The Best DIY Home Security
Best Free Monitoring
Best Professional Monitoring
Cheapest Professional Monitoring
Best for Smart Home Integration
Best for Simple Needs
How We Found the Best DIY Home Security Systems
8 Systems Considered
8 Months of Testing
5 Top Picks
The Best DIY Home Security
DIY home security lets you take peace of mind into your own hands with live feeds, mobile alerts, smart home integration — 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.
How We Chose the Best DIY Home Security
Home security, your way
Every home is different, and so is every homeowner’s security needs. Like most technical services, you can pay for professionals to craft your home security system or you can take matters into your own hands. DIY home security means you customize your device kit, self-install, and then monitor alerts from your sensors and video feed. Self-monitoring is the common difference between DIY and traditional security, but there are plenty of companies that strike a happy medium between both. We looked at providers offering pure DIY as well as those offering professional monitoring, either de facto or as an upgrade.
We required all systems have Z-Wave Support — the most universal mesh network for communicating appliance to appliance. One of the biggest draws of a DIY system is the opportunity to add in third-party equipment (like Philips Hue lights or a Nest Thermostat) at any point. A Z-Wave compatible system can connect 1,700 home security and automation products from more than 450 companies. Plus, you have flexibility in where you place various devices because Z-Wave can communicate farther distances than competitor networks.
Installation and function
Ultimately, we wanted systems that could integrate seamlessly into our homes and improve our quality of life. To find which fit the bill, we spent a day outfitting a 1,900 square-foot home with the equipment of our finalists. We appraised the installation process, the ease and clarity of registering and syncing, the app experience, and functionality. We were pleased to find we could get most systems up in less than half an hour, but the quality of both hardware and software differed. We docked points for flimsy or easy-to-knock-over physical elements and slow or disfunctional cyber ones. Effective home security offers crisp and quick app interfaces (preferably with practical perks like customized sensor names and facial recognition) and instantaneous notifications.
The 5 Best DIY Home Security System
Why we chose it
Abode was created by a former ADT employee, and it hits all the right notes: Completely free self-monitoring (with 3 days’ security history), a nuanced and powerful app, simple pairing procedures, compatibility with voice assistants and third-party devices, and a sleek, sturdy design to boot.
Robust free plan
Of all the DIY systems we looked at, Abode’s free self-monitoring plan 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) 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 90-day timeline plus professional monitoring.
Rather than restrict control to a physical hub hung on your wall, Abode puts control where you actually need it: in the palm of your hand. Abode’s security dashboard is accessible by any internet-connected device and gives you enough information to take action from wherever you are. When Abode’s motion sensors are triggered, it snaps a photo to show you what triggered it. The smart key fob and its three buttons — away, standby/disarm, and home — allow you to disarm as you walk towards the front door. We found that a lot more convenient than racing inside to beat the alarm’s 30-second window, particularly if you have an armful of groceries or a baby on your hip.
Abode sells a lot of its own devices (which are competitively priced), but it also supports a slew of third-party Z-Wave and ZigBee devices, including all the home automation basics: smart lights, deadbolts, outlets, wall switches. Whether you want to deck out your smart home with convenient automation or fortify it with access sensors and flood detectors, a third-party compatible security system gives you freedom to customize.
Points to consider
If part of the appeal to DIY is the ability to cut corners and keep costs down, then Abode’s luxury may feel like a step in the wrong direction. At nearly triple the cost of Frontpoint, it’s basically the Bentley of DIY home security systems. That said, our exceptional experiences with the system made us fall in love with it, high price tag and all.
Why we chose it
Great hybrid option
Frontpoint captures the best of both DIY and do-it-for-me worlds, with self-installation and sophisticated equipment line-up coupled with professional monitoring. We built our package uber-cheap — a control panel, glass break sensor, and four access sensors costs as little as $100 upfront. Then we installed and arranged the system, and let professional monitoring services take care of the rest.
