Home security is an essential part of home safety, but sometimes the price of a monthly professionally monitored subscription just isn’t in the budget. Or maybe you’d rather take the hands-off approach and monitor your home yourself by relying on push notifications. While we always suggest a professionally monitored system, we know you might be looking for something you can monitor yourself.
We’ve taken a look at the top five best self-monitored security systems and evaluated their monitoring capabilities, features, and technical specifications so you can make the best choice for you and your home.
|SimpliSafe||Samsung SmartThings||iSmartAlarm||Iris||Mace Wireless|
|Approximate equipment price||$229||$249||$199||$180||$188|
|View price||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||View on Amazon||Visit Website|
Top five self-monitored security systems
We found SimpliSafe, Samsung SmartThings, iSmartAlarm, Iris, and Mace Wireless to be the best options for do-it-yourself monitoring, but these aren’t the only options out there. As home security becomes more prevalent, more and more systems are springing up that fit a wide range of budgets. These are the ones we’ve found to pack the most bang for your buck without compromising security.
While SimpliSafe offers professional monitoring, the company provides customers with the option to monitor their systems themselves. On top of that, SimpliSafe is the only company on this list that ranks in our list of the overall top five best security systems.
Self-monitoring with SimpliSafe
The basic equipment package starts at $229.96 and includes five pieces of equipment and the necessary mounting accessories.
- Base station
- Motion sensor
- Wireless keypad
- Entry sensor
- Keychain remote
One thing to keep in mind is that you can’t properly monitor your home on your own with just this equipment. Without a monitoring plan, SimpliSafe’s sensors will set off a siren but do nothing else. A local siren can be enough to scare off a thief, but the last thing you want is to return home to a wide-open door and the sound of your security system going off. Even worse, if you don’t receive alerts, you might never know there was a break-in unless you add cameras.
The SimpliCam is an additional $99, but this camera works without the need for a monitoring plan. It provides livestream video to your mobile devices, motion alerts, and smart sensor technology that can distinguish human shapes from other sources of motion.
You can use the SimpliCam to record up to 30 days of video and save clips easily. While the camera won’t notify the authorities for you, having it is better than having no knowledge of what happens inside your home. If you’re going to self-monitor with SimpliSafe, we highly recommend purchasing the SimpliCam. Combining it with the base station and sirens provides more comprehensive security than either option on its own.
- SimpliSafe ranks as one of our most-recommended security systems.
- The DIY package includes everything an apartment or studio space would need for security, minus the camera.
- SimpliSafe severely lacks in the home automation department.
- The basic package doesn’t include a camera, and you won’t receive alerts with the DIY option.
2. Samsung SmartThings
Samsung SmartThings is first and foremost a home automation platform, but it can easily be turned into a home security platform with a bit of customization. For many people, this is a major bonus—you can get home security and top-of-the-line home automation in the same package.
Customizing your home security
To get started with SmartThings, you’ll need a few things. The first is a SmartThings Hub. Without it, you can’t connect the rest of the devices together. You likely already have internet, but it’s worth noting that you’ll need an internet connection to use SmartThings. While you can piece together a security system with the hub and other individual components, SmartThings also provides a home monitoring kit.
This kit comes with the SmartThings Hub, two SmartThings Multipurpose Sensors, a SmartThings Motion Sensor, and a SmartThings Outlet—not bad for a $250 package. However, if you purchase this package, you’ll want to complement it with the Aeotec Siren and the Yale Assure lock.
The Aeotec siren can trigger strobe lights and sounds a 106 dB siren when activated, and you can wire it to go off if motion is detected during specific times. This won’t necessarily deter a thief, but it will startle them and alert anyone nearby that something is wrong. With the Yale Assure lock integrated with your system, you can remotely access lock or unlock your door from your smartphone.
If you want to upgrade to professional monitoring at some point in the future, SmartThings works with Scout Alarm cameras and monitoring. All the SmartThings sensors can be set to alert you if they go off, and cameras can be integrated into SmartThings to allow you to peek into your home at will.
