Many of the companies in our review have made statements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can find them below:
Frontpoint: The company created a resource article to help customers learn how a security system can help with social distancing.
SimpliSafe: The company shifted its technical support team to remote working. Learn more at SimpliSafe.
Link Interactive: Employees are providing customer support, including troubleshooting, by remote work. Learn more at Link Interactive.
Google: The company has a COVID-19 page to help people get information and find resources.
Ring: The company is continuing to offer technical support via phone, but temporarily suspended email and chat support. Learn more at Ring.
Bottom line: DIY with Frontpoint
Security systems don’t have to come with a hefty installation fee—you can easily install DIY alarms on your own. Today’s DIY systems are customizable and come with companion apps that guide you through installation, monitoring, and emergencies.
Most DIY security systems link your home to a professional monitoring center that watches for alerts. This means you’ll have a monthly fee, but it takes the pressure off of you, boosts emergency response times, and cuts down on false alarms.
This brings us to our top pick, Frontpoint. It has a hub and keypad that are smash-proof and encrypted to keep your home and information safe. Frontpoint’s excellent customer service and five package options make it simple for security newbies to install, use, and add smart devices.
Info current as of 09/29/2020. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Purchasing and setting up your own home security system is an investment, so we wanted to recommend the best.
To find the best fit for a range of lifestyles and budgets, we did extensive research on key features, home security policies, installation, customer reviews, instruction manuals, and all the fine print. We even mystery shopped to get the most authentic experience we could.
Learn more about the methodology we use for each of our reviews.
Self-monitoring to save money
If you’re looking to do it all yourself, some DIY systems offer self-monitoring services. This skips the monthly fees, but you’ll have to watch your alarms and call emergency responders if needed.
The Frontpoint DIY security system offers reliable professional monitoring with easy-to-install devices. We found customer reviews consistently praising the easy setup, helpful customer support, and effective equipment.
If you pay up front for equipment, you can skip the contract with Frontpoint, but you’re on the hook for at least $250 depending on the devices you get.
Great customer service
3-year equipment warranty
Video monitoring costs extra
Required contract with $0 down option
For $0 down and a short payment plan (3, 6, or 12 months), you can get started with your own alarm system that includes a smart hub and keypad, three door and window sensors, two motion sensors, yard signs, window decals, and door stickers.
A system this size should be enough to protect a small home or condo against intruders. These devices are standard because they’re useful for monitoring your home’s entry points and the rooms inside.
The Frontpoint Hub and keypad work in tandem as the brains of the system. The hub encrypts information like keycodes and schedules, so hackers can’t touch the digital valuables in your home.
The monthly monitoring rates are higher than average, but you get a lot at every tier. Features like 24/7 monitoring, automated system checks, and unique user codes come standard for all the equipment plans.
The higher-end packages require more expensive monitoring plans but come with extra features like live video streaming and motion detection alerts.
Long contracts can be scary, but you don’t have to be afraid of SimpliSafe’s month-to-month plans. SimpliSafe is a great system if you’re curious about a new system but don’t want a long-term relationship right out of the gate.
The monthly prices range from $14.99 to $24.99, the same as many people’s coffee budget. Both of SimpliSafe’s plans include professional monitoring for environmental threats like fires and gas leaks, but only the Interactive plan tackles invasion and security issues.
No contract required
Affordable professional monitoring
Eight packages to choose from
Limited smart capabilities
No outdoor camera available
The Interactive plan also gives you mobile app access to your system so you can keep an eye on it from your phone.
SimpliSafe has all the equipment you need to protect your family, plus it’s a cinch to install. That said, SimpliSafe is missing features like Z-Wave compatibility and an outdoor camera. Still, it’s a great find for anyone who wants basic security in their home, big or small.
Nest broke onto the scene in 2010 with ingenious home devices like smart thermostats and smoke detectors and has since branched out into the world of home security. The Nest Securesystem isn’t just smart—it’s thoughtful.
One of the best examples of this thoughtfulness is the Nest Detect, a combination motion and contact sensor. Most security systems sell separate devices, but Nest combined the two to reduce device clutter, which can be a real problem in larger homes.
Self and professional monitoring
No contracts needed
Lots of third-party compatibilities
Steep initial price
From the moment you finish the easy setup to adding a schedule in the mobile app, Nest guides you through installation, setup, and everyday use.
Unless you opt for professional monitoring, you’ll pay for only the initial equipment cost, but it can be steep—the basic alarm kit is $399.
Before Blue by ADT, ADT monitoring required a three-year contract and some of the highest prices in the industry. But this system skips the contract in favor of a competitive plan that costs $19.99 a month.
Blue by ADT’s starter kits are surprisingly affordable—the most expensive one costs around $350. For comparison, this is cheaper than the base equipment for Google Nest Secure.
Affordable price point
Pricey smart camera add-ons
No online chat option
Glitchy mobile app
It even has a great selection of equipment, including six different security cameras. The cloud video storage with the monitoring subscription is small—you need to pay extra for more storage.
Blue by ADT is new to the market so it sometimes feels incomplete. The mobile app is a little glitchy, but we expect this to improve through software updates. The security cameras are also a little more expensive than we’d like.
