You want someone to keep an eye on your home when you’re away, but the real question is, should that someone be you? Self-monitored home security gives you the power to monitor your own home security system, but like any DIY undertaking, it has its drawbacks. Read on to find out whether or not self-monitored home security is right for you.
One of the main benefits of self-monitored home security is control: from sensors to sales, you’re in control of your security system.
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 can 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 also 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 without changing your monitoring.
Cons of Self-Monitored Home Security
The biggest downfall of self-monitored home security is flying solo in a stressful situation.
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, courthouses, and places of worship—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 A professionally monitored system comes 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 your home being 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 sounder but also send a distress signal to the monitoring service, indicating that help is still needed. This is in case an armed intruder forces you to disarm your security system—you can do so safely without tipping off the intruder that help is still on the way. Self-monitored systems do not 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.
Our Top Picks for Self-Monitored Home Security
If you want to know more about your choices when it comes to self-monitored home security, check out these systems pulled from SafeWise’s Best DIY Home Security Systems.
1. Iris by Lowes
Iris won the top spot for self-monitored DIY security systems thanks to its excellent customer satisfaction ratings and affordable optional monitoring packages. If you want to try a DIY system with self-monitoring but you’d like to have the option to add professional monitoring later, Iris is a great choice. The starter package comes with a hub, motion sensor, keypad, and two window/door sensors.
With a three-year warranty and quality starter kits, SimpliSafe takes second place. Like Iris, SimpliSafe offers optional monitoring packages, but it’s month-to-month so you don’t have to worry about getting locked into a long-term contract. The starter package includes a hub, keypad, motion sensor, and entry sensor.
Lower equipment costs and solid mobile app performance put iSmartAlarm at our number-three slot. iSmartAlarm doesn’t have any options for professional monitoring, but its systems do have a wide variety of options for smart home integration. The recommended preferred package comes with a hub, motion sensor, two remote tags, and two window/door sensors.
What are the best self-monitored home security devices? We recommend starting with video 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. Installing 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.
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 app as you go. The Ring 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. A smart lock or smart doorbell is a good place to start 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.
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 system. 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.
Kasey Tross is a stay-at-home mom with four energetic kids, and she's married to a security expert, so safety is a top priority in the Tross home. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, hiking, playing the flute, helping out at church, and eating far more chocolate than she should. Learn more