we tried it: simplisafe home security system

Background: Ever since we have moved out of the city and into a house in ‘burbs, we’ve been thinking about getting a security system. Somehow in the city, where our apartments usually had only one point of entry and the buildings often had doormen or security, we didn’t worry about burglary that much. But out here in our own freestanding house, not only are there three doors, but lots of windows that are easily reachable. We have already taken some measures to securing our home: We have installed exterior “spy” cams we can turn on when we’re away. They’ll alert us every time a UPS man drops a package off on our front door! We also have a dog: despite his adorable looks, our labradoodle Cupcake does emit a rather fierce “warning” bark when strangers approach. Most security systems sound like they will be more trouble than they are worth. They cost hundreds to install, require expensive monthly fees to keep active, and will add an extra layer of complication to our lives. That is what we thought anyway, until reading about SimpliSafe on Apartment Therapy — which highly recommends it for apartment dwellers — we decided to give it a try on our small house.

The Lowdown: The first thing we noticed about SimpliSafe (we ordered the Classic) is that it took longer to unwrap it from the packaging than it took to install the entire system. Ours came with a base station, a wireless keypad, a motion sensor, 3 entry sensors (+ we ordered a couple of extra ones), an extra siren and a smoke detector.

After it arrives, we registered the Base station online. Then, you can either program the system via a web site or by using the provided USB key that you plug into a computer that will walk you through set up. The USB key is basically the size of a small memory stick and also serves as a portable on/off switch if you want to put it on your key chain. (Note: We found it to be slightly on the cheap side and wished they made a smaller, more high end one that wasn’t plastic — perhaps aluminum or a carbon fiber?)  The system is totally customizable so you can decide which sensors are active when you are away or at home. Pressing the Panic Button for two seconds will instantly trigger an alarm. You can also set the panic button to trigger a “Silent Panic” alarm if you want to pretend you work in a bank. If you are subscribed to alarm monitoring, the police will be dispatched. However, you’ll want to use the silent alarm setting with caution, as you will not receive a call from the monitoring center prior to police dispatch.

For ours, we chose not to use the panic button because we could imagine our little girl pressing it just for fun.  If we decide to add it later we can do it via a drop down menu in our account settings. You can also add other elements to the system a la carte style:  They make a water sensor, freeze sensor, and a Carbon Monoxide Sensor. You can even add extra key pads if you would like a second one by a back door or upstairs.

If one of the sensors is opened when the alarm is on, the base station will beep and ask you to enter your code (in effect, telling whoever just entered that there is an alarm system activated). If you don’t enter your code in time (you can determine how long), the system will send a signal to SimpliSafe’s 24/7 alarm monitoring center and a siren goes off. It uses the same cellular technology that’s in your cellphone: a system SIM card that is activated when you subscribe to the alarm monitoring service. You can customize how long you have to enter your passcode and you can also enter up to 5 different passcodes and a separate passcode to use if an intruder is forcing you to turn off your alarm and they will immediately send the police.

The motion sensors are supposed to not be triggered by pet under 50lbs but our small dog triggered it one day when he jumped up on the back of the couch. We just moved the sensor to another location and have not had any problems since.

When you go away from home, you activate the away mode — all sensors are on. You can place the system in the “home mode” if you want to deactivate motion detectors but keep the windows and doors armed. Everything is customizable so you can decide what you want on and off.

The price of the smallest system is $229 and monitoring costs between $15 -$25 a month depending on if you want to control it via a mobile device.– compared to other systems that are similar that cost about $1400 to install and $45 a month for similar services.

The monitoring comes in three different price plans:   “Standard” $14.95 for just monitoring service. “Alert” $19.99 monitoring service with text alerts if sensors are triggered.  “Interactive” $24.99 monitoring service with text alerts if sensors are triggered.  You can also receive secret alert texts which can be set to monitor sensors that are not meant to detect a burglary but meant to keep track of other things, such as a liquor cabinet door or medicine cabinet being opened. Good for houses with teenagers, perhaps? But not for us.

Or you can choose to have no monitoring plan at all and the system will still blast a siren if the sensors are triggered. The burglars won’t know if police are on the way or not but they won’t stay long to find out if the siren is blaring.

Still Curious: For more detailed information, visit SimpliSafe’s website here where you can review all the options and watch some helpful videos. If you have any questions about our experience, leave a comment here and we’ll do our best to respond quickly!

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Barbara Codd

Thanks for the info – looking at a new system and your information is very helpful. Also checked out the rest of the site – great!!! Thanks again!