One of the biggest choices to be made when installing a home security system is whether to go for a traditional home security service, or to opt for a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) security system. In this article, we will explain the differences between traditional services and DIY systems in order to help you find the best option that suits your home security needs.
What makes a system DIY or traditional?
There are usually two major differences between a DIY and traditional security system. The first is installation. As the name implies, with a Do-It-Yourself system the one installing everything is yourself. Generally, these systems are wireless, meaning no drilling through walls or dealing with wiring, and no need for expert knowledge to set up properly. A traditional security system can also be wireless, and increasingly, they are. As a result, some traditional security companies now offer DIY installation as an option.
The second difference pertains to who is monitoring the system. With a traditional security service, when an alarm is raised, a professional 24/7 monitoring service is notified and will investigate the situation. Usually there is an additional monthly fee for monitoring and dispatching someone to your home. With most DIY security systems, the only person notified when an alarm is raised, is you.
Generally, a DIY system is one where you buy component security pieces or a packaged security system, set it up in your home yourself, and proceed to self-monitor.
What are the pros and cons of a DIY system?
Recent technological advancements have really driven down the cost and increased the benefits of DIY systems. The introduction of wireless security sensors and control panels has made self-installation much easier and greatly reduced upfront costs.
Many security cameras and control panels now come with a sophisticated phone and internet app. Among other things, these apps often allow you to view your live or saved video footage, arm or disarm your system, and notify you when an alarm has been tripped. Without such tools, it would be extremely difficult to successfully monitor your home when you’re away.
At the same time, DIY systems can have drawbacks. Self-installation means that it’s up to you to create the right security coverage for your home, and to make certain that you installed the sensors and other components correctly. Having professionals do this may result in better coverage and proper operation.
Self-monitoring also puts the burden on you to always be alert and available to respond. If you’re inaccessible, for example you’re camping somewhere remote and your DIY system can’t reach you, then you’d better hope your neighbors call the police. Having a monitoring center be in charge of responding to alerts moves the responsibility to them. A monitoring center usually attempts to reach you first to find out if it’s an accident, but if you’re not available, they either send an employee to your house or notify the authorities. Usually there’s an extra charge for that service.
A final point to mention is pricing. Having a professional monitoring center respond to your security alerts costs a monthly fee. The price usually ranges from $20 a month to $50, depending on the equipment you have installed, or the company you’ve chosen.
Self-monitoring can be done with no monthly fee, resulting in a much more affordable security system option. At the same time, there are lots of DIY systems that charge a monthly self-monitoring fee, because you are using their licensed hardware and software. These monthly fees are generally still less than their traditional home-security counterparts.
Examples of DIY Systems and Traditional Security Systems
Next, we’ll look through some examples of each of the main categories: DIY security systems with and without a monthly subscription to a service, as well as the traditional professional monitoring service option.
Do-It-Yourself System, No Monthly Charge
If you want a simple DIY system that won’t cost you a monthly sum, there are many options out there.
Piper sells all-in-one home security units with no monthly charges. It’s a security camera, motion detector, siren, speaker system, and more, and comes with an app that gives you security alerts and remote access to the camera.
Nest sells similar all-in-one security cameras, some for outdoor use. Unlike Piper, Nest restricts some features from its free app, such as viewing security footage that is more than 3 hours old. It sells a subscription that gives you access to the 10 previous days of video footage, among other benefits, for $10 a month.
Arlo and Canary also sell all-in-one security systems, with certain non-essential features only available with a monthly subscription.
Do-It-Yourself System, Monthly Charges
As mentioned above, Arlo, Canary, and Nest sell rather comprehensive security systems with no monthly charge. However, they each restrict you by varying amounts from their full feature set, for which you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to use.
Other companies, like Alarmgrid, only sell their DIY system with a monthly subscription. You self-monitor, but have access to high-end software like Alarm.com’s security and home automation app, and high-end hardware like Honeywell and 2Gig. The downside is, to include video surveillance in your system, you have to subscribe to the $35-a-month plan.
Deep Sentinel is the best of both worlds, offering easy DIY camera installation with professional monitoring. In the event of a security threat, Deep Sentinel’s security center personnel will review the alert and send police to your house.
Traditional Security System
There are many traditional security company services: Frontpoint, SimpliSafe, Protect America, Reliant, ADT, Vivint, LiveWatch, and MONI Smart Security, to list a few.
Most use equipment from other vendors, like Honeywell and Nest. Most provide professional installation, but increasingly these companies now offer DIY installations. Professional monitoring, however, is a requirement, and thus a monthly payment is as well.
Many companies require a contract. On average, this is 3 years, with early termination often resulting in you paying for the rest of the monthly fees then and there.
Vivint, for example, is a 5-year contract, starting at $39.99 a month, and scaling for certain features like home automation and security cameras. They offer custom equipment options and lifetime warranty, as well as a security and home automation phone app.
Depending on what your wants are for your home security system, there are options out there for you. If you feel comfortable taking the reins and installing your own security system, as well as monitoring that security system on your own, then a DIY system is your best choice. If the assurance that professionals have your back 24/7 is worth the monthly subscription, then you can’t do better than a monitoring plan with one of the many major traditional security companies.