DIY Home Security: 21 Experts Share Their Top Tips on How to Install a Home Security System Yourself
by SSF | Last Updated Mar. 2nd, 2016
Aside from food on the table and a roof over your head, one of the absolute most important things to have in one’s home in order to have peace of mind is the feeling of safety in the case of intruders.
While some homeowners are able to spend lots of money for a complex, professionally installed security system in order to address this, the reality is that some homeowners are either unable or unwilling to do the same, especially when there are many do-it-yourself (DIY) home security system options available on the market today.
So, as a company that strives to provide the best home safety information for families and homeowners, we took on the task of finding out more about the do-it-yourself home security installation process, and more specifically, we aimed to gather tips directly from security experts on what to do and what not to do when installing a DIY home security system. To do this, we asked 21 home security experts to answer this question:
“What’s the most important tip you have for homeowners who want to install a DIY home security system?”
We’ve collected and compiled their expert advice into this comprehensive guide to effectively installing a DIY home security system. See what our experts said below:
Meet Our Panel of DIY Home Security Experts:
Steve Coppola is President of APB Security Systems Inc., and has had over thirty years experience in the security industry. This experience includes actual “hands on” installation of security systems, supervision of residential and large commercial/industrial installations, performing security surveys of both residential and commercial properties, coordinating alarm and security installations with contractors providing other services at both new construction sites and large renovation sites, etc. Mr. Coppola holds a Baccalaureate Degree in Behavioral Science, majoring in Criminal Justice. In addition to his experience in the field of security, he spent several years as a law enforcement officer.
The most important tip I have for homeowners who want to install a DIY home security system is…
Don’t automatically assume that do it yourself systems are less expensive.
In an industry where most licensed professionals routinely offer free or highly discounted installations in return for a central station monitoring commitment, consider the benefits.
You can have the system designed effectively and installed by an experienced technician, whereby helping to insure that it works when needed while also reducing the risk of false
And since 24 hour monitoring, by a licensed and U.L. approved facility, averages only about $1 per day, the choice to leave security to the professionals is that much easier.
David Nance is a nationally acclaimed safety expert dedicated to educating law enforcement officers and the public about personal safety. David created the SABRE Personal Safety Academy, overseeing hundreds of instructors nationwide to provide everyone with the ability to invest in their personal safety by learning techniques to identify threats, and tips to escape dangerous situations safely. As CEO of SABRE Security Equipment Corporation, David launched the home series line to provide people the chance to secure their homes in affordable and effective ways. David has been featured on Spike TV, Fox & Friends, and Chicago news outlets. Learn more about David and his work at www.personalsafetyexpert.com.
The most important tip for homeowners installing a DIY home security system would be…
To invest in securing all main entrance points and all ground floor windows and doors.
More than 50% of home invasions are occurring through first floor entry points. Additionally, if you’re investing in an alarm system, test it to ensure all sensors are working, and you have the proper batteries for each device – and change them as needed.
As we’re approaching cooler temperatures with fall right around the corner – many of us want to turn off the air conditioning and leave our windows open so cool air can flow in. Motion sensing alarms are a great addition to a home security system when windows are left open.
The SABRE home series – which can be found in Target stores nationwide or online at our website, offers several motion sensing alarms that will sound a 120 decibel siren when activated – that can be heard up to 300 feet away! The benefits of using wireless or standalone alarms are many. Homeowners will be able to avoid expensive monthly fees, wiring installation costs, and still receive an excellent level of protection.
When alarms sound at 120 decibels, you and any neighbors or people living in the vicinity of your home are woken up – but most importantly, now the intruder knows that if you’re home you are now awake. We know intruders want the path of least resistance and an alert homeowner with noisy alarms is not an easy target.
Timothy Dahl is a Maker, Designer and DIY enthusiast who loves finding ways to turn a house into a home. Smart Homes and “The Internet of Things” are his current obsession. He’s the founder of the home improvement site, Charles & Hudson, and the recently launched smart home site, Home Vroom. His previous gigs include This Old House, ELLE DECOR and Woman’s Day and his projects have been highlighted on the DIY Network, Popular Mechanics and The Family Handyman.
