Time to separate the myths from fact when it comes to monitoring your home security system.
What Is Home Security Monitoring?
Home security monitoring is what it sounds like: watching out for alerts from a security system.
Most systems come with professional monitoring, where a remote station is alerted to any changes in your system. But some also offer self-monitoring, where you’ll personally be alerted via SMS text alerts, app notifications, or in-home alerts (like sirens, lights, etc.).
Let’s talk more about the two types of monitoring and the benefits you get in choosing one over another.
Professional monitoring is the more traditional home security approach. When you go the professional route, you pay a monthly fee to have a monitoring service watch your security system for you.
Data effective 7/10/2023. Offers subject to change.
Pros of professional monitoring
When you hire someone else to watch your system, your home’s safety becomes their problem. You don’t have to check your phone in the middle of a date or leave it on at the opera. You can focus on other things.
If something does go wrong, it’s in the hands of professionals trained to handle the situation. How freeing is that?!
What's included in professional monitoring?
Professional monitoring features vary by company and even package. Generally, though, security monitoring covers most devices. That could include an entry sensor, motion sensor/motion detector, smart lock, glass break sensor, flood/freeze sensor, smoke detector, carbon monoxide detector, garage door opener, and doorbell camera or other camera. It usually doesn’t include smart home equipment, like a smart control panel or hub, thermostat, or TV.
Cons of professional monitoring
Most professional monitoring services are $$.
Now and again, you stumble across companies that charge less than $20 to watch your system (Ring or Cove, for example). But most of the time, you’re going to pay $30+, even $40+. That’s not even counting an alarm permit or any false alarms that you have to pay your city for. (No professional monitoring service is perfect. Sometimes the police get called to your home when they shouldn’t.)
And let’s face it: when you go with professional monitoring, you give up a certain level of control. You leave your fate in the monitoring company’s hands.
Self-monitoring is a newer concept in the home security scene. As DIY systems have gotten more popular, so have self-monitored ones.
Not everyone wants to deal with a big-box company every month. Some people prefer to monitor their security systems on their own.
Data effective 07/10/2023. Offers subject to change.
To see more, check out our full list of the top self-monitored systems.
Pros of self-monitoring
Self-monitoring is less expensive than professional monitoring. It's often (but not always) free. That’s right: $0 to monitor your system yourself. If your security company offers self-monitoring, it’ll be the cheapest plan tier because it requires the least amount of work from the company.
Self-monitoring also may not involve an alarm permit. (It depends on where you live.) Alarm permits usually require some money on top of the system and monitoring costs. So that’s another place where you’ll potentially see more savings.
Finally, if you’re self-monitoring, your system usually won’t be linked to your local police station. If your system goes off and it’s a false alarm, you won’t be slapped with a painful fine.
DIY vs. self monitoring
It’s tempting to classify a DIY system as being self-monitored, but that’s always not the case. The “DIY” refers to the setup, not necessarily the monitoring. However, a professionally installed system is almost always professionally monitored. We haven’t seen any professionally installed but self-monitored systems making a splash.
Cons of self-monitoring
When you self-monitor, you’re a one-person army. You’re constantly checking that things are okay. You’re on high alert 24/7. You’re responsible for calling the police. And you better not slack, bucko, because if something goes wrong—that’s on you.
Home security monitoring FAQ
Let’s talk a bit more about monitoring your home security system.
Multiple monitoring centers
When it comes to professional security, you want to make sure you get what you’re paying for.
We suggest using a company with the following:
- Multiple monitoring centers
- Multiple language services
- 24/7 customer service
Say you’re relying on a professional service to watch your security system, but it only has one monitoring center. What happens when that monitoring station goes out of commission because of a flood, or a fire, or a riot? You’re left hanging, that’s what happens.
When a service has more than one monitoring center, someone will always be watching your home, even when one center is non-operational.
Multiple language services
Ever called into a service and been frustrated because the person on the other line didn’t speak your language very well? We have too.
One way to potentially avoid that is to go with a provider that clearly states it has operators fluent in many languages. That way, you can request a transfer if you can’t understand the person you’re speaking with.
Some consumers don’t like it when companies use off-shore monitoring because they experience more language problems. In our experience, off-shore isn’t necessarily an indicator or guarantee of how fluent the operators are. Focus on the offered languages, not the monitoring center location.
24/7 customer service
You’re essentially hiring someone else to manage your system, so it’s helpful to talk to them whenever something pops up.
Enter 24/7 customer service. Any time you have a safety issue or even just a question, you can get it addressed right away.
“Safer” is a relative term, so we’ll put it this way: you can rest more easily when you’re paying someone else to watch your system. You won’t have to be on your guard all the time because you won’t be responsible for everything.
If professional alarm monitoring is an option for you, in most cases, we recommend going with that.
Some people worry that their home security company is watching them through a security camera.
Here’s our take on it: you’re probably safe from prying eyes. Most companies decline to monitor video footage. It’s just too much work. The only company we know of that might be looking at your videos is Ring.1
Not necessarily. We’ve never seen a self-monitored landline security system, but cellular security systems go either way.