Easy DIY process
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 mobile app guides every step of setup, and if at any point you’re stumped, you can call or check out the online video guides and detailed infographics.
Professionals on alert
With a professional sentry on your side, you’ve got someone looking out for your home 24/7. If you like the idea of DIY installation and customization, but would prefer the peace of mind of professional assistance. Frontpoint’s steeper monthly rate also comes with “Crash and Smash” protection, which alerts security operators if your system goes offline. A life-saving feature if a thief tries to disable your alarm by unplugging or smashing your control panel.
Points to consider
Professional monitoring required
Frontpoint requires a professional monitoring subscription plus a three-year contract. Monitoring plans range from $35 to $45 to $50 per month, each ascending tier unlocking additional features like home automation, mobile alerts, and camera storage. While not as flexible if you want to take a minimalist or independent approach to security, but appealing if you want the extra perks.
Frontpoint requires a big commitment after its 30-day trial: a 36-month contract. If within three years, your housing situation or security priorities change, it could cost 80% of your remaining contract to cancel. However, Frontpoint also makes a big commitment to you. Its equipment comes with a matching three-year warranty, while the rest of the DIY industry caps at one year.
Why we chose it
SimpliSafe equipment packages are truly DIY (each requires a hub and keypad, but beyond those you can add as many or as few sensors and cameras as you like) as well as the easiest to get up and running. The app isn’t required for the installation, and you don’t have to use any software to pair devices — it’s plug-and-play.
Change your mind, change your plan
Self-monitoring is free with SimpliSafe, but you have the freedom to upgrade to pro monitoring at any time. The security provider also offers flexibility with a generous 60-day free trial period. You get a refund if you aren’t satisfied in that initial two-month window. After that, you’re covered by warranty for 3 years.
Points to consider
No alerts without pro monitoring
The SimpliSafe system requires a professional monitoring subscription to receive alerts. That’s because it relies on a cellular connection rather than internet, so someone needs to send you an SMS text. There’s no option to receive automatic in-app alerts. You’ll have to upgrade to the $25-per-month plan to save yourself the task of keeping a constant eye on the video feed. (That’s still $10 less than Frontpoint’s cheapest plan, though.)
No home automation
SimpliSafe provides an abundance of choices when it comes to security (five unique packages) but not when it comes to automation. If home automation capabilities like wifi-controlled lighting or smart thermostats are important to you, Abode is a better choice.
Why we chose it
Build a security system of any size
With Scout you can choose to buy a pre-made set of curated devices or build your own (1 scout hub plus however many or few supporting devices you choose). The Scout Small Pack, the more economical package deal, includes one hub, one door panel, one motion sensor, two access sensors, and 2 key fobs for $300.
Self-monitoring runs $10 a month and allows you to access the mobile app and receive alerts. If the task of self-monitoring proves too daunting, you can easily upgrade to professional. With either plan, paying for a full year rather than month-to-month saves 10%.
Supports a range of third-party devices
It’s not just what devices the system provides; it’s how many devices the system can accommodate. With Scout, you can beef up its straightforward security line-up with security and automation devices from a ton of third-party sources like Hue, Nest, and IFTTT. It vies with Abode for the most connectability security system.
Points to consider
No free monitoring
Monitoring doesn’t cost much with Scout, but whether you choose to do it yourself or have professionals do it for you, you’ll still be charged. This actually isn’t exceptional when it comes to DIY home security, however. For instance, while SimpliSafe boasts a free self-monitoring option, it won’t send you any notifications without a paid professional plan.
Why we chose it
Ideal for small homes and apartments, Canary keeps home security simple, anchoring it in one unassuming, but feature-packed tower: the Canary View All-in-One. The tower hosts a 1080p streaming camera with high-quality night vision (the best IP camera we encountered), a motion sensor, an air quality sensor, and a crazy-loud, 90-decibel siren. It’s like starting a lawn-mower next to your face.
