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What Is the Best DIY Home Security System?

If you’re at least somewhat technically inclined, are comfortable choosing your equipment, and want to save a bit of money, consider a home security system with DIY installation. Many of today’s home security systems are wireless and operate using your home Wi-Fi network. As a result, they don’t require electrical skills or specialised tools to install, and they usually come with step-by-step instructions that are relatively easy to follow. Plus, most DIY home security companies provide support over the phone if you get stuck.

Below we’ve laid out the significant considerations to determine whether a DIY home security system is right for you. We also list our best and cheapest DIY home security systems, explain how much they cost and tell you what to expect during the installation process.

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Our Best DIY Home Security Systems Rating

After testing many systems, we think the best DIY home security system is the Abode Essentials Starter Kit. At a starting price of around $200, it’s one of the most cost-efficient smart security bundles available, and it offers integrated smart home abilities so that you can rig up devices like smart bulbs and smart door locks, along with everything else. 

The only caveat is that this kit doesn’t include any accessories, though you can purchase other sensors for a reasonable price. However, it works with HomeKit, making it one of the few security systems compatible with Apple’s smart home platform.

The best DIY home security kit for those on a budget is the Ooma Home Security Kit ($180), which gets you all the basics, such as motion sensors and some integration with other smart home devices. However, there’s no cellular backup, which could be a deal-breaker. 

  • SimpliSafe
  • Cove
  • Frontpoint
  • Abode
  • Ring Alarm
  •  Blue by ADT

SimpliSafe

SimpliSafe is easy to install and relatively affordable, offering a starter package called The Foundation for $229. It includes one base station, one wireless keypad, one entry sensor, and one motion sensor. There are two professional monitoring plans priced at $14.99 and $24.99 a month, or you can self-monitor through the smartphone app with 30 days of motion-activated camera recordings for $10 a month. SimpliSafe only offers one camera plus a video doorbell, so if you’re looking for a wide selection of cameras, consider other options. But SimpliSafe is an excellent choice for those who want the protection of a high-tech system but don’t want to tackle too much technology.

Cove

Cove Security offers very inexpensive, somewhat essential equipment with low-cost monthly monitoring. Cove doesn’t sell starter kits; instead, it configures a system for you after answering some questions about your home. Cove offers a good array of security equipment with sensors starting at $15, plus a touch-screen alarm panel for $249 and two cameras (indoor and outdoor), but no video doorbell. Cove’s professional monitoring plans are $15 or $25 a month, with the more expensive plan adding Alexa and Google Home integration. There is no option for self-monitoring, and you pay extra for cloud video storage.

Frontpoint

Frontpoint is a DIY home alarm system with equipment that’s quick and easy to install. Its entry-level package costs $294.30 for one hub and keypad, two door/window sensors, one motion sensor, one-yard sign, a set of five window decals, and one door sticker. However, monthly monitoring costs $49.99 per month, a higher monthly fee than most DIY home alarm systems.

Abode

Abode is a high-tech, fully-featured DIY security system with a wide range of equipment and low monthly costs. Abode’s starter kits are priced from $229 to $438, and it offers a hub with a built-in camera and motion sensor. Monitoring plans cost $6 or $20 a month, but you can self-monitor for no monthly fee. All security components are easy to install and configure, and Abode offers three security cameras, starting at just $29.99. Abode is a Z-Wave platform, so you can easily add hundreds of third-party home automation devices to your system.

Ring Alarm

Ring an affordable security system, offering a $199 starter kit and $10 a month monitoring plus cloud-video storage. Its entry-level Ring Alarm Security Kit includes a base station, a keypad, a motion detector, a door window sensor, and a wireless range extender. Ring also offers an extensive selection of security equipment (although no keyfob) and some popular security cameras and video doorbells. Owned by Amazon, Ring’s security system integrates very well with the Amazon Alexa smart home ecosystem for home automation and voice control. Plus, Ring uses the Z-Wave platform so that you can control smart door locks and other devices around your home.

Blue by ADT

Owned by ADT, Blue by ADT is a DIY system that has many of the advantages of a professional ADT system, including high-tech equipment and professional monitoring, without having to sign up for a three-year contract. Blue is controlled with a smartphone app and has two starter kits beginning at $219. For that price, you get a smart hub with a keypad and two doors/window sensors, plus you can add more security equipment for an additional cost of $14.99 to $49.99 per device. Blue by ADT has three security cameras that cost $199, an indoor camera and outdoor camera, and a video doorbell. These come with a free 24 hours of motion-activated clips. Professional monitoring costs $19.99 a month and includes cellular backup, or you can self-monitor for free.

