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Best DIY home security systems in 2021

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Best DIY home security systems

The best DIY home security systems let you protect your home for less than it would cost for you to have a professional installer come into your house. As their name implies, you have to install a DIY home security system, but it's easier than ever; most sensors that come with these kits are wireless, so it's simply a matter of sticking them to a window or door. In most cases, all you'll need is a screwdriver.

What's more, most of the best DIY home security systems offer the option for professional monitoring. So, if you want emergency services to be alerted in the event of a break-in or fire, you can add this on for a monthly fee. Some security kits even provide smart home control, so you can integrate third-party accessories such as smart lights, smart locks, and smart smoke detectors. 

What are the best DIY home security systems?

After testing a number of systems, we think the best DIY home security system is the Abode Essentials Starter Kit. At a starting price of around $200, it's one of the most cost-efficient smart security bundles available, and it offers integrated smart home abilities so that you can rig up devices like smart bulbs and smart door locks, along with everything else. 

The only caveat is that this kit doesn't include many accessories, though you can purchase other sensors for a reasonable price. However, it works with HomeKit, making it one of the few security systems that's compatible with Apple's smart home platform. That's also why it won a 2021 Tom's Guide Award for Smart Home.

The best DIY home security kit for those on a budget is the Ooma Home Security Kit ($180), which gets you all the basics, such as motion sensors and some integration with other smart home devices. Since it launched, the company has added both cellular and battery backups, but both cost extra, which makes this less a bargain than its initial price.  

Bad news for Ring Alarm owners: Ring is ending its $10/month Ring Protect Plus plan; if you want professional monitoring, you'll have to subscribe to its Ring Protect Pro, which is $20/month. Current Ring Protect Plus subscribers will be grandfathered in until January 1, 2025.

If you'd rather leave it to others, here are the best professionally installed home security systems.

Best DIY home security systems: Abode Essentials

Abode Essentials (Image credit: Abode)

1. Abode Essentials Starter Kit

The best DIY home security system

Specifications
Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: $20/month or $200/year
Number of Sensors Included: 2
Cellular Backup: Yes
Battery Backup: Yes
Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, Nest, IFTTT, Zigbee, Z-Wave
Reasons to buy
+Easy to install+Easy access to professional monitoring+Offers many home-automation schemes
Reasons to avoid
-Some setup available only through web app-Smart-hub capabilities not as robust as on other hubs

Whether you're a first timer to smart security or a seasoned veteran in the world of automation, the Abode Essentials Starter Kit has something for everyone, which is why we think it's the best DIY security system overall. In addition to being a versatile smart home controller with both Zigbee and Z-Wave integration — which means you can use it to control things like smart bulbs and smart locks — it's also straightforward to set up. Abode's system can also be connected to Apple's HomeKit, and controlled using Siri.  

The beginner's bundle is a bit slim in its accessory offerings, but you can choose from a host of other packages and purchase additional sensors separately. 

Abode offers three tiers of service: Free, Standard ($6/month or $60/year), and Pro ($20/month or $200/year). The free plan does not let you record video from cameras or use automations within the system, but you can view live video, use smart home integrations, and get push notifications. 

The Standard Plan gets you 7 days of rolling cloud storage for video and a timeline of events, such as when doors are opened. The Pro plan gets you 30 days of cloud storage, as well as 24/7 professional monitoring, as well as cellular backup. If you have the Standard plan, you can also get three- and seven-day monitoring on an as-needed basis for $8 and $15, respectively.

Read our full Abode Essentials review.

Best DIY home security systems: Ooma Home Security Kit

(Image credit: Ooma)

2. Ooma Smart Security Starter Pack

Best value DIY home security system

Specifications
Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: $14.99
Number of Sensors Included: 2
Cellular Backup: No
Battery Backup: No
Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant Nest, IFTTT
Reasons to buy
+Affordable kit and accessories+Remote access to emergency services+No app required for notifications
Reasons to avoid
-No automation abilities (besides scheduling and geofencing)

Don't care too much for professional monitoring? The Ooma Smart Security Starter Pack is very bare-bones — you get the hub, one motion sensor and two entry sensors — but you also get Ooma's robust VoIP service with low monthly fees. The system also works with Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can use a smart speaker to arm and disarm your system, and get updates on the status of the system.

Ooma's free tier includes push notifications, unlimited sensors, and a remote siren. For $5.99 per month, you get e911, phone call, text message, and email notifications, and auto arm and disarm. 