Amazon-owned Ring is another no-contract DIY home security system to watch. While you can get professional monitoring, you can also monitor it yourself. We like Ring because it’s a simple system with some neat add-ons.
Ring has several equipment packages to choose from and a whole fleet of outdoor cameras and lights to keep your home and backyard illuminated and safe. It also has more smart doorbell options than other DIY alarm systems on our list.
Wildly affordable price
Compatibility with Ring doorbells and cameras
Cellular backup with Ring Protect Plus plan
Few sensors in starting package
Limited alert configuration
Tough features to reset
Because Ring is an Amazon company, it has excellent integration with Amazon Alexa smart speakers and fits well into an Alexa-centric smart home.
Ring starter kits cost as little as $199.99, making it one of the more affordable options on our list and a good alternative to SimpliSafe, our budget pick.
Ring recently updated its Ring Alarm security system. While all of the equipment looks different, it has the same basic functionality and costs the same, though we like that the new keypad is much easier to use.
6. Link Interactive: Best DIY security system for customization
Alder has a relatively simple setup process: the company programs every sensor and accessory before shipping your system. While this is what Frontpoint does, Alder’s monitoring service starts at $29.99 a month, which is about $15 lower.
We also like that Alder includes mobile app controls and video monitoring with all of its plans instead of making it a premium feature. Alder’s video monitoring is an especially sweet deal compared to professionally installed systems like Vivint and ADT.
Easy to set up
Alder locks in your monitoring rate when you sign up, so the price doesn’t go up unexpectedly. That’s good, because Alder also requires one of the longest contracts we’ve seen for home security—a five-year term.
Frontpoint isn’t just our favorite system with a DIY install, it’s our favorite security system period, especially since it dropped its monitoring contract requirement last year. Even though it’s more expensive than other systems on this list, we think it’s well worth the investment to get excellent customer service and equipment options.
Our runner up, SimpliSafe, is our favorite contract-free DIY home security system. In addition to eight equipment plans and simple setup instructions, you can choose to monitor the system yourself or opt for professional monitoring. It won’t lock you into a contract, and there’s a 60-day money-back guarantee if you decide the service isn’t for you.
Overall, considering factors like your family’s schedule, any regular visitors, and your security goals can help you choose a security system that suits your family’s lifestyle. To find out how DIY security systems stand up to ones with professional installation, see our review of the best home security systems.
DIY security systems FAQ
What should I consider before buying a DIY home security system?
There are tons of great systems that you can install yourself, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you take the plunge.
1. Notification preferences
Your schedule can affect how you receive and respond to notifications. If you’re away often, professional monitoring may be best because the alarm monitoring center alerts authorities if you’re unavailable when an alarm triggers.
2. Visitor access
Do dog walkers, babysitters, house cleaners, and other folks need access to your home when you’re not there? Consider a system with a key fob or personal code they can use to enter. Other DIY systems have a video doorbell you can use to buzz in visitors when you aren’t home.
3. Long-term living plans
Lastly, consider your living plans for the next three years. A lot of monitored security systems with DIY installation have a 36-month contract. If you’re currently renting, will you be moving in the next three years? If so, look for a DIY security system you can take to your new home. All the companies above let you take your equipment with you.
Can I take my DIY system with me if I move?
Most DIY systems are easy to set up and can move with you, making them great for renters. Generally, DIY systems come with peel-and-stick sensors that attach directly to the wall.
At most, you’ll need a screwdriver to pop open battery cases or secure equipment to the wall. The simple assembly makes for easy disassembly when you pack up to move out.
How many entry sensors do I need in my house?
The size of your house will determine how many contact sensors you’ll need. At minimum, you should have a sensor at each main point of entry. This may mean only one if you live in an apartment or several if you have a larger house with multiple exit points.
Will my dog set off the motion detector when I’m gone?
Pets under 40 pounds don’t trigger most motion sensors. For dogs over 40 pounds, you can replace the motion sensor with a glass break sensor or security camera. Just note that not all companies monitor security cameras for you.
Can I mix products from different systems?
Not usually, but systems compatible with Z-Wave technology allow you to customize your home with third-party products like smart lightbulbs and outlets.
Z-Wave uses radio signals to connect your smart home devices to a smart hub, which controls everything from one place. You can find Z-Wave products from a variety of manufacturers.
Other products use Zigbee technology that creates a connected mesh network throughout your home. The more Zigbee products you have, the stronger your network becomes.
When paired with the right security system, both Z-Wave and Zigbee devices can make your home smarter and safer.
What do I do if my system breaks or malfunctions?
Most DIY systems come with at least a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you have problems with your system within that first month, you can return it for free. Each home security company has a unique policy and warranty, so it’s best to read the fine print before purchasing.
How do I protect my DIY security system from hacking?
Hacking is a risk every user takes when using any internet-connected wireless system.
The good news is you can minimize the risk with proper internet security. Secure your system from online threats with these tips:
Use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts.
Opt for extra security measures like two-factor authentication.
Add shared users instead of sharing login credentials.