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SimpliSafe Home Security review: This system lives up to its name

Jake Widman | Jan. 4, 2016
SimpliSafe promotes its home-security system as a less-expensive alternative to professionally installed systems you can buy from service providers such as ADT and Vivint.

Use the keypad to put the system in test mode, and the voice from the base unit will confirm the setting. You can then press buttons on the various sensors, and the base unit announces which sensor is being tested. For the motion sensor, you press the button, wait a while, and then walk in front of it. The base station will announce “motion sensor” to confirm. It’s a reassuring way to test that the batteries and communication links are sound.

But it doesn’t reveal anything about the actual alarms. I started wondering, does the siren go off if the water sensor detects a leak? That would seem like an overreaction. The smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors make their own familiar piercing shrieks—do they set the siren off as well? And how do you know which device triggered the alarm?

SimpliSafe door/window sensor 
SimpliSafe's two-piece door/window sensors are large and difficult to disguise, but they do the trick. Credit: SimpliSafe

According to SimpliSafe, the siren sounds for the door and window sensors and for the smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors. The freeze and water sensors trigger a sound the company described in an email as “more like a buzzer than a siren.” The base station also announces which sensor—water or freeze—triggered the alarm. But if your pipes are in danger of freezing, or if they leak or burst, the system offers no way to mitigate the damage because it can't connect to a thermostat (so it can’t turn on the heat) and it doesn’t link to a motorized valve that can turn off the water. Some more sophisticated (and more expensive) alternatives do offer these functions.

Subscription monitoring services

Sounding local alarms is all the SimpliSafe system does unless you spring for its subscription monitoring service. The $15-per-month standard plan buys just live monitoring, where a dispatcher (from the third-party service COPS Monitoring) will contact the police or fire department in response to an alarm. For $25 per month, you get that level of service plus SMS and email alerts; the ability to arm and disarm your system remotely, using your smartphone; remote ability to check the status reports on your burglar, fire, carbon-monoxide, and flood sensors; and an event log for tracking when the system is armed and disarmed.

The remote control and the notifications are the extent of this system’s interactivity. SimpliSafe is a self-contained system that doesn’t talk to devices outside its ecosystem. You can’t set up the motion sensor turn on a light via another company’s lamp switch, for example, or trigger a camera to record a video clip if the alarm goes off until SimpliSafe comes out with its own (due in early 2016).


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