Ooma also added professional monitoring (for an extra $14.99 per month), which was a much-needed feature. Since its launch, Ooma has added both battery backup ($34.99) and cellular backup, so your system will continue to function if the power and Internet go down. The Ooma Telo 4G — which provides cellular backup — costs $129, plus $11.99/month.

Read our full Ooma Smart Security review.

Best DIY home security: Blue by ADT

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

3. Blue by ADT

Home security from a seasoned pro

Specifications
Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: $19.99
Number of Sensors Included: 4
Cellular Backup: Yes
Battery Backup: Yes
Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant, August
Reasons to buy
+Optional professional monitoring+Lots of third-party integrations
Reasons to avoid
-Clunky camera setup-Not HomeKit compatible

The third time is the charm with Blue by ADT. This sleek little DIY home security system comes with the basics (the lowest-priced system is $200), yet allows you to add accessories, such as security cameras and video doorbells, as you see fit. The hub includes a siren and a keypad to arm and disarm the system, as well as a Z-Wave antenna for smart home connectivity, an 85-decibel siren, a 4G LTE cellular radio, Bluetooth, a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi radio, a speaker, and a 24-hour backup battery.

While chunkier than most of the best video doorbells and home security cameras, Blue by ADT's devices include facial recognition to notify you of familiar faces, plus smoke and CO2 siren detection. In the month we tested Blue by ADT, we came away impressed. However, its monthly monitoring fee of $20 (plus $3/month for each camera) is a little higher than the rest.

Read our full Blue by ADT review.

Best DIY home security systems: SimpliSafe Essentials

Simplisafe Essentials (Image credit: Future)

4. SimpliSafe Essentials

Best professional monitoring

Specifications
Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: $14.99-$49.99
Number of Sensors Included: 4
Cellular Backup: Yes
Battery Backup: Yes
Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant, August
Reasons to buy
+Easy to install+Keypad remote is familiar+Alarm is very loud
Reasons to avoid
-Remote access available only with professional monitoring-Lacks geofencing

If you don't care too much about fancy home automation schemes like flashing bulbs when someone opens a door, the SimpliSafe Essentials kit is our runner-up pick for best DIY smart security system. In addition to having one of the louder sirens we tested (93 decibels), it's also stylish, and an included keypad makes setting it up accessible for anyone. And, the kit comes with more accessories than the typical bundle from competitors, including three entry sensors instead of the standard one or two. Additional accessories won't break the bank, either, and include a smart lock and a video doorbell, two things you rarely find in DIY home security systems.
      
Simplisafe integrates with both Alexa and Google Assistant, as well as August, which makes what we consider to be the best smart lock. Simplisafe's professional monitoring starts at $14.99 per month, and a $24.99/month plan includes a lot of additional features, such as secret alerts. You can also cancel the plan at any time.

Read our full Simplisafe Essentials review.

best DIY home security systems

Ring Alarm (Image credit: Ring)

5. Ring Alarm

An easy to install system with affordable professional monitoring

Specifications
Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: $20 a month ($200 a year if paid up front)
Number of Sensors Included: 2
Cellular Backup: Yes
Battery Backup: Yes
Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Ring, Z-Wave
Reasons to buy
+Easy to install+Affordable professional monitoring+Loud alarm
Reasons to avoid
-Doesn't work with Google Assistant

Ring's Alarm system is affordable, very easy to set up, has a loud alarm, battery and cellular backup. Plus, Ring has a lot of compatible add-on devices, such as video doorbells, security cameras, and smart lights, and it works with Alexa, so you can arm and disarm your system by voice. Ring's system is compatible with select Schlage, Kwikset, and Yale smart locks, as well as smart plugs, smart light switches, and smart outlets on GE and Leviton. Here is a list of everything that works with Ring.

Ring's second-generation Ring Alarm has smaller door and window sensors, as well as a redesigned keypad with one-touch buttons for Police, Fire, and Medical assistance. The Ring Alarm Security Kit costs $199, and includes a keypad, base station, contact sensor, motion detector, and a range extender. Ring also sells a retrofit alarm kit for $199; if you have a home with existing sensors, it can incorporate those sensors into Ring's system, potentially saving you some money and the hassle of adding new sensors yourself.

Ring also has the Ring Alarm Pro, which has an Eero Wi-Fi 6 mesh router built into the main hub itself. 

However, Ring increased the price of professional monitoring to $20/month for new subscribers. The Ring Protect Pro subscription, also includes Internet backup if you have the Ring Alarm Pro.

Read our full Ring Alarm review.

