SimpliSafe Home Security System Review
The past decade has seen a ton of innovation in the home security space. An industry that was once on lockdown by the major players, there’s been a flurry of upstarts who seek to disrupt traditional models and appeal to millennials and others who want convenience, flexibility, and to avoid getting locked into contracts.
As I mentioned in my Arlo Q home security camera review, I had been on the hunt for a DIY security system for some time, which lead me to consider a few options. But there just wasn’t any real urgency to make a decision. Then there was one big change, and one smaller change. No, thankfully, my wife and I didn’t experience a break-in. But we did adopt a rescue doggo (big change), and I started traveling more for work (not as big a forcing function as the first, but still important).
As I started to research in earnest, one name kept popping up repeatedly: SimpliSafe. As I dug in, I liked what I saw more and more. Here’s the criteria I was using to evaluate SimpliSafe, and how it stacked up against other options.
1. I wanted some sort of professional monitoring service, but at a price point lower than traditional providers, and with no contract.
I’m fortunate to live in a relatively safe area, but I wanted to protect my family (including Lucy) from not only B&E, but also from fire. I had (and still have) the Arlo Q for motion and sound alerts, but that’s only good if I’m able to look at the alert immediately (and may be too late to detect smoke from a fire that isn’t visible / making loud noise). If my wife and I are in meetings (or sound asleep), I wanted to know that if there was a problem, police and / or fire would be dispatched automatically without relying on me. I wanted to cut myself out as middleman of the security game, and hire professionals.
However, I wanted to pay less than the going rate of most traditional security systems with professional monitoring (around $30/month, from my research). I didn’t want to compromise on quality, though – it had to be as good as the old standards. I also didn’t want to get locked into some sort of long term contract, paying some promotional rate in the beginning and then watch in horror as the price gets jacked up and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Professional Monitoring for $15/month
SimpliSafe far exceeded my expectations for this criteria, offering standard monitoring for $15 a month. What is “standard” monitoring, you might ask? Everything you need, but without the bells and whistles. It means that if your alarms are triggered, the standard procedure you might expect is set into motion: the SimpliSafe monitoring call center receives an alert and will attempt to call you to see if it’s a false alarm or something real. If it’s real, they’ll call police / fire for you immediately and fill them in on the details (was it a smoke alarm that triggered? Entry sensor? They’ll pass along the relevant info).
Is It Worth Upgrading to the More Expensive Monitoring Plan?
So, what about the upgraded tier of monitoring, how is that different? Called the “Interactive Monitoring Plan,” the big difference is that you can use a smartphone or computer browser to remotely turn off, arm or disarm the system, you receive text / email alerts about alarms, and can get “secret alerts” for the secret sensors you put on your liquor cabinet, so you know you’ll have to have a talk with little Jimmy when you get home from work. These enhanced features will set you back an additional $10 a month, for a total of $25.
So, why have I stuck with the Standard plan for almost a year? Part of it is principle – one major reason to go with a DIY provider is to avoid the markup of traditional companies and get more value for less, so to upgrade to the $25 plan puts me in the same ballpark as the old guard, making it a harder sell for SimpliSafe. The other part is that the Standard is truly all we need – we are so diligent about arming and disarming the system that we just haven’t had many use cases for the remote disarm.
I will say that I think those features are valuable, and worth paying for for many people, especially since you still aren’t locked into a contract, which is another huge selling point for SimpliSafe. On that note – we love that because we don’t know exactly what the future holds in terms of where we’ll live or what kind of house we’ll occupy, so that flexibility is crucial.
An interesting aside – it is possible to buy the SimpliSafe system and use it without monitoring. If you want some protection but don’t want the monthly fees, SimpliSafe is a great option – the siren will blare just the same, and any intruder won’t know that you don’t have monitoring, so, something to think about.
2. Portability / Ease of Installation / Non-destructive Installation
One of the biggest downsides of the traditional alarm companies is the installation tends to be pretty invasive, and certainly isn’t portable. It assumes you are staying put for a reasonable period of time, and if that’s you, portability won’t be a determining factor. But for the rest of us, portability is important – I don’t want to invest in buying something that I don’t have the option of taking with me when I move. You can take SimpliSafe with you wherever you end up, and can expand your system as your square footage grows.
Good for Renters
On that same token, for all the renters out there – unless you have a really chill landlord, it’s probably not possible to install a traditional alarm system, because of how many holes and other permanent fixtures get installed as a part of the process. I wanted something that would take only a few minutes to uninstall and leave nothing larger than a standard screw hole to plaster over. SimpliSafe uses non-destructive Command Strips for many of its sensors, and only a couple screws for larger items like the Smoke Detector, which is easy enough to patch over when moving out.
Installation Takes Less Than 30 Minutes
Finally, how easy is SimpliSafe to install? It only took me a half hour to install all the sensors and set everything up. Seriously, that was it. It’s very straightforward – you don’t have to be a “technical” person or even be handy around the house. Can you line two objects up and press them in place? Then you are more than qualified to install SimpliSafe.