Good news! Setting up a home security system doesn’t need to cost thousands, or even hundreds of dollars like it did a few years ago. But when choosing a do-it-yourself home security system, I have a few words of advice…
You not only want to choose a system that fits your budget and has the devices you need most, but you also need to consider costs for upgrading your system and if they have enough products to fit your future needs as most people end up expanding on their current system if they are happy with it.
Because there is no set standard, most home security systems are setup on closed platforms so you are locked into whichever system you choose. It’s always best to go with a larger company that has a significant investment in the home security category and isn’t just rushing to put a product on the shelves that they might discontinue in 6 months.
Also verify all costs including anything for setup, ongoing monthly fees and tech support.
Shep and Nancy Bryan are the Co-Founders and Owners of Maximum Security Safes and Casoro Jewelry Safes, two California-based providers of safes and vaults of all types and sizes. Since both of their companies are family owned and operated businesses, Shep and Nancy Bryan have a vested interest in offering the best service and safe products for homeowners to feel confident that their most valuable possession are secure in their home.
The most important tip homeowners should keep in mind for their home security systems is…
Make sure to have a fail-safe in case the worst should happen.
In the event that parts of a security system should fail, the last line of defense for any home security system should be your safe. This means you have already implemented other lines of defense to deter a burglar, such as a dog with a good bark, signs saying you have an alarm system, and of course your actual alarm system.
If you want to take your security system a step further, you can also sync your safe with your alarm system, by adding a Duress Alarm Interface. This way, in case of a home invasion, if the burglar tries to get you to open your safe, you can enter an alternate code, which will open the safe, but notify your security company at the same time!
Most importantly, it’s crucial to invest in a good quality safe to secure your valuables. Not just any old safe will do; we’ve heard many sad stories about cheap safes that failed during robberies; so, contact a safe specialty store to ensure you make your safe purchase right the first time. Also consider fire protection, to ensure security for your valuables against fire as well as burglary. A good quality safe should last you a lifetime.
Robert D. Sollars is an Author, Consultant, Speaker and a recognized expert on workplace violence prevention and other security issues including home security. With numerous interviews, blogs, articles, and 2 books, Robert has proven himself as a leader in the security arena for more than 31 years. Robert is the Author of “Preventing Violence in Our Schools” and “One is too Many: Recognizing & Preventing Workplace Violence”. Learn more about Robert D. Sollars at his blog, www.todays-training.com.
I believe the one tip that I would pass along to anyone who wants to install their own system is…
Do your research and shop around.
That sounds like a cliché, but let me elaborate on it. A homeowner needs to know the difference between a sensor and an alarm (yes there is a difference). They also need to know several things about range of their alarms/sensors. And they need to know that just because it’s more expensive/cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better for them.
The biggest difference in alarms/sensors is alarms will sound an alarm, silent or audible. Sensors will simply tell you that something happened. For a home security system you need an alarm sensor that sounds an alarm, either silently or audible (preferable). The range of one of these is also important.
You don’t want to think that you can place it at maximum range of efficiency and expect to perform optimally. You may need more than one. And lastly, if you go to a home security store or a place like Radio Shack remember they will try to sell you the most expensive they have. Hardware stores have many of the same items at a much cheaper price and efficiency.
Again, the key is research. What do you want it do and when.
Sadie Cornelius is Director of Marketing for ASecureLife.com, a website dedicated to providing resources for safety at home, online and on the road. With more than 9 years experience in communications, new and traditional media, public relations, special events and film, her experience ranges from Fortune 500 companies to local non-profits. When it comes to life, Sadie is a secure girl. She takes extra precaution in security not only when it comes to online, but at home and on the road; a big advocate for being proactive and anticipating any possible situation that could arise.
Here are 3 important tips for homeowners considering a DIY system:
1. Decide on a place where you can hide your main keypad – most people think it needs to be visible by the front door but you should put it somewhere like a closet or kitchen counter and use the key fobs (or your smart phone) to arm/disarm.
