Find the Best Self-Monitored Security System

SafeWise lays out the pros and cons of self-monitored security and helps you pick the best system for your home and needs.
Written by | Updated December 13, 2019
Easiest to Use
Abode Home Security LogoAbode Iota
  • Easy setup
  • Live video streaming
  • Easy setup
  • Live video streaming
Covers the Most Area
Ring's logoRing Alarm
  • Better for bigger spaces
  • Compatible with Ring doorbells
  • Better for bigger spaces
  • Compatible with Ring doorbells
Cheapest Option
Canary logoCanary View
  • Under $100
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa
  • Under $100
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa

Self-monitored home security gives you the power to control your home security system—and your budget. Self-monitored home security is right for you if these statements sound familiar.

  • I don’t want to pay a monthly fee for home security.
  • I don’t want to be stuck in a contract.
  • I don’t need 24/7 professional monitoring.
  • I like DIY projects.
  • I’m willing to check in on my security system regularly.
  • I’m ready to call for help if something happens.

Thanks to mobile apps, live video feeds, and two-way communication, it’s easier than ever to have effective DIY home security without professional monitoring. If you’re looking for the right self-monitored security system for your home, check out our top recommendations.

And because you’ll be on your own, we’ve also put together the pros and cons of self-monitoring and answered common questions to help you make the best choice to protect your home and family.

Here Are the Best Self-Monitored Home Security Systems

Compare: Self-Monitored Home Security Systems

Price
Motion Detection
Security Camera
Live Video Feed
Optional Professional Monitoring Fee
Learn More
Abode Iota Ring Alarm Canary View
$229 $199 $99
Add-on
Free Free with a Ring video doorbell or camera Free
Starts at $10/mo. Starts at $10/mo. Not available
Check Price on Amazon Check Price on Ring Check Price on Amazon

Data effective 6/13/2019. Offers and availability subject to change.

Our Top Picks for Self-Monitored Home Security

Abode Iota: Easiest to Use

What’s in the Box

  • Iota all-in-one device (camera, motion sensor, siren)
  • Mini door/window sensor (1)
  • Key fob (1)

If you have a smaller space that you want to protect, we think Abode Iota is a great match. The Iota all-in-one device includes an HD security camera that provides a wide-angle view of any room. And the video image is clear and crisp—even in night vision.

For an apartment, dorm, or living situation with roommates, Iota provides home security that’s easy to set up and manage. Our tester found the setup so simple that it was ready to go before they even realized they’d done everything.

Iota is also a good option for parents who want to keep an eye on baby during naptime or monitor the first time you leave a babysitter in charge.

We like how streamlined the all-in-one device is and the addition of a door and window sensor. That way you get the protection of the camera and siren, but you can also monitor another part of the house, like the front door. This mini sensor is also perfect to add extra protection to things like the medicine or liquor cabinet.

The main drawback to the Iota is its limited coverage. You can monitor only what’s happening in the room where the Iota is located. If you have multiple floors or want to watch the living room and the kitchen, you’ll need to get more than one device, and that will up your out-of-pocket costs.

Read our full Abode review.

Pros

  • Easy setup
  • Live video streaming
  • Ability to add more sensors
  • Smart home compatibility

Cons

  • No phone support available
  • More expensive price tag

Ring Alarm: Covers the Most Area

What’s in the Box

  • Ring base station
  • Keypad
  • Contact sensor (1)
  • Motion detector (1)
  • Range extender (1)

Ring Alarm is closer to a traditional home security system than any other self-monitored system that we recommend. Its multiple components are designed to cover more than one room, which makes it a better fit for a larger apartment or home.

You get an entry sensor and a motion detector with the Ring Alarm five-piece starter kit, so straight out of the box you have more options to cover your home. And the included range extender means you don’t need to set up your security system right next to your Wi-Fi router.

Even though Ring is known for its video doorbells, the Ring Alarm system doesn’t come with a security camera. If you want the extra protection of a security camera, you have to buy one separately—and that significantly increases how much you’re spending. Ring video doorbells start around $100 and go up to $499 depending on how many features you want. And Ring security cameras range from about $150 to $230.