- SmartThings makes it easy to expand a DIY security system to fit a home, no matter what size.
- The SmartThings Hub combines everything into a single, easy-to-use app.
- SmartThings works with Scout Alarm.
- Expanding the system to provide full coverage of a larger home can quickly become expensive.
iSmartAlarm claims to be designed from the ground up to provide a DIY security solution, and the company delivers on a lot of its promises. The main selling point of the company is the lack of contracts, setup costs, and monthly fees. There is a single up-front payment for the equipment and that’s it, unless you decide to add more equipment down the line.
Self-monitoring with iSmartAlarm
iSmartAlarm offers multiple equipment packages, but you can also buy the individual components later to expand your unit. The best value is found in the Preferred Package, which starts at $199 and includes a few basic pieces of equipment.
- CubeOne station
- 2 contact sensors
- 1 motion sensor
- 2 remote tags
These components would cost nearly $150 on their own (not including the CubeOne hub, which cannot be purchased by itself). Of course, this package doesn’t include a camera. At just $99, the Spot is the least expensive camera iSmartAlarm offers, and though it lacks the pan and tilt capabilities some of the other iSmartAlarm cameras offer, the low cost makes up for it.
Video is stored locally, but iSmartAlarm provides free cloud storage as well. Storage is based on the number of video recordings rather than hours, and when the 30-video limit is reached, the oldest is automatically deleted. This rotating memory means you don’t have to manage the storage yourself, but you’ll need to download videos that capture a potential thief. You can view your video feed from your mobile device, remotely arm and disarm your alarm, and receive push notifications when the system detects something wrong.
Overall, iSmartAlarm is an affordable, modern option for do-it-yourself security. The free cloud storage is a major plus, especially when you consider that so many other companies charge for the same service.
4. Iris by Lowe’s
Like Samsung SmartThings, Iris is a home automation system with security capabilities. The Iris also has prebuilt security packs that allow you to get started easily. It’s also significantly less expensive than getting started with Samsung. The downside is that Iris has a poor customer support reputation; numerous reviews mention how tech support is almost nonexistent.
Prepping for protection
The setup process with Iris is not as complicated as it is with other home automation systems. That said, its automation capabilities are also much more limited—because Iris is a lesser-known brand, it hasn’t expanded to include as many features as other companies have. You’ll need a couple components to get started.
- Iris Smart Hub: $69.99
- Iris Security Pack (two door and window sensors, a motion sensor, and a keypad): $109.99
You can purchase additional products separately to expand the system, but this is a good starting point for most homeowners, as it provides basic protection for the most vulnerable areas in your home.
In addition to its basic security capabilities, the Iris system sends push notifications to your mobile device. If you have a camera, you can view its footage remotely and easily manage all the devices on your app. A glaring downside, however, is the brevity of the review period. You have only a 24-hour window to review footage. If you’re away from home or unable to access your phone for longer than that, you may miss something important.
The ability to easily expand Iris makes it a great choice for both home automation and security. Even if it doesn’t quite compare to the top-ranked products on the market now, Iris is a system to keep an eye on in the future.
- Iris provides both home automation and home security packages. It is one of only two companies on this list with expansive automation options.
- The app is easy to use, allowing you to quickly flip between devices.
- Iris has an extremely poor customer service reputation.
- You have only 24 hours to review footage.
5. Mace Wireless
If the name Mace sounds familiar to you, there’s a reason: this company is the original creator of Mace, the handheld thief-deterrent spray. Mace has been in the business of personal security for years, and now it has branched out into home security.
DIY with Mace
Mace lacks many of the fancier features of home automation systems. Instead, it focuses on security and security only. You’ll need a few basic pieces of equipment to get started.
- Control panel: Roughly $120
- Door/window sensors: $29.99 each
- Motion detectors: $39.99 each
Mace also has optional equipment, like an outdoor siren and water sensor, if you want to add security or keep an eye on specific parts of your home. If the alarm is triggered, the system will automatically activate an alarm and call up to five different phone numbers.
