The Best DIY Home Security
DIY home security lets you take peace of mind into your own hands — but the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. We looked for affordable equipment, comprehensive mobile notifications, and flexible professional monitoring to find the DIY home security system that gives you the most control without breaking the bank.
The 6 Best DIY Home Security Systems
Best Reputation & Professional Monitoring: Frontpoint
If you like the idea of DIY installation, but know you would prefer the peace of mind that comes with 24/7 professional monitoring, Frontpoint offers both. Systems start at $100 upfront, and the setup is easy too: The control panel comes pre-configured, so all you have to do is peel a few adhesive stickers and place equipment around your home. Professional monitoring starts at $35 per month but comes with the benefit of Frontpoint’s “Smash and Crash” protection feature, which alerts security operators if your system goes offline. The only downside: Frontpoint requires either a 12- or 36-month contract.
Cheapest Professional Monitoring and a Three Year Warranty: SimpliSafe
SimpliSafe offers five packages (starting at $230) that are incredibly easy install. And like the rest of our top picks, you can upgrade to professional monitoring if you want for $15 per month — which is the cheapest professional monitoring of all our top picks. You can even try it for 60 days and return for a full refund if you don’t like it. But there are a couple of downsides: SimpliSafe doesn’t offer any sort of home automation, and reports have shown hackers can disable the system with basic knowledge and about $50 worth of equipment. You’ll also have to upgrade to the $25-per-month plan in order to receive SMS and email alerts.
Truly Free DIY Home Security: Abode
Abode’s $320 DIY home security system is hard to beat. It offers completely free self-monitoring, the best app experience available, Amazon Alexa and IFTTT integration, and a sleek design. It’s basically the Bentley of DIY home security systems. We also love Abode’s online security dashboard, which provides you with an easy-to-read hub that’s accessible on any internet-connected device. Monitoring plans start at a whopping zero dollars per month, which gets you three days’ worth of security history. Bump that up to $30 per month and you get the benefit of professional monitoring and a 90-day media timeline.
Best for Samsung SmartThings Integration: Scout Alarm
Scout covers all the basics of a DIY home security system in stylish form. Plus, it offers incredibly tight integration with Samsung SmartThings (not to mention Amazon Alexa and IFTTT). Unlike Abode, Scout charges $10 just to use basic self-monitoring features, like push notifications and SMS alerts. But if you think you might be interested in professional monitoring down the road, but aren’t ready to commit, Scout is a pretty attractive option: At $20 per month, it has the second-cheapest professional monitoring option of all our top picks. (SimpliSafe’s professional monitoring costs $15 per month.)
Best For Affordable Hardware: Lowe’s Iris
The Lowe’s Iris has one standout feature: super affordable add-on equipment. You’ll have to pay a bit more upfront to get set up, but Iris’ extra sensors generally run $8 cheaper than the rest of the competition. Iris also has the largest selection of third-party home automation devices — we’re talking anything from WiFi garden sprinklers to smartphone-controlled doggy doors. But there’s one obnoxious downside: Lowe’s doesn’t offer an equipment warranty for Iris, so if you encounter a defective device, don’t expect Lowe’s to help.
Great For Small Homes And Apartments: Canary
Canary is a $160 DIY home security tower with a high-quality 1080p camera — we had thirty feet of clarity in complete darkness. It’s also packed with a few extra features: an air quality sensor and a 90db siren. It’s designed for small homes and apartments, but it also has the ability to sync with multiple Canary cameras to form a web of video security around a larger home. Canary doesn’t offer professional monitoring, or have a cellular backup, but we loved that it offers a free 24-hour video history.
How We Found the Best DIY Home Security Systems
We preferred DIY home security system with two basic features:
- Z-Wave Support There are a handful of wireless protocols used in home security and automation devices, but Z-Wave is the clear industry leader: It’s used by 450 companies and 1,700 products. All Z-Wave devices are backwards compatible and they each have a range of 100 feet, the largest in the industry. (ZigBee only reaches 35 feet.) In short, if you have a Z-Wave system, you get the best selection of home automation devices, and you have more flexibility in where you place them throughout your home.
