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ADT Security Review

Professional Security System

ADT security system

ADT Security System

ADT is the classic face of home security. It isn’t the most user-friendly system, but for top-of-the-line security at a top-of-the-market price, ADT will get you there. They offer a range of devices and three different monthly package options. For a trusted name that has been in security for over 100 years, ADT is a solid choice. Check Price

Pros

  • Professional monitoring with all paid subscriptions
  • Long-standing track record of brand authority and trust
  • Lower upfront costs

Cons

  • Highly monthly subscription fees
  • Requires 36-month contract (or 24-month for California users)
  • Limited resources for customer support without picking up the phone

Scoring

Low Startup Costs, But Long Contract
  • 95%
    Design - 95%
  • 96%
    Performance - 96%
  • 95%
    Quality - 95%
  • 96%
    Usability - 96%
  • 90%
    Value - 90%
94%

Summary

The ADT security system relies on professional setup, installation, and monitoring to provide users with a pretty hands-off approach. The Pulse app does allow you to do some self-monitoring, but in the event of an emergency, the ADT team will automatically dispatch first responders to help. ADT offers lower start-up costs, but higher recurring monthly costs. They also are one of the only security systems to still require a contract…and it’s not short. The ADT contract has a 36-month term (or 24-mo for CA residents) and is difficult to get out of if you decide you don’t like the system and are outside of your 30-day trial window. There are some good things I like about ADT, but transparency and flexibility are not on that list.

Pricing & Packages

All ADT security systems are packages made up of a similar set of parts and include a similar set of features and services.

Basic ADT features include:

  • 24/7 professional monitoring
  • Professional installation
  • Theft protection guarantee
  • Service & repairs included
  • 6-Month, money-back guarantee

Beyond the standard set of features, you can choose from three different packages:

  • Secure
  • Smart
  • Complete

You can select which devices you want within these packages, but the features and usability vary between the three tiers.

ADT Secure

Cost: $27.99/mo

  • Intrusion protection
  • Fire, flood, CO monitoring
  • Touchscreen control panel
  • Voice control

ADT Smart

Cost: $36.99/mo

  • Intrusion protection
  • Fire, flood, CO monitoring
  • Touchscreen control panel
  • Voice control
  • Remote access mobile app
  • Smart home automation

ADT Complete

Cost: $52.99/mo

  • Intrusion protection
  • Fire, flood, CO monitoring
  • Touchscreen control panel
  • Voice control
  • Remote access mobile app
  • Smart home automation
  • Video surveillance
  • Stored video clips

ADT Custom Packages

You can also opt to build a custom package with different features than those listed above, but this list is a good intro to the ADT lineup.

There is an online chat feature that can lead you through a series of prompts to help decide which features and devices are most important for your needs.

If the security bot gets stuck, there is also a ‘Live Chat’ with a real representative to help you decide what you need.

ADT Secure Package

ADT Secure - home security system

Includes:

  • Intrusion protection
  • Fire, flood, CO monitoring
  • Touchscreen control panel
  • Voice control

Best For:

  • Basic security
  • Smaller homes or businesses
Check Price

ADT Smart Package

ADT Smart - home security system

Includes:

  • Intrusion protection
  • Fire, flood, CO monitoring
  • Touchscreen control panel
  • Voice control
  • Remote access mobile app
  • Smart home automation

Best For:

  • Smart home integration
  • Remote access on-the-go
Check Price

ADT Complete Package

ADT Complete - home security system

Includes:

  • Intrusion protection
  • Fire, flood, CO monitoring
  • Touchscreen control panel
  • Voice control
  • Remote access mobile app
  • Smart home automation
  • Video surveillance
  • Stored video clips

Best For:

  • Top-of-the-line surveillance
  • Video monitoring
Check Price

ADT Monitoring

All ADT systems listed above come with professional monitoring as a standard feature. The three tiers of monitoring match the package names listed above.

