Photo: Glenda Taylor
Any type of home security system is designed to keep the house and its inhabitants safe from property damage and theft. Security lighting and cameras go a long way, but for many many homeowners, the best protection is a piercing alarm that can scare away would-be intruders while alerting residents. Some folks prefer to invest in a complete system that detects motion, records activity, and provides a startling siren.
The latest door and window alarms are not just loud; they’re more sensitive and convenient than ever—but which ones are best? We wanted to learn which of today’s popular products provided the most effective warnings, so we tested them. We installed them on doors and windows, and then we watched (and listened) as they set off their earsplitting sirens.
The best alarm for a particular shopper will depend on several factors, including the type they prefer, where they wish to install it, and whether they’d like remote access. Ahead, find out about the different types available today and how the following models earned a spot in our lineup of the best door and window alarms.
- BEST OVERALL: YoLink Smart Window Door Sensors, LoRa ¼ Mile Range
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: GE Personal Security Window and Door Alarm, 12-Pack
- UPGRADE PICK: Ring Alarm Security Kit, 5-Piece, 2nd Gen
- BEST PORTABLE: Lewis N. Clark Travel Door Alarm
- BEST GLASS-BREAK SENSOR: Eva Logik Door Window Alarm With Vibration Sensor
- BEST FOR TRAVEL: Emdmak Door Stop Alarm With 120 dB Siren
- BEST WITH SECURITY BAR: SecurityMan Security Bar Door and Window Bar Alarm
ALSO TESTED: Ring Alarm Contact Sensor
Types of Door and Window Alarms
Contact sensors and motion alarms are the two main types of door and window alarms. There also are specialized door and window alarms that detect abnormal vibration or the sound of broken glass. Some of these alarms are so loud that we had to wear ear protection when testing them. They are certainly loud enough to deter most unwanted visitors, but for full home security, it’s best to use more than one type of alarm.
Contact sensors are the most common type of door and window alarm. Their basic, affordable design typically relies on two sensors that must be aligned for the system to be armed. One sensor is installed on the door or window, while the other is installed directly beside it on the door frame or window frame. Mounting is often simple, featuring peel-and-stick backing that securely holds the sensors in place.
After both sensors are installed and the system is turned on, any movement—such as the door opening—triggers the alarm, which is typically very loud.
Motion detectors and alarms are regularly used in comprehensive security systems to help detect the presence of an intruder and sound an alarm. They are often connected to a security camera or flood light that will activate when the motion alarm detects activity. The alarm is often quite loud to scare intruders away while the camera records what’s happening.
These devices are usually installed outside a home but can be set up indoors if necessary. They use a motion-detection sensor to determine if anything is moving within a range specified by the manufacturer, typically around 15 to 35 feet. The range and sensitivity of these motion detectors vary greatly, so research products before deciding.
Specialized Door and Window Sensors
Some door and window sensors are designed for very specific circumstances. There are those that detect the sound of glass breaking or strong vibrations in a window or door that could indicate an intruder trying to break in. Others detect pressure that triggers the alarm sound.
- Glass sound sensors detect the sound of glass breaking and set off an alarm. They can be placed anywhere in a room, and if an intruder breaks a window to gain entry, the device’s sound sensor will trigger a piercing alarm. In general, glass-break sensors are beneficial when a contact sensor isn’t suitable, such as on a stationary window that doesn’t open. The upside to a sound-type sensor is that it will set off an alarm no matter which window breaks, so there’s no need for more than one alarm per room. The downside is that breaking a drinking glass will also set off the alarm.
- Glass-break vibration sensors differ slightly from their sound sensor counterparts. They detect the vibration—not the sound—of a glass pane as it breaks, so they must be installed directly on the window itself. The upside is that breaking a drinking glass will not set them off, but the downside is that every window the user wants to secure must have its own alarm installed.
- Vibration sensors are applied directly to a window or a door and detect vibrations that run through the material. The vibration will trigger the alarm if it exceeds a certain threshold. However, these alarms can sometimes be triggered by heavy rain, snow, hail, or just someone knocking on the door, so they could result in false alarms.