- Optional Professional Monitoring It sounds counterintuitive, but we preferred systems with professional monitoring options. Year-round, 24/7 alarm monitoring makes it almost impossible for serious events to fall through the cracks. Without this function, we kept imagining what would happen if we accidentally left our phones on silent — or in the car — when an alarm went off. That said, having the option to upgrade your current system is far more palatable than being forced into monitoring services you’re not sure you need yet — or having to buy a completely new system once you’re ready to make the switch.
Then we installed stuff.
We spent the day outfitting a 1,900-square-foot home with our three finalists. We peeled adhesive backings, and paired devices. We scrutinized the quality of each piece of hardware and tested the limits of the Z-Wave 100-foot range with multiple device placements throughout the house.
And tripped some sensors.
Next, we “broke into” our home, opening doors and windows to test functionality and evaluate the different types of notifications that we received. We also wanted to see how quickly the notifications arrived, so we turned our phones to LTE mode, opened the front door, and timed the alerts. Spoiler: The notifications from all three of our top picks were nearly instantaneous.
Our Reviews of the Best DIY Home Security Systems
Strictly speaking, Frontpoint isn’t a DIY system. But it offers DIY installation and uber-cheap equipment that’s pretty competitive with our top picks, making it a good hybrid option. Professional monitoring costs $15 more than Abode each month, but the equipment costs as little as $100 upfront. That includes one control panel, one motion detector, and three access sensors. And we found setup and installation extremely easy: the control panel comes pre-configured, so all you have to do is plug it in and hang devices on the wall with built-in adhesive pads.
The downside, obviously, is that Frontpoint requires a professional monitoring subscription (starting at $35 per month) — plus a three-year contract. That’s obviously not as flexible as our top picks, but there are some perks. Frontpoint’s equipment comes with a three-year warranty, while the rest of the DIY industry caps at one year. And, of course, you get the added layer of protection that comes with professional monitoring.
Case in point: Frontpoint’s “Crash & Smash” protection. If a thief tries to disable your alarm by unplugging or smashing your control panel, an operator at the monitoring center will be alerted that your system went offline without being disarmed properly and will call the police if necessary. Self-monitored systems, on the other hand, are only effective when you’re paying attention to your phone.
Let’s start with the good: SimpliSafe is the easiest DIY system to get up and running. SimpliSafe’s app isn’t required for the installation, and you don’t have to use any software to pair devices — it’s truly plug and play. Another unique aspect of Simplisafe’s system is that it communicates strictly through a cellular connection (which is part of the reason that it requires a professional monitoring subscription to receive alerts).
SimpliSafe requires a monitoring subscription (like Frontpoint), and it doesn’t offer a self monitoring plan like Scout or Abode. For $15 per month, you get 27/4 professional monitoring, but you won’t be able to cash in on SMS or email alert features unless you upgrade to the $25-per-month “Interactive” plan. That’s $10 less than Frontpoint, but there’s one notable drawback: SimpliSafe doesn’t offer home automation. So if WiFi-controlled lighting is important to you, Abode is a much more flexible choice.
Now, for the not so good. Forbes recently reported that hackers with basic skills and equipment can remotely disarm SimpliSafe’s systems by stealing the user’s code from the panel. That sounds bad, but the odds of the hack resulting in a theft are rare. SimpliSafe spokesperson Melina Engel told Forbes notifies customer of disarm events, so customers would be alerted that something was amiss within minutes. Plus, customers can change passcodes anytime locally or remotely via the SimpliSafe webapp.
The usage cases are rare, but as far as we can determine, SimpliSafe hasn’t resolved the issue yet. A straightforward purchasing experience and a user-friendly system might not be enough to mitigate weak encryption. SimpliSafe isn’t the only home security provider with this vulnerability; in theory, all cellular systems can be compromised with the right equipment. But some providers (like Frontpoint) can recognize jamming and send a signal to the monitoring center. SimpliSafe can only alert you.