You can opt for:

  1. Secure
  2. Smart
  3. Complete

Here’s a table that quickly reviews the similarities and differences again.

 ADT SecureADT SmartADT Complete
Price Starting At$27.99/month$36.99/month$52.99/mo
Cellular + Wifi connectionYesYesYes
Intrusion protectionYesYesYes
24/7 Professional MonitoringYesYesYes
Fire, flood, CO monitoringYesYesYes
Touchscreen control panelYesYesYes
Voice controlYesYesYes
Remote access mobile appNoYesYes
Smart home automationNoYesYes
Video surveillanceNoNoYes
Stored video clipsNoNoYes
Returns30-day trial30-day trial30-day trial
Contract36-month*36-month*36-month*

* Contract length = 24 months in the state of California

Equipment

The ADT security system offers a mix of equipment depending on what exactly you need, but it basically boils down to an assortment of the following devices.

ADT home security system - equipment
ADT home security system – equipment

Basic ADT equipment includes:

  1. Digtial touchscreen panel
  2. Entryway contact sensors
  3. Wireless keychain remote
  4. Motion detector
  5. Yard signs and window decals

#1. Digital touchscreen panel

The digital panel is the central command center that acts as the base station for all ADT controls and settings. It allows you to quickly change security modes, adjust automation settings (Smart or Complete only), set up or adjust zones, set up or adjust scenes.

ADT touch screen control center

The panel is wireless and connects to your ADT system and professional monitoring via (1) cellular data or (2) wireless network. The dual-connection provides nice peace of mind in case one method fails—there is a backup.

What Does It Do?

  • Professional monitoring: 24/7
  • Separate panic buttons: call for fire, police or medical help
  • Easy usability: simple, icon-based buttons are simple to use
  • All-in-one solution: single touchscreen can control all your system functions
  • Add devices: expand the capabilities of your system with smart devices and plugs, as needed
  • Reminder tones: entry and exit tones remind you to exit or disarm your system
ADT touch screen panel in use

#2. Contact sensor

The contact sensor for the ADT system looks basically identical to other contact sensors that we’ve tested from other systems.

It is a wireless device that can stick on any window or door using double-sided adhesive on the back of the sensor.

ADT contact sensor

This sensor is pretty compact so it’s easy to install in various locations as needed.

The two-part system allows you to stick one piece to a stationary location (ex: door frame) and the other piece sticks to the moveable portion (ex: door or window).

When the two pieces are close together, no alarm will be triggered. But when the two pieces separate you will know that someone is likely coming or going and you can be alerted.

ADT contact sensor installed
ADT contact sensor installed

What does it do?

  • Sends automatic alerts via text or email when a sensor is triggered
  • Allows you to set up automation that can activate cameras on your system (ADT Complete only) so you can see who triggered a sensor

#3. Motion Detector

The motion detector for ADT is a wireless device that is easy to use and lets you see when anyone is moving about the cabin within the range of the detector.

ADT motion detector - security system

The ADT motion detector is suitable for detecting activity within a 30-foot range of where it is placed. Install the device up high for the best surveillance.

What does it do?

  • Sends automatic alerts to your phone or via email when activity is detected
  • Can automatically capture video if motion is detected (ADT Complete only)
  • Can be programmed to turn on lights if a motion sensor is triggered at night (ADT Smart or Complete only)

This motion detector also has adjustable sensitivity so homes with pets can tweak the settings until the right level of sensitivity is established.

How long does the battery last? Approximately 7 years—the detector will provide an alert when the battery is starting to run low.

ADT motion detector (older legacy model)
The older style ADT motion sensor

#4. Key Fob

The key fob for the ADT system is easy to use and had intuitive push-button controls for most of the features you’d want quick access to.

ADT key fob - security system

There are controls for:

  • Arming the system
  • Disarming the system
  • Put the system in “Home Mode”
  • Sound a panic alarm

I like the size of this unit and how it can easily be added to your keys, wallet, or backpack for quick access.

