DIY Security Systems That Protect Your Home on the Cheap

May 16, 2018 |

Whether you’re a techie or a novice at home automation, we’ll offer options to install your own home security system at a price you can afford.

Previously, building out your own affordable home security system was a pretty ambitious endeavor. Translation? Non-techie types need not apply. But times and technology have changed. These days, securing your home doesn’t have to be a big, expensive commitment involving extensive wiring and many, many YouTube videos.

Today’s DIY approaches are straightforward, wireless, and able to integrate home automation in unprecedented ways that even novices can manage. Before you decide that do-it-yourself security is the answer, let’s discuss how a home security system works and what components can make the difference during a break-in.

How Do Home Security Systems Work?

Home security systems generally have two main features: surveillance devices and sensors that trigger alarms. These include various components like security cameras, alarms, and door or window sensors that are connected through a central hub allowing users to control and respond to incidents.

Compatible Devices that Communicate Wirelessly

While you could have these elements hardwired to a phone line or cable connection, that’s an old-school approach that most security experts advise is easily sidestepped by thieves. One strategic cut and your alarm system is off-line and your home exposed, especially if you’ve opted to forego the professional monitoring. To alleviate that concern, we focus on affordable components and systems that allow home owners to connect and monitor wirelessly.

But with that convenience comes a new challenge. Your components need to be compatible with each other. Choosing cameras, alarms, and sensors that employ the same communication protocols is vital for a working, fully integrated home security system. For a more in-depth discussion of two communication protocols, ZigBee and Z-Wave, visit our ZigBee vs. Z-Wave comparison article.

The bottom line? ZigBee gives you more flexibility, but Z-Wave is easier to use and has more security industry support. For that reason, most of the recommendations we’ll make for home security components will rely upon Z-Wave technology.


Professional monitoring is both the advantage and disadvantage of DIY home security systems. While you can get away cheap by self-monitoring and managing the components yourself, this method also puts you in charge of responding to incidents. Rather than automatically deploying police to your home, your security system will simply alert you and allow you to decide whether to act. During a break-in, delays in responsiveness can be crucial to property loss and damage.

While you might start out monitoring your own security system, it would be wise eventually to employ professional monitoring for more convenient management of alerts and alarms. While some security companies insist that you use their brand devices to sign up for their monitoring services, a few support customers who buy and install their own devices.

Use our interactive tool to discover which providers support monitoring of existing and DIY systems.

Components of a Home Security System

What goes into a security system? The perfect recipe for protecting your home depends on balancing how much you can invest with the protection you need. At a minimum, you want to choose devices that are multifunctional, wireless, able to communicate well with each other, and flexible enough to expand the system affordably. You’ll see some variation of the following components in our recommended packages.

  • Control Panel or Hub: This device acts like the brain or command center of your home security system, receiving signals from various components and providing alerts and status updates.
  • Door and Window Sensors: These relatively inexpensive sensors can be attached to doors, windows, and more to detect disruption, breakage, or vibration should someone attempt to enter your home.

See SafeWise’s Top 5 Self-Install Door and Window Sensors.

  • Security Cameras: Both indoor and outdoor cameras can be incorporated into a home security system to provide surveillance on the property and alert you to intruders.

View our Top Home Security Cameras for 2018.

  • Motion Sensors: Sensors installed inside your home alert the system to suspicious movements and can be used to confirm activity from other security devices.

Get more information about how to effectively install motion sensors.

  • Siren or Alarm: These devices are typically rigged to emit screeching, ear-splitting noise in the event of a break-in and scare away potential thieves.
  • Yard Signs and Stickers: Sometimes, it’s simply the evidence of a system, provided by signs and stickers, that effectively discourages a robbery.

How effective are security signs? SafeWise investigates.

  • Monitoring Services: Professional security companies provide 24/7 monitoring services so that they can keep tabs on your security system, disable false alarms, and deploy police to your home quickly during an incident.

Unmonitored and monitored security systems. What’s the difference?

  • Key Fobs: These convenient little gems attach to your keychain and allow you to disarm or engage the system remotely, much like a garage door opener.

What is a key fob? SafeWise knows.

  • Integrated App: You’ll need a place to view updates from your hub and manage cameras, alarms, and other connected devices. Most security device manufacturers have an app that allows you to do this and syncs with your mobile device.

View our article on Mobile Apps for Security Systems.

Building Your Own DIY Security System

Go Minimal for Under $100

You get what you pay for, and in this case it’s not much.

If you’ve only got a few bucks to spend, you can take some basic steps toward installing an affordable home security system, but you won’t have the bandwidth to buy a hub. That’ll leave you managing any components independently, so we focused here on multifunctional devices that offer surveillance and the appearance of security. It’s the fake-it-until-you-make-it approach.

  • Yard Signs and Stickers: $20
  • Outdoor Security Camera: $35.00

SafeWise recommends: Zmodo Outdoor Wireless Security Camera

  • Indoor Security Camera: $39.99

SafeWise recommends: Zmodo Wireless Indoor Camera

  • Cloud Storage for Video Surveillance: $5–$10 per month

See our recommendations for the best cheap home security cameras.

