How to Choose a Smart Home Security System

Feel confident that you’ve picked the best solution for protecting your property with Charley Ward’s guide to smart home security
Charley Ward
by Charley Ward
1st February 2019

The smart tech industry continues to grow, and now, like your lighting, heating and speakers, the burglar alarm has been given a modern update for the smartphone era.

Recent research has found that 71% of us do not feel our homes are secure enough and one in 50 British properties has suffered a break-in in the last 12 months.

Despite this, a full 85% of UK homeowners only install additional security features after their house has already been burgled.

It’s clear that it’s time to start thinking seriously about how we keep our abodes safe from intruders. Traditional CCTV setups can be expensive to run, and often feature grainy video quality, which makes it difficult to identify trespassers.

Fortunately, a wealth of smart tech options now exists to protect your property with just a few taps on a touchscreen. These devices give you the ability to lock your house remotely, receive real time updates on people leaving and entering and watch HD footage recorded from wherever you happen to be, at any time.

Most smart home hubs also provide integration with other tech you may already own, supercharging your setup with more helpful features.

Loxone smart app for home security

The Loxone smartphone app offers precise control over your home’s security features

Fancy interacting with your home via Alexa? No problem. Want to set lighting and heating patterns in tandem with alarms and holiday modes? You’ve got it!

In theory, this should make it easier for you to find the best solution for your household – especially as these products are generally simple to customise.

But with so many different options out there, it’s worth weighing up your choice properly to maximise the effectiveness of your new setup. Here, I’ve broken down the primary considerations you should make in order to pick the right system.

What do you want to use it for?

Individual households will need different levels and methods of protection, depending on factors like the size and location of your home and how often you’ll be in the property.

Most burglars are opportunists, and if they see a visible security system, they’re likely to move on elsewhere.

If you’re just looking to cover the basics, your needs might be met by one of the starter kit options on the market.

These setups will generally include a combination of cameras, sirens, door locks, motion detectors and sensors that can spot when a door or a window has opened.

For instance, the Somfy starter pack includes a TaHoma Smart Home box, motion detector, opening sensor, siren and indoor camera that can be hooked up to a smartphone or tablet, so you can monitor your property and download recordings should an intruder be detected.

Smart home security indoor camera by Netatmo

The Netatmo indoor camera sends an immediate alert to your phone when an intruder enters your home, complete with a picture of their face and a video recording. To avoid unnecessary alerts, you can train the device to identify loved ones with a single click during the initial setup

Nearly all brands will provide the chance to add on upgrades that are tailored to the bespoke needs of your household. For example, some companies offer baby monitoring facilities.

The Panasonic Smart Home system features a night vision camera with a two-way microphone and even comes with a selection of lullabies to soothe baby to sleep. And if you know only the kids are going to be in, Loxone’s setup is capable of disabling dangerous appliances, like the cooker, until you return.

For those who travel a lot, whole-house integrated systems, such as those available from Smarthomes, Moss Technical and Loxone, offer holiday modes that simulate occupancy.

Some can even learn last week’s activity and play it back – incorporating lights, curtains, TV use etc.

Moss Technical’s Niko Home Control systems can also trigger speakers to play a barking dog track and switch lights on when movement is detected outside.

If you have elderly relatives, opting for a solution with a motion sensor can alert you to any unusual activity – set your app to let you know if grandma has not entered the kitchen by 11:00AM, for instance.

Some offerings can even be programmed to ignore your pet’s movements so that they don’t set off the alarm. ADT can tailor its security setups to incorporate these features.

It’s also worth thinking about whether you can use the items included in your package creatively. For example, if you have set your lighting, heating and blinds to turn on automatically when you arrive home from work, perhaps through GPS proximity, you could have the system switch off the alarm.

If this level of integration appeals to you, opting for a solution that offers If This, Then That (IFTTT) compatibility could be a good option.

On the IFTTT website, you can search through thousands of automation recipes that can help make your tech work harder for you.

