Is a DIY Home Security System Right For You?
Home security has come a long way over the last decade. These days, do-it-yourself house protection is available to nearly everyone — but is a DIY home security system right for you?
If you’re tech savvy, looking for the cheapest security system or simply value the flexibility and ease of a wireless home security system, it just may be. If you’re looking for a more traditional home security system, need advice from a professional or just don’t have the time to install your own system, a professionally installed and monitored system might be better fit.
Still trying to figure out which option is best for you? We’ve gathered research on the pros and cons of each option below, along with the information you need to know if you’re thinking about DIY home security.
What are the differences between professional installation/monitoring and DIY?
In the past, comprehensive home security could only be achieved through professional installation. The DIY option would usually be considered a bad idea for anyone but the most technologically-inclined. Now the difference between the two options is mostly time and money.
DIY home security systems are generally less expensive than professional installations because the homeowner is doing the work themselves. Although it takes more time, it also gives the home security system a personal touch, and no one is more concerned about a home’s security than the person living there.
Despite innovations in DIY security, anyone installing their own system will need to be somewhat tech-savvy. A professionally installed security system can be a relief for homeowners who aren’t sure which way to go on the technology that’s needed for adequate security.
Anyone who’s renting and interested in home security should probably look into DIY security first, as professional installation may not be a viable option as it’s typically permanent.
What DIY security options are available?
DIY home security systems can be customized to fit the needs of almost any home. Most current DIY home security systems come as kits to ensure that all of the components connect and work together. These kits range in price and complexity, but they all generally contain two things—a hub and sensors.
The hub is the brains of the system. It is where the user will be able to monitor and control the sensors to varying degrees, depending on which home security system is used. Modern home security hubs are usually wireless, and some feature cellular and power outage backup as well.
Sensors that connect to the hub are used to monitor doors, windows, and other vulnerable spots on the homeowner’s property. These sensors can be two-piece devices that attach to walls and windowsills or more advanced motion detectors that cover entire areas.
What features do you need most in a DIY home security system?
The main thing DIY alarm systems need to be is reliable. When considering which features will work best for a home, the top concern should be ensuring the system will do the job under all circumstances. Purchasing a DIY system with backup power will keep the security running through outages and other unexpected events.
When looking into different features on security systems, don’t get caught up in fancy add-ons like deluxe touch screens and home automation. These features can be nice, but the nuts and bolts of any home security system are the sensors—and how well they connect and respond to the control hub. These features should receive the most attention when researching home security options.
Can my smart home devices work with my DIY home security system?
The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to change the way we interact with our homes. Some homeowners in the market for DIY home security may already have some smart home features set up and wish to integrate their existing IoT features into the security system. Now home security dealers are selling systems that can link up to homeowner’s smart devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home.
If the home is already outfitted with a few smart devices, it might be worth checking with the manufacturers to see if the new system will be able to link up with the existing devices.
What are the Pros & Cons of a Professionally Monitored System?
- Professional monitoring around the clock
- Repairs for security equipment usually included in service
- Monitored systems usually require a lower investment upfront, due to ongoing contract
- Expert installation means that the job is done right
- Security professionals can recommend solutions that fits the needs of individual homeowners
- Not as customizable as DIY home security
- Usually requires signing up for a contract, sometimes multi-year
- Moving requires notifying monitoring service and may involve additional expenses
- A third-party must enter into the home to install a monitored system
- Monitored security services often lease equipment, instead of selling it
What are the Pros & Cons of a DIY Security System?
- Highly customizable features and equipment
- Rarely requires signing up for an ongoing contract
- Equipment can be easily relocated to a new home
- Can be self-installed without a third-party
- Homeowners usually buy and own security equipment, rather than lease it from a company
- Often requires self-monitoring
- If something breaks down the homeowner will need to make repairs themselves
- Higher upfront cost, due to the homeowner purchasing the equipment
- Self-installation leaves room for mistakes
- Purchasing the necessary security equipment relies on independent research and technical know-how
Signs You Should DIY
- You’re tech-savvy
- You want the lowest cost
- You’re a renter or move often
- You’re not comfortable with installers in your home
- You’re OK with self-monitoring
Signs You Should Choose Professional Installation
- You’re not good with tech
- You want a more robust, complex system
- You’re a homeowner and plan to stick around
- You’re too busy to install a DIY system yourself
- You want professional advice
What are the top DIY home security providers?
- Best Overall DIY Security System
SimpliSafe Home SecurityOur rating9.9Starting at$14.99/mo
Our take on SimpliSafe Home Security:
SimpliSafe is our top home security pick because it offers reliable home security equipment at a cheaper price than most competitors. Even though smart home equipment isn’t offered, you’ll have the flexibility to create the system you want within your budget thanks to SimpliSafe’s customizable plans. But keep in mind that you’ll need to pay for equipment upfront because financing isn’t available.
★ Recommended package: The Haven plan offers the best value among SimpliSafe’s offerings. It gives you intrusion and environmental monitoring equipment for less than $500. The package includes security essentials, a smoke detector, a temperature sensor and more. You can add cameras and SimpliSafe’s Video Doorbell Pro for the full SimpliSafe security experience.
- Equipment and monitoring plans are cheaper than competitors
- Optional professional monitoring and installation
- Customizable packages and easy add-ons
- Upfront costs are more expensive than competitors
- No smart home equipment available
- Must upgrade to plan for remote and smart home control
- Best Pet-Friendly Home Security
Our Take on Frontpoint Home Security
Frontpoint is a DIY security option that offers wireless security and smart home equipment. It’s a close runner-up compared to SimpliSafe. You’ll have more surveillance options with two indoor cameras, an outdoor and doorbell camera. Professional monitoring is required and can be costly compared to others, but you can save money with Frontpoint’s easy DIY installation. Mobile app and video surveillance are also included in the cost instead of an extra fee.
★ Recommended Plan: Frontpoint’s Bunker Package is ideal for most homes. It comes with the essentials for intrusion, plus an indoor camera and smoke detector for $634. If you’re debating between the Bunker and Fortress packages, the big difference is that you’ll get more sensors with Fortress — good for larger homes.
- Smart home equipment available
- Financing available to lower upfront cost
- Mobile app and video surveillance included in monitoring cost
- No professional installation option
- Expensive professional monitoring
- Trial period is only 30 days
If you’re looking for the most flexibility or the cheapest security system and are up for the challenge of a do-it-yourself installation, you may be ready for a DIY home security system. If you’re looking for help from a trained professional or are interested in the most robust support, you may want to opt for a professional system instead. Either way, there are plenty of options out there that should fit your needs.
DIY Security System Frequently Asked Questions
Not necessarily. Some providers such as Abode offer the option to self-monitor your system, which means no monthly fees. But if you choose professional monitoring, there’s a monthly cost.
It depends on the system. If your home is small and you choose a simple wireless system with only a few components, you could be up and running in minutes. A more complex system that covers every possible entrance and includes multiple cameras could take the better part of a day.
This depends on your system and your provider. Some providers such as Ring specialize in simple systems that you can install in minutes.
A professional installer can help you strategize on where to put sensors, how to situate motion detectors and how best to use cameras and other components. They can also teach you how to use your system properly and avoid problems such as false alarms and outages.