Best DIY Home Security Systems
Do-it-yourself home security appeals to renters and homeowners for a few reasons. You can install it yourself in about 30 to 60 minutes, you don’t usually need to drill into your walls, and you don’t have to take time off work for a tech to show up. All of this helps you save time and money on installation. Plus, most systems don’t require bundled packages, long-term contracts, or activation fees, so you can start small and build up or get a completely customized system up front.
Compatibility with other equipment is important to us, and a good DIY system is one you can expand over time. We want a system where we can add technologies like IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, Google Home, Amazon Alexa/Echo/Dot, and Z-Wave devices—where we can get cameras, light and temperature controls, remote access through apps, and more. These add-ons can take a basic home security setup to the next level and give you a full-blown home automation system you can control through your phone or tablet.
If you’re not quite sure what to look for, see how we selected our top security picks.
|Monitoring cost||Contract required?||Up-front costs*||Learn more|
|Frontpoint||$34.99–$49.99/mo.||Yes, 12 or 36 months||$99.95||View Plans|
|Abode||$10–$30/mo.||No, choose monthly or annual||$279||View System|
|SimpliSafe||$14.99–$24.99/mo.||No, monthly||$229||View System|
|Canary||$9.99/mo. or $99/yr.||None||$169||View on Amazon|
|Nest Secure||$24.99–$34.99/mo.||No||$499||View System|
*For what our basic equipment package includes, check out how we chose our picks.
Frontpoint: Best overall
Frontpoint has everything you could want from a professionally monitored security system. It offers absolute coverage in terms of equipment and monitoring, an inexpensive entry price, home automation, app-based mobile control, no need for drilling or wiring, and great customer service. We get a little giddy when a company ticks all the boxes, and Frontpoint does that.
Frontpoint requires a monitoring plan, so some DIYers might want to avoid this system. We picked it for the comprehensive service you get without anyone else having to come to your home.
What we like about Frontpoint
Full home security and automation
Most people love Frontpoint because it hits that sweet spot between expensive long-term professional monitoring and skimpy DIY services that only activate a siren and text you alerts. You can start small and build your way up to a full-blown home security service that can integrate with most major smart devices.
We’d like to point out that Frontpoint monitoring plans can also cover detection for fire/smoke, carbon monoxide, flooding, freezing, and medical emergencies. With online access and free mobile apps, you’ll feel secure checking in from anywhere you have internet or a data connection.
Easy on the customer
Frontpoint is well-known in the home security realm for having superior customer service. You’ll get 24/7 professional monitoring, complete with remote access and control, and affordable equipment that’s easy to install (you can probably do it in under an hour). No need for wiring or drilling. Just stick your sensors on your wall—great for both homeowners and renters. Frontpoint’s equipment also comes with a 3-year warranty, which is better than the 1-year DIY standard.
Clean, modern security
100% wireless, 100% cellular. Your setup looks clean, intruders can’t cut your cable, and you’re always covered because the signal is received by nearby cell towers. Everything works within 100 feet of the control panel. We try not to look like slobs around the house, and Frontpoint’s system doesn’t add any messy wiring.
Cheap up-front pricing
At a surprisingly affordable $99.95, the Safe Start Package is one of the least expensive options we’ve come across. You can always grab this kit, then add security cameras and home automation later. Keep that extra cash for something fun, like a Nest Thermostat or some pizza.
What we don’t like about Frontpoint
Some of Frontpoint’s prices may leave you wondering if you should opt for something cheaper. For example, to get live and recorded video surveillance, you have to spring for Frontpoint’s Ultimate plan, which is a spendy $49.99 per month.
Frontpoint requires either a 1-year or 3-year agreement and offers no self-monitoring option. It’s a bummer if you like the equipment but don’t want to pay for monitoring.
Abode: Most flexible system
If you don’t like contracts or monthly fees and want options with your professional monitoring, Abode is the way to go. Abode is the only company we’ve seen that offers on-demand monitoring packages. You can purchase 3-day or 7-day plans if you prefer to self-monitor with professionals looking after your home while you’re on vacation.
As far as home automation goes, Abode definitely covers a lot of bases. No matter what type of home security equipment you’re after, chances are you can find a way to work it into your Abode system.
|Basic||Free||View on Amazon|
|Connect||$10/mo.||View on Amazon|
|Connect + Secure||$30/mo.||View on Amazon|
What we like about Abode
While we’d recommend the professionally monitored package, if you choose to self-monitor, then you’ll be grateful that Abode also offers 3-day or 7-day monitoring plans for when you go on vacation. This is by far the most flexible form of monitoring we’ve seen.