Significant Savings with a DIY Home Security System

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The wireless home security systems of 20 years ago were notoriously unreliable. They produced so many false alarms that many homeowners stopped using them. That’s all changed. Today you can buy DIY home security systems with professional-grade wireless security equipment that’s highly reliable, easy to install, and affordable. 

Basic DIY home security systems start at about $225 and top out at $800 or so. If you add wireless smoke/heat detectors, plan to spend about $1,300 for DIY alarm systems. That’s still about half of what a professional alarm company would charge. Monitoring service, which notifies the police or fire department, can cost $40 or more per month. But if you shop around, you can get it for about $10 per month.

We’ll show you how to plan your DIY home security system so you can get it up and running in a single day. Plus, we’ll show you how you can save money on equipment and neaten up the DIY alarm systems installation at the same time. Home security installation is easy. You mount the transmitters at doors and windows and connect a control panel to phone lines and a power supply. All you’ll need are fundamental tools for a home security system DIY project — a drill, screwdrivers, wire stripper, and a small pry bar.

Tools Required

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver – cordless
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Wire stripper/cutter

Materials Required

  • Wireless security system

Project step-by-step (12)

Save $100s Now—And $30 Every Month.

Installing a wireless DIY home security system can be as easy as mounting transmitters on doors and windows and connecting a control panel to your phone line. You’ll save $300 to $600 in parts and labour costs. Better yet, you’ll avoid an expensive long-term monitoring contract with a home security company. Instead, you can shop around and choose any monitoring service you like. That will save you about $30 every month — forever.

Window Transmitters vs. Installing Motion Sensors

Some alarm installers recommend eliminating window transmitters and installing motion sensors instead. These sensors are similar to the motion detectors that turn on outdoor floodlights. That approach can cut costs, but we don’t recommend it. Motion sensors cause the majority of false alarms. Worse, they detect burglars only after they’ve entered your home. That can create a dangerous situation where you come face to face with a burglar in your hallway. Door and window transmitters are the only way to detect break-ins immediately.

Don’t let anyone convince you that motion detectors alone are a substitute for them. Glass-breakage sensors are available too but are optional. Most burglars only break glass to unlock a door or window. Then, when they open the door or window, a standard transmitter will detect the entry.

Plan the Best DIY Home Security System

To figure out how many transmitters you need for your DIY home security systems, start by sketching all of the doors and windows on the ground level of your home. Number each opening, beginning with the front door and moving in a clockwise direction. Be sure to include the garage service door if you have an attached garage. Then count only the upper-level openings that can be reached without a ladder (burglars rarely use ladders). Don’t forget to count the patio door on an elevated deck.

Fire poses a greater danger to your family than burglary. So you may want to add wireless smoke detectors (about $90 each) to your security system. That way, the alarm panel will notify your monitoring service of a fire condition, and the service will call the fire department. You’ll need a minimum of one wireless smoke detector on each floor. Add a smoke detector in each hallway leading to a bedroom and one in each bedroom. If you have a gas furnace, water heater or clothes dryer, install one rate-of-rise (ROR) heat detector over each of these appliances and wire them into a transmitter.

Next, decide what kind of control panel you want. There are two types: A “cabinet-style” panel consists of a keyboard that mounts near the door and a circuit board that mounts near your phone interface. A “self-contained” panel is a single unit that mounts near the door. This one-part panel is easier to install but has one weakness. An intruder entering the door can tear it off the wall before the panel finishes notifying the monitoring service. With a two-part panel, the circuit board keeps working even if the keypad is disconnected. With either type of panel, you’ll need a special phone jack (called an “RJ31X”) to connect the panel to your phone lines.

Don’t Forget the Permit.

Most cities require permits for do-it-yourself alarm systems (about $25 per year). Contact your city licensing department to get one, then stick it to a window in or near the front door. If you don’t, your first false alarm may get you a fine plus a stern lecture from the police.

Shop Online

You won’t find professional-quality alarm equipment at a local electronics retailer. Instead, fire up your computer and search for “security alarms” or “security systems.” Look for suppliers that carry multiple brands and models, so you don’t get locked into home security equipment that’s not right for you. In addition to a good selection, look for a supplier that offers free system programming and technical support. Make sure the supplier doesn’t require a high-cost, long-term monitoring contract. Before you place an order, call the supplier and discuss your plan. The staff will help you develop a materials list and program the alarm panel appropriately. Ask to have the components labelled for each zone.

