Best DIY Security Systems in 2020
Best Overall Value
A state-of-the-art system and advanced home automation features.
Best DIY System
Easy-to-setup. Small, powerful, and stylish. No middlemen. No contracts.
Best Home Automation
The oldest—and possibly the most trusted—home security provider in the U.S.
There was a time when home security systems were only installed by professionals, but times have changed. Today, installing a security unit can be as simple as plugging in a camera and connecting it to the internet. Homeowners don’t need electrical skills to tap into wiring or tech skills to network devices together. Many DIY systems come with pre-configured devices, tabletop cameras, and peel-and-stick sensors that make installation a snap.
Realizing the growing market for DIY home security systems, many companies now offer DIY starter security kits meant to enable homeowners to handle the entire install. From a simple, all-in-one security cameras to a more complex unit with cameras, a motion sensor, carbon monoxide sensors, and a keypad, homeowners are now able to protect their house without calling in professionals.
To help homeowners understand what to expect when installing a system on their own, Alarms.org has created a guide to offer advice and suggest specific DIY home security systems that are highly ranked.
What is a DIY home security system?
Before discussing security brands, it’s important to understand what a DIY security system is. A DIY security system is a series of connected devices that are used inside and outside the home to offer protection. The DIY aspect of the system means that a homeowner or renter will install the components themselves.
Why opt for a DIY home security system?
There are many reasons homeowners choose to install a security system on their own, but the main reason is cost. Homeowners who install a system themselves can save on costly installation fees, which can average $696, according to Home Advisor. Of course, installation costs vary based on the company and equipment selected.
A DIY alarm system is also ideal for renters who don’t want to install anything permanent in a temporary home. Renters tend to select simple, all-in-one camera systems with an installation process that includes plugging in a camera and connecting it to Wi-Fi.
With a DIY unit, equipment is purchased by the homeowner. With some professionally installed units, the equipment is rented and must be returned to the security company at the end of a contract. Equipment ownership is another benefit to opting for a DIY security system.
What to look for in a DIY security system
When searching for a DIY security system it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choices. There are a lot of companies with different products at various price points.
When it comes to installation, wireless home security systems are easiest. Wireless systems are plugged in and connected to the internet. Some all-in-one wireless systems only have an indoor camera to set up, which makes installation a breeze. Other wireless systems include more components like indoor and outdoor security cameras, a keypad, sensors, and a base station. Wired systems must be hardwired into a home’s electrical grid to function. A homeowner must drill into the wall to connect and hide wires, hand keypads, mount cameras, and install sensors. A wired system isn’t ideal for a DIY install.
For a security system to work properly, all of the components have to “talk” to each other, which is usually the case. Many systems are pre-configured and networked so they work right out of the box. Many of the systems run on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals, which offers easy connectivity. Systems often utilize a mobile app and tools like a key fob that must be connected as well.
Many security systems include sensors. The most basic sensors are window sensors and door sensors that attach via peel-and-stick adhesive. These small sensors attach to doors and windows and trigger an alarm if they’re opened or broken when the system is armed.
Indoor cameras with a solid field of view
To keep an eye on things indoors, a series of indoor cameras is ideal. Some homeowners choose to set up one camera that covers the main room and front door, while other homeowners place cameras in every room for more complete coverage.
Indoor cameras that are attached to motion sensors can record video or snap pictures when motion is detected. A camera with a motion detector as a recording trigger cuts down on the amount of video storage needed. Some companies charge a monthly fee to store security video digitally, so storage space is something to consider. Some cameras can be controlled (pan, tilt, zoom) via an app as well.
Durable outdoor cameras
To monitor the exterior of a home, durable cameras are needed. Cameras have an IP rating that tells homeowners how tough they are in poor weather conditions. Look for cameras with an IP rating of at least 44 to maintain optimum camera function outdoors. Like indoor cameras, outdoor cameras can be controlled by an app as well.
