Simplisafe and Fortress Security Store both supply popular and well regarded wireless DIY home security system kits.
They do away with the need for expensive installation costs and not being forced to sign a long term expensive contract with hidden fees.
The systems are easy to install and are designed to work out of the box with minimal set up required.
They have the same base unit (control panel) but come with different combination of sensors and devices. More sensors can also be added later.
The most popular starter kit is the Simplisafe2 Wireless Home Security System 8 Piece Package also known as the Economy Package.
It is a professionally monitored.
It uses the cellular network for monitoring and notification so you don’t need a landline
I have written about it in more detail here.
Fortress Security Store has 2 popular ranges of security system kits they are the S02 & GSM ranges. The difference between the ranges is the control panel and how they can communicate with the outside world.
The S02 notifies the numbers set up by landline or VOIP and the GSM panel notifies them either by cellular network or landline or VOIP.
I have reviewed the Fortress S02-B Wireless Home Security Kit in detail. You can read more about it here.
The other kits in the range have different sensors and quantities to suit your needs and budget.
The systems provided by both these companies do not need to be installed professionally. They are plug and play and there is no need to run cables through the walls. Most people can get the systems installed and set up within a couple of hours. Simplisafe is easier and quicker than Fortress to install with better instructions and there is some additional set up required for Fortress. Also, the Fortress S02-B & GSM-B come with an external alarm and this needs to be mounted near a power source to plug it in to – so you may need the help of an electrician if you don’t have a source conveniently located.
To install the sensors for Simplisafe you can use double-back tape included which is strong enough to hold them in place, so no drilling is required. With Fortress the motion sensors are fixed by screwing them into the walls so some drilling is required for the screws, the door/window contacts are mounted using double-back tape included and they are now providing tape that is up to the job.
None of the systems require the internet to complete the installation but it does help .With Fortress you can watch the company’s videos on YouTube that help greatly in showing you what to do if you are struggling with the instruction manual. With Simplisafe you get a web account and if you don’t want to use all the sensors you need to use this to let the system know.
Both companies get very high ratings from customers for their customer support. In reviews this is mentioned as a big plus especially in those discussing Fortress. There is little to pick between the companies in terms of them sending out replacement parts and giving help with any issues.
Simplisafe has longer hours where they can be contacted by phone – they are open between 9:00am–6:00pm EST 7 days a week; they also have an active forum that can be useful for finding out more. Fortress can be contacted between 8.00am to 5.00pm PST Monday to Friday
Third Party Monitoring
Fortress does not offer third party monitoring as part of its systems, it does say you can arrange for monitoring with other companies but I’ve yet to find one that offer this and the company does not provide recommendations. Simplisafe offers monitoring as part of their solution. It is payable on a month by month basis. There are 3 levels from $14.99, $19.99 and $24.99 per month. If you do not pay the monthly fee the system works as a standalone alarm system and will sound the alarm only when a sensor is triggered and no notifications will be sent out.
Cost and Features Comparison
To compare the systems I’m going to use the kits I’ve reviewed to give an idea of overall costs and features. The prices are at July 12 2014. The Fortress packages give you more components than the Simplisafe package. However, the Simplisafe gives you the option to have third party monitoring, remotely monitor and to interact with your system that you don’t get with Fortress – so you are paying extra for those added benefits. Plus the motion sensors are pet sensitive up to 50 lbs.
With the S02-B and GSM-B packages you get a control panel, 10 window/door contacts, 3 motion sensors, 3 remote key fobs, 1 internal alarm, 1 external alarm and 1 panic button which gives you good coverage for a house (they do have smaller starter kits if this is too many components). The S02-B price is below $200 and the GSM-B is over $250 at the time I checked (this does change depending on deals). The increase in price is due to the cost of the GSM dialer that comes with the GSM-B enabling it to call out using the cellular network as well as over a landline.
The S02-B can only dial out using a landline or VOIP. To get the same number of components with Simplisafe using the 8 piece package (Economy Package) the cost would be $539.87 but you are buying a higher spec system with ability for monitoring etc.
