Reviewed by David Savage
Domestic burglaries seem to be on the increase throughout the UK. It seems that no matter where you live; big towns and cities or sleepy little villages, you can’t escape hearing about a home burglaries somewhere within your neighbourhood. With police resources stretched to their limits and policing seemingly looking like a reactive rather than proactive response to crime, crimes where there isn’t a great deal of hope of catching the offender aren’t at the top of the police agenda and get pushed to the bottom of the pile.
Instead of relying on the police to react to a home burglary after it has happened, we should take steps to protect our homes to make them less attractive to burglars in the first place. There are some simple ways to make your home safer; fitting good locks and lighting, removing valuables out of sight from downstairs windows, marking and registering expensive property and getting a good home security system (check out police.uk for other crime prevention advice).
We live in a small village in Yorkshire where the crime rate isn’t high, but you do hear about spates of crime (theft from vehicles, home break-ins etc.). When we were asked to review a home security system, we of course said yes.
We were sent a home security system from SimpliSafe. SimpleSafe, founded in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 2006, aim to make every home safe by offering a professional-grade monitored home security with no long-term contracts. Their system is available in several configurations, as well as offering a build your own system option, depending on your requirements. It is a modular system, so even after you have bought it you can add/remove modules as and when you need.
There are 6 systems available to buy:
The Starter – designed for small homes and flats (RRP: £279)
The Essentials – designed for bigger house (RRP: £309)
The Warwick – designed for homes of all sizes (RRP: £364)
The Windsor – designed for larger homes (RRP: £454)
The Bamburgh – designed for whole home protection (RRP: £504)
Build My System – designed so you can build the system to your needs (price varies)
We received The Essentials system, which is SimpliSafe’s most popular system. It comes with 3 Entry Sensors to cover your main entry points, a Motion Sensor to cover a main passageway and a SimpliCam camera, as well as they base station and keypad. It is a wireless system that is easy to setup, install and if doesn’t even require screws. This system is perfect for our house that has 2 doors to enter through.
In the box:
1x Base Station
3x Entry Sensors
1 Motion Sensor
1x Yard Sign Stake
1x Yard Sign
2x Window Decals (SimpliSafe Protected)
6x Adhesive Pads (Spares)
1x Setup Guide
As mentioned earlier, this is a wireless system so there is no complicated setup and no need for a to pay out for a professional installer. The motion sensor, entry sensors and keypad affix to doors and walls with strong removable adhesive pads (and they are very strong, as we have knocked the keypad several times and hasn’t moved at all). We have fitted entry sensors to both external doors with the motion sensor in the hallway. They are each equipped with a battery that can be replaced.
The base station is the brains and siren of the system and needs to be placed in a central location of the house. We have placed it in the living room and it is quite stylish so doesn’t look out of place, or indeed, look like an alarm system. This talks to all the sensors and the keyboard, and features a loud 95dB siren. It features a cellular connection as well as Wi-Fi so if any intruder does enter the house while the alarm is on a signal is sent to the monitoring station so that the police can be called. Because there is both cellular and Wi-Fi connections, the alarm and monitoring will work, even if an intruder cuts the phone wire. And even if the power is cut, there is a backup battery so won’t affect the system. The base station has a blue light around the base to show it is working and in operation (this light can be turned off should you wish) and in case of a power cut or the alarm is triggered will go red.
The touch-to-wake keypad affixes to the wall, best suited near the main door, and runs from 4 AA batteries (supplied). A plate fixes to the wall, again with removable adhesive pads) and the keypad slots on. This is great as it means the keypad itself is portable so when going to bed you can take it with you to still control the system. As this is separate from the base station with no wiring, even if an intruder breaks in and damages it, the alarm will still function as it should.
The keypad is extremely easy to use and has 3 modes; OFF, for when you do not want it to be armed at all, HOME, which arms only the door sensors, and AWAY for when you are leaving the house and want to fully enable the alarm. The screen itself is actually a multi-directional button, allowing you to navigate the menus buy pressing on different edges. The alarm is enabled/disabled by pin entry; you can even set custom pins so that another user can turn on and off the alarm but have no access to the system settings – useful for the cleaner, dog walker or even the kids. Different pins will also allow you to see who turned on and off the alarm via the notifications on the app or by logging in the SimpliSafe website, and even a duress pin, which I will mention later.
As an added function, the keypad features a panic button on top. This can be pressed for 2 seconds to set off the alarm. You can also purchase extra panic alarm modules if you wanted some in other rooms.
