What is a smart alarm?
A smart alarm is a wireless system that uses your home’s wifi network to connect the different components, which is why they are affordable and you may be able to install one yourself. Like a typical alarm, it will blast out a loud noise that will trigger when something activates the sensors.
The two most popular types of sensors are open/close and PIR (passive infrared):
Open/close sensors are for windows or doors. They’re made up of two parts that form a connection when you close the door or window. If the connection breaks – in the event of an intruder opening the door – the siren goes off.
PIR sensors detect motion using infrared. Put these in a hallway or other entry points to your home and, when it’s armed and the sensor sees something move, the siren will sound.
Some smart alarms include, or work well with, wifi security cameras from the same manufacturer. Not only do these act as motion sensors, but they allow you to see what’s happening in your home if the alarm goes off. This way, you’ll know if it’s a false alert or a real emergency.
With a traditional burglar alarm, you arm or disarm it via a control panel that’s usually in your entrance hall. But, for a smart home security system, you control it through an app on your phone.
This means you’ll also be able to adjust settings when you’re away and get sensor trigger alerts straight to your pocket. The one thing to note is that smart alarms do need a hub to get all the different components to connect without wires.
How much is a smart alarm system?
For between £200 to £300, you’ll be able to pick up a home security system that includes a hub, a few sensors and sometimes a camera too. We’ve rounded up the best wifi security cameras in a separate list, and have included some kits with cameras in this roundup too.
On their own, you can expect to pay between £20 to £30 for open/close sensors for your windows and doors, while cameras can start at around £100. Bear in mind that you’ll need to stick to the same brand so that everything connects and you can control it all through one app on your phone.
Are smart alarms any good?
Smart home security systems are just as effective as traditional burglar alarms but they don’t always have an external siren for the front of your home, which can act as a deterrent to would-be intruders. While most models offer optional monitoring services to alert police, they’re not as comprehensive as those offered by traditional alarms – these often notify the authorities if the alarm has been triggered and not confirmed as a false alarm.
Things to consider when buying a smart alarm
Most smart alarm manufacturers offer a mix of sensors in an alarm bundle, so you’ll need to work out the combination you need for your property.
If you’re interested in keeping an eye on your home while you’re out, it’s worth looking for a mix of indoor and outdoor security cameras. This way you’ll be able to see whether anyone is sneaking around in your garden or if mischievous pets misbehave in your hallway, and they’ll act as additional motion sensors.
Keypads and fobs
Some smart home security systems feature keypads and fobs that make arming and disarming the alarm easier than via an app. This may be useful if you have dog walkers, cleaners or others who may let themselves in and out of your home when you’re not there.
Most brands should include a loud siren to scare off intruders, but we’ve noted if this is not included or is an optional extra. We’ve also included the maximum volume below – 85db is comparable to a kitchen blender, while 100db is as loud as a motorcycle.
Most of the models we have tested require that you set them up yourself using the provided sticky pads or screws. Just make sure you put any cameras or sirens high enough on a wall (anywhere between 5ft and 8ft) to make sure your pets don’t set it off.
Some smart alarms include a backup battery, which means it will continue to work even if there’s a power cut.
Compatibility with other devices
If you’ve got other smart home devices, such as lights or plugs, it’s worth looking for a home security system that’s compatible. For example, you can set up a smart light to turn on if a door is opened or get a radio connected to a smart plug to spring to life if a motion sensor detects any movement. Some will also connect to voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant.
External monitoring service
Some smart alarms come with an optional subscription service that will monitor your home alarm and contact the emergency services if it triggers and you don’t disarm it. Prices are different for each company – so always check.