2. Look for a system that can grow with you as you grown and/or move – one of the many great benefits of DIY systems is that they are wireless and thus, easier to relocate when you move.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask question – and don’t feel stupid if you don’t understand how to set something up. Their technicians are patient, understanding and are there to help guide you, so don’t worry if you are unsure – you want to make sure you get it right so the system works property!
Dr. Steve Albrecht, PHR, CPP, BCC is a Security Consultant and Threat Assessment Expert who is Board-Certified in HR, Security, Coaching in San Diego, and also former member of the San Diego Police Department and Author on workplace violence and school prevention. Learn more about Dr. Steve Albrecht and his work at www.drstevealbrecht.com.
I would say the mistake I see when homeowners install home security systems is that…
They don’t always get cameras that can work in all types of light.
Cameras that give great images during the day don’t always show anything useful at night and vice versa, e.g., cameras that point into direct sunlight show washed-out images. Related to that is the image itself; the need for a high-quality image, that can be captured to a DVR and printed as a screen shot and given to the cops following a burglary or other incident is critical.
Fuzzy, blurry, grainy shots that can’t help the cops identify the face clearly are useless. I’ve seen camera images where it’s hard to identify if it is a mammal!
Spencer Coursen is the President of Coursen Security Group, a firm that provides security consulting services to a diverse client list on the prevention, planning and response to the realistic concerns of personal and physical safety. Over the course of his diverse career, Mr. Spencer Coursen has planned, executed and led close protection details for dignitaries, heads of state, boards of directors, CEOs, celebrities, media, and public figures on more than 300 international trips to 163 different countries. After earning a B.A. in both Sociology and Psychology, Mr. Coursen served in the US Army, where he was a graduate of the U.S. Army Airborne School and the U.S. Army Ranger School. By the end of his Army career, Mr. Coursen had helped to plan and lead more than 80 combat missions, often times working closely with the Australian Special Air Service, U.S. Special Forces, and agencies of the U.S. Government throughout Afghanistan.
Regardless of who installs your home security system or however many features your system may offer, it is important to keep these two very significant factors in mind…
1. Your alarm is not designed to prevent something from happening. It is designed to alert you to the fact that something IS happening.
2. Have and rehearse a plan for what you and your family are going to do if/when your alarm goes off.
You very likely just spent a considerable amount of money to buy yourself the precious seconds needed when moments matter most. Most people spend a considerable amount of time researching and investing in the best system to alert them of danger. Very few ask the follow-up question of what they should do when something does.
Do yourself a favor and have your family emergency plan in place BEFORE the alarm first sounds. Have a plan, know where to go, and know how to get there.
Brent Grove is a Certified Law Enforcement Officer and Law Enforcement Firearms Instructor with years of international security and military operations, and is also the Owner of WARGROVE, LLC. WARGROVE is a company that provides various types of training, with its main focus on Home Defense Assessments, which involve a comprehensive 75-point inspection and develop an Action Plan for homeowners on how to improve overall security of their home.
The most important tip I have for homeowners who want to install a DIY home security system is…
Keep it simple.
Having been a police officer for many years I saw a lot of burglaries in houses that had alarm systems but the alarm systems were not on at the time of the burglary. The number one excuse I would get from the homeowner or family members was the alarm system was too complicated to operate. It came down to usually a few family members not comfortable on how to operate the security systems.
With technology today it has never been easier to install and operate your own custom alarm system. To make the system works, as it should, it is crucial that homeowners just keep it simple. Discuss with all family members the options and figure out what system works best for your entire family. The DIY home security systems available today provide plenty options.
Find one that is simple to install, easy to use for all family members, has a low monthly (no contract) monitoring fee, and is expandable if your needs change. Follow these simple guidelines and you will have a positive experience and meet your main goal, a more secure home for your family.
Elizabeth Dodson is the Co-Founder of HomeZada, a cloud-based home improvement and organizational software tool. HomeZada strives to educate and provide resources for homeowners in all areas of home management, including home improvement projects, maintenance, inventory, property information, and property value.
The most important tip homeowners can have when selecting and installing a DIY home security system is to…
Understand what your home’s needs are as well as what will give you peace of mind.
