DIY Home Security Insights
Our series on DIY home security systems we’ve tested in our own home.
Part 1: Introduction
Security is very personal, it can have a lot to do with your upbringing, where you live, and how safe you feel in general.
I grew up in a small city, it wasn’t completely crime-free but I didn’t worry about it. I was a latchkey kid who rode her bike home alone after school starting in the fourth grade. My parents had traveled and lived all over the world, after meeting in the military, and we lived in Boston, Los Angeles and Las Vegas before settling in our small town of Carson City, Nevada.
I remember my parents telling me the story of an attempted break in at our apartment in LA, and how I had come down stairs and yelled and scared off the intruder. Nothing like a screaming toddler to act as your home security system.
Home Security Systems have been around for ages, from simple low-tech solutions like bars on the windows to multiple door locks, to fully wired up systems with sensors, sirens and the promise of the police to be called if something happens.
We always locked our doors, but I don’t remember my parents ever considering a security system. In fact, my mom never mentioned it at all until just a few years ago when she said she wanted a video doorbell. She was willing to install one, just for show, even if it didn’t actually work.
I don’t remember the first time I saw a home security system that had to be armed and disarmed. I must not have paid attention to it or I really didn’t see one until I was an adult and bought my first house.
Security in my own home
As a new homeowner in my thirties, I got the sales call about installing a security system and paying some amount every month for “monitoring.” I don’t remember how much it was, but it seemed expensive and I didn’t like the fact that I would be locked in for at least a year. But I was in a new, up-and-coming neighborhood and the salesman knew how to push my buttons, especially since I was a single woman living alone.
I was unsure so I asked one of my friends for advice. He asked me, “Do you have homeowners insurance?” and I said yes, and he said that if someone broke in, I wouldn’t be likely to catch them but I could always make a claim on my insurance. Most intruders wouldn’t really want to come in if I was home, and if that happened, I could just call 911 myself. It’s easy to say that I suppose, I imagine if my house had been invaded I might have felt a little differently.
I have been robbed a couple of times. Someone stole from my condo storage area in Reno and in London someone stole my bike from the rack outside my block of flats. A security system wouldn’t have helped in either case. After the bike was stolen I learned that the CCTV camera outside my building wasn’t recording anything. I’m not sure it was even connected.
As an adult I know plenty of people who would not go without their fully-monitored home security system. They have all their windows and doors wired up, they have motion sensors, and they have a keypad they use to arm and disarm. Some friends are very diligent, always arming and disarming when they leave and come home, and others don’t bother unless they are going on vacation.
My biggest fear with these types of systems is that we would arm it, go on vacation overseas, then somehow there would be a false alarm that would bring the cops out, and we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. I’m not as worried about being charged as I am about pulling the police away from a potentially more serious situation somewhere else. Those fears far override my fear of a break-in.
Mark has a different experience than mine, he has had a fully-monitored security system in his house before. But he still has the same fears about forgetting to arm/disarm the system, because he’s actually experienced that, more than once. At least the police never actually showed up.
Testing Smart Home Security Systems
But as smart home experts, we have realized we need to put our fears aside and test out at least one monitored system. We find most people interested in smart home tech are interested in some type of security-related device, whether it’s a video doorbell or other outdoor cameras, smart door locks, more sophisticated systems with sensors and monitoring, or simply having smart lights that turn on automatically when they’re away.
We’re DIY here at AppMyHome so we won’t be reviewing any professionally-installed and monitored systems. But we have tested three different types of DIY Home Security systems: fully DIY and self-monitored, (our “roll your own”), packaged and monitored (Wyze Home Monitoring), and a new kind of system, Wi-Fi Wave Based (Hex Home). We’ve also tested two other systems that enhance and/or replace an existing home security installation: Nexx Smart Alarm and Konnected.
In our upcoming series, we will share our experience with each of these types of systems, and our conclusions and recommendations.
Read Part 2: Is Full DIY Home Security for you?