The security camera market is changing, with more options now allowing residents to control and install their own equipment. But the new options also bring more confusion about what is right choice for securing a home. Here’s a guide on how to pick a home security system.

Two main companies provide self-installed cameras that can be monitored on a smartphone or other device. Nest’s cameras retail from $200 to $300 each. Ring’s cameras come at a similar price, except for its doorbell camera, which retails for $99.

The cameras can be self-installed, but professional installation is recommended for some situations, such as use in older homes.
Ring and Nest can also provide professional monitoring service to call dispatchers. Nest charges $30 per month for that, and Ring charges $10 per month.

Pricing varies much more for traditional security companies, and it often depends heavily on how much work has to be done to get the property prepared for installation. Alarm companies typically come out to a property and design a personalized system. Companies will often provide free quotes, however.

Most alarms fall into two categories: motion sensors and sound sensors. Most operate in similar ways by simply detecting motion or sound, which is why false alarms can be easy to trigger.

However, older systems often don’t have the equipment to record and store audio or video content to transmit it to emergency call centers, for instance when verification is required, such as by the city of Sandy Springs.

Should homeowners stick with a traditional system or try a new doorbell camera system?

“That really depends entirely on what the client needs,” said April Chastain, the director of operations for Owen Security Solutions, a locally-owned North Georgia home security company. “We try to work with each client to find exactly what works for them.”

Chastain said the Owen Security doesn’t want customers paying for something they won’t use, and sometimes a smart home system isn’t particularly viable.

“Not everyone can afford these kinds of systems and it’s not always the right choice,” she said. “If you’re not going to use all the pieces of a smart home system, then you probably don’t need a smart home system.”

Owen Security installs Nest and countless other kinds of systems, and said it is hard to nail down how expensive an installation would be. Each package is tailor-made for that client, but they are offering Sandy Springs residents discounts on packages that include the video verification, Chastain said. The discount varies from project to project, so Chastain was unable to give an amount.

There has also been concern among residents about the ability to hack into a smart home system.

However, Chastain said she doesn’t think that should be a concern and that any kinks in smart home systems have been worked out long before this ordinance was initiated.

“These systems are so encrypted that I don’t really see how someone can hack into them anymore,” she said. “These are people’s homes, and security companies are here to protect them. It’s our jobs.”

If I have a system, is it good enough?

Dunwoody Police Sgt. Robert Parsons suggests homeowners select video verification instead of primarily audio verification systems.

“While we do not endorse any specific alarm system or product, certainly ones that offer cameras can make our jobs easier should something happen,” said Parsons, who uses one himself.

Chastain recommends that larger properties have a more thorough camera system, and isn’t sure one doorbell camera would be enough.

“We recommend at least three cameras per property,” Chastain said. “That ensures that you’re covering your basic needs.”

–Katia Martinez