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Ranking the Best Self-Monitored Home Security Systems of 2020

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Self-monitored home security systems offer all the best features of traditional security systems without the steep price tag. They’re affordable, easy to install around your home, and offer you the flexibility to build exactly the security system you need.

We dug into the long list of home security companies now offering DIY and self-monitored options to find the very best among them. Our list below contains those systems that made the cut because of their excellent features and monitoring options.

Rankings 

1. Ring Alarm 2nd Generation

Ring Alarm 2nd Generation

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Ring burst onto the market a few years back with a remarkably original product: A doorbell camera system. They capitalized on the success of this innovative security device and now offer a full range of sensors, cameras, control systems, and other high-quality home automation and security devices.

Why we like it: Ring offers some of the best security hardware you can find, and at a price that’s hard to beat. Their self-monitoring option gives you instant alerts when any of the sensors are triggered and has one of the best and easiest to manage apps. 

Flaws: Many Ring customers reported difficulties when dealing with their helplines and customer service agents. Like a lot of tech companies, aftermarket customer service isn’t their forte. The products themselves are excellent, but if you see red when dealing with ineffective customer support agents you may want to consider a different option.

2. Google Nest Secure Alarm System

Google Nest Secure Alarm System

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The Google Nest Secure Alarm System is without a doubt one of the best options out there for self-monitoring. It was designed from the ground up to use the latest and greatest in hardware and software advances and gives you a great range of app monitoring tools and advanced customization options to truly make it your own.

Why we like it: Nest has some of the most advanced sensors and software on the home security market today. Their door sensors pull double duty as whole room motion detectors and are some of the easiest we’ve seen to set up. The self-monitoring option is robust, with an excellent app and features that allow you to truly customize your notifications and monitoring.

Flaws: If you later decide you want to add professional monitoring to your Nest Secure Alarm System you’ll pay a steep price to do so. Brinks handles the actual monitoring and requires either a long-term contract or a much more expensive month to month payment.

3. Wyze Cam V2 Sense Starter Kit

Wyze Cam V2 Sense Starter Kit

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The Wyze V2 Sense Starter Kit combines the company’s top-quality camera with effective and inexpensive door and motion sensors. It provides one of the best self-monitored options available as their products offer full functionality right out of the box with no subscription fee. For a remarkably small cost, under $2 per camera, you can add in cloud storage, higher-end customization features, and several other useful goodies.

Why we like it: Wyze offers some of the best and most affordably priced cameras and sensors available. You can put together a system that incorporates multiple rooms, entry points, and motion sensors for a fraction of the price other companies charge.

Flaws: As it stands now Wyze doesn’t offer any outdoor camera options at all. They’re planning to release one later on in 2020 but currently it’s an indoor-only security system that doesn’t allow you to monitor your home’s exterior.

4. Abode Essentials 

Abode Essentials

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The Abode Wireless Home Security System is a high-performance system that gives you considerable self-monitoring capability. It’s a hub-based system that comes standard with a 93 dB siren to alert you to any break-ins while you’re home plus a comprehensive app that makes managing your sensors painless.

Why we like it: The Abode has one of the most straightforward setup processes and makes it easy to pair additional sensors with the base hub once it’s up and running. It has built-in cellular and a backup battery to continue sending out alerts even if the power or internet is down or cut.

Flaws: The Essentials kit is priced similarly to many comparable security systems yet includes just a fraction of the sensors. For the same price, you can cover twice as many entry points and rooms with matching performance.

5. Blink Indoor Home Security Camera System with Motion Detection

Blink Indoor Home Security Camera System with Motion Detection

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The Blink Indoor Home Security Camera is an Amazon exclusive battery operated camera. It’s compact, lightweight, and easy to install plus it provides excellent 720P video quality with a highly-effective PIR motion sensor.

Why we like it: As far as battery-operated cameras go it’s hard to beat the lifespan on the Blink. It runs for up to two years on a single set of lithium AA batteries despite offering excellent video quality and full motion sensing capability.

Flaws: The Blink relies entirely on WiFi connectivity to function, and from many user reports can be finicky about connecting. If your home is larger, or if there will be multiple walls between the camera and your router you may want to consider a different system.

6. Lifeshield by ADT

Lifeshield by ADT

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Lifeshield by ADT is a new offering from the security giant that looks to recapture some of the market share lost to the DIY home security companies. It works in much the same way as those offered by other companies on our list but has the option for ADT’s professional monitoring in a no-contract package.

Why we like it: The Lifeshield combines many of the best features of traditional security systems with the convenience and cost savings of a self-monitored option. The starter kit comes with a much wider range of sensors than many others, including one that can interface with connected smoke and CO2 detectors to alert you to a fire.