An all-seeing eye
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. We had complete clarity at over 30 feet in pure blackness, which was the entire length of the room we used for testing. The video stream also appears a bit more stable than other DIY systems and seems to have less latency.
Free or cheap monitoring
If you want just the device, it’ll cost $170. Free users get access to the app and 24 hours of video history. Add a year or two’s worth of membership on at any time ($100-$200) to stretch video history to 30 days and enable two-way talk and desktop streaming.
Points to consider
Can only cover one access point
You won’t find any entry sensors with Canary, so it’s not great for homes with many access points (multiple doors and ground-floor windows), though it does have the ability to sync with multiple Canary cameras to form a web of video security. If you’re living in an apartment, and primarily need security cameras for home surveillance, the tower’s 145-degree lens should cover the majority of your living space.
No offline functionality
Unlike our other top picks, Canary doesn’t have a backup cellular connection. Instead, it will give you a notification if it goes offline. The well-designed app does an effective job alerting you — just keep in mind that after letting you know of the situation, you will be powerless to do anything but return home. You’ll still be flying blind if the Wifi goes out in your house.
Guide to DIY Home Security
How to choose the security alarm system for your household
Pick your priorities
Video storage, home automation, and mobile access are three important considerations, and are offered at various levels from most providers.
If you’ve outfitted your system with video cameras, you’ll want to consider how long your footage is stored. Depending on the company, it may be saved to Cloud for anywhere between 12 hours and 30 days, and you have to pay for increased storage. Consider how long it will take for you to review recorded activity, especially if you are frequently away from internet.
Home automation features can often be added with third-party equipment, but some companies (like SimpliSafe) don’t offer it all. If increasing the IQ of your smart home is a priority, you’ll want to look for providers that offer home automation equipment of their own and make it easy to integrate other brands.
All of our favorite home security companies offer mobile access in some capacity, so you can control and monitor your home when you’re away. If you choose to self-monitor, this will be especially important.
Choose the size of your system
Just need one camera to cover your front door? In it for the automation, along with the smart home security? You can purchase pretty much any equipment piece independent of a full security system. For example, companies like Nest and Samsung offer indoor and outdoor cameras, thermostats, doorbell cameras, and their own simple alarm systems. You can purchase any of this à la carte, without the obligation of a starter kit. If you decide you want a fuller system down the line, you can always integrate those individual purchases.
Decide what kind of monitoring is right for you
Just like smart plugs and keyless deadbolts may not be for everyone, neither is self-monitoring. If you opt to DIY your system’s monitoring, it’s up to you to take action on reported activity. If you can handle fielding alerts (for both false alarms and real break-ins), just be sure that you keep your phone’s volume on and the battery charged. But if you suspect you may want the undivided attention of professional monitoring in the future, go with a company whose professional monitoring practices and prices align with your needs.
DIY Home Security FAQ
How much does DIY home security cost?
While we took note of the general costs of each system provider, prices will vary greatly based on the equipment package that’s best for your home and security needs, and your preferred level of monitoring. For most DIY systems, the plans will include more than just a monitoring service. As you upgrade tiers, you gain access to facial detection, custom modes, remote control, and mobile alerts. We’ve broken down a comparison of the monthly fees you’ll have to pay for each system.
What is IFTTT?
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. 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 a loud surprise.
How do I prevent false alarms?
False alarms are more than a nuisance to you and your neighbors, they’re a major resources drain on local protection agencies. Estimates for home security false alarm rates range from 98 percent to 99.8 percent. The most effective way to prevent false alarms is something DIY home security in its purest sense performs by definition — personally verify all home security alerts by video footage before dispatching help. This has two positive effects: You help reduce the false alarm rate and you are more likely to receive prompt help from first responders with evidence.
The Best DIY Home Security: Summed Up
Our Other Home Security Reviews
We have compared the plans and installed the gadgets, and have amassed favorite products and services to care for all aspects of your home. Check out our top picks in the reviews below.