Pros and Cons of DIY Home Security Systems

DIY alarm system

A DIY burglar alarm system can be expanded to meet your home’s requirements

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to installing a home alarm is often not the initial installation or equipment costs, but the recurring monthly fees associated with traditional alarm systems. (Learn more about how much home security costs.) Though these fees are not exorbitant – most alarm companies charge less monthly than what you’d pay for cable TV – they do add up to a few hundred dollars per year.

What you may not know is that today’s homeowners have a second option in their home security arsenal: DIY burglar alarms. These systems are similar to what you get from a professional security company bur with two main differences: you install your system (no technician available) and there is no company monitoring of your home’s security.

Pros of a DIY Home Security System

It’s Less Expensive
A DIY home alarm has most of the system components you’re accustomed to – keypad, door sensors, window sensors, and motion sensors – and still costs less than $200 for a basic system. That’s a one-time fee, so once you purchase your system, you won’t have additional alarm expenses.

It’s Wireless
Wireless alarm systems aren’t hard-wired into your electrical system, which makes them easier to install, expand, move, upgrade, and change.

It’s Portable
If you rent or might move in the future, a DIY system is easy to uninstall and take with you to your new location. This is particularly beneficial for renters, who otherwise might not have the option for an alarm system.

Online Monitoring
Many DIY systems offer “smart home” features, which means that via an online portal or cell phone app you can adjust lights in your home, change the thermostat, and perform other adjustments – including home monitoring (depending on your system).

Cell Phone Alerts
If your security is breached, your alarm system is connected via cell phone signal to call you – and anyone else you put on your call list. Generally speaking, you’ll be asked to record a warning message that will notify 1-10 parties of the break-in. (You cannot choose 911 as one of these numbers.)

DIY home security

Today, DIY home security is much higher tech than it once was

Cons of a DIY Home Security System

Add-ons Can Be Expensive
If you need more components than come with your system – for example, extra window sensors – you’ll often pay $20+ for each new component. That can get get expensive, considering most systems come with only two or three window sensors. If the ground floor of your home has eight movable windows, you might pay more than $100 additional for accessories to protect each window. The same is true for multiple doors and areas where you need motion sensors.

It’s Simple
Most home alarm companies offer security options above and beyond their basic package: battery backups, redundant alerts, pet-immune motion sensors, panic buttons, fire monitoring (with fire company alert), and more. A DIY home alarm generally does not offer anything beyond basic wireless security.

No Connection to Police
One of the biggest advantages to a monitored alarm system is that the police and/or fire company is alerted in case of emergency. This does not happen with a DIY system, which notifies you (and others you put on the notification list), making it your responsibility to decide on the next course of action.

Limited Warranty and/or Support

Once you buy your DIY system, you’re often on your own. The manufacturer may be able to answer basic questions, but you won’t be able to call for regular tech support, free equipment upgrades, etc.

You’re Responsible for Repairs

With a traditional burglar alarm, your alarm company will replace faulty equipment free of charge, or at least at a reduced cost. With a DIY system, if a component (or the entire system) fails, the replacement cost is yours.

Incorrect Installation

True to name, you’ll do it yourself with this system. Unless you’re a security professional, that increases the risk of incorrect installation of your home alarm system.

For more on DIY home security, check out these Expert Tips on DIY Home Security Systems

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The Benefits of a Wireless Home Alarm System

Large Suburban Home Security

A wireless alarm system can keep even a large home secure

When home alarms first became available, wireless technology hadn’t even been invented yet. That meant that everything was installed with wires, wires everywhere: wires running through your home’s walls and ceilings, snaking out to the master and secondary keypads and into your home’s landline phone system. This lasted a few years until a replacement was necessary. If you didn’t pay for an upgrade, your wall looked like a patient permanently cut open on the operating table – your alarm system guts spilling out everywhere.

Then along came

Top 5 Highest Rated Wireless Alarm Systems

1. Simplisafe2 Wireless Home Security System 8-piece Plus Package
The SimpliSafe Wireless Home Alarm System is both a very highly rated and an extremely popular choice among homeowners who want a simple but full home alarm system that is easy to install. This wireless alarm system can be installed in your home on your own in under an hour and does not require a long-term commitment for a home monitoring service, though the service itself is inexpensive and offers great customer service.