A homeowner can choose to monitor the home themselves or have it professionally monitored. Self-monitored systems are watched by the homeowner. If there’s a problem, it’s up to the homeowner to call for help. In this case, homeowners opt for a security system that sends alerts to a smartphone when there’s a disturbance. The homeowner can access the problem and call the authorities if necessary.
A system with professional monitoring is monitored by a security company at a monitoring center. If there’s a problem, the company reaches out to both the homeowner and the police to alert them of the problem. A monitored system provides a fail-safe in case homeowners are unable to call for help. However, a monitoring service often requires a contract and a monthly fee, whereas self-monitoring is free.
Some companies offer on-demand monitoring as well. On-demand monitoring means homeowners can request professional monitoring as needed. For example, if a homeowner is leaving town, he or she may want additional eyes on the home while away. In this case, the homeowner only pays a set fee for the monitored time.
An easy-to-navigate mobile app
Most systems are controlled through a mobile app. Before selecting a DIY system, research the app that’s tied to it. Read reviews to make sure the app is easy to navigate and doesn’t have any glitches. The app should give homeowners control of alerts, allowing homeowners to customize the notifications sent. Some apps send a lot of notifications, so customization is key. Wireless systems often have battery-operated sensors, which need to be changed regularly to work. An app that tells homeowners when battery power is low is a handy feature as well.
If the system selected is connected to power, it’s important to consider a battery backup. If the power is out or a criminal tries to cut the power to a home, a system with a battery backup will still work.
An equipment warranty
Many of the DIY systems require homeowners to buy the equipment upfront, which can be a big investment. To provide reassurance, some security companies offer a warranty on the equipment. Look for at least a one year warranty on equipment and a 30-day money back guarantee in the event the system doesn’t meet expectations. Of course, every company is different, so inquire about warranties with each company.
Specific smart home integrations
If you use a home automation tool like Amazon Alexa to control lights and the thermostat, look for a DIY system that integrates with it as well. While Amazon's automation tools are most popular, many systems work with some kind of smart home device, so investigate this feature before selecting a system.
DIY installation tips
Many DIY security companies say their system can be installed in an hour or less. While that may be true for some systems, homeowners should expect to spend several hours installing a new system on their own.
To make sure the installation process goes smoothly, Alarms.org has compiled a few tips to help:
- Outdoor cameras don't have to be hidden: While many assume that outdoor cameras are most effective when they’re hidden, that’s not true. Sixty percent of burglars say they look for surveillance equipment on a home before selecting it as a target, and 40% say the presence of a camera would deter them from entering, according to research from UNC Charlotte.
- Check a camera's field of view before installation: Before drilling holes or mounting any cameras, download the system’s app and check the camera’s field of view. It’s important to see what the camera can see before hanging it up permanently.
- Consider outdoor camera height: Homeowners should install outdoor cameras at a height that’s out of reach, so criminals can’t destroy or disconnect it. However, if the camera is too high, the image quality could suffer. Find a happy medium between the two.
- Test outdoor camera placement twice: If a camera is placed next to a bright light, it can cause a lens flare that results in white, unrecognizable footage. Before mounting an outdoor camera, use the app to check the camera feed for flares twice, once during the day and once at night. During the day, check for flares caused by the sun, and at night check for flares caused by street lights or the neighbor’s outdoor lights. Mount the camera at a downward angle to minimize the light.
- Cover more than one entry point: The easiest systems to install include a single camera that monitors a main room and the front door. While they’re simple to set up, they don’t provide the best coverage. Burglars see back doors and side windows as a target as well. Consider adding cameras to these vulnerable spots as well. Many companies offer a starter kit and sell add-ons that can be purchased separately. Even if a homeowner starts with the basic setup, additional components can be added at a later date.
- Power source may dictate placement: There are a few 100% wire-free systems on the market, but many security units require a wall socket as a power source. If the system selected requires an outlet, that could dictate where cameras are mounted. Wire-free systems do provide the most flexibility in terms of camera placement; however, most run on rechargeable batteries that must be replaced regularly. There are a few options on the market that include solar-powered outdoor cameras, but again, placement may be limited based on the sunlight.
