SimpliSafe DIY Home Security Review
If you want all the swank and safety of a full home security system but you don’t want a monthly bill that costs as much as cable TV, then SimpliSafe is a pretty good option. It lets you order DIY, á la carte security equipment online, and it offers professional monitoring for an impressively low price.
We really like the SimpliSafe system overall (that’s why it made our Best Home Security System list). It’s super easy to set up, the app works great, and the (new) equipment has some cool new features. The only reason we didn’t give it four stars is because it doesn’t have a ton of home automation options—yet.
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*Does not include price of equipment
SimpliSafe security equipment
We love the new SimpliSafe equipment and the (wide) range of home protection devices you can get.
We previously reviewed SimpliSafe and didn’t super love the equipment. It looked the kind of security system you’d see in your parents’ house in the mid-90s. But in 2018, SimpliSafe made some upgrades, and now its equipment has much more of the Silicon Valley vibe we expect from our devices these days.
SimpliSafe equipment is still, well, simple. The system isn’t going to turn your home into a Jetson-esque, fully automated smart home. But SimpliSafe did add a bunch of new features that make its equipment more secure, so hackers can’t hijack your house.
Simplisafe equipment security features:
- Simultaneous cellular and Wi-Fi connections (new). So if your internet goes out or you lose a cell signal, your system will still work.
- “SmashSafe” back-up. If an intruder destroys your keypad or base station, your system will send out an alarm to the monitoring center.
- Base station battery backup. If your base station loses power, it still has 24 hours’ worth of battery backup juice.
SimpliSafe also gave its devices longer ranges and faster processing power, so everything works a little better.
What other security equipment does SimpliSafe have?
- Entry sensor
- Motion sensor
- Glass break sensor
- Water sensor
- Freeze sensor
- Keychain remote
- Panic button
- Smoke detector
- CO detector
There is one tech highlight to SimpliSafe’s equipment: it’s a cellular system. That means you don’t need to connect everything to a landline or rely on a Wi-Fi signal for your safety—SimpliSafe uses a cell signal the same way your smartphone does.
Cellular is the most secure connection a home security system can offer, so as long as your location has a strong enough cell signal, we can’t recommend a better option.
SimpliSafe base station
If you’ve had a security system before, you probably know most systems use a main control panel to communicate with sensors and sound alarms if someone cracks a window and creeps into your living room at 2 a.m. But SimpliSafe uses something a little different: a main console called the base station.
The base station communicates with all your sensors and devices (the keypad is just there to turn things on and off). When you set up your SimpliSafe system, you just take the base station out of the box and plug it in. Easy peasy. We put ours right on the kitchen counter.
The base station does have a pretty bright light on the bottom that stays on all the time, so keep in mind if you put it in your living room, it might annoy you during movie night.
SimpliSafe mobile app control (be ready to pay for it)
Now that we’ve covered some good stuff, let’s talk about the bad. We have two main complaints about SimpliSafe:
- The extra cost for access to the mobile app
- The lack of home automation support
If you want SimpliSafe’s mobile app (and trust us, you do), then you have to subscribe to a SimpliSafe monitoring plan. And not just any SimpliSafe monitoring plan: the most expensive plan, the Interactive.
SimpliSafe monthly plans:
- Standard — $14.99 per month
- Interactive — $24.99 per month (this is the one you need to get the mobile app)
To be fair, SimpliSafe plans are pretty cheap—especially by industry standards. But we still don’t like the mobile app being treated like an “extra” you pay a premium for. You need the mobile app unless you want to just use SimpliSafe as a local alarm and hope a loud noise is enough to scare away an intruder. (We don’t recommend that.)
SimpliSafe mobile app features:
- Arm/disarm system
- View activity log
- View live camera feed (if you have a SimpliCam)
- Get alerts when people arrive at home (like family members or babysitters)
- Monitor environmental sensors, including water and temperature sensors (so you know if your pipes freeze or if there’s a fire in your laundry room)
If you really don’t want to pay for mobile app access, you can still arm and disarm the system remotely using a keychain remote. The remote is nice, but it can’t do nearly as much as the app can, and you still have to be in close range to your house. That doesn’t help if you realize at work that you forgot to arm your system that morning.
Home automation? Not much.
We’re big supporters of the “smart home” trend around here, and we love when home security systems integrate with smart home technology. Unfortunately, SimpliSafe is a little behind the times on that front.
Most security systems now come with either Z-Wave or Zigbee integration (or both if you’re Scout), which lets you add in third-party devices like smart locks and lights. SimpliSafe comes with . . . neither.
Don’t run into Scout’s open arms quite yet, though. SimpliSafe does have two smart home functions:
The Amazon Alexa integration lets you arm your SimpliSafe system with just your voice, so you don’t have to get out of your comfy bed at night when you realize you forgot to turn the system on.