What You Get: Video surveillance, the appearance of a security system, and the ability to view video online. You will, however, have to pay a nominal fee (about $5 a month) to store it in the Cloud. Essentially, you’ll be able to see what’s going on at your front door and inside your living room. You just won’t be able to do anything about it.

A Touch of Tech for Under $200

You don’t need to be a smarty-pants to start securing your home with Samsung’s SmartThings.

If you can splurge just a little bit, you’ll be able to start things out right with an affordable smart hub. This unit is the brain that controls the network of connected devices that manage not just your home security, but also your home automation devices like lights, thermostats, and more.

  • Control Hub: $89.99

SafeWise recommends: Samsung SmartThings Hub, 2nd Generation

  • Yard Signs and Stickers: $20
  • Door Multi-Purpose Sensor: $35.99

SafeWise recommends: Samsung SmartThings Door Multi-Purpose Sensor

  • One Motion Sensor: $35.99

SafeWise recommends: Samsung Motion Sensor

What You Get: SmartThings is a system you can expand to integrate with other home automation devices, including cameras. Add on sensors and alarms later without concern since Samsung has adapted SmartThings to work with a wide range of other devices. SmartThings also has a free app to help you manage all your home automation in one place.

You won’t, however, get the option for video or professional monitoring since you’ll be shelling out up front for the hub. Good things, or SmartThings as it were, come to those who wait.

See our review of Samsung’s SmartThings system for more information.

Just the Basics, Please, for Under $300

Go cheap with a starter kit from Skylink. It’s got all the basic components you’ll need for a legit security system.

Once you hit the $300 threshold, you’ll find purchasing an inexpensive kit is less work for your wallet than buying components individually. Skylink’s security system isn’t the most advanced or stylish one on our list, but it gets the job done affordably.

  • Starter Kit: $129.19

Kit includes control hub, two door and/or window sensors, a motion sensor, window decals, and key fob.

SafeWise recommends: SkylinkNet Connected Wireless Alarm System

  • Additional Door Sensor: $19.99

SafeWise recommends: SkylinkNet Door and Window Sensor

  • Security Camera: $119.99

SafeWise recommends: SkylinkNet Outdoor Wireless Security Camera

What You Get: A fully integrated system with surveillance, alarm, sensors, and a mobile app for monitoring on the go. Customers report Skylink is easy to install, but that the smartphone app doesn’t appear to generate notifications on Android phones. You’ll also miss out on professional monitoring and you won’t be able to cover all your entrances and windows with sensors for this price. Beggars can’t be choosers.

Scout Out Some Security for Under $400

Get flexibility, Alexa integration, and ease of installation with a Scout DIY kit.

Scout is the perfect affordable solution for renters or homeowners who anticipate needing some flexibility in their security systems. Its wireless, tool-free installation gives you control over the process and allows you to build out a more comprehensive system at your own pace.

  • Home Security System Kit: Includes a control hub, door sensor, motion sensor, two window sensors, two key fobs, and a yard sign and stickers.

SafeWise RecommendsScout Alarm Wireless Home Security System, Artic

  • Additional sensor: $30

SafeWise Recommends: Scout Alarm Wireless Window and Door Sensor, Artic

What You Get: A full security system from a trusted name in the industry. While you might want a few more sensors and an outdoor or indoor camera, this kit covers all the basics and a little extra, like an app for monitoring and convenient key fobs. Cellular backup provides additional piece of mind and monitoring is an optional add-on. This is one instance where keeping it simple pays off.

Want to know more about Scout? We’ve got you covered.

Keep It Stylish for Under $500

Get the stylish starter kit from abode and you’ll be able to control it with everyone’s new favorite virtual assistant, Alexa. This security system is generating lots of buzz these days for its intuitive design and integration.

  • Home Security Starter Kit: Includes control hub, front and back door sensors, alarm, motion camera, key fob, yard signs, and stickers.

SafeWise Recommends: abode Connected Home Security and Automation Starter Kit

What You Get: You get a bit less up front with abode than some of the other cheap systems we’ve highlighted here, but you’re paying for the fantastic user experience and the system’s flexibility as well as an integrated app that’s considered the best in the industry. It’s also the only one on our list that integrates with Alexa, so if Amazon’s famous virtual assistant is already in charge of your household, abode will keep everyone happy.

Don’t wait until your wallet gives you permission to protect your home. Take advantage of a DIY approach that will allow you to build on some simple devices like door sensors and security cameras.

Concerned about the expertise required or the hassle of installing a system on your own?

Many providers featured on SafeWise offer starter kits that you can install yourself, backed with plenty of friendly installation help and support. Come explore and find the provider that’s right for you.

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Written by Kaz Weida

When she's not chasing two little ones around the house, Kaz spends her time reviewing products to keep your family safe. Learn more

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  • Security Products

    It is really nice on DIY Security Systems. I appreciate your article. It’s important to get quality security products to protect our home. So thanks for sharing all that important information.