Do-it-yourself home security used to be pretty simple, consisting mainly of a big dog and a baseball bat. No installation or monthly fees were required, although the cost of dog food could definitely add up.
Fortunately, DIY home security has come a long way. It’s easy to find cost-effective solutions that allow you to install a home security system yourself. Installation doesn’t take tools or a degree in engineering; in most cases, you just need to know how to peel and stick, then use a mobile app to set it up.
Give the dog a break. Here are a few simple steps to select and set up the best self-installed home security system for protecting your home or apartment.
Assess your needs
DIY wireless home alarm systems are more affordable than ever, from as low as $199 to $399 for a basic package. But your needs may involve more than just a panel, two or three door/window sensors, and a motion detector. Before you go shopping, ask yourself some questions, including:
- How many entry points need protection? Consider front and back doors, windows, and even the door that leads to the garage.
- What areas would benefit from motion detectors or video cameras? If a burglar enters, you’ll want to catch them moving around the house.
- Are you going to want to expand your system? It’s important to compare DIY home security systems and pick one that will easily expand with smart-home devices, like locks, lights, video cameras, and even a video doorbell.
- Will you want to monitor the system yourself with a mobile app, or choose professional monitoring? That’s also important, because not all systems are compatible with professional alarm monitoring.
Also, remember that DIY home security packages aren’t just for homeowners: If you’re a renter, you have just as much at risk.
Determine your budget
Now that you’ve got a better idea about your needs, it’s time to think about how much money you want to spend. Cost is important for home security packages, but also consider a company’s reputation. One system might cost a little more than the others, but it’s worth it as long as it’s backed by a well-known brand.
Also, think about what’s important to have right now, and what you can add later. For example, include a video camera in the first round, then add a video doorbell when your budget allows.
Ready … set … shop!
Now it’s time to go hunting. Two of the best sources for DIY home alarm systems are big-box electronics stores and online retailers.
As with anything else, be an educated shopper. Research well-known websites, visiting more than just one. Don’t buy the first system you find, and cast a wary eye on any “product reviews” site that’s too promotional of one brand or another. It may be biased or even working in cahoots with a particular brand.
Once you visit stores and search multiple online resources, a front-runner will soon become clear. It doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for special deals. With a little patience, for example, you might be able to find a great price on a DIY home security system with cameras as part of an online promotion.
Peel, stick, and set it up
The best self-installed home security systems typically share two characteristics: peel-and-stick mounting and easy setup.
Follow the user’s guide carefully regarding the best placement for your home security devices. Then just peel and stick, and place them where they will be the most beneficial.
It’s tempting to ignore the guidelines, especially if you’re confident in your technical savvy. However, they’re designed to not only make installation easier, but to make your system more effective and less prone to false alarms. That benefits you, and also helps local first responders stay focused on true emergency calls.
Look for a system that has a robust mobile app. It will typically walk you through setup step-by-step, and also alert you whenever there’s an alarm. If you choose a DIY home security system with cameras, you can view live or recorded footage on your phone or tablet from almost anywhere.
DIY and professional monitoring
Do-it-yourself doesn’t necessarily mean “monitor-it-yourself.” Smartphone monitoring capabilities are a must, since they’re one of the true benefits of having a DIY home alarm system. But 24/7 professional monitoring is an excellent way to make sure that your property is protected even if you’re not available during an alarm.
If you selected a home security system that offers professional monitoring, activate it as soon as possible. If not, make sure you’re familiar with how to respond on your app whenever there’s an alarm.
Feel free to move
Another big advantage of DIY home security is the ability to move your sensors or adjust the system as needed. For example, if you don’t feel that you’re getting full coverage from your motion detector, it’s as simple as removing it from its current spot and relocating it where it works best.
It’s also easy to take it with you if you move, which presents an interesting dilemma: In a 2017 survey of real estate professionals by Coldwell Banker, 40 percent of respondents said they felt that wireless home security and other smart-home technology would help a home sell faster. Eighty percent said buyers would be willing to pay more for a smart home.
With a DIY home alarm system, take it down and take it with you if you move, or leave it in place for the new owners and possibly boost the value of your home.
Teach everyone how to use it
Now that everything is in place, it’s important that family members understand how to arm and disarm the system. It can only protect when it’s activated.
Also, remember to activate it even when you’re at home. The “home and armed” function means that intruders will be kept out while you’re free to move about the house without setting off an alarm or alert. If motion triggers an outdoor video camera, check on it on your smartphone without leaving the safety of your home.
Any way you look at it, today’s DIY wireless home security systems are an easy, effective solution – especially compared to a big dog and a baseball bat.
Robert Ogle is a writer and editor with seven years of experience in the home security industry. He currently is Senior Copywriter at Brinks Home Security and was formerly editor of Security Nation magazine for the Electronic Security Association. Robert also focuses on smart-home technology trends, as well as the impact of disruptive innovation. Connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/robertogle/.