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DIY Home Security vs. Professionally Installed Systems: Which is Right for You?

Chris Wilson - Writer for Top10.com
DIY Home Security vs. Professionally Installed Systems: Which is Right for You?
Securing your home is essential for protecting your loved ones and property. But should you stick to DIY home security measures or invest in a professional system?

Your decision will depend on your budget, comfort with technology, and willingness to put in some effort.

With over 20 years of experience in home security, I've seen firsthand the impact break-ins can have. In fact, a burglary occurs every 30 seconds in the US.

DIY solutions offer cost savings but demand more time for setup and upkeep. On the other hand, expert assembly makes it easier to get started, though they often come with longer contracts and higher price tags.

I'll delve into the benefits and drawbacks of each, alongside key features to consider to help you choose the right fit for your lifestyle and needs.

What Are DIY Home Security Systems?

DIY security, like ADT Self Setup, typically includes motion and entry sensors to secure your windows and doors, indoor and outdoor security cameras, alarm sirens, and a central hub to connect everything.

You can purchase these components separately or in kits and handle the installation by following the provided instructions. This allows you to customize your home security to suit your budget and preferences. You can also manage your devices through an app.

Pros of DIY Home Security Systems

  • Cost-effective solution: Enjoy lower initial expenses with DIY security systems. Select and install each piece yourself, perfect for budget-aware homeowners.
  • Customizable and scalable: Tailor your security to fit your needs, home configuration, and budget. Easily expand or refine your setup as necessary.
  • Complete control: From selecting hardware to installing and configuring your setup—you manage every aspect. This direct engagement boosts your system knowledge and confidence in maintenance.

Cons of DIY Home Security Systems

  • Technical skills required: Installation demands technical know-how. Incorrectly positioning motion detectors could impact your system's effectiveness.
  • Self-monitoring responsibilities: You're responsible for acting on alerts, which may not be ideal if you want 24/7 surveillance.
  • Maintenance and troubleshooting: It's up to you to keep the system running, which takes time and effort.

» Feeling overwhelmed? Here's how to choose the best home security system.

What Are Professional Home Security Systems?

Over 30 million households in the US have installed home security systems, typically from well-known providers like ADT. Their packages provide everything from basic sensors and alarms to smart cameras and locks, with tiered options for different needs and budgets.

Opting for pro installation means avoiding the hassle and uncertainty of doing it yourself. Experts handle the entire setup process, ensuring your system is configured correctly and you understand how to use it. 

These systems bring sophistication through innovative smart deterrents, video doorbell integration, and 24/7 professional monitoring.

Pros of Professionally-Installed Home Security Systems

  • Expert installation: Skilled installers meticulously set up your system to optimize its effectiveness. They tailor the security solution to your home’s specific layout and needs, ensuring no vulnerability is overlooked.
  • Round-the-clock monitoring: Professional systems stand out with their 24/7 monitoring service. Trained specialists instantly react to alerts, efficiently distinguishing between false alarms and real threats, and swiftly contact emergency services when required.
  • Cutting-edge features: Beyond basic protection, expert installations offer a comprehensive smart home experience. Control your lights and devices remotely via a mobile app and benefit from continuous software updates, keeping your system at the forefront of security technology.

Cons of Professionally-Installed Home Security Systems

  • Upfront costs: Starting with an advanced system involves a significant upfront cost, covering the equipment, installation, and possibly even activation fees. This might make you hesitate if you're mindful of your budget.
  • Ongoing monthly fees: The constant protection these systems provide comes at a monthly cost. If you prioritize minimizing monthly expenses, these ongoing charges might seem steep compared to the perceived benefits.
  • Customization limits: Pro systems often offer standardized packages, mainly focusing on security cameras and monitoring services. This approach might be too restrictive if you seek a security solution that fits your unique needs.

» Explore the difference between a wired vs. wireless home security system.

DIY vs. Professional Home Security Systems: Budget and Costs

Opting for a DIY solution like SimpliSafe can be budget-friendly in the long run. Its base package starts at $234.96 and doesn't require professional installation, saving you hundreds of dollars compared to pro setups. However, you'll need to factor in the time and effort required for setup and ongoing maintenance.