The features are compared for these models in the table below
|Feature||Simplisafe 8 piece package||Fortress S02-B||Fortress GSM-B|
|Communication||Cellular||Landline or VOIP||Cellular
Landline or VOIP
|Contract for Monitoring||No||No||No|
|Ongoing Fees||Yes for optional monitoring plans||No if have landline or VOIP||Yes for Cellphone plan|
|Remote monitoring||Smartphone||Limited with phone||Limited with phone|
|Smartphones Supported||iOs, Windows, Android||N/A||N/A|
|Can add cameras||No||No||No|
|Max Sensors/Devices Can be|
|41||99||99 and 8 remotes|
(Wireless standard for home automation)
|Return period/money back||60 days||45 days||45 days|
|Manufacturers Warranty||3 years||3 years||3 years|
|Wireless Coverage||400 -500 ft||150 ft||150 ft|
|DIY - 1 hour||DIY - 2 hours||DIY - 2 hours|
|Panic button||Yes on key pad and key fob|
plus one can be bought
|1 and on key fobs||1 and on key fobs|
|Entry Delay||30 sec||Immediate but can be changed||60 sec|
|Exit Delay||30 sec||Immediate but can be changed||40 sec|
|Power Backup||Yes - 48 hours||Yes - 72 hours||Yes - 72 hours|
|Siren - Loudness/Type||Internal|
|Price||$200 - 300||$100 - 200||$200 - 300|
|Review||Yes - Read more||Yes - Read more||Yes - Read more|
You can use Simplisafe on its own as a standalone system without paying a monthly monitoring fee and then your only ongoing costs would be batteries. (This is the same with Fortress). However, if you want to be able to remotely monitor the system and/or have it monitored professionally you need to incur monthly fees. This service can be stopped at any time without a penalty. There are 3 levels of monitoring – Standard Monitoring is $14.99, Alert Package is $19.99 and Interactive Package $24.99 (when I checked) – these prices when compared with other monitored systems such as Frontpoint are lower for the same level of service (see comparison of Frontpoint and Simplisafe here)
The costs needed after purchase of Fortress S02 are the costs of replacing batteries and if you don’t have a landline or VOIP it will be the costs of installing this and any monthly costs you maybe charged. This is required if you want to be notified by the system when there is a break-in.
With the Fortress GSM you have the option of being contacted over a cellular network as well as landline. To add cellular coverage you need to by a SIM card and sign up with a network for coverage. The recommended (old style) SIM card and coverage costs $100 per year from T-Mobile using 2G or 3G network.
As the sensors and devices are battery powered there will be the cost of replacing them when they lose their charge. Assuming you add the same number and type of components to the Simplisafe 8 piece package as I did when comparing the upfront cost then the average comparable cost per year for batteries is estimated at $10.90 for Simplisafe and $13.25 for Fortress kits.
Protection against being disarmed
A security system can be circumnavigated by experienced criminals. One method for doing this was to cut the landline before entering the premises. With these 3 systems it is only the S02 range by Fortress that can be prevented from sending out notifications as Fortress GSM can be set up to use a cellular network and Simplisafe also uses cellular network.
In addition to this Simplisafe have separated the keypad from the “brains (base unit)” of the system. This helps to prevent the situation where a burglar may attempt to disable the system by destroying the control panel that is normally kept near the door. With Simplisafe the keypad is by the door but the base unit can be elsewhere in the house – this means that if the burglar destroys keypad the base unit will continue to sound the alarm and notify the monitoring company. This is not available with Fortress.
Simplisafe gives you the ability to monitor and control your security system from your smartphone (iOS, Windows and Android supported) by downloading their app to your phone. (You do need to pay a monthly fee of $24.99 for interactive monitoring). This gives you the ability to control and monitor your system remotely, administer it, to add or delete users, see who has come home and set or disarm the alarm from anywhere you can connect to the internet and/or have cell phone coverage.