The good news is that you can integrate the Ring Alarm system with Ring cameras and doorbells in the Ring app. If you’re willing to spend a little bit more, you can put together a pretty sophisticated self-monitored security system with Ring. And if you add a video doorbell, you’ll have protection both inside your home and outdoors—that’s a rarity for self-monitored security.

Read our full Ring security system review.

Preventing Breaches

Several Ring users have reported breaches in their accounts that allowed a stranger to use the two-way communication to intimidate them. Ring said in a statement to SafeWise that the breaches can be avoided with best security practices for internet-connected devices: use strong, unique passwords, reset passwords regularly, add authorized users instead of sharing credentials, and use two-factor authentication.

We still recommend Ring products but encourage users to take these precautions.

Pros

  • Less expensive
  • Better suited to larger homes
  • Compatible with other Ring products
  • Customizable through Ring's mobile app

Cons

  • No camera included

Canary View: Cheapest Option

What’s in the Box

  • Canary View 1080p HD security camera
  • Power adapter

Canary was one of the first all-in-one home security options for people who don’t want a full-blown, professionally monitored security system. We like the Canary View for its no-frills simplicity. It’s a perfect security solution for a college dorm or a roommate setup.

If you want the simplest self-monitored security system on the market, this is it. There’s only one unit to set up, and the built-in Wi-Fi antenna makes setup a two-step process. All you have to do is turn it on and connect to your home Wi-Fi network.

The Canary View hits a lot of the same marks as the Abode Iota, but it’s even more restrictive in the space it can monitor. There aren’t any window or door sensors, which means the only equipment securing your home or room is the camera.

For all its simplicity, there are still a lot of features packed into this all-in-one security device. You can use two-way communication to chat with the kids after school or check in with the babysitter. But the best security feature is one-touch emergency access. The Canary app is designed to connect you with emergency services like your local police department with one touch.

Read our full Canary security system review.

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Equipped with one-touch connection to emergency services
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa
  • Full of features like two-way talk and facial recognition

Cons

  • No siren
  • No additional sensors

The Pros and Cons of Self-Monitored Home Security

One of the biggest benefits of self-monitored home security is control: from sensors to sales, you’re in control of your security system. But the biggest downfall of self-monitored home security is flying solo in a stressful situation.

If you’re debating whether or not self-monitored home security is the right choice for your home and family, here’s a closer look at what you’re in for.

 

Pros of Self-Monitored Home Security

No Monthly Fees

Monitoring your system yourself means you’re not paying someone else to do it. You don’t have to worry about paying any monthly monitoring fees to your security company.

No Middleman

If a professionally monitored system sounds an alarm, it sends an alert to the monitoring center. The monitoring center calls you to find out if you need help or if you can resolve the alarm on your own. But with a self-monitored system, you cut out the middleman. Your sensors alert you to alarms directly, and you’re able to handle them without the added hassle of dealing with someone from the alarm company call center.

No False Alarm Penalties

If a monitoring center dispatches police or fire crews to your house and it’s a false alarm, you could get hit with a fine. With a self-monitored system, first responders will show up at your home only if you call them, so there’s a lower risk of false alarms.

Easy Portability

With a self-monitored system, there’s no need to call the alarm company to switch your billing address or change contact information. Because many self-monitored systems are self-installed, they’re also easy to uninstall and take with you to your new home.

Flexible Configuration

As your circumstances change, you may decide your current security system isn’t working for you. With self-monitored home security, it’s simple to upgrade your system or even change alarm systems altogether.

Cons of Self-Monitored Home Security

No Backup

If you’re the only one monitoring your home and you’re not available—you lose cellular service or you’re asleep—you and your home may be at risk. But a professionally monitored system calls for help even when you can’t.

Limited Connection

As much as we love our smartphones, they’re not always reliable. There are still “dead zones,” software crashes, and battery failures, any of which could cut your connection to your security system. Certain places also limit your access to your cellphone—like airplanes and courthouses—leaving your home vulnerable.

