DIY Home Security Systems Guide

Explore DIY home security with a look at some self-monitoring home security systems

Wireless security cameras

With wireless security camera systems, motion sensors and video doorbells widely available, DIY home security is becoming increasingly easy to install and self-monitor. This guide will detail some of the best products for DIY home monitoring and teach you how to install your own wireless security system.

Home Security Planning

A DIY home security solution requires careful planning. It is important to determine all the elements you need to put together a home security system you won’t quickly outgrow.

  • Decide how much security you really need. Entry doors and ground floor windows naturally need the greatest security, as well as bedroom windows on higher floors. Buildings or rooms that are separated from your main house may need more or less security depending on what is stored there. If your shed or garage contains nothing of real value, then it is possible that you can secure it with a simple lock. 
  • Think strategically about control panels. They have to be easily accessible in case anyone inside needs to activate them in an emergency situation. They should not be able to be easily seen from outside the home to prevent a potential intruder from watching you enter the passcode.
  • If it is within your budget, consider choosing a wireless security system. Wireless systems are typically easier to install than wired systems.
  • Check the lighting of your home's exterior. Be sure all entry areas and windows are well lit and that light pools overlap sufficiently so you can see clearly at night from all the windows. 
  • Rely on sensors. Attach sensors to windows and doors and they will notify you of an intrusion as soon as the circuit is broken. It is also beneficial to add motion sensors to outdoor lighting as these can deter potential intruders.
  • Use a UPS - an uninterruptible power supply - to plug in your security components. This will ensure the system stays up during a power outage.

Tip: Don't forget to install sufficient smoke, radon and carbon monoxide alarms. Protecting your family against internal hazards is just as important as protecting them from the dangers outside.

DIY Home Security

A man with packages ringing a doorbell

DIY home monitoring systems fall into two basic categories. You may opt for a self-installed security system that you will monitor yourself, or you can install your own security system but sign up for a monitoring service that doesn’t require a contract, usually just a monthly fee. 

If you opt not to go with service, it’s even more important that you choose self-monitoring home security systems with the right features to help you secure your home.

  • Functionality: The system should have excellent remote use features, including being able to turn the system on and off and customize the settings. There should also be separate modes for home, away, sleep and vacation and these should also be able to be controlled remotely, preferably from your smart device. 
  • Communication: At a minimum, the system must offer texts or push notifications, as well as the ability to call you if the system is forced or the home is breached. You should also be able to set up instant notifications to designated contacts and communicate with multiple devices at the same time. 
  • Expanded Capability: A great system will integrate with other smart devices in the home and should offer the ability to create cause and effect rules within the system. Turning on lights at certain times, the air conditioner when the temperature climbs, or the security camera when the motion sensor is triggered offers a web of greater protection around the home.
  • Integrating a camera will also be important. Visual verification along with an alert allows you to see the nature of the threat, which is of particular importance with self-monitoring.

DIY Security Cameras

A wireless security camera

There are many beneficial features that you should carefully consider when choosing a camera for a self-installed security system.

  • Power Source: A camera powered by a plug-in adapter is limited in its placement since an outlet always has to be within reach. Alternatively, a battery-powered camera, whether rechargeable or with replaceable batteries, is more mobile but can also run out of power if not attended to regularly. 
  • Connectivity: Most cameras run on a Wi-Fi signal, which means the camera has to stay within range of the broadcast device. There are cameras that can run on Wi-Fi or cellular, but these are currently limited to a few brands and are more expensive. 
  • Design: A camera with a built-in stand or a magnetic backing have the ability to be positioned to their best advantage. A wide field of view lets you keep tabs on a greater area indoors and out. In addition, a camera with an unobtrusive profile makes it easy for the device to blend in and go unnoticed. 
  • Video Quality: Many cameras record in 720p or 1080p, which produces a sharp, high-definition picture. However, this eats up much more bandwidth and can drain batteries more quickly. Look for a camera that can auto-adjust picture quality based on Wi-Fi speeds.

DIY Alarm Systems

Picture of an alarm system installed on a door frame.

A DIY alarm system might seem daunting, but most of them are fairly simple to install. Kits include detailed instructions, online installation videos, and some companies even offer live chat or phone support.
A wireless package is the most efficient option when it comes to installation as hard-wired alarms require drilling and sometimes running cable. Additionally, wired systems are not mobile, so if you move you will not be able to move the system with you.

At a minimum, you need a package with motion sensors, door and window sensors, and a control box. Look for a model that allows you to cover multiple zones and control different settings for home, away and sleep. A remote control for the system is also a good feature to look that makes it even easier to arm and disarm, even if you are running out the door. It is also important for the system to be able to send alerts if there is a breech; the alarm noise itself may frighten away a less determined intruder, but if you have opted to supervise your own security, you must call the police yourself, and the sooner the better.

Make sure that your alarm system can be integrated with your security camera system. If possible, you may want to purchase all from the same brand.