3. Ease of Use
This is a big one. For something you use multiple times per day, it’s got to just work – no messing around. It’s got to be simple and work flawlessly. Fortunately, SimpliSafe excels in this area too. Wireless key fobs (with panic buttons on top, I might add) allow for easy arming and disarming of the system, even if you’re not near the keypad. You don’t need a key fob – you can do everything via the keypad – but my wife and I have found it to be pretty convenient and would recommend it. WiFi and Cellular connections mean you’re covered in case your internet goes down, and the battery backup means that the system keeps working even if the power goes out (for about 8 hours).
Beyond the standard entry and motion sensors you’d expect from an alarm system, there’s lots of different types of sensors that you can add on to the system, depending on your needs. This ability to build your own system depending on your exact needs definitely adds points in its favor in terms of completeness and flexibility. Add smoke detectors, water sensors, temperature sensors (to avoid bursting pipes if your heating fails and it gets too cold), and even an HD security cam or video doorbell (the latest addition to the lineup, competing with Ring and Nest and many others).
So, are there any downsides? Yes, in spite of everything that it has going for it, there are a couple things to be aware of.
First, one of the major claims is that the motion sensor does not get tripped by pets. I don’t have enough evidence to thoroughly debunk this claim – Lucy stays in her crate when we aren’t home, so I don’t have any personal experience with this. However, I do know someone whose pet tripped her motion sensor, resulting in a visit from the local police department. I don’t know the exact circumstances that caused this, but it’s something to be aware of. I would just speak with their support team to get tips and advice on how best to install the motion sensor so it won’t be triggered by your pet. There is a way to adjust motion sensor sensitivity, but that might not matter if Fido or Kitty are jumping right in front of it. Something to keep in mind if a pet is in the picture.
Second, like any other DIY system – the beauty of it is, you can install it yourself with very little effort / lasting damage to the pad you may or may not own. The downside, of course, is that you are on the hook for maintaining the system. I noticed that one of my entry sensors was drooping a bit – the adhesive had started to lose its grip. If I hadn’t noticed, there’s a chance it would have fallen off one day, and if that happened when I wasn’t home, this could have triggered a false alarm. It took only a minute and some scotch tape to reaffix it (SimpliSafe will send you new adhesive for free, by the way, if you complain of this issue), but it was a reminder that it’s important to inspect your sensors regularly to ensure that they have a good bond with whatever surface they are stuck to. As with anything, it’s about tradeoffs – the slight anxiety I feel every once in a while about the sensors coming unstuck, versus the massive peace of mind I gain by having the system in the first place, combined with the thousands of dollars I’m saving over time in lieu of traditional security systems, and it’s a no-brainer for me personally.
Finally, and it’s not really a downside of SimpliSafe per say, but about the pricing – I get they’re in the business of making money, but I do wish that you could have remote web-based control of the system at the lower price point of $15 / mo. Honestly it’s such a habit for my wife and I to arm the system whenever we leave the house, that’s not the issue – it’s more of, if you needed to let someone in to the house when you’re not around, you’d have to give them the master pin to the alarm system for them to type in the keypad. Again, not the biggest deal in the world, as long as you trust the person or are up to the task of changing your pin often. It just seems like a pretty basic thing to be able to do in 2019, and I’m not sure it’s worth extracting an extra $10 / mo in perpetuity to make it happen.
SimpliCam vs. Arlo Q?
Last note: would I recommend the SimpliSafe camera over the Arlo Q? There’s pros and cons to each direction. It’s not entirely clear on the website or other documentation online, but it appears that cloud recording is an extra fee, whereas with Arlo Q, 7 rolling days of cloud recording is free. Also it sounds as though the Interactive monitoring plan ($25 / mo) is basically necessary for the camera to be of any use – text and email notifications are only available on that plan, so if you weren’t otherwise planning on upgrading to that level, you’re now spending $10 + whatever the cloud recording fee is every month just to use the camera, which for the Arlo Q is free.
Then there’s the whole “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” tech disaster preparedness line of thinking, which is extreme I admit, but something to consider. I do like a bit of redundancy by having the two systems be completely separate, owned by different companies, on different servers, etc. Again, I have no reason to doubt the reliability of SimpliSafe’s tech infrastructure, but, God forbid the whole service did go down for some reason, I could still use my Arlo as a last resort to keep an eye on things until SimpliSafe was back up.
On the flipside, if you want to use the SimpliCam for free to check in on the feed manually and allow it to be viewed by the monitoring agents in case the alarm goes off, I can definitely see the validity of that approach, and something that Arlo couldn’t help with (at least not in real time – it would most likely record whatever was happening, but it’s not information that the agent could pass along to police or fire to say “this is not a false alarm, something is really going down.”).
Ultimately it’s your call, but I’ve appreciated having both running in parallel. There have been promotions recently for a free SimpliCam with a system order, which is better than a stick in the eye for sure.
Overall, I couldn’t recommend SimpliSafe more. You can’t put a price on peace of mind, but for the price of 3 Starbucks coffees a month, you can rest easy knowing your home is protected with professional monitoring.