The most valuable investment in a smart home is a security system. With a central control unit, you can make contact sensors, motion sensors and other modules work together to improve the protection of your home.

What a smart home security system can do

A typical home security system includes: A control panel, which is the primary controller of a home’s security system. Camera for indoor and outdoor. Motion sensors for doors and windows.

First, let’s talk about the significant advantages you can get from a smart home security system that traditional home security systems can’t provide.

Online real-time video

Want to check your property from time to time? No problem, a smart security camera can provide real-time video for you, no matter where you are or when you want it.

Some security cameras – like some made by Nest – even have a two-way audio feature which enables you to talk and listen to a person in front of your camera. Could even work with a dog, but don’t try it on a cat!

Instant alert

When you are away from home, the system keeps watch over your property. For any suspect sound and motion, you can get a push notification on your phone, get an email, or both. Even better – you can adjust the work pattern of the system to suit different situations. For example, when I’m home I don’t want the alarm to work at all, so I can simply disarm the indoor security to prevent any false alerts.

Smart home integration

The security system can interact with other smart devices or systems, such as lights, door locks and thermostats, to improve your smart-home experience.

For example: If the door lock is unexpectedly opened at night, then my light automatically turns on and begins to flash as a silent alarm.

When I travel far away from home for a long vacation, I can arm the security system, while my lights adhere to a pre-set daily routine – like I never left!

 Why DIY?

Do-it-yourself security systems sometimes include smart home integration, too, which adds a whole extra one-two punch to the whole kit. So, for example, you can arm or disarm your system automatically by using a compatible smart lock, or by speaking to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Some manufacturers also make an extensive variety of accessories, so you don’t have to worry about filling in the blanks to expand your security setup.

Every home is different, and so is every homeowner’s security needs. Like most technical services, you can pay for professionals to craft your home security system or you can take matters into your own hands. DIY home security means you can customize your equipment, self-install, and then monitor alerts from your sensors and video feed.

The factors you should consider

The size of your house

The size of home security system is dependent on the size of your house. If you live in an apartment, monitoring your windows and door should be enough. But if you live in a townhouse, then you’ll need more units to watch your front yard and back yard.

The differences not only affect the number of units, you also need to extend the range of wireless signals for large houses, to make sure every unit is connected.

Security needs

Everyone has their own needs for home security. To simplify the topic, check out the following factors which people usually consider:

How many doors and points of entry do you want to monitor?

Every door and window may not need watched, but it is good practice to count the number then determine how many sensors and cameras you need to keep your home secure.

Self-monitoring or professional monitoring?

The safest way to keep your property on watch is to pay for a professional monitoring service, but you are unlikely to require that kind of service all the time, especially when you are home – most people feel uncomfortable when they know someone is watching their personal life.

The reasonable approach is to use both options. When you journey abroad you should consider paying for a professional service. When you are away from home, perhaps at work, you can rely on self-monitoring.

False alarms caused by the environment

False alarms are more than a nuisance to you and your neighbors. They’re a major resource drain on local protection agencies. The most effective way to prevent false alarms is to personally verify all home security alerts by checking video footage before dispatching help. This has two positive effects: You help reduce the false-alarm rate and you are more likely to receive prompt help from first responders with evidence of an actual security breach.

Easy use app

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.

Cost of the whole system

The cost comes from two separate parts: hardware and service. The hardware is a one-time cost, but the service, including video storage or professional monitoring, attracts costs per month.

The cost for hardware mostly depends on the size of your house and  what kind of security service you need.

4 Best DIY home security systems

Ring Alarm 

 

Mode Description 5 Piece 8 Piece 14 Piece
Base Station Central Control unit 1 1 1
Keypad User interface 1 1 2
Contact Sensor Window/door sensor 1 3 8
Motion Detector Motion sensor 1 2 2
Range Extender Extend another 250-foot range for Z-Wave 1 1 1

 The base station includes a built-in 110-decibel siren, 24-hour backup battery and optional cellular backup (with a Ring Protect Plus subscription).It can control security within a 250-foot range via Z-Wave. Double the range of coverage by another 250 foot with the range extender (also available for other Ring products like doorbell or Cam).

The keypad provides a traditional way to control your system. You can switch between Away, Home, and Disarmed modes: “Disarmed” deactivates sensors, “Away” activates all sensors, and “Home” activates sensors selected to suit your needs. More advanced features need to be operated using the phone app.

 Nest Secure

Product link

mode Description Original    

Nest Guard

 

Central Control unit 1    
Nest Detect Window/door sensor,also Motion sensor 2    
Nest Tag Key Fob 2    
Nest Connect Range Extender 0    

 

Nest Guard is not only the central-control unit, it is also the alarm, keypad, motion sensor and siren. It connects to Nest Detect via Thread – up to 30 Nest detectors supported per home. Also, the cellular backup is optional with $5/month fee.

You can tap Nest Tag to arm or disarm the system, or you can do it the more traditional way by entering the passcode on its keypad, or you can ask Google Assistant to do it for you. Nest Secure provides three security levels: alarm off, home and guarding, away and guarding.

