The Best Home Automation System
The best home automation system doesn’t just give you the ability to turn off lights with a smartphone; it helps protect your home too. That’s why we reviewed the top seven home security companies to find the ones that best combine intrusion protection, 24/7 monitoring, and convenient automation features.
How we chose the best home automation system
We were only interested in home automation systems that included robust remote access from multiple smart devices. The ability to be miles away from your home and still turn on and off lights, unlock your door for a neighbor, or even watch the live-stream camera feed while the dog-sitter picks up Fluffy for his afternoon walk is a crucial component of home automation.
Smooth, smartphone-friendly apps
Yesterday’s keypad control panel is today’s smartphone app, so we were looking for a user-friendly app that truly acted as the nucleus of the home. The smart home is all about mobile connectivity and interoperability — the ability of your devices to talk to one another seamlessly.
An app should be intuitive, clean, and enable you to run all of your automated gadgets and security features from anywhere in the world. We looked at app store ratings and read user reviews for more insight, trying to determine where patterns emerged.
Z-Wave is the hot name in home automation wireless protocol right now, and for good reason. It’s the wireless protocol that all of our top picks and big-ticket home automation products like Amazon Echo, Kwikset Locks, and Nest use. Which leads us to our next point…
Third-party device compatibility
It makes sense that customers want all their smart devices synced to one home automation system. We preferred companies that seamlessly integrate with third-party devices. Even better if they sell them too. That means you could purchase and install all components of your home automation system in one fell swoop.
The 4 Best Home Automation Systems
The widest catalogue of advanced smart technology
Why we chose it
Techies who want to integrate all their smart home devices into one cohesive network will love Vivint. It offers the tightest integration with popular smart-home devices like the Amazon Echo, Nest Learning Thermostat, and Kwikset smart locks. All our top picks support at least a few third-party devices, but Vivint’s app and technology offer a much nicer experience when using them.
Vivint’s built-in compatibility with Amazon Echo means that you can control your home’s security with your voice, simply by commanding “Alexa.” Vivint customers can also purchase select Z-Wave devices, such as smart light switches from retailers like Home Depot, and a Vivint technician will add those lights to your home’s automation capabilities. Technically, you can install third-party devices yourself, but Vivint recommends having a professional do it — it takes some serious know-how.
Every package with Vivint is compatible with home automation, unlike its competitors. With all of our other picks, you’ll have to upgrade to higher tiers for access to smart home features. Vivint’s base package starts at a monthly $10 cheaper than our other favorites. It’s also our only pick with a month-to-month contract option, though you’ll have to buy your equipment upfront.
Points to consider
Frequent sales calls
Vivint’s know for being a bit sales-pitchy, and when we requested a free quote online, a customer service rep called back four times in a 24-hour span until we picked up. Still, our conversation was pleasant, and the sales rep didn’t put any pressure on us to buy a system right away. It also only has a three-day trial period, so the pressure to commit is greater than other providers.
Decades of trusted service and quality
Why we chose it
Biometric voice recognition
One cool feature that ADT Pulse has that none of our other top picks do is biometric voice recognition, which means that its proprietary control panel recognizes your unique voice. You can instruct your system to lower the lights, lock the doors, and more. Pretty nifty. (With some of our other top picks, such as Vivint, you can only control your home via voice control with third-party devices, like the Amazon Echo.)
High cost for high quality
ADT’s a la carte home automation devices are also pricier than most (ADT’s window/door sensor is $80, compared to Vivint’s, which is $35) but there are a few reasons for that. The company never uses refurbished or pre-owned parts, grants a six-month money-back guarantee, and offers a lifetime warranty on its equipment. If a camera malfunctions in three years, you’ll get a brand-new one free of charge.
Points to consider
Fewer integration options
While the company directly sells approved Z-Wave light switches, dimmers, and small appliance on/off switches, unlike many other companies, which require you to purchase from a third-party and install yourself. The only downside is that ADT’s list of approved devices is smaller than what’s offered by Vivint.
