DIY Security Systems: Are They Worth It?

DIY Security Systems: Are They Worth It?

Are you thinking of buying a new home in the year or getting better security for your current one? If you’ve started shopping around, you’ll soon realize that monitored home security systems can get pretty expensive.

Like most DIYers, and survivalists for the matter, why pay someone else to do it, when you can get it done yourself?

Pros vs. Cons of DIY

It might seem like less of a hassle to call up a professional and have them come out and handle the installation, but for those focused on a budget, looking into a DIY security system isn’t a bad idea. Most of the top-reviewed brands, like Kuna Light Fixture or Nest Cam, come in at under $200, not too bad for a one time only cost. First, let’s look at the pros and cons of handing it at home on your own.

Pro: No cosmetic damage. You won’t have to drill holes and mess up your walls due to the installation of the more advanced system. This is big plus for renters who don’t want to deal with the damage that may result and the dwindling security deposit that may result.

Con: No professional monitoring. When you get installation from a reputable company, you also have the advantage of their ongoing monitoring and alerts. When you decide to DIY, there’s no one else keeping on an eye on your home system, but you.

Pro: No contracts. Maybe you’ve signed up for a professional system in the past and it ended up being too expensive without adding much value. By tending to the matter yourself, you don’t have to be locked into a contract or pay monthly fees for ongoing maintenance, monitoring, and other taxes and fees.

Con: No setup help. When you decide to tackle a DIY project, you have to commit full force, in order to get the project done in an optimal amount of time. With a professional security company, things move along pretty quickly. For a DIY home security system, you’ll have to make sure you have already set aside time to research, buy, and affix all the supplies and tools you need – plus, test it.

Pro: No useless products or fees. You don’t have to pay for what you don’t want. You can keep it as simple or make your system as complex as your budget will allow. Most DIY security systems include cameras and door sensors. Rental homes should already come equipped with working smoke detectors. If not, contact your landlord to have them replaced right away.

Getting Started with a DIY Security System

After weighing your options, decide if DIY is for you. If so, then there are a few tools to get you started with installation. A basic DIY home security system will include door (and possibly, window) sensors, motion lights, an alarm, and an in-home video monitoring system depending on your budget and needs.

Take a walk through your home and along the perimeter and mark prime areas for installation and setup. Make sure you place the equipment where it’s easy to access. Whether you decide to make it obviously visible or not is up to you. On one hand, you don’t want to unnecessarily alarm visitors of your house. On the other, you want intruders to know you are secured.

If you have a floorplan of your home, even better, because you can see an overview of the areas of your house all at once. If you are a renter, be extra mindful of the equipment you install. Read through your lease agreement to check if installation is allowed and what’s expected if you should move out.

Many DIY installation kits for home monitoring comes with everything you need. iSmartAlarm, for example, has a Preferred Package that comes with a CubeOne, two contact sensor, a motion sensor, and two remote tags. You can add a la carte items, as well to amp up the security.

The iSmartAlarm is then linked to your phone where you can set up “alerts” to what you want the system to do at any given time. Do you want your home lights to go on at intervals throughout the day? Configure it ahead of time and execute through the app on your phone. Easy.

If you require any tools to affix cameras or sensors, you can easily perform this project with DIY tools from WORX or Ryobi. They both offer an arsenal of tools focused specifically for taking on DIY projects, including a SD Driver with a screw holder, which has an easy, one-handed operation to keep any cords or equipment firmly in place.

Decision Time

Ultimately, the choice is up to you to keep your home and valuables safe. Do you want to employ the services of a professional or give it a go yourself? Seems like the advantage leans toward DIY in terms of cost, connectedness, and ease of installation. What do you think? Will you be DIYing a security system in the new year?

Comments

  1. I am into week 2 of a Simplisafe alarm system. It is an a la carte self installed alarm system. It is easy to configure and expand. You can add monitored fire alarms, CO2 alarms, temperature and water sensors. They have an un-monitored option and 2 monitoring options without a long term contract. So far so good. The phone app works fine and I can monitor the camera from work.

    • Owl Creek Observer says:

      We’ve had SimpliSafe for a few years now and have had no problems. Initially, our dog set off the motion sensor when we were gone, but a quick phone call to the company solved the problem.

      • For the motion sensor that the dog could set off I followed their instructions to mount it upside down. I have to hope any thieves are not under 5′ tall for that sensor. So far, so good.