Like Ring Alarm you can extend the range of the system by Range Extender (Nest Connect), but the original kit does not include Nest Connect – it is sold separately.

Gheck price on BestBuy

SimpliSafe Wireless Home Security

 

Product link

mode Description 5 Pieces 8 Pieces 9 Pieces 12 Pieces
Base Station Central Control unit 1 1 1 1
Keypad User interface 1 1 1 1
Entry Sensor Door/Window 1 4 4 5
Motion Sensor 1 1 2 2
Key Fob 1 0 0 1
Panic Buttons 0 1 0 0
SimpliCam Security Cam 0 0 0 1
Siren 105dB siren 0 0 0 1

 SimpliSafe is another powerful security system. Anyone can set up SimpliSafe in just a few minutes. The base station includes a central-control unit and siren, with a backup battery the company claims will last for a full 24 hours. Setup requires placing the base station in a central location within 400 feet of your sensors and 100 feet of your keypad, the official recommend range for best performance.

There might be a weak communication problem for big houses or complicated situations. SimpliSafe doesn’t provide any “Range Extender” product, so if you just happen to have a sensor out of range the only thing you can do is relocate your base station.

SimpliCam is another option to perfect the system, enabling you to watch live HD video and audio 24/7 from your mobile device for free. Nest and Ring also provide such an option: see Ring Cam and Nest Cam.

Abode Essentials Starter Kit

mode Description Abode Security Kit
Gateway Central Control unit 1
Mini Door/Window sensor Door/Window 1
Motion Sensor 1
Key Fob 1

The Abode gateway is the centralized hub which connects all of the connected devices to the Abode services. It is extremely powerful and communicates wirelessly with the various devices using three different secured protocols (433MHz RF, ZigBee 2.4GHz, Z-Wave 908.4 MHz & LAN-ethernet/Wi-Fi).

Abode security devices such as door sensors, key fobs, keypads and motion cameras utilize either 433MHz encrypted frequency or the ZigBee protocol. You can place devices within a 200-300 foot range from the Abode gateway for indoor usage.

The Abode gateway can be the center of the smart home. It can handle up to 160 locally connected (abodeRF, Zigbee, and Z-Wave) devices from Abode or third-party products.

Summed up

Installation

As they are all DIY security systems, the installation isn’t difficult, but for SimpliSafe and Abode there is no range extender available, so they are not an appropriate solution for large properties.

Extensibility of the systems

All the above security systems have some add-on accessories, but not every kind of accessory is supported.

Name Camera Range Extender Keypad Doorbell Lock Smoke Alarm Flood sensor
Ring Alarm Y Y Y Y N Y Y
Nest Secure Y Y Y Y Y Y N
SimpliSafe Y N Y Y N Y Y
Abode Security Y N Y N N Y Y

 

Security Service Plan

Subscription fee is a continuous cost for the security service.

Professional Monitoring 24/7 Video Recording Cellular backup Fee
Ring Basic Plan N 60-day Y $3/mo or $30/yr
Ring Plus Plan Y 60-day Y $10/mo or $100/yr
Nest 3-year plan Y N Y $19/mo
Nest monthly plan Y N Y $29/mo
Nest Aware N 5-day/10-day/30-day N $5/10/30 per month or $50/100/300 per year
SimpliSafe Standard Y N Y $14.99/mo
SimpliCam interactive Y 30-day $24.9/mo
Abode Connect Plan

Optional On-Demand

(3-Day: $8 / 7-Day:$15)

14-day Y $10/mo
Abode Secure Plan Y 90-day Y $30/mo

 

Cost for 3-year whole home protection

Using a small apartment with 1 door and 1 window as an example, for 3-year whole home protection.The prices may vary due to different sellers,and  the discount not included in the calculation.

Hardware cost

Ring: $199+$199=$398 for 1 Motion Detector ,1 Contact Sensor,1 Range Extender and 1 Ring indoor Cam

Nest: $399+$199=$598 for 2 Nest Detect and 1 Nest indoor Cam

SimpliSafe: $249.99+$99=$349 for 1 Entry Sensor,1 Montion Sensor and 1 SimpliCam

Abode: $279+$149=$428 for 1 min window/door Sensor ,1 Montion Sensor and 1 Abode Cam

Subscription fee

Ring Plus plan: $100*3=$300

Nest 3-year plan: $19*36+$300*3=684+900=$1584

SimpliCam interactive plan: $24.9*36=$896.4

Abode Secure plan: $30*36=$1080

In total

 

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False alarm from pet

If you have pets, there might be a lot of false-alarm caused by them if you don’t place or set the sensor correctly. Every system has its own solution to avoid that problem, but there is not perfect solution to eliminate that kind false-alarm entirely.

Verdict

Ring Alarm is an affordable DIY system, representing great value for the cost of hardware or security service. Nest Secure is a fascinating system which includes many high-quality products despite its high price.

SimpliSafe and Abode are versatile security solutions for small homes. Both have a good whole-home protection service plan, but I would like to point out that SimpliSafe provides a more comprehensive service package than Abode – while Abode is more powerful with regard to smart home integration.