ADT key fob sitting on counter for size reference

You could also put it in the nightstand by your bed for evening security or wherever you want easy access to a ‘panic button’.

Other Items

In addition to the devices listed above, there are also some other tools that ADT offers which can be added as needed to customize any of the systems.

Here is a quick list of some of their most popular devices:

  • Smoke detector
  • Carbon monoxide detector
  • Flood sensor
  • Emergency 2-Button Panic

You can also add more of any of the sensors or detectors as well (ie: motion sensor, entry contact sensor, etc.) depending on how large of a space you are protecting.

ADT security entry contact sensor
ADT security entry contact sensor (legacy version)

With ADT Complete Package Only:

  • ADT video doorbell
  • Outdoor security cameras
  • Indoor security cameras

Installation & Setup

When it comes to installing and setting up the ADT system, it’s pretty hands-off for the user as each system is installed by an ADT professional.

  1. First, an ADT rep will help you decide what kind of system and devices you need to best protect your property.
  2. Next, you’ll place the order and it will ship directly to your door.
  3. Then after it arrives an ADT professional will be scheduled to come and professionally install the system for you.

On one hand, the professional install is great insurance to make sure that the system is installed properly. You won’t have to worry about troubleshooting during setup and it’s a time saver for most users.

But you will pay for it. The start-up costs for ADT vary between $99 – $199, depending on your package.

Features

ADT has been in the security game since 1874 and they have a long list of features that are backed by years of testing, consumer response, and product research.

Some of the most attractive features for the ADT system include:

#1. ADT Professionals

ADT pros are available to install the system as well as monitor it 24/7. This feature comes with all of the ADT package systems regardless of exactly which devices you decide to go with.

ADT security - prompt to get a quote
ADT security – prompt to get a quote

#2. Low Start Up Costs

Despite the higher than usual monthly fees, ADT does not require customers to buy their equipment outright upon start-up. This helps to keep initial costs a little lower by not having to buy all the devices all at once.

So what’s the catch?

There is a contract and it’s pretty long, to be honest.

ADT requires all users to sign a 36-month contract for their services (or a 24-month contract if you live in California).

#3 The Modes

The ADT system has three basic modes:

  1. Stay (armed)
  2. Away (armed)
  3. Disarmed

But you can also customize more modes to meet specific needs, like Vacation Mode, Be Right Back, Asleep, or Night Mode.

You can change the mode using the ADT Pulse app on your smartphone or using the touchscreen panel directly.

Legacy ADT security keypad
Legacy ADT security keypad

Above is a quick shot from a legacy ADT base station. It is not a touchscreen like the current model, but does have a lot of the same features and controls.

As you can see, you can also use the touch screen to activate the chime, bypass the alarm, or enter your access code to disarm the system.

#4. Smart Home

The ADT system used to feel a little obsolete when it came to modern technology and smart integrations, but it’s really come up to speed in recent years.

If you opt for the ADT Smart or Complete package, you will have all access to smart integrations that work seamlessly with your system.

Amazon Alexa Dot 2nd generation
Amazon Dot – programmed with Amazon Alexa; compatible with ADT security

ADT primarily works with Z-Wave smart technology, but that includes a wide umbrella of devices and smart tools.

Current partners (compatible with Z-Wave) include:

  • Amazon Alexa
  • August
  • Aeotec
  • First Alert
  • Google Assistant
  • Honeywell
  • Kwikset
  • Leviton
  • Nest
  • Schlage
  • Smart plugs
  • Smart lights
  • And more

What if the alarm goes off?

If the alarm goes off, here is the process of response generated by the ADT system.

  1. ADT professional monitoring services will be notified and they will call or text the number provided during setup to make sure that everything is okay.
  2. If no one answers the call, it is ADT protocol to send a first response team to the property as a precautionary measure.
  3. You can also disengage the alarm by entering a custom code into the keypad or the ADT Pulse app.

