Home » Your security system might not work in a power outage. Here’s how to plan ahead

Your security system might not work in a power outage. Here’s how to plan ahead

Your security system might not work in a power outage. Here's how to plan ahead


Vivint

Power and internet outages can throw a stick in the spokes of a smart home. Along with leaving you in the dark, they can disable the security system of your house, especially if you don’t have a battery or cellular backup readily available. What’s more, it’s possible for burglars to intentionally target you — cutting your phone line, for instance. (Cutting power is much rarer.)

So how vulnerable are you really to these sorts of incidents? This guide will help explain what you need to keep your system running when the lights or the internet go out, and which providers offer which types of protection.

How does my system connect to the monitoring company?

To work correctly, home security systems generally need to be connected to two things: power and the internet. These connections allow them to communicate with users and monitoring services, and they’re essential for your security equipment to transmit signals between devices. Security companies have largely moved away from relying on phone lines, though there are a few notable exceptions, such as ADT, which still offers landline options.

If your system does use a landline, monitoring won’t go out when the power goes out. But a landline connection can be cut by burglars — though backup security measures usually alert monitoring services to such outages, and a cut phone line won’t stop your alarms from sounding inside the house. 

On the other hand, if your system relies on Wi-Fi connection, a power outage can limit your system’s ability to communicate; but it’s harder for a burglar to cut off the connection from outside the house.

In all instances, having a cellular backup, which is standard in professionally installed services and common in DIY systems with higher-end subscriptions, will be one of your best bets since it can keep your system online even if there is an internet or power outage — provided your home security equipment has enough battery power. 

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DIY home security systems offer battery and cellular backup, but usually only with the more expensive subscription options.


Julie Snyder/CNET

Do most systems offer backup?

Many home security companies do offer battery and cellular backups. Backups typically engage automatically when the power goes out. 

Battery backups cover you in case of a power outage, but they aren’t a long-term solution, so if power goes out, you’ll want to figure out how to restore it as soon as possible. Some security systems, such as Vivint’s, will switch off higher-power devices like cameras in the event of an outage to preserve energy. That way you’ll still get alarms and your monitoring service will still be alerted if an intruder enters the house.

If your internet goes out, cellular backup is important for maintaining connectivity both with users and monitoring services. Most professionally installed services have cellular backup, but most DIY systems require a higher level subscription to get access to that feature. Without cell backup, you’ll still get local alarms, but you won’t be able to get push notifications in the case of an interrupted internet connection.

How much will I pay for backup?

It depends on the provider you select. With DIY home security systems like Ring and SimpliSafe, you have to upgrade to one of their higher-tiered packages to receive cellular backup services — but battery backup is fairly standard even with free packages.

Here is a comparison of what you would pay for monitoring plans with backup services (most offer 24-hour battery and cellular) with the leading home security providers:

Plans with backup, by provider

Provider Plan cost
Ring $10 per month or $100 annually
SimpliSafe $14.99 per month
Xfinity $30 per month
ADT $36 per month
Cove $14.99 per month
Vivint $19.99 per month
FrontPoint $44.99 per month
Adobe $19.89 per month
Brinks $39.99 per month

Costs can vary wildly, depending on which provider you select and which features you need. Vivint, Ring, Adobe, and Simplisafe all offer backups to keep you online when the power goes out, and you can choose a monitoring plan for under $20 per month. It makes it an affordable option to keep your home connected when you are on a budget.

Are there other factors to consider when choosing a provider?

Professionally monitored systems and DIY home security bring different pros and cons to the table, and we’ve written a lot about how to choose which is right for you. If you’re down to a couple of options, we’ve also reviewed most of the big names — and we’re aiming to review all the important ones in the coming months.

To help you find a great home security system, here are a few more suggestions:

More home security for 2021

Best cheap home security devices for 2021

SimpliSafe vs. Ring: Which home security system is better?

9 home security systems to keep watch when you’re out