Hacks aren’t uncommon with security technology, and we’re still comfortable recommending SimpliSafe as a viable DIY home security system. The company announced on its blog that it will address the security concern with newer hardware that supports over-the-air updates, but no timeline was released.
Simplisafe has the cheapest professional monitoring of all our DIY picks, but it doesn’t offer home automation.
In the Starter Kit: One hub, one access sensor, one motion detector, one keypad, and one key fob.
Professional Monitoring: $15 - $25 per month
Abode was created by a former ADT employee, and it hits all the right notes. We’re talking about stylish black and white hardware, Amazon Alexa and IFTTT integration, and third-party home automation device support. Abode also nailed the details, from nuanced app controls to simple pairing procedures and a sturdy mount for its surveillance camera. Think of this option as the Bentley of DIY home security systems.
Abode’s app, in particular, is lightyears ahead of what’s offered by competitors like Scout and Iris. The app is simple, intuitive, and made our initial set up a breeze thanks to built-in instructions. Abode’s online security dashboard was another nice touch, and a feature we didn’t see anywhere else. The dashboard is a browser-based control center that works on any device. It’s customizable, can be read at a glance, and makes it incredibly easy for you to manage alerts and IFTTT actions.
Abode’s online dashboard.
It only took 15 minutes to completely install the system. All of Abode’s devices paired with its hub on the first try, which was a surprise. Even with Scout and Iris, we had to repeat a few steps before everything would sync. We also noticed that Abode’s beeping (for alerts and notifications) is much pleasanter (and lower in volume) than Scout’s alerts, which were a little too similar to the piercing chirps that smoke detectors emit when they need new batteries.
One of our favorite aspects of Abode was its smart key fob. Each fob can be paired to a specific person and has three controls: an away button, a standby/disarm button, and a home button. (There’s also a fourth inactive button, but Abode hasn’t decided what to do with it yet.) That makes Abode the only DIY home security system that you can disarm before you go inside. Scout Alarm and the Lowe’s Iris require you to enter your home before disarming, and it was surprisingly pleasant not to feel like we had to rush to hit that 30-second window.
We were also impressed with Abode’s unique take on motion detection. Its detector includes a camera module that snaps photos to help you identify what triggered the sensor. Instead of getting a basic push notification that reads “motion detected,” you also get a snapshot on your phone’s lock screen.
Abode Paid Monitoring Plans
$10 per month
14-day timeline and media storage
Connect + Secure $30 per month
24/7 professional monitoring
90-day timeline and media storage
Here’s another example of how Abode’s hardware excelled: We had trouble getting the Iris and Scout door sensors to align properly due to the shape of the molding around the doorway of our test home. The Iris sensor, in particular, required some finagling before it would notify us of an open door 100 percent of the time. But we placed Abode’s sensors at max range from each other (one inch) and they never missed a beat.
Of all the DIY systems we looked at, Abode’s free self-monitoring plan also packs the most punch. With no subscription whatsoever, you can use every feature available on the mobile app (which includes options like push notifications, a live surveillance feed, and system controls — features that Scout requires you to pay for) and you get access to three days’ worth of system activity, like when a particular door was opened or a particular motion sensor was triggered. If you want to bump that history up to two weeks, the Connect plan costs $10 per month. And for $30 per month, you get a three-month timeline plus professional monitoring. (It’s also worth noting that only paid plans include media storage for streaming video.)
Speaking of video, Abode’s streaming bookshelf camera is only 720p, but that’s honestly the extent of our complaint list. And because Abode is “works with Nest” certified, you can invest in the more flexible and 1080p-streaming Nest Cam if necessary. It’s also worth mentioning that the camera includes a metal plate and swivel hinge for wall mounting. If you want to hang your camera, you’ll need to bust out your screwdriver.
But if video surveillance is important to you, a slight word of caution: Abode’s 720p streaming bookshelf camera was the only piece of hardware that left us wanting. It can be placed on a flat surface or attached flush to a wall with an adhesive sticker, but that’s the extent of its flexibility. In other words, you can’t mount it in a corner, or adjust the angle without turning the entire device. This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, though. Abode is “works with Nest” certified, which means you can invest in the more flexible and 1080p-streaming Nest Cam if necessary.