A homeowner can install a simple security system with an alarm to scare off intruders or invest a bit more by having your system connect with an outside call center that will alert the appropriate authorities to the situation.
If you travel a lot and will feel safer about your possessions, then connecting to an outside center to notify the appropriate people might be best system to make sure your home and its possessions are cared for and someone is able to get to you home immediately.
Richard L. Soloway is Chairman and CEO of NAPCO Security Technology and a global expert and counselor in security trends and issues including domestic and institutional security breaches leading to human injury and loss of life, kidnapping, loss of property, as well as robberies and terrorism and espionage. With 30 years experience pioneering the international security industry, Mr. Soloway received Ernst & Young’s “Entrepreneur of the Year Award” in 2001, has been quoted by the media as a security expert, listed in the “Who’s Who in Finance and Industry”, and with his wife Donna Soloway, was awarded in June 2006, by New York’s Guardian Angels’, the Distinguished Achievement Award as Champions for Safety Through Education.
My advice to a first time homeowners looking to install a DIY security system is…
To get a monitored alarm system for burglary and fire protection.
A DIY product doesn’t necessarily have 24/7 monitoring by a professional alarm company that can dispatch; the fire and police departments as well as medical emergency ambulances with the push of a call for help button in a few spots around the home.
Monitored alarms are very inexpensive compared to the cost of your home and they get you a nice insurance discount. They are offered in basic protection models and the new technology smartphone operated model called iBridge by NAPCO. When doing a basic DIY installation, you may install a few smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector, but please be aware that you’ve got to be home to hear these ring and you must call the fire department and that’s not always possible!
Here are some general home safety tips to always keep in mind:
1. Don’t hide your keys. Many burglaries don’t require forcible entry.
2. Know Your Neighbors. Friendly, caring neighbors are your first line of defense. Watch out for suspicious activity.
3. Trim hedges so no windows or doors are obscured. Make sure all potential entry points are well lit.
4. Lock your doors and windows at all times, including the garage door. Don’t leave keys outside. Store ladders or “stepping stones” inside so there is no availability to a window or roof. Install dead bolts on doors.
5. Give the impression your “in” even when you’re not. Leaving a light, television or radio on will give the impression someone is home. .
6. Set and activate lights, radio or TV on a timer so they switch on and off regularly. If you’re working late or eating out, it will look like someone is home.
7. At your local retailer, buy a combination outdoor motion detector and light unit, so the outside light turns on if someone approaches a front or back door.
8. Leave blinds and shades in their normal positions. Burglars are attracted to homes with windows that remain covered day and night.
9. Change the answering machine message from “Nobody’s home right now” to “We can’t get to the phone right away.”
10. Disable or turn down the ringers so unanswered rings won’t be heard from outside.
11. Post a “Beware of Dog” sign or advertise your security system, regardless of whether you have one.
12. Keep valuables out of sight and refrain from the predictable hiding places such as in dresser drawers, the freezer, under the mattress and in the cookie jar. Engrave your driver’s license on valuables.
13. Know whom you are opening the door for. Use the peephole for security to identify visitors.
14. Apartment dwellers should opt for the best safety measures you can afford, and that includes professional and unobtrusive security such as a bellman, electronic card access, security guards and video surveillance.
15. Be sure there is plenty of exterior light so you can see and things can be seen.
Norman E. Weisinger is the Founder and CEO of Cool Energy Island, a provider of low cost, next generation Energy Monitoring, Energy Management, Advanced Automation & Networking (Wired and Wireless) and Portable Energy Storage Products and Software Applications for renters, homeowners and small/medium businesses. Norm has over 30 years of experience in technology deployment, operations and productivity development, systems development and integration for many small companies and large corporations across multiple industries.
For those individuals who are procuring new DIY security systems, we recommend the following…
1. Make sure you can get your money back if it doesn’t work for you (minimum: 7 day return – 100% money back)
2. The system should be easy to install / setup (hardware and software) and easy to operate.
a. If the instructions are too hard to understand out-of-the-box, send it back immediately!
3. System must have a battery backup capability that can last 3-7 days and an alternative calling / notification capability (i.e. internet notifications, cellular)
4. Newer system should provide you with the option to send you an alarm directly (SMS and/or email) or to a central station monitoring service (or both)
5. System should be capable of sending transactions to third party systems (i.e. door sensors to energy management system).
