The Best DIY Home Security

The essential difference between a DIY and traditional home security system is monitoring. When your system is professionally monitored, the monitoring company is in charge of contacting you and the authorities if your system goes off. 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 optional professional monitoring to find the DIY home security system that gives you the most control without breaking the bank.

If you like the idea of DIY installation and equipment customization, but would prefer the peace of mind that comes with 24/7 professional monitoring, FrontPoint offers (and requires) both. Its starter pack is one of the most affordable, 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 “Crash and Smash” protection feature, which alerts security operators if your system goes offline. The only downside: Frontpoint requires a big commitment after its 30-day trial, with 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.

With completely free self-monitoring, the best app experience available, Amazon Alexa and Z-Wave integration, and a sleek design — Abode’s $320 DIY home security system is hard to beat. At nearly triple the cost of Frontpoint, it’s basically the Bentley of DIY home security systems, high price tag and all. We love Abode’s online security dashboard, which provides you with an easy-to-read hub that’s accessible on any internet-connected device. Self-monitoring plans start at $0 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.

With SimpliSafe, you can add professional monitoring for just $15 per month, but its not a requirement. You can upgrade at any time too, if you find self monitoring is too taxing or not giving you that peace of mind. You can even try it for 60 days and get a full refund if you’re not satisfied (double Frontpoint’s 30-day trial). SimpliSafe offers five packages, starting at $230, but doesn’t offer any sort of home automation.

Lowe’s Iris has one standout feature: affordable add-on equipment. You’ll have to pay a bit more upfront than Frontpoint to get set up (around $200), but Iris’ extra sensors generally run from $8 to $15 — that’s 30 to 50 percent cheaper than sensors from 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 past the 90-day return window, don’t expect Lowe’s to help.

Designed for small homes and apartments, Canary keeps it simple with just one feature-packed tower that hosts a high-quality camera, an air quality sensor, and a siren. You won’t find any entry sensors with Canary, so for homes with many access points, consider one of our other picks. That said it does have 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 — you’ll have to make do with the free 24-hour video history, or pay for the $100 membership to get 30-day media storage. If you want something simple and low maintenance, we recommend Canary.

Our Reviews of the Best DIY Home Security Systems

Best Professional Monitoring
Frontpoint
Frontpoint
One of the biggest names in home security, but you’ll need to sign a three-year professional monitoring contract.

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.

The equipment costs as little as $100 upfront and includes one control panel, one glass break sensor, and four access sensors. That’s significantly cheaper than the starter packs from SimpliSafe ($230) and Abode ($279).

Frontpoint captures the best of both worlds; we built our package, installed and arranged the system ourselves, and then professional monitoring services took care of the rest.

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 walked us through every step of our setup, but if at any point you’re stumped, you can call up Frontpoint helpline or check out one of its online video guides. In its online help center, you’ll find detailed and infographic guides for every single piece of equipment. If you’re a visual learner, Frontpoint also has thorough video tutorials.

The downside is that Frontpoint requires a professional monitoring subscription (starting at $35 per month, $15 more than Abode) — plus a three-year contract. You can also upgrade to the Interactive ($45/mo) or Ultimate ($50/mo) monitoring plans to unlock additional features like home automation, mobile alerts, and camera storage. That’s obviously not as flexible as our other 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.

Frontpoint does have a few Z-Wave home automation options, but you’ll need the highest tier monitoring plan, the Ultimate, to unlock those features. Frontpoint offers smart lights, locks, and cameras. The options are fewer than most of our other picks, but it's more than SimpliSafe, which does not offer home automation.

Free Self-Monitoring
Abode Connected Home Security
Abode
The best free monitoring plan, a wide range of integration options, and innovative equipment.

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.

Our hands-down favorite Abode feature is the smart key fob. Its three buttons — away, standby/disarm, and home — make Abode the only system that allows you to disarm without inputting directly to the keypad. No more rushing inside to beat the 30-second alarm window, especially when you’ve got handfuls of groceries or a child on your hip. You can also buy several key fobs to assign to specific people in your home.

In general, we found motion detectors to be fickle and frustrating. For the majority of them, you’ll be alerted to motion, but won’t have anyway of knowing if it’s an emergency or rowdy pet. Abode, however, has a unique take on motion detection. When its sensor is triggered, it’ll snap a photo with its embedded camera module. Instead of getting a basic push notification that reads “motion detected,” you also get a snapshot to make an informed decision about calling the police or disarming your system.

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) 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.

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. 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.