      • OhioPrepper says:

        DJ,
        As I read this article I was wondering if someone would be mentioning the Simplisafe system. The problem with the system which I’ve heard touted as being invented by either an MIT or Harvard trained engineering student, is that those who engineered it had no real background or experience in the security aspects of systems, and built what to this engineer looks like a science fair project. The project would no doubt get a ‘A’; but, the wireless portion of the system shows the lack of experience in security. For more details, see the following.
        Breaking SimpliSafe Security Systems With Software Defined Radio
        Just be aware of this possible issue.
        So here I go off into moderation, LOL.

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          OP that’s a good link thanks. I read every response and watched the vid, eye-opening, but then it’s also very predicable as software engineers are not nearly as street smart as they are sure they are.

          We have had post and comments to this with flashlight designers, they make lights that have 4 or 5 settings and all most people want is the frigging light to turn of and on. not blink in 2 colors, flash fast and blink SOS. They are idiot savants that have no real world understanding.

          It seems Simplisafe engineers are just as (for lack of a better word) stupid as most tech people. Throw in arrogance and you have a real problem.

        • The meth heads we have problems with around here have a hard enough time waking up so I don’t expect they will be hacking my system. A true professional will get the job done no matter what system I have. I am not putting up the Simplisafe monitoring signs. No sense giving a thief with a smart phone a heads up to do a little research. I might buy and ADT or Brink sign with the hopes the meth heads go on to the next house.

    • Jumbo Jack says:

      I had SimpleSafe for about 2 years in a two bedroom, two bath, 2 car home. I put alarms on all the external doors and some of the windows, and motion sensors covering all the rooms and the garage, with the standard alarm and a second (louder) alarm, with the keyboard, and two handsets and it costs me about $350 one time fee. It was easy to mount and test and I never had any problems, other than having to replace one set of batteries in the second alarm after a year. SimpleSafe has a wireless enabled connection to monitoring, that has a battery backup, so if a burglar cuts the phone line or electric the alarm will still work and connect with the optional monitoring. I didn’t pay for the monitoring, but it only costs $15 per month. I’d highly recommend SimpleSafe, and will buy it again when I buy another home. When I sold that home and left the alarm there, and think it helped as a selling feature. I do not have any connection with SimpleSafe, other than being a satisfied customer.

  2. I have had Piper for 4 months now and love it. I have it and modem/router supported by UPS and can set alarm sensitivity, night vision, door/window sensors, temperature sensing, and in future tie to e-controls for rest of the house. Love it and enjoy pulling up snapshots of house while I am gone.

  3. We are working on 6 years with Simplisafe and highly recommend it. The motion senors can be a pain and we don’t use them. We have cats and ceiling fans, both set the alarms off, but this can be a problem with any system with motion sensors. We also have a complete Q-See video surveillance system that we installed, as well as solar charged motion detection spot lights.

    • OhioPrepper says:

      JAS,

      s well as solar charged motion detection spot lights

      Great inexpensive place for anyone to start.

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      The motion senors can be a pain and we don’t use them.

      How good can it be if you have to shut part of the alarm off? It seems that it’s a flaw in the alarm design if you have to disable it.

      Don’t confuse not having your home broken into with an alarm you partially disabled as secure and safe system.

      • Most alarm systems will have the same problem if your cats jump up on things or your ceiling fans are running. We have sensors on all doors and windows, as well as glass break sensors, just not motion detectors.

        • The motion sensor most likely to be tripped by my 70lb dog was installed upside down per the instructions. So far so, good. It scans out but not down to the floor in a hallway to cover entrance from the 2 bedrooms.

  4. I personally have the privilage of having a very good friend who is in the securty business, home and businesses. I get quality advise, everything we need and nothing we don’t.

  5. We have local groups and network within them regarding security, alarm calls are generally last on the list of calls answered by cops…so, networking it within group…

  6. Also if it helps, I have set up a few, and have some hints and observations that make them easy, secure and able to be separate from the “grid” renting or not.

  7. OhioPrepper says:

    We’re DIY here with cameras, solar motion lighting and good neighbors. A car broke down just this afternoon in front of a neighbor’s house. The driver claimed to be out of gas, and when they didn’t have any, he started our direction, at which point we received a call from the neighbor.
    One thing that I think helps here is that we don’t have fancy vehicles and don’t have a lot of expensive toys that someone would be able to steal and pawn. The firearms are locked up and even finding the locked safes would be a chore, and I carry most of the time except while in the shower.
    I guess it works out to a combination of a lot of factors, that each of us needs to assess about their own situation.
    And good neighbors don’t ever hurt the situation.

