The Best Self-Monitored Home Security Systems
How We Reviewed The Best Self-Monitored Home Security Systems
40 hours of research
11 home security systems tested
3 top picks
Home security systems provide peace of mind, whether you’re home alone or your cat is. The price for that peace can be steep, however, since up till now you’ve had to both purchase the equipment and shell out monthly for professional monitoring. With the rise of home automation tools, it’s time to bring monitoring in-house. We compared 11 prominent self-monitoring systems to find which offer the most robust protection while keeping control in your hands.
The Best Self-Monitored Home Security Systems: Summed Up
How We Chose The Best Self-Monitored Home Security Systems
Strong device lineup
A home security system, no matter who is fielding its alerts, needs to be effective and reliable. That’s why the search for the best home security system without monitoring starts in the same place as the search for the best home security in general: with the equipment.
Basic home security equipment kits should include window/door sensors, high-decibel alarms, fire and carbon monoxide detectors, and a range of surveillance cameras. We gathered together all the DIY home security systems we could find, then ranked them by device options and quality.
11 home security systems considered:
- Google Nest
Integration and functionality
Without a professional monitoring center to field everything your security equipment detects, a high-functioning system becomes even more important. You need control over — and confidence in — your system. We compared the operation of 11 home security systems, looking at everything from compatibility with IoT platforms and networks to the breadth of controllable settings.
Flexible monitoring options
We looked for home security systems that give you a true breadth of monitoring options — from self-monitoring to professional.
Plenty of home security systems claim to offer DIY plans, but their devices amount to little more than noise-makers without a monitoring plan that activates smartphone connectivity. Any system that levies a monthly fee just to control your own equipment undermines the value proposition of self-monitoring.
On the other hand, while self-monitoring can allow you to side-step a monthly bill, you might find the strain of monitoring your own system out-prices the savings. In that case, you’ll want a system that allows you to seamlessly upgrade to a professional monitored plan. The potential alternative is having to scrap your equipment in favor of a kit that supports monitoring.
In addition to monitoring options, we also looked at installation options — flexible choices for self-installation, remote assistance, and professional installation got our attention.
The 3 Best Self-Monitored Home Security Systems
- Ring Alarm -
Best for Amazon Smart Homes
- Google Nest Secure -
Best for Google Smart Homes
- Abode Connected Home Security -
Best Self-Monitoring Home Security
Why we chose it
Amazon purchased Ring in 2018, solidifying the prominent home automation company’s status as an industry leader. Ring’s sleek, well-designed product line-up promises further innovation and integration thanks to its alliance with Amazon. And while that compatibility means that you can shop around for your pick of devices from most any brand, Ring’s extensive line-up means you don’t have to. Choose from a fleet of options for doorbells, cameras, security lighting, and safety detectors.
Cheap professional monitoring
Ring offers three plan options. The first is the free plan that comes included with all Ring purchases. You don’t have to pay anything for the devices to function: detect motion, send alerts, and provide real-time access to your video feeds. Now, if you want to record video or get professional monitoring, you’ll need to graduate to the Protect Basic or Protect Plus plans, but both are exceptionally affordable. While most home security monitoring systems cost around $40 per month, Ring costs just $3-$10 per month. Professional monitoring for $10 per month blows most of the competition out of the water.
Points to consider
No video recording without monthly plan
Unlike Abode, Ring does offer a video doorbell. In fact, it’s where the company started (hence the name.) But if you want to make full use of this top-of-the-line smart doorbell, you’ll have to shell out for a monthly subscription. Without it, there’s no video storage — just real-time footage. Now, at $3 per month for 60 days of video access, the mark-up isn’t extraordinary. Just know that it isn’t free.
Why we chose it
For many of us, security systems call to mind one thing: scrambling to disarm it before the blaring alarm goes off. Google Nest Secure is designed around the people it’s protecting, which means controlling your system just got a lot easier. To start off, every device is equipped with Google Assistant, so you can communicate across your system as soon as you set it up. You can arm your system using voice control. And rather than type in a passcode when you walk in the front door, just tap your key ring Nest Tag on the home hub — Nest Guard.
Brinks pro monitoring available
Usually shopping for home security means choosing one of two pathways — the old-guard or the avant-garde. The heritage companies, like ADT, or the new, tech-forward disruptors, like Vivint. Google Nest Secure provides the benefits of both. You get the sophisticated, cutting-edge devices that make security and total home automation easy, and you can also upgrade to professional monitoring from a security name you trust — Brinks. You can add Brinks to your Google Nest Secure system at any time. It’s already equipped to transfer alerts to the monitoring center in addition to your smartphone.
