• Your guide to DIY home security systems

    By: Craig Johnson


    Everyone likes to feel safe and the security of yourself and your family probably ranks pretty high on the list of things that are important to you in life. In most places, the days of leaving your house unlocked while you’re away are long gone.

    With that in mind, homeowners can spend a pretty penny on the latest technology related to home security. Driven by electronic innovations, the global home security market is surging well past $100 billion, according to market watchers, with no sign of slowing down.

    But what about a regular Joe who wants to upgrade past the traditional deadbolt lock? There are a number of security systems on the market right now that homeowners can install themselves without breaking the bank.

    Home security means different things to different people — it could be motion-detecting lights, surveillance cameras or a plethora of “smart home” options from door-bell cameras to facial scanners. The question is what do you need to feel protected and have peace of mind?

    Here are some affordable DIY security systems


    If you want a system that can be easily integrated into other systems, Abode is a great option. The $379 starter kit is compatible with Nest, Amazon Alexa and a few other voice-activated systems. You won’t need any tools to install this one. The gear includes one gateway, which is the hub, one mini door sensor, one motion sensor and one keyfob. Starting cost: $379, If you want a real person monitoring the service along with cellular backup, tack on $30 a month.

    Other home security systems that money expert Clark Howard has highlighted are:


    “The Arlo is a wireless camera system for indoor or outdoor use. And get this: It requires no electrical hookup! It uses lithium batteries instead, just like electric cars do,” Clark says. With eight camera models on the market, prices range from $249.99 for the two-set Arlo Security Light to four-camera bundles at $779.99.

    Honeywell Smart Home Security System

    Honeywell, a longtime security company, recently got into the smart market with its Smart Home Security System, which is a DIY kit featuring standalone and bundled options. The kit’s primary apparatus is the Camera Base Station, which comes with a powerful 147° wide-angle live video stream that focuses in pin-sharp 1080p high definition. The company is promising to add facial recognition, which you can set to identity friends and family, and voice control with Amazon Alexa.

    The system is wrapping up an Indiegogo pre-order campaign, but will become more widely available early next year with bundled pricing for early birds starting at $375.


    This system has several tiers –starting at $150 to more than $600 — for various security kits, including one with a 110-decibel alarm system to alert your neighbors as well. One thing to be aware of though is that this system does not come with professional monitoring. Compatible with an IFTTT (If this then that) system, iSmartAlarm has a number of add-ons to make it more robust, such as Spot and the iCamera Keep Pro. Starting cost: $150.


    The Nest Cam Indoor security camera is designed to be your remote eyes when you’re away from the home.

    Its bread-and-butter feature is 24/7 live streaming camera in 1080p HD, ideal for TV or mobile phone playback. It comes with a magnetic stand and is all controllable from an app. From anywhere. Cost: Starting cost: $199 for a single camera and up to $669 for a 5-pack bundle.


    This no-frills security system offers a tiered system that caters to millennials on the go as well as seniors who are home around the clock. Ooma’s base plan, called the Home Security Starter Pack, gives homeowners  a Telo, motion sensor, and two door or window sensors for $149.98. You can add more sensors, a smoke alarm and the new Butterflye Camera for extra costs.


    Video doorbell maker Ring has launched a comprehensive home security system called Protect, which comes with a hardware portfolio that would make Lego proud. Tech website The Verge describes it like this: “The base unit costs only $179 and includes a single door/window sensor and a motion detector. Three other tiers are available with the most expensive one, Video Doorbell Elite, retailing for $499. Starting cost: $179.


    Scout is a built-your-system kit that starts with with a $129 Hub that communicates with all your sensors. Individual sensors start at $29 for the door/window and more. The system allows you to virtually grid your home into zones and name your sensors so that you know exactly which one went off. Add a no-contract monitoring plan for $9.99 a month. Notifications can be sent to both your smartphone or computer no matter where you are. Starting cost: $129.


    Marketed as “the fastest-growing home security company in the nation,” SimpliSafe offers 24/7 professional monitoring without the excessive fees tacked on by third-party vendors. Tiered plans start from under $100 and go up to $489 for The Haven, which features an array of sensors to protect against fire and water damage. Starting cost: $99.

    SmartThings ADT Home Security Starter Kit

    Samsung brand SmartThings has partnered with ADT to create a pretty powerful DIY security system. The starter kit features an array of wireless detectors and alarms, including a 7-inch touchscreen control panel with siren, a battery, cell data backup, and wireless duel-encryption. Starting cost: $599 or $45.83 a month.

    Wink Lookout

    The Wink Lookout is a DIY security system that uses extensive notifications to alert you when someone breaches your door or windows. You can set it to send you alerts when you’re at work or on vacation as well as tell you when your kids get home from school. Prices start at $199 with no required monthly fees and features the Wink Hub, two door/window sensors, one motion sensor and one siren and chime. Starting cost: $199.

    Beware of home-security ripoffs

    “Unsavory players in the home security field have come up with a new way to rip you off,” Clark says. “Here’s how it plays: When you sign a contract, you’re not given a physical copy. What happens instead is you sign on a tablet or smartphone. The terms and conditions are in tiny type and you sign with either your finger or a stylus.”

    While it’s difficult for anyone to read a lengthy contract, especially on the spot, Clark advises that homeowners at least skip past the legalese and read the part about what you’re agreeing to at what price and for how long.

    In other words, before you secure anything else, secure your wallet. Happy home protection!

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