Home Security Home&Lifestyle

DIY Home Security Systems

Install a reliable security system in just one day. DIY home security systems will help to protect your home and your family.

Overview: Big savings with DIY home security systems

The wireless home security systems of 20 years ago were notoriously unreliable. They produced so many false alarms that many homeowners stopped using them. That’s all changed. Today you can buy DIY home security systems that have professional-grade wireless security equipment that’s extremely reliable, easy to install and affordable. Basic DIY home security systems start at about $225 and top out at $800 or so. If you add wireless smoke/heat detectors, plan to spend about $1,300 for DIY alarm systems. That’s about half of what a professional alarm company would charge. Monitoring service, which notifies the police or fire department, can cost $40 or more per month. But if you shop around, you can get it for about $10 per month.

We’ll show you how to plan your DIY home security systems so you can get it up and running in a single day. Plus, we’ll show you how you can save money on equipment and neaten up the DIY alarm systems installation at the same time. Home security installation is easy. You just mount the transmitters at doors and windows and connect a control panel to phone lines and a power supply. All you’ll need are basic tools for a home security system DIY project—a drill, screwdrivers, wire stripper and a small pry bar.

Step 1: Plan the best DIY home security system

Some alarm installers recommend eliminating window transmitters and installing motion sensors instead. These sensors are similar to the motion detectors that turn on outdoor floodlights. That approach can cut costs, but we don’t recommend it. Motion sensors cause the majority of false alarms. Worse, they detect burglars only after they’ve entered your home. That can create a dangerous situation where you come face to face with a burglar in your hallway. Door and window transmitters are the only way to detect break-ins immediately. Don’t let anyone convince you that motion detectors alone are a substitute for them. Glass-breakage sensors are available too, but are optional. Most burglars only break glass in order to unlock a door or window. Then, when they open the door or window, a standard transmitter will detect the entry.

To figure out how many transmitters you need for your diy home security systems, start by sketching all of the doors and windows on the ground level of your home. Number each opening, beginning with the front door and moving in a clockwise direction. Be sure to include the garage service door if you have an attached garage. Then count only the upper level openings that can be reached without a ladder (burglars rarely use ladders). Don’t forget to count the patio door on an elevated deck.

Fire poses a greater danger to your family than burglary. So you may want to add wireless smoke detectors (about $90 each) to your security system. That way, the alarm panel will notify your monitoring service of a fire condition and the service will call the fire department. You’ll need a minimum of one wireless smoke detector on each floor. Add a smoke detector in each hallway leading to a bedroom, and one in each bedroom. If you have a gas furnace, water heater or clothes dryer, install one rate-of-rise (ROR) heat detector over each of these appliances and wire them into a transmitter.

Next, decide what kind of control panel you want. There are two types: A “cabinet-style” panel consists of a keyboard that mounts near the door and a circuit board that mounts near your phone interface. A “self-contained” panel is a single unit that mounts near the door. This one-part panel is easier to install but has one weakness. An intruder entering through the door can tear it off the wall before the panel finishes notifying the monitoring service. With a two-part panel, the circuit board keeps working even if the keypad is disconnected. With either type of panel, you’ll need a special phone jack (called an “RJ31X”) to connect the panel to your phone lines.

Step 2: Shop online

You won’t find professional-quality alarm equipment at a local electronics retailer. Instead, fire up your computer and search for “security alarms” or “security systems.” Look for suppliers that carry multiple brands and models so you don’t get locked into home security equipment that’s not right for you. In addition to good selection, look for a supplier that offers free system programming and technical support. Make sure the supplier doesn’t require a high-cost, long-term monitoring contract. Before you place an order, call the supplier and discuss your plan. The staff will help you develop a materials list and program the alarm panel appropriately. Ask to have the components labeled for each zone.

Step 3: Select a monitoring service

Your DIY security system doesn’t have to be connected to a monitoring service that calls the police. It can simply trigger an alarm siren. But don’t dismiss the importance of alarm monitoring. Crime statistics show that burglars aren’t scared away by sirens. They know it will take at least three to five minutes for neighbors to call the police and just as long for police to respond to the call. A home security system monitoring service can contact the authorities much faster. Insurance companies understand the importance of faster police/fire notification, and many offer discounts to offset some of the monitoring costs. So check with your insurer.

Alarm installation companies typically charge you $40 per month with a three-year minimum contract for alarm monitoring. By installing your own do it yourself security system and dealing directly with a monitoring service, you can save at least $360 per year. Simply search the Internet for “alarm monitoring.” Make sure the company is UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory) listed.

If you’ve switched to digital phone service or Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), make sure the monitoring company is equipped to handle those types of calls. If not, it may provide other means of transmitting an alarm signal, such as Internet, cellular, satellite or radio communicators. Ask how much the additional equipment costs and if there are any additional service fees.

Step 4: Install the best DIY home security system—Installation tips

Surface-mounted transmitters and magnets (Tip 1 below) are the easiest way to protect doors and windows. But there are approaches that add convenience, provide a neater home security installation and even save you a few bucks.

Tip: Use the DIY security system for about a month before you officially connect to your monitoring service. That way, your “training” false alarms won’t lead to police calls.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY home security systems project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Drill bit set
  • Drill/driver – cordless
  • Hammer
  • Pry bar
  • Wire stripper/cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time for this DIY home security systems project. Here’s a list.

  • Wireless security system