The system also comes with a camera that is used with app on your phone if you are subscribed to the monitoring system. Once the alarm is on you can check in on the app for a live view and in the case of an alarm going off you can even record video; the SimpliCam incorporates its own movement sensor, so it can trigger the alarm if it detects movement whilst the system is armed. The monitoring station can even use the video to determine whether an alarm trigger is a genuine intruder. Once using the app you can even hear people talking. The SimpliCam records superb quality high definition footage, and we were also really impressed with the quality of the night time record videos too – super important as I imagine most break-ins occur in the dark!
Now a lot of people have pets in their homes, this system is set to detect the unique heat signatures of humans, not pets. So hopefully the family dog will not trigger false alarms. There is also a physical stainless steel privacy shutter on the camera, so you can rest assured that you are not being recorded unless you have armed the system!
In the event of a break in through a door, the door entry sensors will trigger the alarm and send a signal to the monitoring centres. If the intruder has come in via another entry point, the motion sensor or SimpliCam, which can detect within 10 metres and has a straight ahead 90° field of view as well as a 45° downward field of view, will trigger the alarm. Once the alarm has been triggered you have 30 seconds to disarm it before the alarm is triggered. The siren will then sound for four minutes (you can change the duration of the alarm if you wanted longer) and the monitoring centre is alerted.
If the monitoring centre is alerted, they will attempt to contact you first on the phone numbers you supplied when setting up the app. If they are unable to contact you and verify the safety of you and the property, they will then contact the police.
Another function I love is that when the system is set to OFF, which disables the alarm and monitoring, if one of the doors with a door entry module installed is opened, a beep will sound to let you know that the door has been opened.
And my favourite function is the Duress PIN. If for any reason you are being forced to enter a pin to turn off the alarm, you can enter the duress pin. This would turn off the alarm and automatically notify the monitoring centre to alert the police. A great safety feature.
As this is a modular system alarm, you can purchase other modules at any time to extend the functionality of the system. As well as extra keypads you can add extra motion sensors, extra door entry sensors, glassbreak sensors that “listen” for the specific noise frequency of breaking glass, extra panic buttons, extra sirens (would be particularly useful in a larger house). You can also purchase smoke and CO detectors, water sensors to detector a leak or flood and a freeze sensor to alert about a pipe freezing.
To use the system to the fullest and best protection, you really do need to take out a monitoring plan. Without taking out a plan, obviously there is no monitoring so you will only get the siren in the house and the door beeps. If you take out the Pro Plan (£12.99 per month), your system will be monitored 24/7 and in the event of a break-in the monitoring centre will call you and designated contacts to let you know the alarm has triggered. For the best protection, and I would recommend, it is the Pro Premium plan (£19.99) which gives you the benefits of the Pro Plan with the added benefits of police dispatch, arming the alarm from anywhere, alerts on your phone, secret alerts (duress pin) and unlimited camera recording.
The monitoring plans have no contract, so you are not tied in for 12, 18 or 24 months, and you can cancel at any time.
The SimpliSafe system is available in black or white (Keypad and Base Station only). It can also be integrated with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and other Smart Home devices (although check functionality first as the Alexa skill is not available in the UK, but hopefully will be soon).
Overall, I think this is a fantastic whole home system. In an age where everybody ignores alarms going off, why bother? Firstly, the 95dB will scare any intruder. Secondly, the monitoring centre can dispatch the police. And thirdly, the intruder’s actions can be recorded which will help police gather evidence and identity the suspect(s).
The modular system makes it very easy to customise the system to meet your own specific needs. The modules are so easy to install or even remove. All without drilling, screws or damage to the walls or woodwork.
As mentioned, we received The Essentials system, but as we have a very large window on the ground floor that is probably the most vulnerable point of the house as fairly hidden for passers-by, we will have to purchase the glassbreak module to add to the system to make it complete for us.
The app for the SimpliCam is easy to use, although one failure is that it doesn’t seem to require a password/code to gain access to the app so anyone who has possession of your phone can turn off the alarm remotely. The quality of the video is excellent and there is only a couple of seconds delay between the real time and displaying on the app. You even get notifications every time the alarm is enabled/disabled, and if using different PIN codes you will know who by.
I love the functionality, ease of use and the monitoring of this system. It definitely brings a sense of security into the house. Despite the flaw in the app with it not requiring a PIN to gain access (although the phone itself is protected), I would still rate this 5 out of 5. It’s secure, safe, easy to use and looks good.
Once we add in a couple more extra modules, we will have the complete home protection system.
Price start from £279
For more information or to buy a SimpliSafe system visit simplisafe.co.uk.