Best for DIY
A simple and intuitive system that you install yourself
Why we chose it
Frontpoint is our top choice for security buffs who don’t mind rolling up their shirtsleeves and dedicating about 30 minutes or so to install a security system themselves. All its devices connect wirelessly, so no power tools are required, and you save on installation costs. Another silver lining to DIY installation is that if you move, you can uninstall the sensors yourself and take the whole system with you to your next home.
The company runs diagnostics on your sensors 24 times per day. This means you never have to test your sensors and batteries on your own (like with Protect America) or worry if the system is down while you’re away. And all of its systems are 100 percent cellular, which means none depend on a landline — they’re impervious to power outages and snipped telephone wires.
Frontpoint’s Interactive and Ultimate plans come with “Crash & Smash Protection” too. It works like this: When you enter the home, you have 30 seconds to disarm the control panel. If you don’t disarm it in 30 seconds, the police are notified. If a burglar does smash your control panel, the panel will still alert the Monitoring Center to send help, because you didn’t disarm it within the 30-second window.
Points to consider
Home automation equipment sold separately
While Frontline’s security system is compatible with some home automation devices, it doesn’t sell any devices directly. All compatible automated home features (smart locks, thermostat, and smart light switches) have to be purchased independently by you and then connected to the system. That said, it is compatible with the most well-known Z-Wave devices, such as Amazon Echo, Nest Learning Thermostat, and Kwikset Locks.
The best value, if your home is landline-equipped
Why we chose it
Budget-friendly prices for landline connections
Our most affordable automation system, bar none, was Protect America, which offered a 24/7 monitoring service starting at just $20 per month. The company offers customer service assisted DIY smart home installation and — wait for it — free equipment up to $1,400. And that includes a lifetime equipment warranty. If you’re set on home automation, however, you’ll need at least the $50 Silver plan.
With free activation and a free DIY installation, Protect America continues to prove budget-friendly. Your upfront costs will be pretty low compared to a provider like Vivint. You’ll just have to be comfortable handling the install of your own system. The process is straightforward, and you can even call a professional to be guided through each step. It should take you less than an hour to install, and the Protect America team will verify it’s up and running.
Points to consider
More expensive without a landline
The $20 per month package is landline monitoring connections, which many Americans no longer have or want. Home automation features are still available on landline connections as long as you have an internet connection, but you should know that the company’s cellular monitoring plan is less affordable: $42 per month. Protect America also offers a 36-month mandated service length agreement.
How to automate your home
Home automation is equipping your home with devices that allow you to control aspects of your home from your mobile device. This kind of automation makes it easy to monitor and control your home when you’re away, asleep, or feeling a little lazy.
Security cameras are one of the most popular ways to monitor your home. Not only do they serve safety purposes, but also allow you to look in on any package deliveries or unexpected visitors. Video cameras are also a better choice than motion detectors because you can verify what set off an alarm and use that footage to aide a police investigation. By installing indoor, outdoor, or doorbell cameras — you can have visual access to your whole home.
Thermostats, lights, and outlets
Automating and monitoring your electricity usage is a simple way to add to your smart home. With smart light bulbs, you can tap on and tap off using an app. Smart thermostats allow you to set cooling and heating schedules, control your home’s temperature when away, and be more energy efficient. With automated outlets, you can save on energy by turning them off when not in use without having to unplug everything— you’ll never have to worry about whether you left the curling iron on. Smart plugs will also track your energy usage and give remote control over whatever you plug in.
Doors and garages
Up the security and convenience of your home’s entry points by installing smart locks and garage openers. With smart locks, you can monitor who is coming and going, assign special privileges to friends or hired professionals, and never have to fumble with the keys when your hands are full of groceries. Smart garage door openers take traditional garage remotes a few smart steps further. You can sync a smart opener with other devices for operations like turning your house lights on when you arrive home.
Home automation FAQs
How much does it cost to automate your home?
What does home automation include?
What products work with Google Home?
The best home automation system: Summed up
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