Pros and Cons of DIY Home Security Systems
by Erin Raub | Last Updated Jan. 8th, 2013
One of the biggest stumbling blocks to installing a home alarm is often not the initial installation or equipment costs, but the recurring monthly fees associated with traditional alarm systems. (Learn more about how much home security costs.) Though these fees are not exorbitant – most alarm companies charge less monthly than what you’d pay for cable TV – they do add up to a few hundred dollars per year.
What you may not know is that today’s homeowners have a second option in their home security arsenal: DIY burglar alarms. These systems are similar to what you get from a professional security company bur with two main differences: you install your system (no technician available) and there is no company monitoring of your home’s security.
Pros of a DIY Home Security System
It’s Less Expensive
A DIY home alarm has most of the system components you’re accustomed to – keypad, door sensors, window sensors, and motion sensors – and still costs less than $200 for a basic system. That’s a one-time fee, so once you purchase your system, you won’t have additional alarm expenses.
Wireless alarm systems aren’t hard-wired into your electrical system, which makes them easier to install, expand, move, upgrade, and change.
If you rent or might move in the future, a DIY system is easy to uninstall and take with you to your new location. This is particularly beneficial for renters, who otherwise might not have the option for an alarm system.
Many DIY systems offer “smart home” features, which means that via an online portal or cell phone app you can adjust lights in your home, change the thermostat, and perform other adjustments – including home monitoring (depending on your system).
Cell Phone Alerts
If your security is breached, your alarm system is connected via cell phone signal to call you – and anyone else you put on your call list. Generally speaking, you’ll be asked to record a warning message that will notify 1-10 parties of the break-in. (You cannot choose 911 as one of these numbers.)
Cons of a DIY Home Security System
Add-ons Can Be Expensive
If you need more components than come with your system – for example, extra window sensors – you’ll often pay $20+ for each new component. That can get get expensive, considering most systems come with only two or three window sensors. If the ground floor of your home has eight movable windows, you might pay more than $100 additional for accessories to protect each window. The same is true for multiple doors and areas where you need motion sensors.
Most home alarm companies offer security options above and beyond their basic package: battery backups, redundant alerts, pet-immune motion sensors, panic buttons, fire monitoring (with fire company alert), and more. A DIY home alarm generally does not offer anything beyond basic wireless security.
No Connection to Police
One of the biggest advantages to a monitored alarm system is that the police and/or fire company is alerted in case of emergency. This does not happen with a DIY system, which notifies you (and others you put on the notification list), making it your responsibility to decide on the next course of action.
Limited Warranty and/or Support
Once you buy your DIY system, you’re often on your own. The manufacturer may be able to answer basic questions, but you won’t be able to call for regular tech support, free equipment upgrades, etc.
You’re Responsible for Repairs
With a traditional burglar alarm, your alarm company will replace faulty equipment free of charge, or at least at a reduced cost. With a DIY system, if a component (or the entire system) fails, the replacement cost is yours.
True to name, you’ll do it yourself with this system. Unless you’re a security professional, that increases the risk of incorrect installation of your home alarm system.
For more on DIY home security, check out these Expert Tips on DIY Home Security Systems