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17 September 2021

How to buy the best smart security system

Are smart home security systems the future of burglar alarms? Can a smart alarm really protect your home? We reveal our verdict and explain how to choose the right smart alarm for you.
Andrew Laughlin
Looking at camera feed on tablet

Smart home security systems combine many of the features of a traditional burglar alarm with the ability to monitor, control and interact with your home from an app on your smartphone or tablet.

So is this technology worth investing in? Read on to find out more about smart home security systems and whether a smart alarm from brands such as Ring and Hive is right for your home.

Or head straight to our reviews of burglar alarms and smart security systems.

What is a smart home security system?

A smart home security system is a set of internet-connected security gadgets, which typically include a combination of a hub, siren, motion detectors and contact sensors that detect when an intruder is trying to get into your property.

Some alarm systems also sync up with other smart gadgets, such as wireless security cameras, smart locks and voice controlled devices, such as an Amazon Echo. 

Most alarm brands offer a range of bundles so it is worth shopping around for the best value option. 

All smart home security systems are driven by a central internet-connected ‘hub’, which wirelessly connects to and communicates with an app and the other components of the system.

Using the app on your smartphone or tablet, you can monitor your home by receiving alerts when the alarm is triggered and then you can take action, such as calling the police. 

Some supposedly smart alarm systems are actually just wireless cameras with extra functionality. These can be useful for keeping a visual eye on your home, but they can't compete with a dedicated alarm system. 

How much do you need to pay for a good smart home security system?

Basic smart home security system kits can be bought for under £100, but Best Buy systems typically cost more, starting at over £200. 

It's also worth considering what you get in the standard kit - it's usually just one motion detector and one window/door contact sensor, which won't be enough for any property bigger than a small flat. 

Do consider what you'll need to effectively cover your property. Additional motion detectors and contact sensors typically can cost around £25 each, so the costs can rack up for larger homes. 

You might also want to add extra smart home devices if they are compatible, such as wireless security cameras. We have got Best Buy cameras that can be combined with Best Buy smart alarm systems for the ultimate package. 

Smart security: Five features to consider

  • Outdoor sounder – these boxes provide a visual deterrent to help deter burglars from attempt to breach your home. However, some smart security systems don't have an external sounder/box or you have to buy one at an additional cost. We cover this in our reviews. 
  • Multiple logins - With all smart alarms we assess the mobile app and whether multiple people can use it at once to control the alarm, such as you and your partner. 
  • Device compatibility – some devices only work with gadgets made by the same brand, while others will be compatible with other brands, such as Phillips and Amazon. Check our reviews before you buy.
  • IFTTT -  If This, Then That (IFTTT) is a software platform that enables you to connect devices and make them work together, such as based on set routines. 
  • Software updates -  Updates can add features, maintain the product, and give protection against hackers. However, many manufacturers aren't upfront with how long they will offer software updates to products. Our reviews cover what information we do know about update support lengths for each smart alarm. 

Best smart alarms

  • 77%
    £150.00

    This big brand alarm brings together the best of a traditional alarm with the convenience of smart features. You get remote key fobs included to control the system, in addition to an well-designed app on your phone or tablet.

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    First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time

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  • 77%
    £199.00

    Blending the functionality of a traditional alarm with smart features, this security system from a well-known brand is a smart choice for safeguarding your home. It has the loudest alarm of any system we’ve tested, so should effectively warn your neighbours if you have a break in.

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    First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time

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  • 77%
    £214.00

    If you want an easy to use, feature-packed and neatly designed smart alarm, this could be the model for you. It’s reliable, and effective at protecting your home, and works with a range of other smart products, including wireless cameras.

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    First month only £5, then £9.99 per month, cancel any time

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Yale smart alarm 471318

Smart vs traditional alarm systems

If you want convenience and flexibility, a smart alarm system takes some beating. They let you keep an eye on your home via an app on your phone, so you always have access to your home security wherever you go. 

Most smart alarms we've tested will work effectively if your wi-fi goes down. You won't get notifications, but the alarm will still trigger if a sensor is breached. 

However, we have tested one that doesn't work at all without an internet connection, and that is a concern if your home broadband isn't very reliable. 

Here, a traditional alarm, such as a 'bells-only' system, does have the edge. They typically have more limited functionality and convenience compared to smart alarms, but they are more reliable. 

Plus, you can go for a system with a monitoring contract in which a company responds if the alarm is triggered. This can give more peace of mind over a smart alarm system that you manage yourself. 

You can browse fully tested bells-only and smart alarm systems in our Burglar alarm reviews. We have systems to meet all budgets and needs. 

Alternatively, see how alarm brands, including those that offered monitoring contracts, are rated by real customers in our best alarm brands guide.

Can I install a smart home security systems myself?

Self-installation is a big selling-point of smart home security alarms, as most systems can be fitted in your home with even basic DIY skills. 

If the system has an external sounder box (many don't come as standard), then the trickiest job is fitting this to the outside of your home. 

After that, though, it is just a matter of installing the motion detectors in the most important parts of your home (such as over a back door) and the contact sensors on doors or windows. 

There are some things to bear in mind when installing your alarm system: 

  • Sirens should be kept out of arm's reach, so they can't be broken and silenced by an intruder. Do consider how easy it will be to replace the batteries, though, when placing the siren. 
  • Sensors that aren’t carefully placed can be easily evaded. Motion detectors should cover access points and no device should be placed low enough to be stepped on or jumped over.
  • Ensure you set a strong password for your alarm account in the app, and also activate all security options available, such as two-factor authentication. 

Could my smart alarm get hacked? 

Any smart product that connects to the internet can in theory be targeted by hackers if it does not have effective security protections. Likewise, if your data isn't properly handled it could pose a risk to your privacy. 

We run all smart alarm systems through a barrage of tests for whether they have been built with your security and privacy in mind. 

We cover in our reviews if we have found any concerns. We can hold back Best Buys for any serious issues uncovered, and even automatically Don't Buy a product if the issue is high risk adn the manufacturer has not committed to fix it or take action. 

Any products with security issues can be easily identified via the 'security alert' banners in our reviews.