How to Install a Home Security System: It’s Easier Than You Think

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While there are many benefits of a traditional home alarm system that is installed by an experienced security professional, there are tons of do-it-yourself (DIY) home security systems on the market, and they are easier to install and more affordable than you think.

No drilling or technical expertise is required! Plus, most of these DIY systems are wireless, making them a great security choice for renters who can’t drill holes in the wall.

Video: How to Install a DIY Security System

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Basic steps to installing a home security system

1. Install the wireless home security panel

Choose a place near your primary entry door and close to a power source to install the panel. Often, you’ll only need to hammer a small nail into the wall to “install” the panel. If you can’t put holes of any kind in the wall, you can use removable double-sided adhesive.

Some security control panels, like ones from Vivint or Cove, can also sit on a table. 

2. Place sensors and detectors throughout your home

Your system will include basic door sensors and window alarm sensors, and may include motion detectors. The sensors usually come with a peel and stick backing that holds them into place yet allows them to be moved as needed. Learn more about how to install entry sensors.

Use the guidelines provided with your home security system to place sensors in optimum locations, or follow our guide to effective motion sensor placement.

3. Test the security system

Follow the directions outlined in the security system owner’s manual to test the alarm system and make sure everything is working properly.

Key components of a DIY home security system

Security package components vary from company to company, and range from basic to robust. Many DIY home security vendors offer the option of buying components by the piece so you can create a custom home alarm system. Either way, a DIY home security system consists of the following basic components.

Main panel with keypad

The main panel and keypad are the brains of your DIY home security system. You’ll use the keypad to activate and deactivate the system, and if the panel is advanced, you may be able to use it to do things like program alarm settings.

Entry sensors

Every alarm system includes window and door sensors that react when the window or door is opened. How many sensors you buy depends on the number of windows and doors in your home, as well as your personal preference.

Motion detectors

Motion detectors are typically positioned in corners and react when motion is detected in the room. Some advanced motion detectors are paired with security cameras and start recording video when they detect movement. Depending on the system, you may be able to watch the video in real-time from your phone or other Internet connected device.

Environmental sensors

In addition to burglars, security systems also protect against fires, floods, and dangerous gases. Places sensors in the best location means you'll get fast alerts.

Smoke detectors

Don't skimp on smoke detectors when buying your DIY security system. Install one on every floor of your home, in every bedroom, and in every hallway or stairway. They can be screwed into a bracket on the wall or mounted with adhesive, just like most other sensors. 

Learn more about where to install smoke detectors for maximum safety while avoiding false alarms. We've also got a smoke detector testing and maintenance guide to help you keep this equipment in top shape. 

Carbon monoxide sensors

CO detectors should be installed near bedrooms and attached garages. As with smoke alarms, make sure there's at least one CO alarm on every floor of your home. 

Learn more about where to install CO detectors.

Water leak sensors

Water leak sensors rest on the floor wherever you're worried about leaks. Some have a wire probe that allows you to detect leaks in tight spaces.

If you have a chance to do so during remodeling, put a water leak sensor under the tub or under the shower valves. Toilet flanges also tend to be leaky, so put one in your basement or crawl space under a toilet connection. 

DIY home security systems won't work for everyone

Easy to install, affordable, and powerful, a DIY home security system can help protect a studio apartment in the city or a big house in the suburbs, but it isn’t the right home security solution for everyone.

Although DIY home security systems are designed to be installed by non-technical homeowners, some people don’t want to or can’t install the system. And there’s always the chance it will get installed improperly and then you run the risk of going unprotected.

Some DIY systems don’t offer advanced services or components that traditional alarm systems do, such as fire and carbon monoxide monitoring, panic buttons, or pet-immune motion sensors

Remember that a "DIY system" just means you're installing the equipment yourself. You can still have professional alarm monitoring with a DIY system. A monitored home security system can reduce the chance you’ll be a victim of a burglary.

About 60% of convicted burglars say the presence of an alarm would make them seek a different home to burglarize. It can also save up to 20% on your homeowners insurance. So whether you choose a DIY home security system or opt for the traditional route, a home alarm system is a smart investment.

Learn more about DIY vs. professional security installation and monitored vs. unmonitored systems.

Read our brand installation guides

Curious about how to install a specific brand? Our guides will show you what to expect.

You can also check out our Vivint installation guide for a glimpse of what happens during a professional security system install.

Alexia Chianis
Written by
Alexia Chianis
Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics.

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