The equipment covers a wide variety of uses, so it’s more comprehensive than most systems, with the exception of more traditional companies like Vivint or ADT. Abode’s key fob design is better than anyone else’s. It not only puts your system into home, away, or standby modes, but it also allows you to turn on lights, lock doors, and use other home automation features. Abode integrates with the following products* you can find on Amazon:
*Abode integration not limited to products listed. Abode also works with IFTTT.
You also don’t have to subscribe to high-tier plans in order to get things like home automation, video, or mobile apps to work, unlike some of the other brands. That includes mobile access for iOS, Android, and web-based apps for free.
Abode has a wireless keypad that allows 40 unique pin codes for users. We could see this being handy for distinguishing between family members, maintenance workers or technicians who may need access, or babysitters and maids. If a problem happens, you can pinpoint who used the system last and find a solution more quickly. The backlit buttons are easy to see at night, and the pad itself has a four- to six-year battery life.
Clear picture of what’s going on
Abode’s IP camera can use either Ethernet or Wi-Fi to stream 720p video in real time. The HD camera and cloud-based storage keep all your events in storage for a time determined by the monitoring plan you purchased. For instance, the top plan gives you 90 days of timeline and media storage.
Abode’s motion sensors do more than just alert you to movement. They also take photos, so you know if it’s a false alarm or not. A built-in flash makes sure even low- or no-light events get captured.
What we don’t like about Abode
Higher entry costs
Abode is a bit more expensive than SimpliSafe, with a starter kit price of $279, and if you add the top-tier monitoring plan, that’s another $30 per month (not required, but nice to have). You’ll still get away cheaper than some traditional providers, but there are other DIY systems that are more affordable.
Possible compatibility issues
While we love the direct integration with Nest products on Amazon (Nest Cam, Nest Thermostat, Nest Protect), we also like when a company designs its own fully-integrated equipment with no chance of update or communication problems. In other words, when you rely on two different companies to stay compatible with each other, you may run into errors upgrading or getting support down the line. While this isn’t something we really worry about, it is a possibility.
SimpliSafe: Easy setup
If you want a “set it and forget it” security system, SimpliSafe is our pick for basic security with low maintenance and no commitments necessary.
SimpliSafe may be a favorite for those seeking a cheap alternative to traditional home security—it has some of the lowest prices around. You can get a basic setup for $200–$250 (with free shipping), and you don’t have to sign up for a long-term deal.
|None (self monitoring)||Free||View System|
What we like about SimpliSafe
Cost effective monitoring
SimpliSafe’s cost-effective pricing allows you to forego commitments and get the best bang for your buck. It’s a 100% wireless system, and it’s simple enough to install yourself. Renters (and homeowners) will like that the system moves easily. It’s also low risk: SimpliSafe offers a complete money-back guarantee for two full months—even free return shipping.
Ability to start small and build up
SimpliSafe allows you start small and build up to a bigger system since you can order the equipment à la carte. Some security systems overlook dangers other than home intruders, but SimpliSafe’s environment sensors are pretty comprehensive. The system covers fire and smoke, water damage, carbon monoxide, and frozen pipes.
What we don’t like about SimpliSafe
Up-front equipment costs
SimpliSafe doesn’t have an option to buy equipment as you pay for your contract, so you have to buy at least some of your equipment up front. Your entry starting price is much cheaper than other providers, but you don’t get to space out your payments.
Also, you have to pay an extra $4.99 per month to record and download video footage, and you have to subscribe to the top-tier program for mobile alerts and access.
Too simple for some
SimpliSafe won’t cover all of your bases—nor is it designed to. Some may find SimpliSafe to be a bit outdated, but what this straightforward system lacks in home automation, it makes up for in simple home security.
Canary: Best camera-only option
Canary is another camera company that excels at giving you more than you may have bargained for. It’s more than just a security camera, as we’ll explain below. You don’t have to buy a hub to control Canary cameras either—it can all be done from your smartphone.
|Free access||Free||View on Amazon|
|Membership||$9.99/mo.||View on Amazon|
What we like about Canary
More than a camera
The cameras contain sirens, microphones, temperature sensors, and humidity sensors. What may seem like overkill to some is an added bonus for someone else. For example, the humidity and temperature sensors can help musicians who need to maintain a good environment for their instruments.