Cheapest Professional Monitoring
SimpliSafe
SimpliSafe
It doesn’t offer home automation, but it’s a great choice for those who want the cheapest professional monitoring.

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 (part of the reason that it requires a professional monitoring subscription to receive alerts).

In the newsIn 2016, Forbes reported that hackers could remotely disarm SimpliSafe’s systems by stealing the user’s code from the panel. SimpliSafe has since updated its system to combat any security vulnerabilities. Today, the odds of a hack are pretty slim, which is why we're comfortable recommending SimpliSafe.

Unlike Frontpoint, SimpliSafe doesn’t require professional monitoring. If you’re interested, its 24/7 professional monitoring subscription is only $15 per month. To get SMS or email alert features and the ability to arm/disarm from anywhere, you’ll have to upgrade to the $25-per-month plan (that’s still $10 less than Frontpoint’s, though).

SimpliSafe equipment packages are truly DIY, and you can easily build and buy one online. Each system requires a hub and keypad, but then you can add as many sensors or cameras as you’d like. This truly allows you to design a system that fits your home and priorities. There’s one notable drawback: SimpliSafe doesn’t offer home automation. So if WiFi-controlled lighting or smart thermostats are important to you, Abode is a much more flexible choice.

Most Affordable Hardware
Lowe's Iris
Lowe's Iris
A really affordable system with the largest selection of home automation devices available. The only problem: Lowe’s won’t help you if you run into any issues with your system.

Lowe’s Iris supports the most third-party home automation devices of any DIY home security system. Anything from smart light bulbs to WiFi-connected garden sprinklers and doggy doors can be automated by Iris.

Its proprietary devices aren’t quite as sleek as Abode’s (they’re just uninspired white bricks), but many of them are considerably cheaper. For instance, let’s say you wanted to purchase a central hub and three access sensors; with Abode it’s $255, and with Lowe’s Iris just $130. Overall, this system had the cheapest DIY equipment of all the companies we reviewed.

But that affordability came with quite a 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 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. If you aren’t looking to invest too much in a system, these inconveniences aren’t major. But for the best DIY, Iris can’t quite keep up with our other picks’ instantaneous interfacing.

That said, Lowe’s has already publicly addressed these issues and has followed through with plans to push more consistent software updates and offer a professional monitoring option: $15 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 after 90 days.

Great for Small Homes and Apartments
Canary
Canary
A high-quality video surveillance approach to home security that’s best for small homes and apartments.

Canary is an all-in-one security product that’s most suitable for small homes and apartments. The system is anchored in an unassuming tower called the Canary View All-in-One (it looks like two stacked soda cans), which is packed with a full security deployment: a motion sensor, a crazy-loud, 90-decibel siren (the same as your average lawn mower), an air quality sensor, and 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. For free, users will also get a 24-hour video history, and for $10 a month you can up that to 30 days of history. If you purchase a two-year membership ($200), you get the All-in-One for $69.

If you want just the device, it’ll cost $169. You can add a year’s worth of membership on at any time, and it’ll still be $100. Membership enables two-way talk, desktop streaming, and the extended video storage. If you aren’t sure you’ll utilize these features, don’t feel pressured to buy into the membership right away.

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 should cover the majority of your living space (depending on your layout, of course).

If you own a large home with many entrances, this system isn’t for you. But if you want something simple and effective for a smaller space, the Canary packs a punch for how compact it is.

Though Canary doesn’t have a backup cellular connection like our other top picks do, it will give you a notification if it goes offline. And 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.

How to DIY Your Security System

Components of a DIY system

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 kept in the Cloud for anywhere between 12 hours and 30 days. You’ll have to pay a monthly fee for most storage options more than a couple of days. Consider how long you’ll need to take action on any activity, or if you’ll want footage for long periods of time that you’re away.

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. Abode was one of the few companies to offer mobile alerts and push notifications for free, but most require a monthly fee to unlock that feature.

You don’t need to buy a whole system.

Just need one camera to cover your front door? Only in it for the home automation? You can purchase pretty much any equipment piece independent of a full security system. For example, companies like Nest and Samsung SmartThings offer indoor and outdoor cameras, thermostats, doorbell cameras, and their own simple alarm systems. You can purchase any of this a la carte, without the obligation of a starter kit. And if you decide you want a fuller system down the line, you can integrate any individual purchases.

Our DIY Home Security Review Summed Up

DIY Home Security System The Best
FrontPoint
Professional Monitoring
Abode
Free Self-Monitoring
SimpliSafe
Cheapest Professional Monitoring
Iris
Most Affordable Hardware
Canary
Great for Small Homes and Apartments