With the mainstreaming of the Internet of Things, technology and the overall increase in high-tech devices for residential use, DIY home security systems are gaining popularity. In terms of traditionally monitored methods, the best home security systems are still in high demand.
If you've decided to go with a do-it-yourself security system over traditional, you've probably noticed that you've got plenty of options to choose from. In this guide, I'll give you an overview of the top 5 DIY home security systems as well as information on how this kind of setup works.
In This Guide
Our Top Picks
According to Business Insider, companies like ADT now hold 93% of the home security market share. But data from Citigroup predicts that self-installed home security will reduce that number to 61.6% by 2020.
There's no shortage of options when it comes to self-install security systems. Whether you have a large home or a tiny apartment, there's a product that makes protecting your family and belongings a snap. Here are my top picks for the best DIY security systems:
- HD video camera with audio and night vision
- Motion-activated recording
- 90+ decibel alarm siren
- Temperature, humidity, and air quality monitoring
- Apple HomeKit compatibility (Canary Plus)
- No battery backup
- No door/window sensors
- Can only connect four Canary security devices together
The Canary is an all-in-one security device that makes home monitoring a breeze. It's ridiculously easy to set up - simply place in the desired location, get the mobile app, connect Canary to your internet and you're ready to roll.
Another benefit of the Canary is that you can choose to use it without any additional fees, or you can opt to pay $9.99 for a monthly subscription and get a few bonus features. Without a subscription, you get 24 hours of stored video, which can be shared among four devices. With a subscription you get:
- 30 days of video storage
- Two-year extended warranty
- Incident support - help retrieving video and assistance with the process of dealing with a theft
- Insurance deductible reimbursement up to $1000
Nest Cam Review
- 1080p HD video with two-way audio and night vision
- Motion-activated alerts
- Low-profile streamlined design - 4.8" x 2.8"
- Live streaming via mobile app
- 8x zoom and image focus
- Video storage requires a subscription
- May use large amounts of bandwidth
The ability to link your Nest Cam to other Nest devices like a thermostat and smoke detectors is a big advantage.
One thing I don't like about this product is that the video storage, called Nest Aware, is spendy - $10 per month for 10 days of history or $30 per month for 30 days.
That doesn't mean you can't use your Nest Cam without a subscription, however. Right out of the box you can view live streaming through the mobile app. You can also view snapshots of motion-detected activity over the past three hours. Both the indoor and outdoor versions of the Nest Cam will run you about $200.
Piper NV Review
- 180° HD camera with night vision
- Pan/tilt/zoom from within the app
- Live streaming and free cloud storage
- Two-way audio
- Motion-activated alerts
- Control from mobile app only - no computer access
- Some complaints of connectivity issues
The Smart home systems are well on their way to being the norm and Piper is firmly on board with its Z-Wave compatibility and IFTTT channel.
One of the biggest differences between Piper and other top DIY home security systems is that you get free cloud storage for video. The device only records if an event is triggered, and you can store up to 100 event clips at any given time.
The other thing I really liked about this particular device in my DIY security system comparison is its flexibility. If you just want to use it as a stand-alone home monitoring system, you can do so. Or, you can add door sensors, connect it to smart light switches, and create IFTTT recipes for a complete DIY home security setup.
Piper NV costs $279, which is a bit pricier than other single-unit systems. The lack of a monthly subscription fee, however, means you'll pay much less in the long run.
- Event notification via text, phone call, email, or app
- 110-dB siren
- Optional add-on cameras (iCamera KEEP and Spot)
- No monthly fees
- No battery backup
- Finicky iCamera KEEP installation
Despite its name, iSmartAlarm is not an Apple product. It is, however, a solid DIY home security solution for those seeking a complete, budget-friendly system.
The iSmartAlarm hub is called CubeOne. In the Preferred Package, you'll receive:
- One CubeOne
- Two contact sensors
- One motion sensor
- Two remote tags
- Window decals
The cameras - iCamera KEEP and Spot - cost $149.99 and $99.99 respectively. The KEEP has pan and tilt capabilities, and both cameras have night vision and zoom. KEEP can be used as a stand-alone DIY security camera, or in conjunction with the system.
The nice thing is that you get a choice between local SD card video storage or free cloud storage. There have been some reported bumps with iSmartAlarm app errors, however, this system still offers a flexible, affordable DIY security option.
Fortress Security Review
- Wide selection of customizable packages
- Landline, cellular, or VoIP connection options
- Live tech support for installation and setup
- Pet-immune motion detectors
- Equipment ships free
- Packages can get confusing
- Mobile app not as comprehensive as competitors
- Monthly fee even though self monitored
Fortress is one of the best DIY home security systems if you're looking for a more traditional setup combined with self-installation and monitoring.
The options this company offers are a bit unique in the field, including a DIY wired security system:
- S02 series - these kits operate on a land line or VoIP connection, and cost between $99 and $260, depending on how many components you want.