Abode sells a lot of its own devices (which are competitively priced), but it also supports a great variety of third-party Z-Wave and ZigBee devices, which Scout, our other top pick, does not. The list is smaller than that of the Lowe’s Iris, but it does cover all the home automation basics: smart lights, deadbolts, outlets, and wall switches. As a note, any variety of Kwikset and Schlage Z-Wave door locks will work with Abode except for Kwikset’s line of Bluetooth KEVO locks.
Glass break and vibration sensor ($36)
Door and window access sensor ($30)
Acoustic glass break sensor ($60)
Indoor motion sensor ($54)
Indoor streaming camera ($150)
Motion sensor with wide angle camera ($115)
Occupancy sensor ($60)
Key fob ($27)
System status indicator ($36)
Wireless keypad ($80)
Home Automation Power Outlet & ZigBee Extender ($50)
Indoor add-on siren ($60)
Temperature, humidity, and light sensor ($50)
Water leak sensor ($40)
Abode Connected Home Security
A truly free DIY home security system that hits all the right notes — especially when it comes to design.
In the Box
One Gateway (hub), two door contacts, one motion camera, and one key fob.
Monitoring Plans Connect: $10 per month Connect + Secure: $30 per month
Scout covers all the essentials, plus a little more. It offers integration with a number of popular ecosystems (Next, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, Philips Hue, LIFX, and Amazon Alexa), is incredibly easy to setup, and has incredibly compact, contemporary hardware. But there’s one drawback we feel is worth mentioning right off the bat: You have to pay $10 a month to use Scout’s mobile app and mobile alerts. Unless you subscribe, the only way to know that your alarm has gone off is to hear it.
That being said, if you’re likely to want professional monitoring at some point, Scout’s $20 “Always On+” subscription tied with Lowe’s Iris for the cheapest professional monitoring service available. (Abode charges $30 per month, and the price range basically goes up from there.) There’s no contract, and the Scout Hub has a 4G LTE chip that serves as a backup for system alerts — as long as you’re a subscriber, of course.
Scout Paid Monitoring Plans
$10 per month
Push, Email, and SMS notifications
4G LTE Backup
$20 per month
Push, Email, and SMS notifications
4G LTE Backup
24/7 professional monitoring
The first thing we noticed about Scout is that instead of slapping the same access sensor you’d use for windows on your door (like the rest of the industry), Scout built the Door Panel. It’s a bit larger than the average access sensor because it includes a built-in speaker. This meant that the “beep” for Scout’s door activity was noticeably louder, which turned out to be an interesting perk: Given that the Door Panel made its own sound, we were able to gauge whether a door or window had been opened using only our ears.
And when we say Scout’s Door Panel was noticeably louder, we mean it was seriously louder than Abode and Iris. Every time we opened the front door, we shuddered a bit in anticipation of the ear-piercing beep that was to follow. But on a positive note, we heard every single notification loud and clear, regardless of where we were in the house.
The Door Panel also functions as an access point for Scout’s RFID key fobs and stickers. This allows you to waltz through the door and flash your keys in front of the panel to disarm the system. No typing. No buttons. Scout also lets you use your phone’s location services to automatically disarm your system when you enter your home. (You can see all of Scout’s recipes on its IFTTT channel.) Note: Scout’s key “fob” is actually just a chunk of plastic with an RFID sticker slapped on top. It looks a little half-baked, but it gets the job done. We didn’t have any trouble disarming our system with a somewhat slow wave of our keys.
Scout touts that fact that it lets customers pick and choose only the devices they want instead of selling fixed security packages. But you should be aware that you’ll need to spend at least $200 minimum on a hub ($130) and a door panel ($70) just to get your system up and running — every system requires at least one Door Panel. We’d argue that this still constitutes a package, but we’re not complaining since Scout’s hardware pricing is generally on par with competitors.
