DIY Home Security Review
Why Install a DIY Home Monitoring System?
The top performers in our review are Scout Alarm, the Gold Award winner; abode, the Silver Award winner; and SimpliSafe, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 DIY security systems.
Home security doesn’t have to be expensive – you don’t even need to schedule professional installation or pay a monthly fee to make sure your family and home are safe. The latest home security systems are simple enough that you can install one on your own and monitor it from your smart device or computer. If you can use a smartphone, you can use these user-friendly DIY home security systems, which are quick and easy to set up.
If you want strong home security but aren’t sure that a DIY home security system is for you, check out our reviews of Security Cameras, Home Security Door and Window Sensors, Home Security Systems and Home Security Monitoring. All of these sites review services that offer security tools and monitoring to protect your home. However, they each focus on different aspects of home security, such as specific tools used, monitoring and service providers. These reviews can help you determine what types of tools you want to use to protect your home, as well as the type of service you can expect after they are installed.
In addition to being convenient, DIY security systems are affordable one-time purchases, and the companies that offer professional or premium monitoring services have low monthly fees. These are relatively cheap home security systems, but DIY devices don’t compromise on quality. The DIY home security systems on our lineup cost between $150 and $400.
The best DIY home security systems offer easy setup, battery backup, and multiple door and window sensors. DIY starter kits include motion detectors to let you know when there’s a threat in or near your home, as well as a key fob so you and your family can easily access the system. Although you get all of the basic equipment necessary to start protecting your home in a starter kit, all of the home security companies we reviewed offer add-on pieces you can purchase separately. If your surveillance needs are less demanding, check out our reviews on IP Cameras. You can place IP cameras throughout your home to deter criminals or capture crisp images if someone does break in. For additional information, read our articles about DIY Home Security.
DIY Home Security: What We Tested, What We Found
The companies we reviewed don’t require you to sign a contract for a monitoring plan when you purchase equipment from them. We chose services that allow self-monitoring, whether it includes a fee or is free. All of the systems we tested have an accompanying smartphone app so you can easily monitor and manage your security system while you are away from your home using either a cellular device or internet connection. We also included services that offer optional professional monitoring. These services allow you to combine the best of both professional home security and DIY home security by permitting you to install the equipment yourself and still have professionals monitor your home.
We also only highlighted systems that include motion detectors with their kits because this is a vital part of home security. In addition, we tested each system's mobile app and how it alerts you when there's a possible intruder. DIY security systems that can be customized scored higher in our tests, as did those with quick arm and disarm options.
Security & Monitoring
The best home security services have large selections of equipment, including cameras, sirens, alerts and motion detectors that help you secure and monitor your home. Not only do they offer a variety of devices, but they also allow you to add any number of extras. Systems with wireless peripherals are easy to customize and expand.
No matter what custom setup you create for your home, it should be easy for you – and anyone else interacting with it – to use. Monitoring your home’s security, and even performing updates or repairs, should be simple, not frustrating. The systems that offer lots of documentation and clear, specific instructions on how to use every device make the process easier for you.
All of the DIY security systems we tested connect to your home internet via Wi-Fi or an Ethernet cable. This allows you to monitor your home using your smartphone or other smart device from anywhere. We installed every system along with its corresponding mobile app and tested to ensure they were all easy to use and useful. The apps were all intuitive to navigate, but many can only arm or disarm the security system. The best DIY home security systems let you quickly arm or disarm alarms so you can get in and out of your house easily and also allow you to add devices from your phone.
Although many of these systems let you set arm and disarm schedules, we consider that option a security risk – if something should keep you at work late or you run into a traffic jam, your home could be left unprotected if the security system sticks to a programmed schedule. Being able to quickly arm your security system from your phone, though, can give you solid peace of mind.
Setup & Equipment
When a system is easy to install, it starts securing your home fast. We found that most of the DIY home security systems we tested are easy to set up. Every system took less than 30 minutes to install, and adding sensors took less than a minute each. The top-rated DIY home security system, Scout, sent push notifications to our tester's phone and set off a loud siren when the system's alarm sounded.
Each home security system in our review includes a hub or controller that serves as home base and facilitates communication between the system, sensors, mobile app and smart home devices, if the system supports smart technology. You get at least two door and window sensors with each of the systems we chose for our review, but there are a few systems – SimpliSafe and Piper nv – that come with three sensors.