Canary offers an advanced outdoor camera, which you can’t get from SimpliSafe, iSmart Alarm, or Piper. This weatherproof camera has night vision and a wide-angle lens, which makes it ideal for driveways, decks, and patios. You don’t have to worry about making it work for your setup, either. Canary has a variety of mounts and has options for wired or wireless setups.
Air quality sensor
One of the most unique features of Canary home security is the camera’s air quality sensor. While this is currently available only with the indoor camera, we appreciate the consideration for allergy sufferers. We also thought it was cool that the company’s name seems to come from how miners used to use canaries as alarms in mines. (If there were poisonous gases in the mine, the birds would stop singing—you know, because they died—and that would warn miners to escape).
What we don’t like about Canary
Canary doesn’t cover the security basics like access sensors for windows and doors. So while you may like it for its robust camera offering, it’s not an all-in-one home security solution.
Canary’s $10 monthly fee gives you advanced features like unlimited video downloads, two-way talk, desktop streaming, custom modes, and incident support services (not the same as police dispatch). We wish these were free—but we want that for everything else in life too.
Not that extreme
The outdoor camera isn’t rated for temperatures below -4 degree Fahrenheit, so if you’re near the Great Lakes, where deep freezes are expected, be mindful: your camera may not hold up to extreme cold over time.
Nest: The splurge
You’re probably more familiar with the Nest Thermostat or the Nest Cam, but Nest Secure is the company’s full-on foray into home security. If you’re looking for the coolest new tech stuff, this is it. Nest has features that no other company has, not even big hitters like ADT and Vivint. However, you’ll be paying more money than you would for other DIY security like Simplisafe.
|3-year agreement||$24.99/mo.||View System|
|1-year agreement||$29.99/mo.||View System|
What we like about Nest
We like the design of the Nest Guard because it not only includes an alarm and a keypad, but also a motion sensor, which is less common. The hub can be disarmed by the keypad, app, or the rubberized Nest Tags (RFID keychains)—which are substantial enough not to lose, but not so bulky they’re awkward to carry.
If you need to step out for a second, you can do so without disarming your entire system. Just press the button on your Nest Detect to activate Quiet Open, and your alarm will stay silent while the system is still armed. Nest also accounts for pets who weigh up to 40 pounds, so they won’t set off your system—and neither will your small animal-like children.
Since Nest is a major player in the smart home world, most companies are compatible with Nest Cam, making Nest one of the easiest companies to expand with.
Featured on both Nest Protect and Nest Detect, the Pathlight feature lights your way in the dark by turning on as you walk by your Nest equipment and then turning off after you’ve passed again. Because Nest uses LEDs, the batteries won’t wear out quickly, and they provide a good amount of light.
Our Nest Protect with Pathlight is located in a laundry room hallway, which we like for putting a quick load in early in the morning without blasting ourselves blind with a full light. It requires no thought, and we like that it helps ecologically, too.
Offering a full array of camera options, Nest may be one of the best bets for those looking to incorporate high-quality video surveillance into their home security. Some people even opt just to get a Nest Cam IQ indoor and call it good. While the cameras are not cheap, they’re worth it to us.
What we don’t like about Nest
Nest Secure costs $499, making it one of the most expensive starter security packs we’ve reviewed. The cameras start at $199 each, which is far from the cheapest option available, but they’ve set the gold standard for smart security cameras, so we’re willing to pay the price.
Cove: Best value
If you’ve never heard of Cove before, that’s because it’s still a pretty new system on the market. But it’s like Cove took all the best parts of other DIY security systems and put them together: no contracts and low prices, but with professional-grade equipment.
|Cove Basic||$14.99/mo.||None||See system|
|Cove Plus||$24.99/mo.||None||See system|
What we like about Cove
Multiple points of contact
Cove definitely knows its customers want options. When someone triggers your system, Cove has three different ways to reach out to you: text, phone call, and through the control panel itself.
And what if you just need customer support? You can contact Cove through chat, email, social media, or over the phone. It’s pretty rare to see a company implement so many different ways for its customers to talk to them.
Touchscreen control panel
Despite having the pricing on-level with SimpliSafe, Cove’s equipment ups the ante for affordable DIY systems, specifically its touchscreen control panel. That’s the same control panel that lets you talk to monitoring agents if someone trips your security system, and we love that feature.
Plus, it just looks nicer than a simple keypad.
What we don’t like about Cove
No home automation
If you want to deck out your house with smart lights, smart thermostats, smart outlets, smart locks . . . then you’re gonna want a different security system.