Monitoring

As mentioned above, the ADT alarm system only offers professional monitoring.

Here is a quick side-by-side of the pricing structure:

Secure

$27.99 / mo

Smart

$36.99 / mo

Complete

$52.99 / mo

RELATED: For a DIY solution, check out the ADT Blue system. It’s not the same interface, but does use ADT devices and skips the costly monthly fees and contracts.

The ADT Pulse App

The ADT Pulse app is the mobile command center for accessing your security system remotely.

ADT pulse app

From the app, you can:

  • Arm or disarm a system
  • View cameras (with ADT Complete only)
  • Adjust smart devices (like locks, camera, thermostats, etc)
  • View activity history

Customer Service

Customer service is a critically important part of any home security system and includes two big parts.

  • Part 1 is support when making the initial purchase.
  • Part 2 is support when / if things go wrong after install.

It’s vital that both of these parts are easy and intuitive for customers in order to maintain a good relationship between users and the manufacturer.

#1. Making the Initial Purchase

So for starters, let’s talk through making the initial purchase.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of the ADT sales process. As a preferred DIYer, I would have liked to have seen more up-front options, information on the devices, and just more transparency all around.

The prompts to call for a quote are aggressive and it’s more than a little off-putting for users who prefer to do their dealings over the web or via text.

Online Chat

ADT does offer an online chat, but primarily offers bot-based responses first. You have to jump through some hoops to get a live representative and even that’s no guarantee.

To test their customer service, I asked a question through the “live rep” portal.

It connected me to a representative within 2 minutes, but then it took an additional 18 minutes of wait time before I received a response or any feedback from my request.

#2. When Things Go Wrong

Since ADT relies on professional installation, I would say that their response when things go wrong is a little better.

You still have to go through the phone to submit your issue, but they can either talk you through the issue over the phone or dispatch a local representative to help you work through the problem on-site.

You won’t have to worry about DIY troubleshooting which can be a big relief for consumers who don’t like that part of the setup.

For quick questions, ADT also offers an online FAQ section on their website.

You can check out the full ADT FAQ Guide here.

The Bottom Line

So bottom line, is ADT a good choice for home security? I would say that it certainly can be if the type of features they offer align with the features you’re looking for.

The ADT is a good option for users who want:

  • Low start-up costs: Since you don’t have to purchase the equipment in full prior to installation, that means ADT can offer low start-up costs to get off the ground.
  • Professionally backed: If you don’t want the hassle of having to install a security system on your own, troubleshoot, or monitor, ADT can be a solid choice. They rely on local ADT professionals every step of the way to help you set up and properly use your security system. For larger or more complex systems, this type of setup can provide peace of mind in knowing that your system is up-to-date and working properly all the time.
  • A contract: ADT requires that all users sign a 36-month contract (or 24-month if you’re in California). This contract is like their insurance policy and helps to allow low start-up costs. If the contract sounds off-putting, you may want to check out the ADT Blue DIY security system.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have pay for a monthly subscription?

Yes. Subscriptions are required to use the ADT alarm, starting at $27.99 / mo and going up to $52.99 / mo.

What if you don’t like it?

The ADT Alarm comes with a 30-day trial period if you decide that you don’t like it.

Does ADT offer professional monitoring?

Yes. All ADT subscriptions come with professional monitoring.

Is a contract required?

Yes. You must sign a 36-month contract to enroll in an ADT plan (or 24 months if you live in California).

What if you move?

ADT offers a program called SafeMove, which helps offer promos to set up new systems. They do not state that they will move existing systems so you will likely need to establish a new contract at the new property.

Does ADT work with Alexa?

Yes, ADT is compatible with Amazon Alexa.

About Derek Hales

Derek HalesDerek Hales is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of ModernCastle.com. He has been featured in Fast Company, Reader's Digest, Business Insider, Realtor.com, She Knows, and other major publications. Derek has a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration from Kansas State University. Hales has been testing and reviewing products for the home since 2014.

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