With Nest, SimpliSafe can help your thermostat learn your habits. Your system can tell your Nest thermostat what time you usually leave in the morning based on when you arm your system. It can also tell if you usually get home at 6 p.m. on Mondays and 11 p.m. on Saturday nights, based on when you tend to disarm your system.
SimpliCam—not bad for $99
The SimpliCam is SimpliSafe’s first attempt at a camera offering. You have to keep the camera indoors, and it’s not too technologically impressive. But it’s also pretty decent for its $99 price tag. (As a comparison, an indoor camera from Vivint costs around $150.)
So what do you get for your $99?
- Heat-based motion detection
- 120° field of view
- 720p recording
- Night vision
- Sound recording
What don’t you get?
- No two-way talk functionality
- No pan, tilt, or zoom
Overall, the SimpliCam’s not a bad deal. But keep in mind that if you want to record video or download anything from the camera’s livestream, you’ll need to pay $4.99 per month for SimpliSafe’s camera plan. Oh, and that’s $4.99 per month per camera.
Remember: professional monitoring and video surveillance aren’t the same thing. No matter which SimpliSafe plan you get, you still get professional system monitoring, which never includes video monitoring. But if you want video surveillance you watch yourself? You need the Interactive monitoring plan. See here for more info on what “professional monitoring” means.
No doubt about it, SimpliSafe is substantially cheaper than other security options.
Part 1 of 2: the equipment cost
Because of SimpliSafe’s nice little DIY contract-free model, you do have to buy all your security equipment up front. But even with that initial cost, you’ll pay much less for SimpliSafe equipment than you would for most other companies.
For example, SimpliSafe’s Haven equipment package costs $489 for 14 pieces of equipment. That same amount of money will buy you much less equipment from a big-name provider like Vivint.
SimpliSafe Haven package:
- 1 base station
- 1 keypad
- 1 keychain remote
- 2 motion sensors
- 4 entry sensors
- 1 panic button
- 1 extra siren
- 1 freeze sensor
- 1 water sensor
- 1 smoke detector
Compare that to Vivint’s basic equipment package.
Vivint basic equipment package:
- 2–4 entry sensors (depending on your monitoring plan)
- 1 motion sensor
- 1 control panel
- Mobile app
You can spend $549 dollars at Vivint and get only a couple of sensors and a control panel, or you can spend $489 at SimpliSafe and get almost enough equipment to turn your home into a fortress.
Plus, SimpliSafe offers refurbished equipment. Used equipment costs around 20–30% less than new.
SimpliSafe’s online ordering couldn’t be easier
SimpliSafe offers five equipment packages, so it’s easy to find something with enough equipment for your specific house.
But you don’t have to restrict yourself to preset packages. SimpliSafe equipment is (almost) entirely à la carte. Get what you want, skip what you don’t want, and go on your merry way.
Our tester system came with two sensors and a motion detector. That was enough for us to secure two main doorways and cover the living room with the motion sensor.
We also like that SimpliSafe lets you order online. You can add equipment and check out in mere minutes.
Part 2 of 2: the monthly professional monitoring
|Mobile app access||No||Yes|
|Text or email alerts||No||Yes|
|Learn more||View Plan||View Plan|
Professional monitoring is optional with SimpliSafe. Just remember if you choose to go without it, the only thing deterring a burglar from stealing your TV is a loud noise.
Your security system will function as a “local alarm,” which means if someone trips a sensor, it will still set off a siren. But that’s it. Without monitoring, no one will contact you. You won’t get a notification. No one will call the police for you.
Professional monitoring means there’s always someone paying attention to your security system who will first call you and then call the authorities if an alarm sounds.
Honestly, with SimpliSafe, we see no reason not to get a monitoring plan. It offers only two monitoring plans, and the base plan is $14.99 per month. That’s really cheap by industry standards, so why not have the extra peace of mind?
SimpliSafe installation: just plug in, peel off, and stick on
SimpliSafe installation is totally DIY, and it’s easy. No drilling or punching holes in your walls (which is great for renters), and the equipment comes with adhesive strips, so you just peel off the cover and stick the sensors where you want them.
The sensors are super sticky and definitely stay where you put them, but good news: they’re still safe for paint. We put the sensors on and took them off a couple of times, and our paint was left intact.
Even setting up the base station and arming the system are no big deal. Just follow the instructions in the setup guide or through the SimpliSafe app. We used the app, and it gave us step-by-step directions to get everything connected and ready to go.
Our whole system was up and running within 15–20 minutes.
The bottom line
For people who don’t want to spend a fortune on a home security system and don’t need a lot of frills to make them happy, we like SimpliSafe as a cheap, reliable option. The online ordering is super convenient, the DIY installation took us no time at all, and our system worked perfectly the entire time we spent testing it.
We wish SimpliSafe had more home automation options and more integration with smart home devices. If you do opt for the system, we recommend you get the Interactive monitoring plan along with it so you at least have access to the SimpliSafe mobile app.
Do you use a DIY security system? How important do you think it is for SimpliSafe to include more home automation options? Let us know in the comments!