Select a Monitoring Service

Your DIY security system doesn’t have to be connected to a monitoring service that calls the police. It can simply trigger an alarm siren. But don’t dismiss the importance of alarm monitoring. Crime statistics show that burglars aren’t scared away by sirens. They know it will take at least three to five minutes for neighbours to call the police and just as long for the police to respond to the call. A home security system monitoring service can contact the authorities much faster. Insurance companies understand the importance of faster police/fire notification, and many offer discounts to offset some monitoring costs. So check with your insurer.

Alarm installation companies typically charge you $40 per month with a three-year minimum contract for alarm monitoring. By installing your own do it yourself security system and dealing directly with a monitoring service, you can save at least $360 per year. Search the Internet for “alarm monitoring.” Make sure the company is UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) listed.

If you’ve switched to digital phone service or Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), ensure the monitoring company is equipped to handle those types of calls. If not, it may provide other means of transmitting an alarm signal, such as Internet, cellular, satellite, or radio communicators. Ask how much the additional equipment costs and if there are any additional service fees.

Scare Off Crooks

Burglars want easy pickings, not challenges. So be sure to let them know that your home is protected by an alarm system. Post yard signs, window stickers, and your alarm permit so no crook can mistake your home for an easy target.

Get Fresh Air — and Security

If you have double-hung windows, mount the transmitter and a magnet 6 inches above the sill. Then mount a second magnet near the bottom of the sash. That way, you can leave the window open a few inches and still turn on the do-it-yourself security system. If a burglar opens the window farther, the alarm will activate.

Use Hidden Magnets in Casement Windows

Plunger contacts can make casement windows harder to open or close. Instead, use “recessed” magnetic contacts. Just drill a hole in the sill near the side of the window that opens. Mark the location on the sash and drill another hole for the magnet. Then prepare an angled hole at the edge of the side trim. Use a bent coat hanger to hook and “fish” the wires out toward the transmitter.

Use Hidden Magnets in Casement Windows

Plunger contacts can make casement windows harder to open or close. Instead, use “recessed” magnetic contacts. Just drill a hole in the sill near the side of the window that opens. Mark the location on the sash and drill another hole for the magnet. Then prepare an angled hole at the edge of the side trim. Use a bent coat hanger to hook and “fish” the wires out toward the transmitter.

Use One Contact for Multiple Windows

If you have banks of windows, you can connect all the contacts (whether they’re the plunger or magnetic type) to a single transmitter. On a bank of three windows, that saves you about $60. Plus, you get a neater look. The catch is that you have to remove the bottom piece of trim to run wires under the sill.

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Reasons to Get a DIY Home Security System

There are plenty of reasons to get a home security system. Although the FBI says that property crime has dropped for seventeen years in a row, there’s always a risk of a break-in. Moreover, Along the same lines, the National Council for Home Safety and Security, a trade association, reports homes without a security system are 300% more likely to be burglarised.

Reasons to get a DIY home security system include:

You want a simple, inexpensive way to protect your home.

 DIY security systems can be installed and set up in an afternoon and are designed to be easy to use. The equipment and technology the top DIY security systems offer are similar in design and quality to what professional installation security companies use; the only significant difference is you stick it on the wall yourself rather than paying someone to do it for you.

You want to build out your home automation system. 

The sensors used in DIY security systems are well suited to work with home automation devices; for example, your lights can be set to turn on when your motion sensor is triggered. Additionally, the systems’ hubs can often be the backbone for a more extensive home automation setup. Most professionally installed security companies limit you to using their smart home devices. In contrast, most DIY platforms are more open, letting you add hundreds of machines from third parties to the hub, allowing you more freedom to build a home automation system to suit your specific needs.

You want to save money. 

Without the costs of professional installers and sales representatives, DIY security companies can offer significantly lower prices than their pro-install competitors. Ongoing prices are also much less expensive with DIY companies, with monthly monitoring costs as low as $10 a month compared to as high as $60 a month with pro-install companies. Additionally, you don’t need to sign up for any long-term contracts, and some even offer the flexibility of just paying for monitoring for a weekend.

Security Systems provides expert CCTV installation for your residential or commercial infrastructure.

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