SimpliSafe is simply a pleasant break -- and breakthrough -- in what's available among home security systems.
The easy-to-install (in about an hour, not 'in minutes' as claimed), do-it-yourself wireless system is a lot more intuitive than you might expect.
SimpliSafe offers five hardware packages, ranging from $229.96 to $539.85, depending on how many and what type of sensors you want -- from the basic base station with entry and motion sensors to a full-court press of smoke/carbon monoxide detectors, freeze and water leak sensors.
Central monitoring is neither standard nor required, but there are options there, too -- from $15-a-month for 24-hour live police/fire monitoring with cellular connection to $25-a-month with text/e-mail updates and "secret" alerts for gun or liquor cabinet breaches.
Each package or package/monitoring combination requires no contract. If you buy a package, you keep the hardware and use it with or without monitoring (a piercing siren will activate in the house in the event of a system breach, even without monitoring). If you opt for monitoring, you can opt out anytime.
Locksmith and security expert Tony Scott, owner of The Lockman Memphis locksmith service, helped us install SimpliSafe for Bartlett's Emily Garrett. Garrett recently canceled an alarm service contract after her alarm company failed to alert her when her house caught fire.
We installed the $539.85 "ultimate" package so that she would have fire and carbon monoxide protection, along with the basic monitoring option. Plugged into a standard electrical outlet, SimpliSafe's base station will monitor every sensor within a 500-ft range. Each sensor runs on its own lithium battery, which we're told would last up to five years.
In the event of a power outage, the base station will run on its own "triple-charge" battery, purported to last up to three days without its A/C adapter.
"I think the hardware's pretty good," Scott said.
To give an example of how intuitive the hardware is, we purposely did not install the "freeze" sensor for monitoring freezing pipes. When we tested the system, SimpliSafe's base station immediately detected the missing sensor, even though its battery had not been activated. The base station's voice announcement mentioned it by name ("Freeze Sensor") and recommended its activation.
After we installed all of the parts and synchronized the system with the SimpliSafe smart phone app, Garrett had to wait through a 72-hour "testing" period before SimpliSafe's command center would activate live monitoring. Its owner's manual said that's by design to give consumers time to play with the system, test the siren and sensors, etc.
Once live monitoring was activated, we used the phone app to arm the system for "away," but stayed inside the house. Seconds after it armed, SimpliSafe's voice alert announced we had tripped one of the motion sensors. After a short countdown, the siren screamed throughout the house.
Note: We did not warn SimpliSafe that we were conducting a test. We installed the system, armed it and tripped it as the average consumer would.
Barely 15 seconds after we shut off the alarm, the cell phone rang.
It was SimpliSafe calling.
A dispatcher asked if the authorities needed to be contacted. When we said no, the dispatcher insisted on the "safe word" -- or password -- registered with the system's account in order to authenticate the user.
At the same time, the SimpliSafe phone app updated right in front of us to indicate the date, time and exact sensor that detected the breach. In fact, the app maintains real-time data on every aspect of the system -- every breach, test, power outage, even the average room temperature.
"That's awesome," Garrett said. "Really fast. I was impressed with it."
Easy installation. Instantaneous detection and alerts. Live monitoring. A la carte packages. No contracts.
"If you're really concerned with your safety and the safety of your home, I think it's a pretty good system," said Scott.