Best DIY Home security systems: Wyze Home Security System review

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

6. Wyze Home Security

A strong budget DIY home security system, with a few caveats

Specifications
Professional Monitoring/Monthly Price: $4.99 a month/$59.88 a year
Number of Sensors Included: 3
Cellular Backup: No
Battery Backup: Yes
Smart Home Compatibility: None
Reasons to buy
+Easy to install and use+Inexpensive professional monitoring+Battery backup
Reasons to avoid
-Alarm could be a little louder-Limited compatibility with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant-No cellular backup

Wyze has made a name for itself offering quality smart home devices at absurdly low prices, and its Wyze Home Security System is no exception. For $99, the starter kit includes a base station, keypad, motion sensor, and two window/door sensors, one of the lowest prices outside of Ooma. And, adding accessories, such as the Wyze Cam v3, are equally affordable. Moreover, professional monitoring is just $60 per year, far cheaper than the competition. 

However, there are a couple of caveats. Unlike all of the other DIY home security systems on this page, Wyze does not have a cellular backup, so if your Internet goes down, so does the system's ability to reach you or a monitor. And it also lacks compatibility with Alexa or Google Assistant. But if you can overlook those issues, it's one heck of a bargain.

Read our full Wyze Home Security System review.

Best DIY home security systems: Abode iota

Abode iota (Image credit: Future)

7. Abode iota

Works with a lot of smart home devices

Specifications
Professional Monitoring/Monthly Price: $30/month, or $8-$15 for three- or seven-day monitoring
Number of Sensors Included: 2
Cellular Backup: Yes
Battery Backup: Yes
Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, Nest, IFTTT, Zigbee, Z-Wave
Reasons to buy
+Fast, easy setup+Works with Alexa, Google Home+Can connect to other Z-Wave, Zigbee smart-home devices
Reasons to avoid
-Smart home integrations are a bit fragmented-Camera doesn’t trigger notifications

Most home security systems have a base station that's best left hidden; the Abode iota changes that with a hub that has a built-in 1080p camera, as well as a 93-dB alarm that connects to all its other door and motion sensors and sounds loudly when someone tries to break in. 

The iota is also one of the only security systems that works with Apple HomeKit. It's a good idea, but you can't do as much with the camera as you can with standalone wireless security cameras, which limits its effectiveness. 

Abode offers three tiers of service: Free, Standard ($6/month or $60/year), and Pro ($20/month or $200/year). The free plan does not let you record video from cameras or use automations within the system, but you can view live video, use smart home integrations, and get push notifications. 

The Standard Plan gets you 7 days of rolling cloud storage for video and a timeline of events, such as when doors are opened. The Pro plan gets you 30 days of cloud storage, as well as 24/7 professional monitoring, as well as cellular backup. If you have the Standard plan, you can also get three- and seven-day monitoring on an as-needed basis for $8 and $15, respectively.

Read our full Abode iota review.

Best DIY home security systems: Honeywell Smart Home Security

Honeywell Smart Home Security (Image credit: Future)

8. Honeywell Smart Home Security

Includes a camera with motion detection

Specifications
Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: No
Number of Sensors Included: 2
Cellular Backup: No
Battery Backup: Yes
Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT
Reasons to buy
+Built-in camera with motion detection+Works as a Z-Wave hub+Alexa built in
Reasons to avoid
-No professional monitoring-Facial recognition feature needs refining

Similar to the Abode iota, Honeywell's Security System is centered around a hub with a built-in security camera and speaker, only in this case, Honeywell's hub also has Alexa built in, so you can use it as a smart speaker when you're not using it as a security device. (You can also use the system with Google Assistant.)

The camera in the Honeywell hub also has facial recognition, but we found this feature didn't work as well as it should have. Moreover, the hub doesn't have all of Alexa's features. The base station does have a battery backup, but Honeywell doesn't offer professional monitoring as an option, nor cellular backup. 

Read our full Honeywell Smart Home Security review.

Best DIY Home Security systems

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

9. Alexa Guard Plus

Alexa-based home security

Specifications
Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: Yes/$4.99
Number of Sensors Included: n/a
Cellular Backup: No
Battery Backup: No
Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa
Reasons to buy
+Uses existing Amazon Echo devices+Low monthly price
Reasons to avoid
-No proactive professional monitoring-No battery/cellular backup

If you already have a bunch of Amazon Echo speakers, Alexa Guard Plus is an inexpensive way to get an ad-hoc home security system. Alexa Guard Plus uses the microphones in compatible Echo devices to listen for things such as glass breaking, footsteps, or smoke and fire alarms, and will send an alert to your smartphone. From there, you can contact a helpline, who can connect you with emergency services. 

