes some research and experimentation. Check out our home automation languages guide to jump in and see what it’s all about.