DIY home security systems can save you money, both in terms of upfront installation costs as well as long-term monthly expenses. Of course, it’s important to know how to put the system together to make sure it works properly. Otherwise, you can run into problems with poor coverage or false alarms.
In this article, we’ll discuss what you need in order to get started with a do-it-yourself home security system.
How DIY Home Security Systems Work
First, let’s look at how DIY home security systems work. A home security system consists of these parts:
- Central control panel or hub
- Sensors that send a signal to the control panel when triggered
- Monitoring services, which can use either wireless internet or a phone line
- Sirens that sound when the alarm is triggered
Optional are cameras and smart locks, which can be useful for those who want the latest features and highest levels of security possible. However, for most purposes, sensors and monitoring are typically sufficient.
As you consider the brands and types of devices to incorporate into your DIY home security system, you’ll want to make sure each device is compatible with the overall system. This is especially important for systems using smart hubs like Amazon Echo, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, etc.
What You Need to Get Started
To get started with your home security system, you’ll need the abovementioned items as well as the following tools:
- Drill with necessary drill bits
- Wire cutter/stripper
- Pry Bar
It should be noted that with some modern DIY security kits, you may not need all these tools (some devices just need to be hung on the wall and connected wirelessly to your central hub). However, it’s useful to have them on hand in case you do need to do some drilling or wiring.
One of the first items to consider when designing your own home security system is the kind of monitoring service you need. Monitoring is important because it notifies authorities in the event of an alarm trigger. Without monitoring, it can take a little while for police and fire departments to be notified (if anyone contacts them at all), and you may not always have the option to make the call yourself.
Many professional installers offer monitoring for about $40 to $50 per month, but it’s possible to get these services for as little as $10 to $20. You may also opt for self-monitoring, but this means keeping a close eye on your own system 24/7. It is possible with modern “smart” systems that send notifications straight to your phone, but it’s also quite a burden, especially if your system sends you frequent false alarms.
Once you’ve chosen a monitoring service, you’ll want to wait a bit before you actually connect it with your system. That way, you can “break in” your system to avoid sending off false alarms.
Central to your DIY home security system are door and window sensors. Sensors should be placed in the following locations:
- Front and back doors (plus any others that lead outside)
- Ground floor windows
- Any upstairs windows that can be accessed without a ladder
For upstairs windows that aren’t accessible from the outside, sensors are optional. Rarely, if ever, will burglars carry ladders around with them, so those windows should be safe. When installing window sensors, it’s helpful to place sensor contacts in a way that allows you to open the window just a crack. That way, you can let in some fresh air while also keeping the window secure in case an intruder tries to force it wider. Further details on sensor installations can be found here.
The basic level of any home’s security is the use of quality locks. If you want to increase the functionality and convenience of your system, you might consider installing smart locks on your doors. There are many models to choose from, but they boil down to these basic options:
- Deadbolts, which are easiest to install
- Lever-style locks, which are more comprehensive, but harder to install
- Keyless entry
- Built-in alarms
- Smart home compatibility
Smart locks may include features such as wireless access, forced entry detection, and more, all of which can help improve your home’s security.
Surveillance cameras may seem a bit much, but more and more homes are using them these days. The possibility of video evidence is often enough to deter would-be burglars, so having cameras set up in key spots in your home can make it that much more secure.
Modern smart cameras include many of the following features that are worth considering:
- Live HD streaming with large volumes of storage
- Smartphone alerts through connected apps
- Facial recognition—some cameras only send alerts if they don’t recognize someone
- Two-way communication
- Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing them to be incorporated into larger home automation systems
- Doorbell cameras that show you everyone who stops by
It’s important to mention that some models require a monthly subscription to access some of their features, so that’s important to consider when looking at smart security cameras.
Putting It All Together
As mentioned, compatibility is an important issue to consider, especially when you want to incorporate smart home elements into your DIY home security. Take the time to make sure everything will communicate with your central hub or control panel.
You might also opt for a DIY home security kit. These are typically simple to set up and include detailed instructions. However, you want to make sure you get enough sensors to keep your home secure—many kits only have a handful.
Once you have your system set up, let it sit for a while before you connect a monitoring service. That will give you time to iron out any kinks that may cause false alarms. If things still don’t go right, it may be time to contact a professional.