What’s your budget?

Some starter security packages might not be enough by themselves if you have a larger property. Shelling out for additional cameras and sensors can quickly add up, so make sure you’re considering the pay off when making your initial choice.

Remember that the cheapest all-in-one kit may not end up the most cost-effective solution if you need a lot of extras to ensure your home is fully secured.

A good budget option is the Samsung SmartThings Starter Kit, in which you get two multipurpose sensors, a motion detector, a hub and a power outlet for £200, with the option to feed in additional compatible items, ranging from security features through to voice assistants and even your washing machine.

Smart home security indoor camera by Nest Cam

Nest Cam Indoor has a built-in speaker and mic, so you can hear what’s happening at home and even speak to intruders (or the dog) over the microphone

At the top of the range, the likes of Loxone specialise in whole-house automation infrastructure. This can connect 150 different products to create a complete smart system, incorporating security, lighting, heating, blinds and multimedia functions.

It’s worth noting that if your setup includes cameras, many suppliers require you to pay a monthly subscription fee to keep the footage on their cloud-based storage.

While these generally aren’t too pricey, it adds another cost to your monthly outgoings. If this is a concern, look for a firm that will let you download your footage locally. Netatmo and Panasonic, for instance, do not charge a monthly fee.

How confident are you in installing a smart system yourself?

Many plug-and-play setups are solid on the basis of speed and ease of setup, with installation generally controlled directly from the smartphone app.

The Nuki smart lock, for example, can be fitted over your existing lock and securely installed within 90 seconds without the need for screws or drills. Similarly, the Ring smart doorbell comes with all you need to fit it on your own in just a few minutes.

But setting a system up yourself has its limitations.

For instance, if you aren’t familiar with a home’s typical weakest points, then you may not place your cameras or sensors in the most appropriate areas.

So, while you might want to save on costs, it is worth considering hiring a professional to carry out your installation.

This eliminates the risk that your system might be fitted inefficiently, which could mean the property still remains a viable target for thieves.

All the smart home offerings by Yale come with a free security survey of your abode, where a trained professional will assess the site’s vulnerabilities and inform you of any other weak points that could benefit from an upgrade.

You can then elect to have them carry out the fit for a £109.99 fee. Afterwards, the installer will test the new system and provide training on how to use it.

 Closer Look

The CCTV setup in this listed home consists of 43 cameras, which includes static, PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) and dome units. The owners can view recordings on their smartphone or tablet, even when they aren’t at the house.

Contact and vibration detectors are embedded in every accessible window and door and PIR motion detection is used throughout the property as both perimeter and trap protection.

Read more: Smart CCTV Security in a Listed Home

Most security-specific solutions run off your Wi-Fi, meaning they won’t work outside of a certain range.

If you set this up DIY, you might place cameras outside of the signal boundary, or where walls or furniture may block the signal and prevent it from working properly. If you’re worried about the efficiency of your Wi-Fi, then consider commissioning a professional wired installation, or look for a system with GPRS.

Honeywell offers several GPRS smart alarm options that will still send notifications via email and SMS, even if your property suffers a power failure.

How tech-savvy are you?

Good smart home products should make your life easier, not add complication.

If you have brand loyalty, and opt to use your preferred company’s tech, then you should be able to feed the new security capabilities into your existing system quite easily.

If you elect to use different suppliers for the various smart features within your home, you may end up with multiple apps to control each element – so consider if this is something you’re happy to deal with.

Regardless of which system you opt for, be sure to take the time to fully test it once installed, so you know it’s working as it should. Seven homes a minute are burgled in the UK, so it’s worth making sure yours isn’t next.

One Comment

  1. Elizabeth Southan says:

    Very interesting, as I have permission to build a small affordable home for myself.
    Numerous problems overcome already, but probably more to come as local opposition to the small house on my own land is very virulent!!
    However I have found a super builder and hope to get first stage underway soon!

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