2. Fortress Security Store (TM) S02-A Wireless Home Security Alarm System
Fortress is a well-known brand in wireless home security and rightfully so. This model has the most consistently positive feedback among homeowners, with features such as a fully programmable main unit and sensors, passive motion sensors, an auto-dialer function, and a loud, 110dB alarm that alerts neighbors and deters potential intruders.

3. Fortress Security Store (TM) S02-B Wireless Home Security Alarm System Kit with Auto Dial + Outdoor Siren
This is another popular wireless alarm system from Fortress that includes some more features for homeowners who want even more comprehensive home security. This model has all of the same basic features as the SO2-A model, but also includes an auto-dialer function that will call up to 6 designated phone numbers in case of a security breach, additional sensors, and an outdoor siren.

4. PiSector PS03-M12 Professional Wireless Home Security Alarm System Kit with Auto Dial
This wireless home security system offers some very unique features that might be attractive to some homeowners, such as a Silent Alarm Mode which calls out discreetly (suitable for shops or in life-threatening situations), a microprocessor-controlled pet-immune sensors for detecting motion of objects above 50 lbs with pre-analysis before alerting to minimize false alarms, and a volume adjustable function with mute to hide the console so an intruder cannot find it and smash it.

5. Skylink SC-1000 Complete Wireless Alarm System
This Skylink wireless alarm system is a comprehensive DIY wireless security system that is easy to install and ready to use. The emergency dialer (AD-105) is your own monitoring center without any monitoring fees, and when triggered, its siren will sound and a signal will be sent to wireless dialer to call up to 9 preprogrammed phone or pager numbers, playing your prerecorded message.

Advantages of Wireless Alarms

  1. Easy Installation: One of the top advantages of a wireless alarm system is that it does not require the destructive and costly installation of a wired alarm. Wired home alarms require electrical installation – circuit testing, electrical leads, and wire-stripping – and also physical installation, which may include minor demolition and can even require [expensive] contractor services to drill through granite and marble, reroute pipes, and make other necessary changes to install a wired alarm. A wireless system needs only basic tools, a few screws, and a couple of free hours.
  2. Wireless Alarm System

    A wireless alarm system is easily expandable and upgradable

    Battery-Powered: Though some wired systems have battery backup, these are only emergency measures that deplete quickly. Wireless systems, on the other hand, are designed to function on battery power only (or primarily) and therefore offer a more robust and reliable system for battery power. Most also prompt you to check the batteries on a regular basis, so you won’t be caught with an unpowered system. Battery power also means that even if a home invader cuts your power lines, your system is still go for protection.

  3. Range: The best wireless systems can easily communicate over hundreds of feet – more than double the range of a basic wired system. This makes it easier to secure even far-flung property (like a detached garage or outbuildings that sit away from the house). And if you live on acreage, several wired systems can be linked together to create a comprehensive security net over your entire property.
  4. Cellular Network: Most wireless systems send out the alarm via cell phone signal. That means that even if your power goes out or your phone lines are cut, your system is still connected to the alarm company, the local police, and anyone else on the notification list. Even the best burglar would have a hard time taking out the entire cell network.
  5. Affordable: Because wireless alarms do not require hard-wiring or major installation, these systems are even affordable for small home owners and renters. (Wireless systems are portable, too, so you can take them to a new rental home when you move.)
  6. Cellular Alert

    A wireless alarm sounds an emergency via cell phone signal (not your home phone line)

    Smart Home: The technology built into some wireless alarm systems allows you not only to install video monitoring and receive activity notifications of any occurrences in your home, but also to control other systems via your computer or smart phone. These include the lights, door locks, and temperature controls – especially useful when you’re away on vacation or if you’ve secured a second home.

  7. Easy Troubleshooting: Your alarm installer can often identify remotely any problems with your wireless alarm. This means that you can call technical service and have your fix during the same phone call – no technician visit required. Additionally, many wireless alarms run their own troubleshooting programs automatically and proactively notify you of any problems or warning signs.
  8. Easy Upgrades: Since each component of your system is wireless, it is easy to remove one part and replace it for an upgraded model. You can also buy additional sensors or tack-on new features, like video monitoring, after you’ve installed the system. You can’t do any of that easily with a wired alarm.

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