Alexa Guard Plus is a bit different from the other services on this list, whose professional monitors will contact you if something is amiss. And, because it relies on Amazon Echo devices, there's no battery or cellular backup. However, it's free if you have a Ring Protect Plus plan, and you can connect it with other smart home devices. If you have a compatible home security camera (namely, ones from Ring and Blink), you can also have your Echos start making barking dog sounds if the camera detects motion.

How to choose the best DIY home security system

DIY security systems: Professional monitoring fees

Abode: $20/month
Alexa Guard Plus: $4.99/month
Ooma: $14.99/month
Simplisafe: $14.99/month
Ring: $20/month
Nest: $19/month
Wyze: $4.99/month

How many doors and entryways do you want to monitor?

Most security kits come with two or three motion and door sensors. However, if you live in a house with a lot of windows, you'll need to add more sensors. Check out how much additional sensors cost; the price can quickly climb.

Key fobs equal convenience

If you have people coming in an out of the house frequently — whether they be dog walkers, house cleaners or annoying family members who happen to live close by — you will want to look at a security system that accepts key fobs or remote access.

Many of the app-first solutions will let you set up individual PIN codes for the different members of your household, while others will include access tags in the box. If this is of particular concern, the Nest Secure is one of the better choices, since even the most technophobic will be okay with merely scanning a keychain every time they exit and enter the house.

Do you want professional monitoring?

How much do you want to spend per month to ensure that your home has that extra protection? In most cases, the bigger the kit and the more devices you're using to monitor your dwellings, the higher the monthly subscription price. (The only system that doesn't do this is the Ooma Home Security kit, though it doesn't offer professional monitoring.) Some companies start as low as $15 a month, like ADT, though they only cover specific triggers. Others can be as high as $30 a month for around-the-clock surveillance. Note that you may also need to register your home alarm with your city or county, which will also add to the overall professional-monitoring fee.

Do you want to make this part of your smart home?

While many security systems will work with such devices as smart locks — unlock your door, and the system will disarm itself — not all integrate as easily with other best smart home devices like security cameras, lights and other sensors. Abode's system is the most compatible in this regard, while Nest's system also does a fair job.

Is the app easy to use?

Consider a security system that comes with an app you'd love to use. You can usually preview these things on the corresponding website. App reviews in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store are also a good indicator of the overall user experience. After all, if you don't have a working portal or gateway to your security system, it's not going to be very functional.

DIY versus professionally installed home security systems

Installing a security system in your home or small business can be an incredibly empowering experience. In the past, if you wanted to protect your home and outfit it with sensors and a siren and the like, you would have had to call a company like ADT, sign up for an annual contract and then wait for someone to come over and configure it all for you. But these days, all you have to do is pick out a kit that suits your security needs.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to setting up your home security system is the fact that you can choose when you want professional monitoring enabled. For instance, if you're the work-from-home type, you might not want a security service, since you're home all the time to see what's going on, anyway. But when you and the family are ready to take a trip away from the abode for several days, you can use an app to enable that additional, watchful eye.

How we test DIY home security systems

We tested out the DIY home security systems in the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area in a two-story townhouse over the course of three months. Each kit comes with a base station and a variety of sensors. The security gateways were all configured on the first floor of the house near the main entrance, while the motion sensors were placed facing the front door and were no higher than six feet off the ground. (This was done to test whether each sensor would pick up cat movement.) Additionally, we used a sliding glass door to test each entry sensor.

Most manufacturers list the decibel power of their sirens, but we tested their relative loudness by setting off the alarms and leaving the house. We signed up for every professional monitoring service to check their responsiveness in case of a trigger. Each gateway was also unplugged and used in battery mode to determine its abilities in case of a power outage. If the gateway required an Ethernet connection, it was hooked up to a Google Wi-Fi node that was closest to the front door.

All mobile apps were tested using a Google Pixel 2 smartphone running Android 8.0 and up. All browser apps were tested using the Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browsers.

There are some instances when the interface of the system won't rely too much on a mobile app, as is the case with the Samsung SmartThings ADT security kit, which comes with a touch-screen panel, or the SimpliSafe Essentials kit, which comes with a keypad. These are also worth considering if you're not the kind of person who always carries around your phone.

Mike Prospero

Michael A. Prospero is the deputy editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing the home, smart home, drones, and fitness/wearables categories, as well as all buying guides and other evergreen content. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine or some other cooking gadget.