Points to consider
Traditional charges for traditional monitoring
If you do decide to beef up security with Brinks, be aware that you will be paying standard monthly rates with standard contract options. If you commit to a three-year contract, you’ll pay $20 per month for professional monitoring. Can’t guarantee you’ll want 36 months of Brinks protection? Month-to-month plans cost $30 per month.
Why we chose it
Abode delivers on what we were looking for — completely free self-monitoring, with all the right tools to make DIY security effective. The Basic self-monitoring plan comes included with every starter kit and costs exactly zero dollars per month. You can upgrade to the Connect plan or Secure plan for 4G cellular backup and professional monitoring, under $10 and $20 per month respectively.
App control and video storage
With Abode, you don’t have to upgrade your monitoring selection to access perks. Control your system via phone or web app and review recorded media for three days — most free video storage plans cap you at 24 hours.
Your Abode system can connect with up to 160 devices to build out a truly smart home. That bandwidth could come in handy, considering that Abode works with Z-wave and Zigbee networks as well as the platforms you are probably already using — Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and IFTTT.
Points to consider
No smart video doorbell
Video doorbells are one of the most useful home automation devices on the market, serving as both a security measure and a day-to-day tool for getting packages delivered and greeting visitors. Abode doesn’t currently offer a video doorbell in its line-up, which means that you’ll have to purchase it separately from a compatible brand if you want one installed.
How to choose a self-monitored home security system
Choose your platform or protocol
A smart home is full of devices — cameras and sensors and lighting and environmental controls. But without a shared method of communication between them, a smart home can turn out pretty dumb. Whether you’re interested in expanding to home automation or you’re satisfied with home security, making an informed choice about the protocol of your chosen system is key. The protocol is essentially the language the devices use with each other. All of our top three picks work with all the big names in the space, but if you have an outlying device you’re eager to bring on board, check what protocol it works with before purchasing.
Weigh the importance of optional monitoring
If you’re certain that you won’t ever want to bump up to professional monitoring, you have a ton of quality options when it comes to home security. In addition to Abode, Ring, and Google Nest Secure, we were also impressed with Arlo, iSmartAlarm, and Honeywell. If pro monitoring could be on your horizon, stick with our top picks.
Opt for professional or DIY installation
You can install the systems of any of our top picks yourself, or you can schedule a technician to come out and get everything up and running. The option of real life help is reassuring, particularly if you’d like input on where to locate key elements of your system, like cameras and motion detectors. Note that professional installation will cost you something, though probably less than $100.
Can you still get an insurance discount with a self-monitored home security system?
Unfortunately, most homeowners insurances don’t consider a self-monitored home security system equal to a professionally monitored home security system. The discount is specific to monitored alarms. While a self-monitored system won’t save you money on your insurance premiums, they also don’t cost as much as traditional home security. Many only cost you the upfront price of equipment. A discount can offset costs, but in this case, there isn’t a cost to offset.
How do you self-monitor your home alarm system?
The possibility of self-monitoring your home’s security system has only come about recently, thanks to tremendous advances in the smart home technology market. Rather than motion detectors and cameras sending information to a monitoring center, they send alerts to your phone. You can then review the situation and decide whether or not to call first responders.
Because so many alarms are false alarms (which puts a strain on first responders and can even cost you a fine from the city), the ability to vet the scene before dispatching help is actually a boon. But it’s also a weighty responsibility. If you can’t promptly respond to real threats — whether your phone is turned off, silenced, or simply not with you — you might as well not have a security system at all.
If you decide to self-monitor your home security system, we recommend you create a new set of practices for how you interact with your phone, or any of the devices you use to access your home security app. They should always be charged and available to you. Consider personalizing the alert tone, if possible, for messages delivered from your security app. Finally, make sure everyone who lives in your house understands how the security system works. Fewer false alarms will keep you primed to respond to the real deal.
What’s the difference between DIY and professional monitoring
A security system’s sensors send their detections somewhere. Either to you, or to a central monitoring station. If you are going the DIY route, you field the alert and decide whether or not to alert the authorities. With professional monitoring, the station receives the alert, then gets in touch with you. If they can’t reach you, they go to your emergency contact. If neither you or your emergency contact can respond, they dispatch the police.