- Pressure sensors are triggered when pressure is exerted on the sensor. It comes in two main types: door stops that slide under a closed door and security bars designed to be wedged beneath a doorknob. In both cases, if someone attempts to open the door, the pushing pressure sets off the alarm.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Door and Window Alarm
Whether selecting a door and window alarm system for a workshop, home, or office, there are several factors to consider, including remote accessibility, pet-protection features, and camera access.
Accessing a security system from anywhere in the house or when away offers a level of security and confidence that isn’t possible with point-of-use-only systems. Receiving an alert on a smartphone allows users to respond immediately to the situation instead of arriving home to a blaring alarm and a broken window after the intruders have already left. Some alarms come with their own app, while others use a universal app, such as If This Then That (IFTTT), to provide remote access.
Remote accessibility can also allow users to turn off the security system if they’re away from home and would like a friend or neighbor to check on the house. This type of system typically syncs with a home Wi-Fi network and can be operated remotely via a smartphone, tablet, or PC.
The primary purpose of pet security products is to monitor companion animals’ activity via a camera and perhaps allow the owner to interact with the pet using real-time voice controls. These systems may comprise pet doors, indoor or outdoor motion sensors, treat dispensers, and the ability to give an audible notification to the owner when a pet goes outside.
Though pet security alarms may function the way standard door and window alarms do, the sound they emit usually isn’t loud enough to frighten the animal. Many smart-type contact sensors allow the user to turn off audible alarms and receive alerts on a smartphone instead. Door and window alarms designed to frighten intruders are likely to produce a sound that would also scare animals too, not to mention annoy the pet owner every time a pooch goes out to bark at a squirrel or do his business!
While a simple door and window contact sensor alarm offers a measure of security, a camera offers added protection. Security cameras allow users to see and record video inside or outside a home. Security cameras may have internal memory or upload video to a website or an app, giving the user access to live feeds from a smartphone.
The alarms are often secondary to the cameras themselves. Some camera-type alarms sound like sirens to frighten away an intruder, while others are silent but send an alert to the user’s phone, an indoor receiver, or law enforcement. Cameras and alarms that feature remote access and alerts typically require a Wi-Fi network to operate, but a few will send signals via Bluetooth over a shorter distance, typically up to 150 feet away.
Our Top Picks
While many security products, such as cameras and floodlights, come with added alarms, we focused our testing on products where alarms were the primary functions. Not all of the products we tested earned a spot on this lineup, and you can read about the one that didn’t make it under “Also Tested.” The models on this list excelled in our hands-on tests, and we’re confident that each one offers a valuable measure of security.
We opened the package to find four standard contact sensors and a hub. Then we downloaded the YoLink app, which walked us through syncing the hub with our Wi-Fi network; it was quite simple. We also discovered that we could use the included Ethernet cable and plug the hub directly into our wireless router. We felt that was an excellent option for anyone who might have trouble syncing the hub wirelessly.
We installed one of the contact sensors on an interior door, and the YoLink app detected it and prompted us to name it. We called it “master bathroom.” The sensor sent an alert to our smartphone when we opened the door. We then installed the rest of the sensors on other doors in the house. They all worked similarly, sending alerts to our phone when a door was opened. That was all to be expected—but then came the surprises.
A few minutes later, we got another alert on our phone—even though we hadn’t opened any door. A quick app check told us the master bathroom door was still open! We found we could configure the app to notify us if any door had been left open for a set amount of time.
A bigger surprise still awaited. We removed one of the sensors we’d placed on an interior house door and took it to our shop, which sits about ⅛ mile away from the house. We installed it on the shop door, not really expecting it to work, but when we opened the door, we got an alert on our smartphone. While regular Wi-Fi and Bluetooth rarely work at that distance, the YoLink hub communicates with the sensors via LoRa technology—a type of radio signal that transmits up to ¼ mile away. That is impressive.
We really liked the YoLink alarms, but we wished they also offered an audible alert function, such as a chime or a siren that sounded when a door was open. Still, that’s a minor gripe for what’s basically an excellent long-range security solution. Remember that a smartphone (or Alexa device) is needed to receive alerts. YoLink can be configured to work with an Alexa device, such as an Echo Show.