Scout is also a Samsung SmartThings-approved system, so if you’re invested in the SmartThings ecosystem, it’s a solid choice. In fact, if you’re using Scout with SmartThings, you won’t need to use the Scout app anymore. Instead, you can transition completely to the SmartThings app, which allows you to control everything — from fridges to hot water heaters to smart outlets — from one interface.
Another attractive feature was Scout’s detailed installation tutorial videos. We didn’t see this level of detail from any other company, and it made installing our system much easier.
Scout Hub ($130)
Door Panel ($70)
Motion Detector ($50)
Access Sensor ($30)
Key Fob ($5)
RFID Sticker ($3)
Yard Sign ($10)
Lowe's Iris Review
Let’s talk about the good: The Lowe’s Iris supports the most third-party home automation devices of any DIY home security system. Anything from smart light bulbs, to more obscure products, like WiFi-connected garden sprinklers and doggy doors can be automated by Iris. Its proprietary devices aren’t quite as sleek as Abode or Scout (they’re just, well, white), but many of them are considerably cheaper. For instance, the Iris Smart Hub is only $60, while Scout’s runs $130. Iris contact sensors are also about $8 cheaper a pop than both Scout and Abode. Overall, this system had the cheapest DIY equipment of all the companies we reviewed.
So what’s the catch? Lowe’s had quite few logistical hiccups with Iris early on. These affected the release and availability of new hardware, and also resulted in the sporadic rollout of some home automation features. We started testing the Iris system over a year ago, and we can attest to the quirks — including a bug that kept the Iris from automatically going back online after losing connection for even a split second.
That being said, Lowe’s has been great about publicly addressing these issues and has followed through with plans to push more consistent software updates and offer a professional monitoring option: $20 month-to-month. The company also gave a much-needed facelift to the Iris mobile app in early 2017. However, Lowe’s still isn’t confident enough to give its product a warranty, so don’t expect any help from them if something breaks or doesn’t work correctly.
Once we feel comfortable that Lowe’s has a firm handle on its product, we’ll consider including the Iris in our top picks.
The most affordable hardware and the largest selection of third-party home automation devices. One downside: If you run into issues with you system, Lowe’s can’t help you.
In the $100 Security Pack
One key panel, two access sensors, and one motion detector.
Canary is an all-in-one security solution that’s most suitable for small homes and apartments. It’s an unassuming tower that’s roughly double the size of a can of soda, but it’s packed with a full security deployment: a motion sensor, a crazy loud 90-decibel siren, an air quality sensor, and of course, a 1080p streaming camera with high-quality night vision. (We had complete clarity at over 30 feet in pure blackness, which was the entire length of the room we used for testing.) Free users also get a 12-hour video history, but you can up that to 30 days for $10 a month.
Here’s how it works: when the Canary detects motion, you get a notification on your phone that leads to a live stream of your home so that you can assess the situation. There aren’t any door or window sensors, but if you’re living in an apartment, the camera’s 145-degree lens will cover the majority of your living space (depending on your layout, of course).
The Canary was one of our favorites to test. The video stream seemed a bit more stable than other DIY systems (and appeared to have less latency), and the app itself was really smooth. What’s more, you can link multiple Canary cameras to the same account and stream all of them from the same interface.
One small note: Canary doesn’t have a backup cellular connection like our other top picks do. But, if it goes offline, you will get a notification.
An all-in-one DIY home security tower that’s great for small homes and apartments.
An air quality sensor, compatibility with the Canary Flex security camera, and a free 24-hour video history.
The Best DIY Home Security Systems: Summed Up
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Did You Know?
You can use IFTTT to automate you DIY home security system.
If This Then That or IFTTT for short, is a service that allows you to connect other services and applications together (using what IFTTT calls “applets”), letting you accomplish almost any task imaginable. For instance, you can use IFTTT to automatically cut off your phone’s WiFi when you leave home to save power. What’s even cooler is that you can use these applets to make both Abode and Scout even smarter. Just remember that if you use IFTTT to automatically disarm your system when you enter your home, your phone’s location service must be powered on. Otherwise you’ll get quite the loud surprise.