The other levels of monitoring do not give you this functionality but you do receive notifications from the monitoring center by phone call and/or SMS/Email. With Fortress you can phone the system and receive notifications, listen in to your home and arm/disarm it with your phone but you can’t monitor from your smartphone using an app. Notifications When these security systems detect an unauthorized access you can have them notify you.
The Fortress systems give you limited options. For GSM kit you can have it call up to 6 numbers and playback a recorded message and/or text up to 3 phones that there has been an event. The SO2 range has the ability to call up to 6 phone numbers and playback a 10 second pre-recorded message.
Simplisafe offers you a number of options here depending on the level of monitoring you choose. The standard package you get a phone call from the monitoring center, with the alert package and the interactive package you also receive SMS/email alerts when the system is triggered or someone arms or disarms the system – so you can know your children have arrived safely home or an elderly parent etc.
Homeowners and renters can normally get a discount between 15 to 20 % off their insurance when they install a monitored home security system such as Simplisafe, whereas as with an unmonitored system as you get with Fortress the discount is normally between nil and 5%. It does depend on your insurer and circumstances as to the discount you receive.
Fortress give you the ability to control up to 99 devices with their system and Simplisafe gives you less than half that number with just 41 to be controlled (which is more than enough for most home security set ups). Both companies give you the option to add additional sensors, alarms and remote controls to their system to give you the flexibility to customize to your needs and budget to cover your home or business as required. They also have a range of environmental sensors to detect carbon monoxide, smoke, temperature and water as well as alarms and glass break detectors.
Fortress does have more options with its vibration sensor, gas leak sensor (CO2 , LNG, LPG and other combustible gases). Both systems are not compatible with Zwave or Zigbee devices (home automation standards) and do not offer their own home automation products at this time.
Pets and Motion Sensors
Fortress have 2 types of motion sensors – pet immune sensors (they don’t detect pets under 35 lbs) and standard motion sensors that do detect movement of pets. The S02-B and GSM-B kit comes with the standard motion sensors so if you have pets if might pay to consider the S02-C or GSM-C. Simplisafe provide pet sensitive sensors as standard with their system and they ignore pets under the weight of 50lbs allowing you to arm the system without having to be concerned that your pets will cause false alarms when you are out
The main difference between Simplisafe and Fortress is to do with the monitoring of the system. Simplisafe offers you the option of your system being monitored 24/7 by a monitoring center and being able to monitor it with your smart phone. And the cost of course with Simplisafe costing more but offering more options with monitoring and higher spec components. The Fortress components are considered up to the job by most customers so this difference in spec does not appear to affected the overall performance of the system adversely.
The Fortress GSM gives you the option to set it up so notifications are sent to you over a cellular network (by buying a SIM card separately) or by landline but your monitoring is limited to listening into your home, talking to the room and arming/disarming. You can’t use a smartphone to control the system remotely. The Fortress S02 range needs a landline or VOIP to get a notification out of a security incident and this is a pre-recorded 10 second message. You can also listen in to the room, speak and disarm/arm the alarm remotely with a phone.
If you are looking for a security system that gives you the option to give you 24/7 monitoring without the hassle of signing a long term contract with hidden fees then Simplisafe is the way to go. You get a system that is portable, easy to install, you can monitor from anywhere in the world, can be customized for your home and expanded as you require at a reasonable upfront cost and monthly fees. The customer service and product are highly rated.
If you don’t want the cost of monthly fees and are prepared to monitor on your own then Fortress offers a good solution. You can get notifications sent to you or be phoned when there is an incident. The systems are no frills and do a good job in detecting and sounding the alarm. With the S02 range you need a landline and the GSM range gives you the option for cellular network when you buy a GSM card separately and pay for the connection. It makes a good option for renters, vacation homes or your own home where you don’t want to the cost and convenience of professional monitoring. Again this is a very highly rated product with a company that also stands behind it with very good customer service.
Filed under: Buying Advice
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