Joseph Kingma is the Vice President of Medeco eCylinders and ASSA ABLOY High Security and Aftermarket Group Special Projects. Joseph began his career at Medeco in 1994 and in 2006, he shifted into a role to create and lead a multifunctional group with the primary purpose of quickly introducing new and highly sophisticated electronic cylinder products in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape of physical security. Under Joseph’s leadership, Medeco developed four different eCylinder platforms, each aimed at solving a specific segment of customer issues. eCylinders are now used to solve many “loss-and-liability” challenges that neither traditional mechanical cylinders nor traditional access control hardware could.
The most important tip I have for homeowners who are looking into installing a DIY home security system is…
Don’t overlook your key system!
Most homeowners don’t understand how easily most keys can be duplicated, and the risk of that duplication without their knowledge. If keys are not based on a patented technology – either mechanical or electronic – anyone with temporary access to the key can make a copy and enter the home without anyone’s knowledge since mechanical keys don’t leave an audit trail.
Ask a security professional about the options available especially the new electronic keys that allow homeowners to monitor when keys are used and limit the time they work.
Sarah Leary is the Co-Founder and Vice President of Marketing at Nextdoor, the free and private social network for neighborhoods. Sarah started her career at Microsoft, and served as the Vice President of Product and Marketing at Epinions and Shopping.com, before the company was sold to eBay. Sarah graduated from Harvard University with a BA and MBA.
At Nextdoor, we have seen that neighbors who know each other, look out for each other and help stop crime before it happens. The most important tip I have for homeowners who want to put together their own home security system is…
Start by building a safer neighborhood by connecting neighbors to one another so they can share timely information and protect themselves.
Once neighbors connect with each other, they can easily share alerts, photos of suspicious activity, and video surveillance snippets from home security systems that can help neighbors stay on the lookout. We designed Nextdoor to make it easy for neighbors to sign-up, verify their address, and create a safe place to share these important safety updates.
Some things you can do with Nextdoor are:
- Send an urgent alert via email and text message to all neighbors about suspicious activity
- Share a photo with neighbors of a suspicious vehicle
- Warn neighbors about natural disasters and connect about recovery efforts
- Upload surveillance footage of a burglar to keep neighbors on the look-out
Robert Siciliano is the CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com, and a Personal Security and Identity Theft Expert and Speaker. He is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds.
The most important aspect of any DIY that I would stress to homeowners is…
The initial research.
There are numerous products for every budget and sifting through the various options
to determine what you need and don’t will save time and money.
Adam Justice is Vice President and General Manager of Grid Connect, a manufacturer and distributor of networking products and wireless sensors. He is responsible for developing the vision for the ConnectSense product line, a family of wireless sensors that monitor the things you care about and notify you when something goes awry. Adam is an expert on the Internet of Things and has spoken on the topic at conferences including Dreamforce. Adam started his career at Accenture where he was a consultant working on systems and IT projects for a number of Fortune 500 companies throughout the country. Adam left Accenture in 2009 to join Grid Connect.
The most important tip I have for homeowners who want to install a DIY home security system is…
First, don’t allow strangers inside your home.
With a DIY security system there is no reason to let a stranger into your home for installation purposes. In less than 30 minutes using only a screwdriver, you can mount a sensor anywhere in your home. They are designed to run off of wall current and some models use batteries as well.
The next step is to set up if/ then notification rules i.e. if the door opens between 11PM and 6 AM, alert me. Alerts can take the form of a text, tweet, email or call depending upon your preference.
It is also important to look at one costs associated with security systems. Monthly recurring fees add up quickly and make some systems cost prohibitive. Look for DIY monitoring systems that leverage your existing Wi-Fi connect to cut out monthly fees.
Kevin Raposo is a Blogger for SimpliSafe, a wireless DIY home security company, where he primarily writes about home security, technology, and crime. When he’s not blogging for SimpliSafe, he’s writing for his own tech blog, KnowTechie.
