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On Trial: Simplisafe 9-piece Home Security System
The Tester: Cat Bowen, parenting editor at Best Products and general worrywart
The Brief: The Simplisafe 9-piece Google and Alexa compatible security system is as simple as the name implies and provides homeowners and renters with a quality setup at an affordable price.
A huge part of being a parent is an ever-present low level of anxiety around your children’s safety. This doesn’t wane as they grow older. No, it just changes and shifts with the ebbs and flows of the timeline of life. Right now, my biggest worry revolves around my son’s safety when he’s home alone. He’s 13 and is currently in his “way too old for a babysitter” (his words) phase, and he prefers the quiet solitude of his room to grocery shopping with me or whatever else it is that my husband and I are doing.
I understand that he’s a pretty capable dude. He makes a mean ramen noodle with fried egg, does his homework on time, and occasionally even cleans up after himself in the kitchen. But leaving him home alone, sometimes for hours at a time, can be super stressful. What if someone tries to break in? What if he leaves and doesn’t tell us? What if, what if, what if.
The only thing that made sense was to get some sort of security system that could hopefully provide me with a measure of reassurance that if something were awry, I would at least be alerted. Being an avid podcast listener (who obviously indulges too heavily on the true-crime format and has therefore developed some extra paranoia surrounding her children's safety), I have heard all about the company Simplisafe. These podcasters say it's easy to set up and easy to use. Since podcasting has that weird side effect that has you believing that the podcasters are your trusted BFFs, that's the company I went with.
The kit comes with four door alarms, two motion sensors, one camera, a secure keypad, and a hub that controls the whole thing. It has optional 24/7 monitoring with cloud recording and police and fire dispatch that starts at $14.99 per month. The system itself is very intuitive in its design. The entire setup process took about 20 minutes in my modestly sized Brooklyn home, and the instructions are so easy, they fit on a single sheet of paper. However, if you get tripped up, they have advisors available to walk you through it. The whole thing is controlled via an app on your phone.
The biggest struggle that I found myself within was where to place the motion sensors. They’re great, but they get triggered by pets and people over 50 pounds. My neighbors’ German Shepherd puppy is already 70 pounds, and because he’s still potty-training, he goes out all hours of the night and would trip the trigger if I placed it on my door. Those motion sensors have a 90-degree field of view for up to 30 feet. In the end, we chose to only use one of the motion sensors off of our back door. Having a motion detector out front doesn’t make a ton of sense if you live in a densely populated neighborhood like I do if something is going to set off the sensors every 10 minutes.
The door alarms and camera are by far my favorite device in the kit. The tiny door alarms stick easily onto your door, chiming when it’s opened. The chime isn’t overly loud or intrusive, but it’s enough to let people know when someone is coming or going.
The camera is high-definition and works in all light situations, and the microphone attached to the camera picks up more than my own ears do. And don't worry about tech dudes at Simplisafe watching your cameras when you're not looking — that's not how it works. The monitoring of your video is cloud-only, and only you have access to that or the ability to grant others access. But if you want to drop in on your camera, as I frequently do, it's all right there in the app.
There are three modes the system works in: home, away, and off. When the system is set to away, the camera and the motion detection devices will alert your phone of activity. I'm happy to say my cats have only set it off a few times, and only because they were walking directly in front of the camera. You can also set it up to watch safes or areas of the home with sensitive materials (valuables, medicine, whatever the need).
Another cool/horrifying feature is the "duress pin" function. If someone forces you into your home, you type in an alternative code to your system, and it silently calls the police. These features, paired with the 1,000-foot range, and the ability to arm or disarm your system anywhere from your phone, makes Simplisafe an extremely attractive security system. And don't worry about what happens if the power goes out temporarily. The Simplisafe system has battery and cellular backup to work the cameras under trying conditions.
The only real pain about the system is the light on the bottom that indicates if it is working properly. As I said before, I'm a nervous Nelly, so I like to have a visual confirmation of the armed device, but that light can be seen from the surface of the moon. I sleep with my bedroom door open because I have two butthead felines who like free access to me all night, and the light from the Simplisafe is so bright that I had to start closing my door most of the way. Yes, it can be turned off, but then where would I focus my anxiety? Instead, I shut my door enough to let the cats in and some of the blue light from the next room.
Bottom Line: Sure, my son has set the Simplisafe off a few (dozen) times to go grab a package from the porch, but thanks to the camera and the delightful people who call me from Simplisafe to let me know my kid has gone walkabout, just having it makes me feel safer about him being there. The fact that it's under $300, easy to set up, has a huge range, and has a great camera is a bonus.
The Simplisafe system is a great answer for parents of tweens and teens learning to navigate the home without supervision — and that won't break the bank. The podcasters were right.
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