- Type: Contact sensor
- Remote access: Yes, receive alerts on smartphone or Alexa device
- Audible alert: No
- Peel-and-stick sensors for easy installation
- Hub uses long-distance radio signals
- Syncs with YoLink app, IFTTT app, or Alexa
- Hub can be plugged into router or Wi-Fi synced
- No audible alerts from sensors
Get the YoLink door and window alarm at Amazon or YoSmart.
These GE window and door alarms prove that you needn’t spend a lot to get a measure of security. At first glance, these alarms, which have peel-and-stick pads for easy installation, look like virtually all contact sensors. But, wow, are they loud—way louder than we thought they’d be.
Each sensor comes with batteries preinstalled, so we aligned the two parts of the sensors on doors and started testing. A small switch on the side of each sensor turns the unit on or off or selects Chime or Alarm. The chime is a nice-sounding doorbell sound that is easy to hear from adjoining rooms, but the alarm is truly ear-piercing. We literally jumped when we opened the door and triggered the alarm function. The manufacturer claims that the alarm is 120 decibels (dB), and while we didn’t have a sound tester, it startled us enough to wear ear protection while testing the sensors.
While these GE contact sensors won’t sync to a home security system or Wi-Fi, they should certainly fit the bill for those looking for an affordable, ear-splitting alarm to scare off intruders.
- Type: Contact sensor
- Remote access: No
- Audible alert: Yes
- Very loud alarm
- Optional chiming sound
- Easy to install
- Doesn’t sync with Wi-Fi or smart devices
Get the GE door and window alarms on Amazon, NewEgg, or TechaiApp.
From a well-respected manufacturer of home-security products comes the Ring Alarm Security Kit, which is just the right size for offering advanced protection for apartment dwellers or those in small homes.
The first thing we did was download the Ring Always Home app and set up an account. The app walked us through the setup process, which included syncing with Wi-Fi. The system has five modules: a hub, a range extender, motion detector, keypad controller, and a contact sensor. We were able to configure each one easily through the app.
We found the contact sensor and motion detector very responsive—they sent immediate alerts to our smartphone. However, we weren’t too impressed with the range extender, which allowed us to locate the sensor only about 30 feet farther away than when we didn’t use it. We would have preferred a second contact sensor that we could have installed on another door or window.
The system offers three modes: Home, Away, and Disarmed. In Home mode, the contact sensor still sent alerts, but the motion detector was disabled. In Away mode, we received alerts from both the contact sensor and the motion detector. In Disarmed mode, we received no alerts. We could also choose an audible-alarm feature that was very loud; the manufacturer doesn’t list the decibels, but we estimated it was between 100 and 105 dB based on comparison to the other alarms we tested.
We were able to arm/disarm the system by entering a code, either on the keypad or on our smartphone. The keypad can also be configured to call the police or fire department automatically at the touch of a single button. We didn’t test that feature. We found the Ring Alarm system worked well and was easy to use from the keypad or our smartphone. Users can purchase real-time monitoring through a subscription service if desired.
- Type: Contact sensor, motion detector
- Remote access: Yes
- Audible alert: Yes
- Loud siren-type alarm
- Control from keypad or smartphone
- Added motion-detection function
- Additional sensors can be added later
- Range extender didn’t work too well
- Only 1 contact sensor included
Get the Ring 5-piece door and window alarm at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Best Buy.
At first glance, the Lewis N. Clark door alarm looks more like a big keychain fob than anything else, but we found out that it comes with a loud (91 dB) alarm that will likely startle an intruder trying to sneak through a door or window.
This contact sensor works in a slightly different manner than most, using a cord that connects to the top of the sensor in two spots. On the left side of the unit, the cord is removable, and attached to it are two steel prongs. The alarm is silent as long as the two prongs are making contact; but if they pull apart, the siren is triggered.
We inserted the prongs in the gap between a door and the door frame and looped the rest of the cord over the door handle, which is necessary to keep the prongs from pulling out. We then pressed the On button on the front of the unit. When we opened the door, the pronged end slipped out, and the alarm emitted an ear-splitting siren.
We also tested the Lewis N. Clark alarm by sliding the prongs beneath the bottom edge of a double-hung window. Then we went outside and opened the window—the alarm sounded immediately. We liked the concept of this alarm and the portability factor, but we felt the cord was a bit too flimsy; we would have preferred something more substantial for durability.
