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One of the biggest draws of a DIY system is the opportunity to add in third party equipment like Philips Hue lights or a Nest Thermostat at any point. Z Wave is available in over 2,400 home security and automation devices from more than 700 companies. Plus, you have flexibility in where you place various devices because Z Wave can communicate farther distances than other protocols — like Wi Fi, for example — since it functions by sharing an Internet connection between devices as opposed to a localized router. Ultimately, we wanted systems that could integrate seamlessly into our homes and improve our quality of life. To find which fit the bill, we spent a day outfitting a 1,900 square foot home with the equipment of our finalists. We appraised the installation process, the ease and clarity of registering and syncing, the app experience, and functionality. We were pleased to find we could get most systems up in less than half an hour, but the quality of both hardware and software differed. We docked points for flimsy or easy to knock over physical elements and slow or dysfunctional cyber ones. Effective home security offers crisp and quick app interfaces preferably with practical perks like customized sensor names and facial recognition and instantaneous notifications. Rather than restrict control to a physical hub hung on your wall, Abode puts control where you actually need it: in the palm of your hand. Abode’s security dashboard is accessible by any internet connected device and gives you enough information to take action from wherever you are.

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Still, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful and keep tabs on your network’s security, enable two factor authentication, and constantly update your system’s software. A home security system should be easy to navigate, and the system’s design should make sense in your home. Most of our testers had positive things to say about living with their home security systems. They reported that their systems improved their overall peace of mind. If you’re prone to fretting late at night or while away on vacation, home security systems deliver on their promise of reassurance. That’s not to say there weren’t annoyances — which can become major sore points if you’re interacting with your system every time you leave the house. LiveWatch’s piercing, impossible to mute beeps drew complaints from one tester, as did Link Interactive’s inaccurate digital display. Others, like Vivint and ADT, were easier to incorporate unobtrusively into our daily routines. The majority of home security companies recommend or require you to call when ordering your service. We recommend this as well, because regardless of whether calling beforehand is required, having an attentive lineup of customer service comes in handy, especially when self installing or encountering difficulty with the system. You can often get a lower price by discussing your quote with a salesperson.