- Vea GSM - this option is an exclusively cellular connection, and kits range from $130 to $230. You can purchase a SIM card and service from Fortress.
- Total Security WiFi - the Fortress Total Security option works via WiFi or cellular. Prices run from $250 to $700.
- Ani - this system features a sleeker, more stylish design, and operates via WiFi or land line. There are three kits - $90, $140, and $190.
While Fortress installation can be a bit more complex than other DIY security systems, it's still fairly straightforward. The service is self-monitored, however, it's not free - if your equipment runs on a land line connection, you'll have to have phone service. If you have a cellular setup, you can buy a Fortress SIM card for $9 and subscribe to service for $8 per month.
About DIY Home Security Systems
The home security industry has expanded far beyond the days when you had a choice between either a professional monitoring service or a set of self-install motion sensors to stick over your doors and windows.
A solid DIY security system will cost you anywhere from about $99 all the way up to several hundred dollars to get started, depending on how big your home is and what type of protection you're looking for.
Whether you just need a single all-in-one hub with a camera, motion sensor, and siren, or a complete suite of components designed to cover every access point in a large home, my top 5 DIY home security systems at the end of this guide have you covered.
Key Considerations When Choosing a DIY Security System
In choosing the best DIY home security system for your needs, you should take the following factors into account:
- Expansion options
- Interconnectivity with home automation
- Ease of installation
- Ease of use
- Notification methods
- Online dashboard functionality
You should also consider how event alerts are delivered and how video is stored.
Law Enforcement and DIY Home Security Systems
One of the big questions on your mind when it comes to monitoring your own home security equipment is how quickly and easily you'll be able to get help in the event of a break-in or other emergency.
You may be concerned that if your emergency is not called in by a monitoring company, the 911 dispatcher will not prioritize your call. After all, the whole purpose of home alarm systems is to protect your family and belongings, and you need to have peace of mind that you'll get help.
You may be concerned that if your emergency is not called in by a monitoring company, the 911 dispatcher will not prioritize your call.
In an interview with CE Pro Magazine (an industry publication on custom electronics), Detective H.W. Robinson, an alarm inspector with the Phoenix police department, answered this very question.
According to Detective Robinson, a 911 dispatcher's job is to determine whether or not there is a crime in progress. It comes down to whether or not there is evidence - either via an eye witness (you or a neighbor), audio, video, etc. - that police should be dispatched. As long as it's apparent that there's an actual problem, it doesn't matter who's calling the crime in.
The Pros and Cons of DIY Security
As with anything, there are advantages and drawbacks to each choice when it comes to protecting your home.
DIY Security Pros
- Easy installation - because DIY home monitoring systems are typically wireless, they are typically plug-and-play. This means they're a breeze to install and easy to use.
- Affordability - compared to traditional professionally monitored systems, DIY security is a bargain. According to numbers collected by Angie's List, an average professional security system installation can cost over $700. Add to that monthly monitoring fees around $30 and you're looking at more than $1000 in the first year alone.
- Portability - because your equipment won't be hard-wired into the walls, you can take everything with you if you move.
- Online control - whether you choose a dedicated/contained security system (one without smart features) or equipment that plays nicely with your home automation devices, you can run the show from the internet and/or a mobile app.
DIY Security Cons
- Vulnerability to power outages - professional home security systems typically operate on cellular technology. With a DIY security system, if your power goes out your wireless internet goes out - which means your system goes down.
- Additional equipment costs - if your house is on the large side, you may find yourself shelling out for several extra components. Devices like extra sensors or keychain fobs can cost $20 - $30 a pop, and cameras run up to $100 to $150 depending on whether they're indoor or outdoor.
- Repairs - although some equipment comes with a warranty and tech support, you will generally be responsible for making sure your devices work properly.
- Potential delays contacting police when traveling - if you're out of town and your alarm goes off, you won't be able to reach emergency services by dialing 911. Instead, you'll have to call the police department in your hometown and try to get through to dispatch that way. It's a good idea to keep the relevant numbers on-hand while traveling so that you don't have to try to look them up in a panicked moment if you receive an alert.
Not only do DIY home security systems give you more control in the event of a break-in or other emergency, they also serve as a deterrent to criminals in the first place. In a University of North Carolina study of 422 convicted burglars, the majority stated that they considered alarms and outdoor surveillance equipment to be deciding factors in seeking another target for their crimes.
There's nothing more valuable than peace of mind, and thankfully that's easier than ever to achieve with the wide array of choices for monitoring your own home security. No longer is residential protection reserved for those who can afford expensive equipment, bloated installation fees, and recurring monthly monitoring costs. Now you can do virtually everything yourself at a fraction of the price.
While you've got safety and security on your mind, don't forget to check out our buyer's guide to home insurance companies as well.