- Internet capabilities: A system that relies on Wi-Fi to function could be a problem for people in more rural areas. Rural areas may not have a strong enough internet connection to run a security system. Research shows 66% of Americans have broadband internet, but only 54% of rural Americans have the same option, according to the Pew Research Center. Before selecting a DIY system, research its internet usage and check with internet providers to make sure the system will work in the home. A home’s internet range may also be a problem, especially for outdoor cameras. Homeowners that have a problem detecting an internet signal on exterior cameras might consider a range extender to boost the signal outside.
Best DIY home security systems
To help narrow the search for the best DIY home security system, Alarms.org has reviewed dozens of options and reviewed the top six choices that can fit the needs of any homeowner. The best DIY home security systems are:
Frontpoint offers an innovative DIY security system that’s easy for anyone to install. All of the components are pre-configured, so everything works out of the box. There’s no manual programming, no drilling, and no mounting sensors. Cameras can sit on tabletops, and sensors have adhesive on the back. There’s also an installation hotline to call for questions. Aside from easy installation, the equipment is high-quality, the company offers professional monitoring, and all of the components work with Amazon Alexa. The company has a slew of awards and testimonials that praise the company for its equipment and customer service.
✓ Competitive pricing
✓ Simple installation
✓ Great customer service
✗ Contracts are required
✗ Credit checks may be required
✗ No landline option
Simplisafe has become a leader in DIY home security. The company offers several different security packages, with add-ons available to customize a homeowner’s security needs. The premise of SimpliSafe was built on creating an affordable system, which is why packages start around $250 for a stylish camera, three sensors, one motion detector, and a keypad.
Professional monitoring is also affordable, start at $15 a month. Plus, SimpliSafe doesn’t require a contract, which is rare in the industry. Most monitoring systems require at least a one-year contract. SimpliSafe customers can cancel their monitoring service at any time, without penalty. The company also offers a 60-day money back guarantee, so customers can purchase the equipment with peace of mind. The company also recently added smart home automation to its equipment, which now works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, August Locks, and Apple Watch.
✓ Smash protection
✓ Detects pets
✓ No contracts
✗ Propriety equipment
✗ No outdoor cameras
Adobe Security is the new kid on the block. The company started a few years ago, and took on many of the benefits offered by SimpliSafe, by offering a system that’s easy to install and doesn’t lock customers into contracts for professional monitoring. To buy a system, homeowners start with a basic package and then add components to get the coverage wanted. Adobe set up the add-on shopping process on purpose in hopes of giving homeowners the ability to add pieces over time rather than saddle them with large up-front equipment costs.
The company offers different plans for video storage as well. There is a free, three-day option, but the longer video is kept, the more expensive the monthly fee is. Adobe systems work with several home automation systems, including Nest thermostats and voice control units like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
✓ Professional, self, and on-demand monitoring available
✓ Easy to install
✓ 30-day money back guarantee
✗ Add-ons required for full coverage
✗ Some add-ons are included in competitor's starter package
Link Interactive focuses on offering a truly customizable system. A homeowner selects the equipment they want piece by piece along with their contract length. The company has a lot of add-ons that aren’t commonly offered by other DIY companies like a remote panic button, extended battery packs, and security lights. Additional add-ons include “life safety” features like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors that are all integrated into the security system as well. Video monitoring is an option, but only at higher price points. The company has a long history in the security industry, with its start dating back to 1952. Home automation options are limited with Link Interactive, but their equipment does work with Zwave.
✓ Customizable system
✓ Long history in security
✗ Confusing, dated website
✗ Contracts required
✗ Limited automation
Brinks Home Security
Brinks Home Security is probably the most recognizable names in security, and the company offers a great DIY system for homeowners. The DIY system is easy to install; no tools needed. The company offers competitive pricing and is known for having the best response time of under 30 seconds, compared to competitors’ average response time of 5.5 minutes.
