Sep. 10, 2013 at 5:19 PM ET
What it is: A new alarm system from Xfinity, Comcast’s cable, phone and Internet provider, that allows you to secure and monitor your home from wherever you are (work, vacation, etc.) Comcast is the parent company of iVillage.
How it works: The alarm system connects to your Internet connection and includes a 24-hour battery backup in case you lose that connection or your power goes out. After your alarm is installed, you get a custom tablet (which acts as the brain) and a keypad (you can request more for an additional cost of $90). But for the most part, the system is controlled through your smart phone or tablet.
What it costs: Installation is $99-$399 depending on your area, but you’ll pay for monthly monitoring just like you would for any other security system. The $39.95-$49.95 monthly fee covers around the clock monitoring, remote access to your system from your computer, tablet or smartphone, a video view of your home when you’re not there, the ability to control your thermostat and lights from your device when you’re away and text messages alerting you to activity at your house.
Where to buy it: Xfinity.com. You don’t have to be a Comcast/Xfinity subscriber to get Xfinity home, the alarm works with whatever internet provider you already have.
Our tester’s verdict:
If you have a conventional alarm and are thinking of switching, this system will take a little getting used to. The biggest difference is that instead of jabbing away at a keyboard by your door, you do most of your programming from your phone. So I was able to herd my kids into the car, buckle them in, raise the garage door, and then set the alarm from the Xfinity app on my iPhone. It’s a much calmer way to program your alarm since you skip all the rushing and “Get out now, stop touching the door—GET OUT NOW” screaming while that scary beeping countdown is underway. The process was just as easy—and calm—when we got home. Instead of frantically typing in the code as my kids barreled past me up the stairs, I just pulled into the driveway and leisurely disabled the system, all before anyone got out of the car. The remote thermostat means that as we leave our friend’s house, I can turn the air conditioning down to 72 (without having had to pre-program before I left the house) so it’s nice and cool by the time we get home.
One of the two alarm packages comes with cameras you can monitor from your devices, so if you’re in the backyard, and the doorbell rings, you can quickly check who’s there without getting up. You can also set the cameras to record. I had my front door camera record 5 seconds of activity every time the door opened. When I was away on business, I looked through the log to see my husband grab the water delivery from the porch, the kids come home with their babysitter, and the dog make a break for the front lawn. Alternatively, if there’s no activity, the system can text message you. This is an awesome feature for parents. If your daughter is supposed to be home by 4 pm and the door hasn’t opened by 3:59, she can’t tell you that she was actually home doing her homework—cause you’ll know she wasn’t.
What We Wish We Could Change: The two packages offered come with more than enough sensors to protect your TV and other valuables, but probably not enough to protect everyone from general intruders since, in some cases, the bad guy would be able to make it through a window (if it doesn’t have a sensor on it) and into your kid’s room without the alarm ever being triggered. A few more glass break sensors (available at additional cost) will solve that—so you’ll probably need to plan to spend more than the basic package. Extra sensors are available in packages and also on their own.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.