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.
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.
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. 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. 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.