One of the most important tips I can offer homeowners who want to install a DIY home security system is…
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and explore the system.
One of the most important aspects of installing your own home security system is the actual installation its self. Make sure all of the sensors are adhered or screwed into a wall or door to prevent any false alarms. False alarms can be frustrating, but at the end, it’s usually due to installation.
On other major important tip I can offer, which is never mentioned: Have a conversation with your local police about their policy with alarm systems, and start that dialogue so you know 1) permits 2) false alarms 3) dispatch procedure etc.
Keith Brandon is the Sales and Marketing Director for residential access solutions with Spectrum Brands HHI division. Keith oversees all of the residential electronic lock strategies and initiatives across North America for the market leading residential lock brands of Baldwin, Kwikset, and Weiser locks. This includes Kevo, the first to market Bluetooth enabled residential door lock. He is also responsible for the company’s Home Connect products that deliver industry leading integrated Zigbee and Z Wave lock solutions to the emerging and expanding home automation and security markets.
The most important tips I can offer homeowners who want to install their own home security system is…
Be a smart homeowner.
Consider your current lifestyle and the needs of your family when choosing any home security system. For example, do you travel often? Do you have children that arrive home from school while you are away? Do you have service personnel that need access to the home at predetermined times?
These considerations will help inform your decision and could set one system ahead of the rest. The purchase decision of a home security system is often an emotional one, so trust your instincts and educate yourself on what’s best for you and your family. If you feel the system is safe and trustworthy to meet your needs, and if it can be demonstrated for ease of use and a user-friendly process, you can rely on smart home technology to ensure you and your family are safe and secure.
Greg Davis is the CEO and Founder/Creator of The Lock Locker, a new patented safety device for families that helps stop criminals from unlocking your door locks by preventing bump keys, 3D printed keys, stolen keys and other unauthorized keys from trying to gain access to your home.
Making your home harder to get into is the MOST important thing you can do to protect your family. My advice to homeowners who want to install their own home security system is…
All doors MUST be secured with an additional lock from the inside that can not be accessed by someone on the outside.
The #1 safety mistake 99% of families are making is assuming that simply locking ones deadbolt and door handle is enough. In truth locking ones door provides zero security to criminals or anyone who may have a copy of that homes key. Criminals are buying “Bump Keys” online and they open 90% of locks.
Also there is a new threat to home security: 3D Printed keys, where anyone is able to digitize a house key with an app on their smart phone and then have it 3D printed. This key is an EXACT copy of the original house key and entering the home will be quick and quiet, which is exactly what criminals are look for.
Our patented invention called The Lock Locker prevents ANYONE from unlocking ones deadbolt EVEN IF THEY HAVE A KEY TO YOUR HOME.
Richard Mangahas spent the last 8 years working in home automation and security in Orange County. Regarding security, Richard specifically specialized in physical security and access control. Richard now primarily works as an engineer, and available for private consultation at email@example.com.
I have many years of experience working with homeowners who want to install their own home security systems. The first thing I used to tell all clients is…
There is no magic security system. The most important security elements are things well within your control.
Second, security begins with common sense and basics. No security system makes up for bad habits.
- Lock your door when inside the house
- Lock your door when outside the house
- Lock your windows
I am surprised at how many people leave doors unlocked. The Bureau of Justice Statistics lists 1,033,980 incidents where entry was gained by an open or unlocked windows (Table 7). It’s nearly 1/3 of all burglaries.
– Use your peephole and don’t let anyone in you weren’t expecting.
The same report shows 129,770 cases of an offender being let into the house. That’s 32,000 crimes that could have been prevented by simply not opening the door. I usually suggest the DIY-er to install a camera and intercom at the door. This way you can see the person and converse with them if you wished. Some advanced versions of this have the intercom call your cell phone so even if you’re away, it seems like you are not.
– Get things that make noise
I usually suggest some electronics that sound like a dog, a firebell, or a marine horn. These are items you can keep nearby and are amazing deterrents and attention getters. I often suggest the DIYer setup some remote controls and place them in various spots in the house to trigger them. The firebell is one of my favorites as it can usually be installed in the back of a kitchen cabinet.
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