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Best DIY home security systems in 2020

Best DIY home security systems

The best DIY home security systems let you monitor your home for less, while still giving you the option of professional monitoring services. Instead of requiring a professional installer, these DIY home security systems are sent to you with all the parts you need—such as entry sensors, keypads, fobs, and sirens—and because most all the sensors are wireless, they're generally very easy to set up. In most cases, all you'll need is a screwdriver. 

The majority of the best DIY home security systems also offer professional monitoring as an add-on feature, so the authorities will be alerted to break-ins or other emergency incidents in your home. 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. 

When picking the best DIY home security system, you have a number of considerations, including the hardware you get and the monthly price for professional monitoring. We tested the top DIY home security systems to find which is the best in terms of price and features.

What are the best DIY home security systems?

After testing a number of different systems, we think the best DIY home security system is the Abode Essentials Starter Kit. At a starting price of $280, 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.

DIY home security systems: Professional monitoring fees

Abode: $20/month
Ooma: $14.99/month
Simplisafe: $14.99/month
Ring: $10/month
Nest: $19/month
ADT/SmartThings: $14.99/month

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. However, there's no cellular backup, which could be a deal breaker. (A battery backup is available, but costs extra.)

Although it's known for its professionally installed security systems, ADT is launching its own DIY kit, called Blue by ADT. Blue by ADT has two prepackaged kits: The Starter System ($219) includes a base station and two door/window sensors, and the Starter Plus ($299) has four window/door sensors and two motion sensors. You can customize either, or create a bespoke package, which starts at $179. All come with a free month of professional monitoring; after that, it will cost $19.99/month.

Amazon is debuting a new service called Alexa Guard Plus, which uses Amazon Echo speakers and some select home security cameras to watch and listen for signs of trouble. It will then alert you and a professional call center to dispatch emergency services if needed. Alexa Guard Plus will cost $5/month or $50/year when it launches later this year. In addition, Alexa Guard Plus will be offered as a free add-on service for Abode and Ring, and will also work with Scout Alarm, Resideo, A3 Smart Home, and Wyze.

Nest has discontinued its Nest Secure home-security system; as such, we've removed it from our list of the best DIY home security systems. While it's no longer for sale, systems that already installed will continue to work, according to Google. However, Nest has partnered with ADT, and plans to incorporate its devices with that home security company.

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

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

Easy to install
Easy access to professional monitoring
Offers many home-automation schemes
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. 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

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

Affordable kit and accessories
Remote access to emergency services
No app required for notifications
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. You can also purchase a battery backup in the event your power goes out, but Ooma lacks cellular backup.

Read our full Ooma Smart Security review.

Best DIY home security systems: SimpliSafe Essentials

Simplisafe Essentials (Image credit: Future)

3. SimpliSafe Essentials

Best professional monitoring

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

Easy to install
Keypad remote is familiar
Alarm is very loud
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 home 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)

4. Ring Alarm

An easy to install system with affordable professional monitoring

Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: $10 a month ($100 a year if paid up front) | Number of Sensors Included: 2 | Cellular Backup: Yes | Battery Backup: Yes | Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Ring, Z-Wave

Easy to install
Affordable professional monitoring
Loud alarm
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, and has a very affordable professional monitoring price of $10 per month. 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.

Read our full Ring Alarm review.

Best DIY home security systems: Abode iota

Abode iota (Image credit: Future)

6. Abode iota

Works with a lot of smart home devices

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

Fast, easy setup
Works with Alexa, Google Home
Can connect to other Z-Wave, Zigbee smart-home devices
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)

7. Honeywell Smart Home Security

Includes a camera with motion detection

Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: No | Number of Sensors Included: 2 | Cellular Backup: No | Battery Backup: Yes | Smart Home Compatibility: Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT

Built-in camera with motion detection
Works as a Z-Wave hub
Alexa built in
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: Samsung SmartThings ADT Home Security Starter Kit

Samsung SmartThings ADT Home Security (Image credit: Samsung)

8. Samsung SmartThings ADT Home Security

Works with Samsung SmartThings ecosystem

Professional Monitoring / Monthly Price: $14.99-29.99 | Number of Sensors Included: 3 | Cellular Backup: Yes | Battery Backup: Yes | Smart Home Compatibility: Samsung SmartThings, Alexa, Google Assistant

Includes smart hub with Zigbee/Z-Wave
Supports automation with Samsung SmartThings
Professional monitoring is available on an as-needed basis
Can't link third-party devices to monitoring service
Lacks geofencing abilities
Expensive monitoring fees

Samsung and ADT, two of the world's biggest names in their respective industries, have teamed up for this all-in-one security kit. The Samsung SmartThings ADT Home Security Starter Kit combines the professional monitoring services of ADT with Samsung's smart home prowess. The base station acts as both a gateway to the security system with its (dated) 7-inch touchpad, as well as a smart hub with Zigbee and Z-Wave integration. 

If you sign up for professional monitoring via ADT, it will run you $19/month if you sign up for a three-year contract, or $29/month if you go month-to-month. That's a bit more than most other services. Annoyingly, you can't link third-party smart home accessories with the ADT monitoring service. But the robustness of Samsung's SmartThings ecosystem might be worth it to you regardless, as long as you don't mind the slightly siloed experience.

Read our full Samsung SmartThings ADT Home Security Starter Kit review.

How to choose the best DIY home security system

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.