Professional home security options often have high initial costs due to equipment and installation fees. For example, Vivint is one of the more expensive suppliers, with a basic package costing up to $800 and monthly monitoring starting at $40. However, it offers comprehensive smart home installation and free setup. In addition, a 120-day warranty covers your gear. 

Frontpoint Security takes a different approach with its subscription-based pricing. Package costs range from $300-$600, but you can pay in six or 12 monthly installments. You can also choose interest-bearing financing over 36 months.

» Check out these 10 expert tips for installing home security cameras.

DIY vs. Professional Home Security Systems: Technical Expertise and Time Commitment

Thanks to their user-friendly design and comprehensive support materials, DIY enthusiasts with a knack for technology might find options from Scout Alarm appealing. The company offers a help forum, FAQs, installation videos, and a hard copy guide when you order their products.

For those less tech-savvy or short on time, Link Interactive's professional installation ensures your system gets set up properly and quickly. And, if you seek smart home integration, Vivint's certified technicians provide customized services so your automated devices connect seamlessly.

DIY vs. Professional Home Security Systems: Advanced Features and Vulnerabilities

While DIY security systems can offer a foundational layer of protection, integrating advanced features like smart home integrations or complex security protocols can become tricky. Companies like Cove strive for user-friendliness and compatibility, but customization and future expansion might be limited.

DIY systems could be susceptible to vulnerabilities like:

  • Security flaws: weak encryption or basic passwords might allow unauthorized access, potentially disabling the system.
  • Jamming vulnerability: interference devices can prevent sensors from communicating with the hub during an intrusion.
  • False alarm issues: environmental factors or user errors can lead to frequent unnecessary alarms, resulting in unnecessary expenses and possible fines.

Professional providers like Deep Sentinel take security further by utilizing advanced technology like AI-powered video analysis and live guard intervention. While this advanced approach comes at a higher cost, it leverages the latest security solutions. It minimizes vulnerabilities present in self setup systems.

Homeowners with pro systems often benefit from:

  • Round-the-clock vigilance: 24/7 monitoring by trained professionals ensures quick action during security breaches.
  • Expert maintenance: Maintenance by specialists guarantees smooth operation and minimizes the chance of technical issues.
  • Insurance benefits: Homeowners with professional surveillance may receive discounts from some insurance providers.

DIY vs. Professional Home Security Systems: Customization and Scalability

DIY security allows full customization to meet your household's specific needs. You can select the exact number and type of devices based on your current requirements. These systems also make it easy to expand and modify components over time as your needs evolve.

Pre-packaged options from ADT and Vivint come with predefined components and limited flexibility. They typically market "Small," "Medium," or "Large" bundles at attractive price points. However, adding detectors or capabilities later can be expensive.

» Follow these tips to secure your windows for maximum safety.

How to Install a DIY Home Security System

DIY home security systems offer a fairly straightforward installation process. You'll likely need basic tools and a high-speed internet connection to support video viewing. Here's how to do it:

  1. Identify potential entry points and vulnerable areas to determine the most strategic placement for sensors, cameras, and alarms. Focus on critical areas like doors, windows, and blind spots.
  2. Select DIY security components that align with your needs, such as door contacts and motion detectors.
  3. If you use a wireless system, secure your network with a strong password and encryption to prevent unauthorized access.
  4. Carefully read the instructions for each device and test it after installation to ensure it's working correctly.
  5. Choose between batteries or electrical outlets. Also, ensure that devices are easily accessible for maintenance and battery replacement.
  6. Place security cameras at strategic locations, such as entry doors, common areas, and areas where packages may be delivered, to maximize coverage while respecting privacy.
  7. Regularly test your system, including motion detection zones and camera angles. Adjust settings as needed based on changes in your home or security needs.

Safeguard Your Home and Loved Ones

Ultimately, the best choice for your home security depends on your priorities and circumstances. A DIY setup could be ideal if you're tech-savvy and want a customizable setup on a budget. 

Consider a professional installation if you want a hands-off system or live in a high burglary state like New Mexico. Regardless of your choice, prioritize investing in a provider that gives you the protection you need.

» Worried about break-ins? These are the signs that your house is marked by robbers.

Chris Wilson - Writer for Top10.com
Chris Wilson contributes to Top10.com as a CSPM with over 23 years of experience in the North American security market. His expertise includes system design, project management, and solutions engineering. Chris has written for SDM and Locksmith Ledger and co-published various blogs within the security industry.