Cove doesn’t have much of anything in the way of home automation options. That means no Z-Wave, Zigbee, or IFTTT integrations. You can get Cove to work with Amazon Alexa or Google Home, but you have to subscribe to the top-tier monitoring plan, first.
We’re hoping more home automation options are coming from Cove in the (near) future.
How we chose our best DIY security picks
Some people looking for the best DIY security want a comprehensive home security system and professional monitoring, while others want to stick a camera in their home and call it good. Having all the latest technology and devices is cool, but so is keeping your wallet happy. We tried to pick an array of services and equipment to cover your individual needs while keeping things affordable.
More than anything, we’re into cool new gear—especially when it lets us be safer and lazier in ways we never thought possible. The easier it is to use, or the less time we have to spend dealing with an app, the better. The more a product does things effortlessly, the more we fall in love.
Note: We reviewed only wireless home security services and equipment. No wires, no drilling.
Basic security package
For our evaluation, every home security system required the following fundamentals:
- Hub or control panel
- Access sensors
- Motion detectors
- Video camera
- If a brand doesn’t have its own camera, we defaulted to the Nest Cam.
Our up-front costs do not include monitoring costs, and we made sure to note when a monitoring plan is required, like with Frontpoint.
There’s a few things contained in this vast and beautiful universe that are less-than human-friendly, so it’s good to be aware if they’re coming your way. If you want more complete coverage, you should consider protecting against environmental dangers may leave you with unexpected bills for repairs and replacements. Plus, you know the whole “staying alive” thing is pretty cool, too.
Additional environmental sensors and detectors:
- Fire and smoke
- Carbon monoxide
- Flood and water
Home security video cameras
Home security cameras can help deter criminals and provide photographic evidence for police (and for you to post on social media to warn your neighbors). You may have to pay monthly service fees to get cloud storage, but your device may have local storage.
Make sure you’re getting the proper camera for indoor or outdoor use. We definitely prefer night-vision and infrared abilities to daylight-only cameras—most cameras we came across do night and day modes.
Another thing you’ll want to be sure of is if the camera can move or if it’s fixed. If your plan is to plant the camera in a corner to capture the whole room, it may not need to move. If your plan is to follow a specific area outside closely, you may want what’s called a “Pan Tilt Zoom” camera or PTZ camera—which means it will detect motion, and follow the action to give you greater detail.
We welcome anything that makes life simple, so when we looked for our favorite services and devices, we kept home automation in mind. We’re not too worried about compatibility in general. Most home security providers work with most devices, and if they don’t now, they likely will soon enough.
Providers using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant work with just about anything. These virtual assistants work directly with devices that use Z-Wave and Zigbee technology, which is like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi for security and automation devices.
If you don’t have a direct app connection between services or devices, try an IFTTT (“If This Then That”) formula. Chances are, there’s already a recipe for the functionality you want. If there isn’t, it may require a little more work on your part—but where there’s a will, there’s a way.
One of the most important decisions in home security is whether you want to have a monitoring center keep an eye on your system for you, or if you want to be alerted directly (along with your trusted circle) using self-monitoring.
Self-monitored vs. professionally monitored
The biggest difference between self-monitoring and professional monitoring is that with professional service, the monitoring center can dispatch the police for you should the need arise. Self-monitoring will alert you, but it won’t alert the authorities. We always recommend professional monitoring, but you can save money if you self-monitor.
Best DIY home security recap
You have a lot of great options for home security that you can do yourself. We like Frontpoint for its comprehensive coverage. Abode is the most flexible with its monitoring plans.
SimpliSafe gets our approval for living up to its name—it was the easiest system to get going. Canary is a good option if you don’t need window or door sensors. We loved Nest’s tech, but we didn’t love its price. And while we loved Cove’s equipment and pricing, we didn’t love the lack of home automation options.
Our picks for the best DIY home security are the following:
Here are a few more things to keep in mind with DIY security:
- The DIY systems we reviewed are all wireless and require no professional installation.
- Most companies offer three levels of home security: basic, automation, and video.
- Professional monitoring is the most protective, but it’s more expensive than self-monitoring.
- Even if you self-monitor, you still may have to pay a monthly fee for mobile app access.
- Not all video is created equal. Make sure you know how much footage you can store.
- Most DIY services and equipment are compatible, but if not, they may require workarounds.
- You can use virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to make your system hands-free.
Anything we didn’t cover that you’d like to know about? Leave us a comment below. For more information on other security companies, check out our in-depth review of the best home security systems.