Home Security System Costs: A Complete Breakdown (Updated 2018)

March 21, 2018
Here are the different types of costs associated with owning a home security system:

  • Upfront equipment cost
  • Monthly monitoring fees
  • Installation costs
  • Activation fees

It’s important to understand how to tailor a system to your needs and avoid unnecessary hidden fees that some alarm companies will attempt to slip into the contract.

Find out how to dodge all those extra fees below.

You should be able to fully customize your security system the way you want.

Costs can vary widely depending on the size of the property, the number of entrances, and the occupants, which is why you’ll be hard-pressed to find a reputable security company offering a “Home Security System” for a set price.

Think about your security needs and create a ballpark estimate of what you’re willing to pay to make sure your security system satisfies every single one of those needs.

If you pay less for your equipment, be prepared to get fewer features, lower part quality, and less reliable customer service.

The reverse is not always true.

Companies can charge high prices for outdated equipment and still provide poor customer service. This is why reading honest online reviews can be helpful.

What am I paying for when I buy a home security system?

The cost of a home security system consists of two main expenses: the upfront equipment cost and the monthly monitoring fee.

Equipment costs can vary widely depending on the size of the property, number of entrances, and the occupants.

Alarm system equipment prices start at around $300 on the lower end to over $1,000 or even $2,000 for more complex residential systems.

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Cameras tend to be the most expensive addition to a security system, so we suggest buying as few as possible if you're on a tight budget. You can always add on more cameras later if you need to.

Monthly monitoring fees tend to vary much less. Click here to learn more about alarm monitoring costs.

Hardwired devices tend to be cheaper than the more modern wireless systems, but your final bill will be much higher due to the costs of getting an electrician to drill into your walls and ceiling to lay wires.

A residential wireless alarm system containing the following parts will cost about this much:

  • Wireless Alarm Panel: $200-350
  • Wireless Security Camera: $50-$200
  • Wireless PIR Motion Sensor: $40-60
  • Wireless Door/Window Contacts: $20-30
  • Wireless Glass Break Detector: $50-$70
  • Wireless Smoke/Heat Detector: $70-$90
  • Wireless Siren: $50-$70
  • Wireless Keypad: $80-120
  • Keyfob: $20-$40
  • Freeze Sensor: $30-$50
  • Water Sensor: $20-$40

Prices vary between brands. If these prices sound like they're outside your budget, that's okay. Most equipment dealers offer subsidies to help you pay for your system over many months.

Also, be on the lookout for those seasonal promotions; some can even cut the total equipment cost in half!

What other costs of a security system should I consider?

Monthly Monitoring

When we talk about reliability, hardware quality is certainly a factor.

Monitoring, however, is the defining characteristic of a reliable home security system. Alarm monitoring ensures your security system achieves its primary goal: getting a fast emergency response to your house during a crisis.

firefighter at rest

Cheap monitoring is often tied to a phone line which requires you to pay for a landline. Unless you still use a landline, that’s another monthly bill you’ll have to pay. Cellular alarm monitoring is safer as an intruder cannot simply cut the communication path like they can with phone lines.

Cheap monitoring lacks smartphone integration through an app like Total Connect 2.0 to control your system.

Cheap monitoring doesn't have smart home automation. If you want the convenience of electronic locks, automated lights, smart thermostats, and the time/money savings those technologies offer, you need to have a system that allows for smart home automation.

You will pay a lot more up front. A company cannot offer both cheap equipment and low monitoring costs without losing money or cutting costs from crucial areas like customer service.

Your alarm company is not actually monitoring your system. While it’s tempting to buy into a $10 monthly monitoring service, you’re likely being tossed into a monitoring “farm” and your security company is outsourcing the service to a third-party. This creates an accountability problem in terms of who is in charge and responsible for your safety.

The price increases year after year. Your entry level price can rise dramatically in years 2 and 3 of the contract and there is nothing you can do about it.

Cheap monitoring means customer service is poor or non-existent. Your time is worth a significant amount of money. Don’t let it go to waste on people who aren’t truly invested in your safety or providing a positive customer experience. The consequences are waiting weeks for service, long hold times, and an inability to get the same person on the phone twice.

Mobile App & Cloud Storage

Smartphone apps typically cost money because they allow you to control your smart home remotely and provide cloud storage for your video cameras.

Depending on how much storage you need, the video storage subscription fee can be between $5 to $30 a month. The more cloud storage you need and the longer you want to keep your historical data, the more it'll cost you

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Very few customers receive tangible benefits from getting 30-day video history, so we recommend you start out small and work your way up if you find yourself wanting more storage space.

If you can, try to download your videos onto a hard drive instead for longer-term storage.

Activation Fees

Activation fees are one of many hidden fees that some security companies will sneak into their contracts to squeeze just a few more dollars out of people who don't read the fine print.

It might be just a one-time fee, but it can pack a punch. Some businesses think that customers are already so committed to the sale at this point that they won't back out, so they can hit them with a bill that can go up to $200.

Note: This does not include the cost of installation!

Carefully read your contract before you sign it to make sure there is no mention of such a fee in the fine print.

Installation Fees

If you need help setting up your home security system or haven't got the time to do it yourself, alarm companies are only too glad to help. Keep in mind that professional installation, when done by qualified, background-checked technicians, won't be free.

To avoid this fee, install the system yourself. Don't worry if you're not tech-savvy; we'll talk you through it!

False Alarm Fees

False alarms are a serious concern because of how they drain police resources and limit the ability of police to respond to genuine emergencies happening at the same time.

A 2007 report by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing stated that law enforcement agents respond to about 36 million activated alarms each year, costing nearly $2 billion. Most alarm calls, between 94 and 98 percent, are false.

Police will fine people whose faulty security systems result in frequent false alarms. Over 3,000 municipalities around the country levy fines for unneeded police dispatches. The first offense either results in a warning or a small $25 to $35 fee, but if your alarm system repeatedly malfunctions and goes off when it's not supposed to, you may have to cough up several hundreds of dollars. 

The high penalties associated with faulty home security systems is another reason why you don't want to go for cheap equipment; you end up paying more in the long run.

Download the Ultimate Guide to Home Security and learn:

  • Top 5 misconceptions about home security
  • How to assess vulnerabilities in your home
  • Why home security is about more than preventing burglaries
  • Cutting-edge security equipment: how home security has changed
  • Monitored vs. Self-Monitored Systems
  • Local vs. National Security Companies

... and more!

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