No matter what components are selected, professional monitoring isn’t optional. All of the packages include it. There are contract-free options, but the monthly cost of monitoring is higher without a contract. Homeowners don’t have to pay for all of the equipment upfront. The company offers a payment plan to make the equipment more affordable. A two-year warranty is offered on all equipment, which is a generous offer compared to other companies. A 30-day money back guarantee is also in place to provide peace of mind.
✓ Easy-to-use equipment
✓ Long warranty
✓ Integrates with home automation tools
✗ Professional monitored required
✗ Contract-free option is expensive
✗ Only top-tier plans offer video recording
Scout Alarm relies on a series of sensors and cameras to offer protection. The company offers a reliable system for those just starting with a home security system. Installation is simple, home integrations are available, and homeowners can chose to self-monitor or pay for professional monitoring. The components are fairly basic and there aren’t a series of add-ons to offer full customization, but the system is competitively priced, there aren’t any contracts for professional monitoring, and the equipment comes with a three-year warranty. The company’s app gets rave reviews as it can send homeowners a variety of notifications including texts, emails, and push notifications.
✓ Self or professional monitored
✓ No contracts
✓ Easy-to-use app
✗ Limited coverage
✗ No growth options
✗ Complaints about customer service
Additional DIY home security measures to take
A home security system is one of the best ways to protect a home from a break-in, but there are additional precautions that can be taken too. Here are some simple, affordable steps that homeowners can take to improve their home security:
Trim trees and hedges
Tall shrubs and trees are helpful to criminals. Unruly bushes can provide a great hiding spot, while tall trees provide a natural ladder to windows or the roof. Well-maintained yards eliminate these problems.
In addition to keeping the yard tidy, some homeowners choose to put in “offensive plants” that deter intruders from coming in, like thorny bushes and cactus.
Store keys near the bed
Many homeowners hang keys near a door or keep them close to an entry point for convenience. However, placing keys near the bed provides an additional safety precaution.
If a homeowner hears a noise outside or sees suspicious activity on a security camera, car keys can activate the car alarm and scare criminals away.
Keep windows obscured
Before bed, close all of the blinds and curtains. Sometimes, burglars like to look inside a home before entering to see what kind of valuables are within reach upon entry. Dark windows take this option away from criminals.
Shred important papers and bills
Property crimes aren’t the only security problem facing homeowners. Identity theft has become a big problem. Criminals who obtain social security numbers, bank account information, and credit card details can rack up debt and sabotage a homeowner’s credit.
To avoid identity theft, be sure to shred all important information rather than toss it in the trash.
Install timed lighting
If you plan to leave your home for a vacation or business trip, consider installing lights on timers. If a criminal is staking out homes in the neighborhood, the lights going on and off gives the illusion of someone inside the home.
If smart home applications are in place, the homeowner can control lights remotely through a smartphone app. If your lights can’t be remotely-controlled, there are simple devices that sit on top of a light switch and flip it on and off based on an internal timer.
Be mindful of social media updates
Seven out of ten Americans use social channels, according to Pew Research Center. While daily updates are common for many, it's important to consider safety concerns when posting.
Avoid posting vacation pictures as it tells criminals that a home is vacant. In addition, avoid showing people any valuables that might be of interest to burglars like new jewelry or antiques.
Don't put the key under the mat
Hiding a key under the welcome mat or a garden gnome is like giving burglars the key to the front door. Get more creative with hiding places. Bury a key in a flower bed on the side of the house or under landscaping rocks outback.
A DIY home security system is a great option for any homeowner. Security systems have become very easy to install with pre-configured components, easy-to-use apps, and no tools needed. While installation is fairly simple, it’s important to research different systems and look for features that best suit a homeowner’s needs. With features in mind, a homeowner can review the list of the best DIY security systems compiled by Alarms.org to help make an informed purchase decision.