  8. Mike in Arkansas says:

    I live in the country nd have a half mile driveway. I put sensors at 1/4 mile and at 50 yds from the house. I know when anyone approaches by the twodifferent alarm sounds. Also put sensors on front and back decks. All beep different number of times. I also put 2 1/2 screws on front and back door hinges and lock strike plates into door frames! Won’t be easy to kick those doors down! Also have 2×4 bars for doors on inside of house if necessary! None of these precautions where expensive and help with piece of mind while sleeping!

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      I would install metal strike plates as most doors that are kicked in don’t break at the hinges, they break because the wood that that secures the very thin and small plates is 1/2 to 3/4 inch of soft pine.

      A better solution is to install a new door with a all metal frame. But this is much more expensive then upgrading the plates.

      I deal with this several times a year (I’m a home repair and handyman) for customers. For the budget-minded customer (and EVERY rental owner is very budget minded) what I do is to cut out the soft (pine) wood around the locks with a router / rotozip and chisels and replace it with hard wood like hard-rock maple or oak and install a larger metal plate and then screw it in with 3.5-inch deck screws that are long enough to go into the framing around the door.

      The door can still be breached with a lot of work, but it takes a lot more work and noise to do so. I have seen doors I reinforced this way beat up with foot prints and the door held the thugs off.

      For real security metal bars on windows and doors is the way to go. Just go into the bad area of any city and while the people living there are poor, they find the money to buy bars. Bars work when all else fails. They may not look good, but they keep bad guys out.

      • Mike in Arkansas says:

        I instslled metal doors when I remodeled my home. Any unwelcome visitors will be greeted with #4 buckshot! Living in the country is not as safe as it used to be but for me its still better than a busy city ! Hope you stsy safe and secure !

        • First round for me will be with rubber buckshot as killing them with the first shot might be considered overkill. If the rubber doesn’t stop them we move on to the second shot and that would be lead.

  9. Chuck Findlay says:

    I’m a do-it-yourself person, I do as much stuff and things as I can myself. This way I know how it’s made, how it’s done, how to fix it, and in a SHTF world or even in today’s world I can build, install and keep an alarm running.

    I also dislike the idea of paying others to do this as it cost more (not that price is a big deciding factor right now pre-SHTF, but it is a factor to think about for post-SHTF) it also makes me dependent on others where as a prepper I want to do for myself.

    I think that post-SHTF or post-ecnomic collapse (where money will be in short supply) we may find it hard to send money off to some company where as a do-it-yourself system will not require a monthly bill to be paid for it to work.

    It would also be a good idea to have a multi layered system that uses lower tech methods and also high tech systems so there is a bit of overlap and redundancy in case one system goes down.

    Alarms are good force-multipliers in that they are on guard when you are doing other things, like sleeping, working or away from your home.

  10. I favor the DIY as well. I personally would never consider a monitored system. If they can speak/listen to you when the alarm is triggered, what prevents them from listening to you at other times? It may be a bit tinfoil hat of me, but I find that concerning.

  11. I like the idea of a plug and play system but I wonder about the effective range for the wireless components. I’m concerned about the house but I have several outbuildings too. My shop has a lot of tools that I would hate to lose.

  12. Mallie Hall says:

    Any recommendations for camera systems that can function at 10 to 15 below. It seems most cameras will quit working in the zero to 20 above range.

  13. What’s next? Do it yourself brain surgery?

    You get what you pay for. There are some things that are okay for DIY but seriously a self-monitored alarm is a bad joke.

    I own a security company and am a certified alarm installer, and have had many training courses over the last almost 20 years. Believe me, there is a lot that goes into a good alarm system like Honeywell or CCTV System. The self monitored systems are only as good as the WiFi and if that goes down there is no back-up.

    The systems I install use WiFi and cellular communicators…every device has a lithium back-up battery and each device does a handshake repeatedly 365 days a year. They also use 128 bit encryption. The “internet of things” devices are easily hacked, just go to YouTube and type in “hack (your iot system here)” and you will see.

    Good alarm systems are designed and updated by engineers for big international companies that have the time and money for research, upgrades and development. For instance DSC, Honeywell, and GE General Electric.

    Yes there is a contract, and a monthly fee but if you shop around you can find FREE installs, low monthly fees and you will have a monitoring center staff watching your signal 24/7. If there is a low battery, they call you….. no signal from the device, they call you….Tampering with a device, they call you… and if they are not getting you on the phone they call your installer or the police depending on the signal.

