The system you already have may still work—it’s just a matter of finding the right company to monitor it.
If you’ve just moved into a house with a system already installed, or it’s just been a while since you’ve had active service to your home, you may want to consider adding system monitoring to take advantage of the home security equipment you have scattered around the house.
Companies like GE, Honeywell, 2GIG, and many others make equipment that’s compatible with just about any home security provider’s system monitoring service. Chances are your existing system can be activated for either a small fee (less than $50) or for free, which will save you money on new equipment and installation.
Your first step is to identify your equipment. Examine each piece—any of the following may help:
- Brand names
- Model names
- Screen and button layout
The next step would be to figure out which company you want to get system monitoring from. Besides looking for the coolest logo for your front yard signs, you’ll want to look at their prices and contract periods. We’ve listed some of the Best Home Security providers and whether or not they will activate an existing security system.
If your existing system can’t be activated, then it’s time to go with all new equipment—which usually means cooler gear like touch screens, home automation equipment (lights, thermostats), and more.
What’s the cheapest way to monitor an existing system?
If your equipment is in working order, you’re already ahead of the curve, but you’ll want to compare plans from multiple monitoring service providers to choose the best one for you. And make sure you’re okay with what the plans look like. If you need more details, read what we had to say about the Best Home Security Systems.
Duh. There’s a big difference between self-monitoring plans from Live Watch or SimpliSafe for $14.95–$19.95 per month (or even DIY systems like Scout for $9.99 per month which would be an inexpensive alternative if you can’t activate old equipment) and the larger and more comprehensive companies like Vivint and ADT.
We usually see monitoring plans for $20–$40 per month. More comprehensive plans get closer to $60 or more a month—depending on if you add things like cameras, home automation, and other equipment and services. In this day and age, these home security costs can definitely save you not just the money of stolen stuff like laptops, but also all the time it would take you to recover that glorious collection of dank memes and cat GIFs.
If all of this seems too costly, you may not want to update your old equipment. Check out our Best DIY Home Security post for more affordable options.
Although some companies go with month-to-month contracts, most offer one-year plans (which can save you upwards of 10% for the year) or even longer contracts. We’ve seen plans go for as long as five years with Vivint. In home security, you’ll be better off price-wise with a longer contract, but if you’re afraid of commitment, make sure to check the return policy.
And if you’re signing a longer contract, it’s not a bad idea to see if your equipment can move with you—most of the new equipment is built with this in mind, so you can keep running from the law state-to-state while continuing your home security service.
Other factors to consider
Monitoring centers: The more UL-Listed monitoring centers, the better. Most companies we’ve come across have at least three centers, which means you have a triangle of protection around you always—and we all know triangles are the most stable shape in nature.
Home automation: If monitoring your services from your phone is a must, then some companies definitely do it cheaper than others. SimpliSafe’s Interactive plan starts at $24.99 per month, which is less than a buck a day to impress all the homies who roll over to your pad by turning the lights on and off with your phone.
Other helpful tips for activating existing alarms:
- Check batteries: If your home security equipment doesn’t turn on . . . start here.
- Create secure passwords: Make sure your passwords are unique.
- Identify company: Make and model names are usually on the physical equipment, but may display only on-screen.
- Order service: Decide on the right company for you, see if it can integrate your current equipment, and add on equipment if necessary.
- Test equipment: Have the monitoring company test your equipment—unless it’s DIY, and then there’s usually a way of testing from the mobile app or control panel.
- Make your security visible: Post yard signs, stickers, and any other visible signs that your place is secured professionally.
- Check all residential and city rules: Some cities require a home alarm permit to deter false alarms.
- Save money: Contact your home insurance carrier—you might be able to get a discount.
If you’re still a little in the dark about where to start, call Vivint, Frontpoint, or ADT for reputable security names. Once again, you can read up on each briefly in the Best Home Security article or find DIY options in our Best DIY Home Security article.