All of the DIY security systems we tested have motion detectors, and a few of those detectors have extra functionality. The abode Gateway can take still photos, and the Piper nv's motion detector is also its security video camera.
The best DIY home security systems come with at least one key fob in their starter packs, and our top system includes two. These key fobs make it even easier to arm and disarm your system. They can also be used to signal emergencies.
While alarms can scare off intruders, signs and decals can be deterrents, too. More than half of the systems we tested come with signs or decals you can use on your front lawn or in windows, so anyone who wants to try to break in to your home might reconsider.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison through a mix of retail purchase and loans from the companies. The companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
What Else Is Important When Choosing DIY Home Security?
A starter kit covers your basic DIY home security needs, but there are plenty of other devices that can be helpful when you want to set up surveillance around your home. Many of the systems we tested offer a variety of add-ons that beef up your security beyond the basics. Those that allow you to purchase separate pieces of equipment, such as extra door and window sensors, smoke detectors, motion detectors, key fobs, and more, scored higher.
As with any tech product, customer and technical support are vital in resolving issues when they arise. We evaluated each company's support system to determine which one offers the longest hours and most days of phone and live chat support.
While the devices included in the starter pack can help boost your home’s overall security, you can also buy additional devices that make your home even more secure. Fortress Total Security offers the most options for extra equipment, followed by Iris by Lowe's.
One of the most useful add-ons is a home automation system. Scout Alarm, SimpliSafe and SwannOne can all be integrated with Nest, which means you can set up your home security system to work with other Nest products such as an IP camera. Half of the systems we included in our review can also use If This Then That (IFTTT), a free internet-based automation service that lets you hook up your smart home devices and get them to work together.
Very few of the systems offer smoke detectors as an add-on, and in the case of Home8, it uses a device that sends you an alert if your home's smoke detectors go off. Most of the DIY security systems we reviewed offer a camera that records video if it detects an intruder, which can be used to help with police reports or insurance claims.
Although most home security systems include alarms or sirens in their hubs, you can purchase a siren separately. You can place a separate siren or two close to doors or windows to maximize the sound, which can deter potential intruders or alert someone who is home of a break-in attempt.
If you buy smart plugs and smart lights for your home security systems, they can work together to deter intruders – when your system detects an intruder, it can turn your home's lights on.
Warranty & Support
When you need to contact customer support with a question, it's important that you have choice in how you can contact them. The best customer support comes from Piper nv. The company offers free email and phone support, along with live chat assistance – and they're more available than any other DIY home security system company that we reviewed. All of the security companies offer free email support, and most offer phone support. However, abode only offers phone support to those who pay for monitoring services.
The best warranty we found for DIY home security systems is three years, which SimpliSafe and Fortress offer. The other systems we reviewed offer one year of protection from defective parts and labor.
DIY Home Security: Our Verdict and Recommendations
Choosing the best DIY home security system comes down to several factors, including ease of use, ease of installation, features and how well the system works as it's intended. We found that the Scout Alarm met most of our expectations and exceeded others. It's very easy to install, and using it was intuitive. It's the only system that puts widgets on your Android phone's home screen so you can arm and disarm with a quick touch on your phone.
We found abode to be a very close second. It only took about 10 minutes to set up, and it instantly connected. The mobile app is easy to use, and this is the only system to include a motion detector that is also a camera – it takes still photos when an event occurs. The system’s biggest drawback is its limited customer support – you only get email and chat support free.
SimpliSafe includes a keychain flash drive you use to change your system’s settings, which means added security. It's also easy to use and lets you use a key fob to quickly arm or disarm your system. SimpliSafe doesn't include a camera in its starter kit, nor can you buy one as an add-on.
If you're looking for the most affordable choice, Iris by Lowe's is the least expensive option in our review. However, if you're looking for the best value, SimpliSafe is the highest-rated and lowest cost DIY home security system option.
Home8 scored well in our tests, and everything in its starter kit is preprogrammed, which means you can set it up quickly. It also includes add-ons, such as activity trackers and panic buttons, which help you keep a virtual eye on elderly family members.
If you want to self-monitor for free and use IFTTT to integrate your home security with your other smart home devices, iSmartAlarm could be a good choice for you. SkyLinkNet also offers free self-monitoring, and it's relatively easy to install and use – it's also one of the most affordable kits in our review.
Do-it-yourself home security is a budget-friendly way to ensure that your valuables and family members are safe. Read through our DIY home security system reviews to find the starter kit that fits your needs.