- Type: Contact sensor
- Remote access: No
- Audible alert: Yes
- Portable enough to carry in a purse or bag
- Suitable for doors, windows, and more
- Loud siren
- Small pinhole flashlight included
Get the Lewis N. Clark door and window alarm at Amazon, NewEgg, or Sears.
With a stationary window that doesn’t open, a standard contact-sensor alarm will be useless. That’s where a glass-break sensor can come in, setting off an alarm if the pane of glass is broken. The Eva Logik sensors we tested were vibration (not sound) sensors, so they had to be in contact with the glass as it broke.
The package includes four sensors, each of which attaches to glass via a double-sided sticker. The stickers display a warning to would-be intruders that the home is protected. Unfortunately, our package came with only two stickers. This was clearly an error, but after checking product reviews, we found other buyers didn’t receive all four stickers either. Fortunately, two-sided tape can be used to hold the sensors in place on a window.
Rather than actually break a window in our home, we affixed an Eva Logik sensor to a 12-inch-long by 12-inch-wide sheet of clear glass—a simple process. We then placed the pane on the ground outdoors, laying it on a towel to collect broken shards, and hit the center firmly with a hammer to break it.
As the glass shattered, the Eva Logik let out a hair-raising squeal that sounded more like a high-pitched whistle than a siren. While the manufacturer doesn’t list the actual decibel level, we estimated it to be about 95 dB compared to the other alarms. The downside to this type of alarm is that a separate sensor is needed for every window since it detects vibration and not sound. Those with multiple windows to secure may prefer a glass-break sound sensor, which is designed to detect the sound of glass breaking and set off an alarm.
- Type: Glass break (vibration) sensor
- Remote access: No
- Audible alert: Yes
- Easy to apply to window
- Warning sticker visible to potential intruders
- Loud whistlelike alarm
- Vibration sensitive only; not sound sensitive
- Not enough stickers to affix all 4 sensors
Get the Eva Logik door and window alarm at Amazon, Sears, or NewEgg.
Small and lightweight, the Emdmak door alarm is well suited for travel. It won’t take up a lot of space in a bag or duffel, and it’s super easy to use: Just wedge it under the door. As the only alarm tested that didn’t come with preinstalled batteries, we first had to locate and put in the required 9-volt battery. We closed a door, then slid and snugly wedged the Emdmak doorstop device underneath. The device offers low, medium, and high sensitivity levels, so after turning it on, we selected the high sensitivity level to find out just how little pressure we could put on the door before the alarm sounded.
When we attempted to open the door, an incredibly loud alarm sounded. The manufacturer lists it at 120 dB, and we believe it—we were wearing ear protection and still ran away from the area. When we retested the device on both medium and low sensitivity levels, we found no discernible difference in the sensitivity settings. In short, the alarm went off if we exerted only slight pressure on all three settings. Knocking on the door didn’t set off the alarm on any setting, but as soon as we turned the knob and pushed the door a tiny fraction of an inch, the alarm sounded.
Another attribute of this door alarm is its nonskid rubber base that doesn’t slide, which makes it even harder to force open the door, although the piercing alarm alone would likely deter most intruders. We felt this added a valuable measure of security and safety for the user, whether at home or traveling in an unfamiliar area where folks might feel somewhat more anxious.
- Type: Pressure sensor
- Remote access: No
- Audible alert: Yes
- Easy to use—just wedge under door
- Deafening siren
- Rubber base helps keep the door from opening
- 9-volt battery not included
- Pressure-sensitivity adjustment didn’t work
Get the Emdmak door alarm on Amazon or at Sears.
This security bar does double duty by preventing entry and emitting a loud alarm. It reminded us of the old standby tactic of wedging the back of a chair under a doorknob to prevent an intruder from pushing the door open; but this device works much better thanks to its clever design and rubber-grip foot that didn’t slide when we tested it on hardwood, ceramic tile, and carpeted flooring.
