With the debut today of its Smart Home Security System, Honeywell joins more than a half-dozen companies, from the savvy startup Ring to the tech titan Samsung, hoping to get a foot in the door of your smart home.

“These companies are using their new DIY security systems as a beachhead for their other smart home products,” says Mark Allwood, a CR market analyst. “If you buy a Nest security system, you might be compelled to buy a Nest thermostat.” 

The flurry of activity gives consumers the advantage of choice.

“Security and monitoring devices are still among the top-use cases for a smart home, and approximately 20 percent of the residential market has a professionally monitored security system,” says Brett Worthington, a senior vice president for Samsung SmartThings. “The majority of the remaining 80 percent includes consumers who are interested in smart-home and security products and services but are not looking for professionally installed options.”

To help you decide which home-security system may be right for you, Consumer Reports calculated the five-year cost to install and run them with professional monitoring. We haven't had a chance to test the new systems; in fact, a number of them have yet to hit store shelves.

Types of Home-Security Systems

The first decision you'll have to make is who you want to monitor the system. Some home-security systems offer optional professional monitoring, in which responders track your system for triggered alarms.

Alternatively, you can self-monitor by keeping an eye on your home through alerts and video feeds on your smartphone. However, two systems, Scout Alarm and SimpliSafe, require you to pay a monthly fee for smartphone alerts ($10 and $25, respectively), essentially charging you for self-monitoring. (Without those alerts, if you're not home you'll have no idea if your alarm goes off.) The SimpliSafe fee also includes professional monitoring.

Another deciding factor is how important are smart home features. The straightforward systems from Simplisafe and Scout Alarm offer home security and not much else. They might connect to security cameras, leak detectors, and the like, but don’t expect them to control your heating or lights.

Others systems double as a smart-home platform. This approach is best exemplified by SmartThings ADT Home Security, Wink Lookout, and the Honeywell Smart Home Security System. They allow you to connect to and control other smart-home products, including smart thermostats, lighting, and door locks.

With any type of DIY home-security system, of course, it's your job to install the hardware and sensors and get everything up and running.


Check our 
ratings of smart thermostats and look for our upcoming reviews and coverage of smart door locks, smoke detectors, video doorbells, and more.
 

How We Compared Security System Costs

To accurately compare the cost of these home-security systems, we used data from Energy Star to determine the number of first-floor windows—those most likely to be targeted by a burglar—in the average American home. We combined the average number with one front door and one back door. Based on that information, our cost comparison is based on a system with 17 contact sensors for each security system: 15 windows and two exterior doors.

More on Smart Home

Most DIY system starter kits come with only two to four contact sensors, which is why they can be offered at such attractive prices; some start at $200. But when you factor in the cost of the additional sensors that you’ll need, the price for your initial setup can easily skyrocket. For example, with 17 contact sensors, an iSmartAlarm security system will cost you $620, not $200.

While none of these systems require professional monitoring, to help you weigh the monitoring choice we factored in the cost of a subscription for five years. Check out the chart below for a comparison of the top systems.

chart showing the cost of home security systems

As you can see, the cost of a home-security system can get pretty steep over time. The most expensive one with monitoring for five years is the Nest Secure, with a total cost of $3,484. You could save $10 per month on Nest's $35 monthly monitoring fee, but it requires signing a three-year service contract.

Based on our analysis, there are two systems worth highlighting.

A prior version of this story highlighted the Ring Protect system as our best value pick, but due to a legal dispute, Ring canceled pre-orders for the system. As of early November, Ring said it would have a new version “in the coming months.”

Best Value: Scout Alarm
Total hardware cost: $711

If you're interested in professional monitoring, Scout Alarm is the least expensive system of the bunch. Its hardware prices are not the lowest—that honor goes to SimpliSafe—but they’re reasonable, especially compared to SmartThings/ADT and Nest.

Scout Alarm’s professional monitoring plan, at $20 per month, or $215 per year, is less expensive than other plans by $5 to $15 a month. SimpliSafe does offer a lower-cost monthly monitoring plan ($15), but unlike Scout Alarm’s plan it doesn’t include smartphone control.

If you don't want professional monitoring, you can lower your monthly costs even more with Scout Alarm: For $10 a month you get smartphone alerts. But if all you want to do is self-monitor, you might want to check out cheaper systems that include it for free, such as iSmartAlarm and Wink Lookout. Just remember: Those systems don’t give you the flexibility of adding professional monitoring later if you change your mind.

Smartest Smart Home Option: Honeywell Smart Home Security System
Starter kit cost: $500
Total hardware cost: $1,100

The new Honeywell DIY system is the second most expensive option behind Nest Secure, but it offers far more value. The system’s base station doubles as a security camera, with facial recognition and two-way audio, and a smart speaker with built-in Amazon Alexa. Honeywell told us that it is also working to add Google Assistant, giving you two virtual assistants to choose from, as well as integration with Apple HomeKit devices.

The system also includes a Z-Wave radio chip, allowing you to use it as a smart-home hub for compatible Z-Wave lights, switches, and more.

With this roster of integrations, the Honeywell Smart Home Security System could connect to dozens of smart-home devices. And it will run on the same app Honeywell built for its Lyric thermostats and security cameras.

In an odd move for a Fortune 100 company, Honeywell launched the system on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, where interested consumers can pledge funds for a pre-order for a January delivery.

"Indiegogo is made up of passionate early adopters and tech enthusiasts, exactly the type of people we’d like to get early feedback from," says Ted Booth, Honeywell Experience Design Director. "We’ll use that feedback to drive future enhancements to the product."

The Honeywell Smart Home Security System will be available in March 2018.

 

Editor's Note: This article has been updated with revised monitoring costs for Nest, Abode, and Scout Alarm, and to remove Ring Protect.