No False Alarm Assistance

With a professionally monitored system, an unresolved alarm results in a phone call from someone who can help you figure out what’s wrong and fix it right away. If your self-monitored system has a false alarm, you may not know how to fix it. If you call a product helpline for assistance, you could be on hold while your system continues to go off.

No Quality Control

Many professionally monitored systems come with professional installation by technicians who ensure that devices are installed correctly so that your home is fully protected. If you accidentally install your self-monitored DIY system incorrectly—like putting a motion sensor upside down so it’s monitoring your living room ceiling rather than your living room—you run the risk of leaving your home unprotected.

No Fail-Safe Option

Most professionally monitored systems come equipped with a special fail-safe code. It enables you to turn off the alarm’s siren but still send a distress signal to the monitoring service for help. This is called a duress signal and it’s there in case an armed intruder forces you to disarm your security system. The duress signal lets you call for help safely without tipping off the intruder. Self-monitored systems don’t have this feature.

Added Stress

If you’ve ever been in an emergency situation, you know how much it helps to have someone with a level head calling the shots. With a professionally monitored system, once your alarm goes off, you’ll get a phone call from someone who’s been trained to help you in case of an emergency. With a self-monitored system, you’re on your own.

image of ring base station attached to a wall

Self-Monitored Security System FAQs

What are the best self-monitored home security devices?

We recommend starting with security cameras. If an alarm goes off at your house and you’re not there, the only way for you to see what’s happening is with video surveillance. Footage from indoor and outdoor security cameras will help you know whether there’s an actual intruder or whether your teenager just forgot the code to disarm the security system.

 

How can I avoid false alarms?

Be sure to test your system regularly and change batteries in devices when needed. Keep any camera lenses clean and free of debris, especially outdoor cameras. Check for loose door and window sensors, and clean motion sensors regularly. It’s also a good idea to run through the system with each member of the household, so everyone knows how to use it properly.

 

Can I self-monitor individual security devices without having an entire home security system?

Yes. Many companies offer multiple products that connect to a single smartphone app, so you can purchase devices individually and add them to the mobile app as you go. A video doorbell is a good example. It’s not attached to an alarm system, but it has motion-activated video recording and it sends you an alert when someone rings your doorbell. Many doorbell cameras also let you talk to the person at your door, which is a good way to scare off a possible intruder. We recommend testing the waters with a smart doorbell or smart lock if you’re not sure whether self-monitoring is right for you.

 

Can you monitor your own security system without a smartphone?

Some systems do offer internet monitoring through a PC or Mac, but most companies are phasing it out in favor of smartphone monitoring apps.

 

Can I have friends or family members help me with monitoring?

Yes, and we recommend it. Choose one or more trusted friends, family members, or neighbors to receive security alerts for your system so you’re not the only one handling any potential alarms. You can also use the Ring Neighbors app (you don’t need the Ring Alarm system to use it) to keep an eye on what’s happening in your neighborhood. This app works like a modern neighborhood watch with real-time alerts from neighbors and local police.

 

Do self-monitored home security system companies offer equipment financing?

Not often. One reason professionally monitored security systems use contracts is to spread out the cost of your security system equipment. Companies will bundle your equipment payments with your monthly monitoring fee to give you a standard monthly payment. With a self-monitored system, it’s more likely you’ll have to pay for your equipment up front.

The Bottom Line: Is Self-Monitored Home Security Right for You?

Self-monitoring is a good idea if you’re on a budget and you still want to make sure your home is protected. It’s a security option that makes more sense for smaller homes and apartments, but it can work for a larger home if you’re vigilant. If you want foolproof hands-off home security and you can handle the monthly fees, then professional monitoring may be a better bet.

To learn more about the best home security systems available on the market and to see our top picks, check out the Best Home Security Systems and Best Home Security Systems for Renters.

Written by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca has honed her safety and security skills as both a single mom and a college director. Being responsible for the well-being of others helped her learn how to minimize risk and create safe environments. Learn more

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