    • Statistically unless you live in a rich eg., million plus dollar homes, cops do not respond to alarm calls or they are last on the list. Besides, not all diy is bad 🙂 especially if you have local groups of trusted and use them, with backup solar- (and btw, wireless, ehh nope, jammers are popular in many areas)

      Not a certified alarm installer/ but worked with and trained cops/feds etc., for several years…prior to 2007 and voluntarily from 2011-2012 in conjunction with local base commander at time… 🙂

      • In Denver police respond to alarm signals as there is an alarm permit system in place. It’s $25 per year but they respond.

        • Works for Denver, though the last people I want in my house are cops. (No not doing illegal, just dont need em)

          Dont have that basically everywhere else around the globe. 🙂

          Again. A decade of training, working with etc., cops as a general rule disregard alarm calls due to the simple fact that well over 90% are false alarms.

          They prefer writing tickets…to catching crooks.

          http://bit.ly/2htS8Yy

          I agree that a security system helps prevent thieves, I disagree with having some company I dont know with access to my homes security. Paranoia from years of working with the men who will come for my stuff when crap gets bad…

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      I have trouble understanding how you make the jump from do-it-yourself alarms to do-it-yourself brain surgery??????

      Beyond putting a bandage on or around your head I don’t think people operate on their brain. But them I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV so what do I know?.

      Alarms are not complicated, heck I built a few of them as a kid to guard my bedroom from my brothers. They worked well, so well that the authorities (my parents) got tired of them making so much noise when my door was opened while they were on.

      If you can’t put a system together then you should get others to do it for you. But many of us here can install (and even make an alarm system.) an alarm that will work quite well.

      One thing a pro-installed alarm has that most do-it-yourself systems don’t have is monitoring. And I feel this (mostly sales hype) is marginal at best as the alarm company does a few things first before they call the police.

      1: They listen in to the home (I don’t like the idea that some unknown person can turn microphones on in my homes any time they want.) to see if it’s a homeowner in the home. They also call the home and see if the owner answers. No answer and it mat be a bad guy. But the fact the phone rings alerts even a dumb crook to the fact that trouble is on the way and that he needs to work fast.

      2: they call the home owner on the house or cell phone.

      Then they call the police if they find that it’s not an accidental trigger of the alarm.

      I don’t know the answer, but I have to imagine it’s a good 5-min before the police even get the call, then a min or so before the beat cop gets the call, and a few more min before he (or she) gets to the house.

      It could be 15-min before a cop takes a walk around your house. That’s a lifetime for a talented burglar to find goods to take. And I would think that if the bad guy blocks the doors shut (and there is no broken windows as an indicator of an entry point) the cop will check the doors and move on thinking it’s a false alarm. This could give him hours to do his thing.

      And yes a homeowner installed alarm will or could have the same problem, but at least you are not paying a monthly fee (that at best provides margin protection.)

      The best protection is to have a hardened building that is difficult to break into along with an alarm.

      Bars on doors and windows, thorny plants, lights (both motion and dusk-to-dawn) and a safe (or as many safes as it takes as many of need more then one of them), hidden areas within the home to keep stuff out of sight even when someone is in the home. And if the house allows a safe room

      • Per link I posted earlier…its generally accepted that alarm calls except in well too do neighborhoods or One town in Colorado police wont respond unless they literally have nothing else happening. Thats reality, hence my approach regarding local tribe 🙂 and yes, we have ours hooked up using wifi/phone which amazingly runs on same trunk line…if its down, its all down.
        We also have ham radios, but dont tell anyone they might use this approach instead..

        🙂 hugs C F 🙂

  14. One other thing:

    Do banks, jewelry stores, pawn shops, credit unions, etc use DIY systems?

    No? I wonder why they don’t?

    DIY solar makes sense to me as long as its done with safety in mind but seriously, staking your life on a made in china alarm or camera thats pretty risky (nice as I can say it).

    • Say it how you will. Two decades, still safe…I dont call cops. Period. In this town they love shooting people if they are armed…or love using their “saving” you too snoop. ..

      You have a solid business, in a good area. Not the same here 🙂

      Tucson/Southern Arizona…I trust my neighbors/tribe- we dont trust the badges…and btw, made in china…lmao, everything is, or in korea…seriously? What brand cameras do you use? Model?

      Bet their made in China…or overseas period.

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      Do you honestly think the professional alarm system is not made in China? I mean you really think this??????????

      If you think this you are not all that smart, or you install alarms and want to discourage people doing it themselves.

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