The Mace control panel can be controlled remotely. Though it is primarily AC powered, it also has a battery backup in case the power goes out or, in a worst-case scenario, if a thief cuts your power. Mace also sells multiple cameras that you can purchase and integrate with your system if you want to peek in on your home while you’re away.
While Mace doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of other companies, it does its job well. If you’re looking for affordable, barebones home security, this is it.
What to look for in a do-it-yourself security system
The first thing we’ll tell you is that unless absolutely necessary, stick with professional monitoring. Though a monthly monitoring plan is more expensive, the pros far outweigh the cons. Plus, building a monitoring system yourself may get more expensive than a professional system in component costs alone. That said, if you opt for a self-monitored system, make sure it has the necessary equipment and features.
First and foremost, you should be able to get basic alerts on your phone if something happens. The ability to look into your home throughout the day with a camera is also essential—you want to be able to see what’s going on and who or what triggered the alert. Having footage at your disposal can also give you evidence to turn over to the police.
Finally, think about the most vulnerable parts of your home. Door and window sensors are great for alerting you when a window opens, and a siren might scare off any would-be thieves before they get their hands on your valuables.
Figuring out sensors
Do you need a motion sensor in every room and a window sensor on every window? Not necessarily—but you will need to combine these components in a way that provides full coverage of your entire home. A single motion sensor in the hallway won’t be sufficient if a thief can enter and exit through the window. On the flip side, a window sensor on its own won’t be much help if a thief enters through the front door and doesn’t trip the sensor.
Small homes and apartments usually need one or two motion sensors in the main rooms and one door sensor on the front and back doors. Place window sensors on exterior windows—and don’t forget about bathroom windows. Smart burglars will use the least expected ways to gain entry to your home.
If you live on the upper levels of a high-rise (and you don’t have a balcony), you can probably make do with a single motion sensor and a door sensor. It’s not likely that someone will come in your window.
Medium-sized and large homes will need a motion sensor in the living room, kitchen, and hallways as well as window sensors on large exterior windows. Homes with a basement or attic may also need motion sensors in those rooms. Basement windows are popular targets for thieves. Larger homes are also more likely to have garages, and many people forget to lock the door between the home and garage. When you consider that 9% of burglars use the garage as an entryway, you want to make sure that part of your home is covered, too.
These are general guidelines and should in no way be taken as hard-and-fast rules. If your home has more rooms that need coverage, don’t hesitate to add more motion or window sensors.
Adding home automation
Although the ability to integrate home automation into your security system is convenient, it isn’t strictly necessary. Leave your options open for expanding your security system later or adding more automation options. If you move to a new home or simply aren’t satisfied with what your system currently does, adding home automation components can be like getting a brand-new system.
Some systems, like SmartThings, can be expanded nearly indefinitely. Others, like SimpliSafe, are severely lacking in home automation options. Iris offers a package that combines home automation and security, while iSmartAlarm is limited to only a few options, like a smart switch. Mace Wireless does not work with Z-Wave or Zigbee devices.
Home automation is a growing field, but not all self-monitored security systems necessarily expand to automation. If you want to integrate more components into your home, SmartThings is your best bet. The SmartThings Hub combines all the different devices into a single app, simplifying your system.
Choosing a DIY system
Take a look through these five self-monitored security systems and figure out which one best suits your needs. If you live in a small apartment or home, a system with fewer sensors might be the best bet. On the other hand, if you live in a larger home and want the conveniences of modern technology, Samsung SmartThings or Iris will allow you to automate many of the day-to-day aspects of your life.
Ultimately, you’re the best judge of which system is right for you. Keep in mind that all three of our top security system recommendations are professionally monitored but a couple rely on DIY installation. Take the time to read through the offerings of each of these five companies and weigh them against your unique situation before you reach a decision.
Did we leave your favorite self-monitored security system off this list? Let us know in the comments below!