The metal bar adjusts to fit different doorknob heights. It can also be used in the track of a sliding door by switching out the end pieces for smaller rubber endcaps (included). The robustness of the blocking bar is matched by the sound of its ear-splitting alarm. The manufacturer cites it as 120 dB, and it certainly seemed that way to us despite the hearing protection we wore.
The included sensor that we attached to the bar detected even subtle movements, sounding the alarm when we applied the slightest pressure. It’s very sensitive, so while it would surely shriek if someone tried to push the door open, it also set off the alarm when we gave the door a firm knock. A light tap did not set it off, however.
Our complaint is in how the sensor attaches to the bar. The two small screws and nuts that are used to tighten the sensor on the bar are so small, we had to use a Phillips screwdriver to twist the screw and a set of pliers to hold the nut on the backside. If users take the bar traveling with them, they might want to attach the sensor before they leave home.
- Type: Vibration sensor
- Remote access: No
- Audible alert: Yes
- Very loud siren
- Prevents door from being pushed open
- Works on sliding glass doors as well
- Tiny screws and nuts require tools to install sensor
- Very sensitive vibration sensor
Get the SecurityMan door alarm on Amazon or at Target.
Ring Alarm Contact Sensor
In addition to the Ring Alarm Security Kit we tested, we also tested a single Ring Alarm Contact Sensor, but it must have been a lemon. We’ve tested many Ring products in the past and they’ve always performed well, but this contact sensor just wouldn’t sync with the Ring app. We even tried uninstalling the app after testing the more comprehensive Ring Kit and reinstalling it on the off chance the kit was somehow interfering. Still, the app never detected this individual sensor.
We had to eliminate this sensor from our tests, but we’re still fans of Ring, and we feel this was a fluke. We would not hesitate to purchase another contact sensor or any Ring product in the future.
All the door and window alarms that earned a spot on this lineup offer a measure of security and peace of mind, but our favorite is the YoLink door and window alarm. It earned our Best Overall award because the sensors sync with smart devices, and the hub uses LoRa radio-signal technology to extend the range of the sensors up to ¼ mile. Our budget pick, the GE door and window alarm, is affordable and offers point-of-use sirens to scare away intruders or notify users when a door or window opens.
How We Tested the Best Door and Window Alarms
Before we selected door and window alarms for hands-on testing, we researched more than 25 different models and types, paying close attention to how they worked and studying the feedback from consumers who bought them.
Brand reputation was also a consideration. Both Ring and GE are nationally known companies that produce top-of-the-line home-security products and systems. But we didn’t automatically eliminate smaller or niche brands as long as their alarms featured quality components and users rated them highly. In the end, we opted to test the best prospects from a range of different types of alarms.
When testing alarms with remote access, we downloaded the corresponding apps and synced the sensors to our Wi-Fi or Alexa system. We configured the alarms using the apps or programming directly using a keypad (when applicable). We tried out all the functions, such as volume control, setting passwords, and engaging and disengaging the alarms from the app or the keypad.
We tested all the alarms, both the smart devices and the point-of-use models, by opening windows and doors (or trying to open them) to trigger the alarms. We noted how easy (or difficult) it was to set the alarms up, and we estimated their loudness if the manufacturer didn’t cite the decibel level. We used hearing protection after we tested the first alarm; it was so loud that it hurt our ears.
Throughout the testing process, we scored each product using a rubric. The better the product performed a function, the higher the score it received. After testing, we averaged the scores and used the results to help us categorize the alarms.
If you still aren’t sure which door and window alarm system would be best for you, the following answers to some of the most commonly asked questions may help.
Q. Do you need sensors on every door and window?
Whether or not you need sensors on every door and window depends on the type of alarm. Some glass-break detectors and motion sensors can often cover more than one access point, while others detect vibration or pressure from a single point. Either way, make sure the most vulnerable entry spot in the home has an alarm.
Q. How do you test a door sensor?
Some alarms come with test buttons, but others should be tested by trying to open the door or window in question to ensure they’re working. In some cases, you can test sensors connected to an app by simply checking the diagnostic in the app.
Q. Do house alarms go off when you open a window?
Usually, the alarm is triggered by opening a window while the system is armed. However, there are window alarms that allow you to open your window narrowly without activating the alarm so that you can get fresh air from outside without sacrificing safety.