Flaws: Given that this is offered by ADT there’s a hard sell for their monthly monitoring program at every step along the way. Many of the best features, including cellular backup, only work with a monthly subscription. Keep in mind also that this system will not function outside the U.S.

7. Arlo Pro 3 Wireless Home Security Camera System with Siren

Arlo Pro 3 Wireless Home Security Camera System with Siren

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The Arlo Pro 3 is a high-end home security camera designed to provide the ultimate in interior and exterior home surveillance. It records crystal clear video day or night and has a number of really nice features including a motion-activated spotlight and a three to six-month rechargeable battery. By pairing it with accessories like a solar charger it can be used indefinitely on remote sections of your property or outside your front door.

Why we like it: The Pro 3 offers some of the best video quality available, with full 2K HD resolution and excellent motion sensors. You can customize every aspect of the response including designating hot zones, adjusting motion sensor sensitivity, and deciding when and how you wish to receive alerts. 

Flaws: The only real negative for the Pro 3 is its price. You can pick up three or even four times as many reasonable quality cameras for the same price as a pair of Pro 3’s. If you want the best camera quality this is it, but you should expect to pay a premium for it.

8. Scout Alarm Home Security

Scout Alarm Home Security

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Scout Alarm Home Security borrows many of the best features of DIY, traditional, and self-monitored security systems to put together a reasonable offering. They offer a wide range of different sensors and other equipment that’s functional, if not particularly innovative. Their model is a fusion of DIY professional home security plans with self-monitoring features. 

Why we like it: Scout provides all the functionality of a fully-fledged professional security system without having to deal with a professional monitoring contract. You can choose from a wide range of different sensors and add-ons that allow you to monitor everything from indoor motion detection to CO2 and connected smoke detectors. 

Flaws: While Scout does offer one of the better self-monitoring options, you have to pay for the privilege. Their ‘Always on’ plan is about half the cost of their professionally monitored option but still adds up. When compared to other free self-monitored plans there’s a strong argument to be made against Scout.

9. Canary Pro(Formerly Canary All-In-One)

Canary Pro

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The Canary Pro, formerly known as the Canary All-In-One, is a self-monitored security camera that seeks to provide all the features of a full home security sensor. It combines an HD camera with a 90+db siren that requires no installation and can be set up in under a minute. 

Why we like it: The Canary Pro is one of the few all in one security devices we’ve seen that actually works. It’s an excellent HD camera, a very effective siren, and can act as a motion detector across entire rooms. It comes with a free year of Canary’s upgraded video storage and notification service but offers pretty great self-monitoring options even once it has expired.

Flaws: Canary doesn’t offer any door or window sensors or dedicated motion detectors. The Pro also can’t be wall-mounted without aftermarket accessories, so you need to have a desk or other flat surface to place it on that faces areas you want to be recorded.

10. Blink XT2 Outdoor/Indoor Smart Security Camera

Blink XT2 Outdoor/Indoor Smart Security Camera

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The Blink XT2 is an outdoor/indoor smart security camera designed to interface seamlessly with other Amazon smart home products. It’s waterproof and ruggedly built to stand up to outdoor use and provides you with free cloud storage of all video clips triggered by the motion sensor.

Why we like it: The XT2 offers excellent features at a surprisingly low price. It operates for up to two years on a single set of lithium AA batteries yet provides motion-activated 1080p HD video indoors and out. The waterproofing on it is excellent, more than capable of standing up to frequent rain and snow.

Flaws: The XT2 has a disappointing signal range, especially for a camera designed for indoor and outdoor use. We found it frequently suffered connection issues when just 25 to 30 feet from a router, barely enough to reach the outside of your home for most people and definitely not enough for use on outbuildings without a signal booster or mesh network.

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Who should buy a self-monitored home security system? 

At this point, there are very few reasons not to invest in a quality home security system. Below are some groups we believe should make picking one up a priority.

Preppers who own or rent a home – Homeowners and those who rent a full house should definitely consider a self-monitored security system. They’re as easy to install as DIY systems and give you unparalleled flexibility in how you monitor your home.

You can scale up your system from a few door and window sensors to one that incorporates multiple motion sensors, cameras in strategic areas, and monitoring on the exterior of your property. It allows you to monitor the inside and out of your home at all times, without the added expense of a paid monitoring plan.

Preppers who live in an apartment – If you live in an apartment finding effective security options can be a real chore. Most landlords won’t allow you to modify the structure to install a permanent system, and many traditional companies lock you into long-term contracts that may exceed your lease. Then there’s the simple fact that many other people are allowed into the building that you have no control over.

A self-monitored system can be installed in minutes without making holes in the wall or running wiring and cuts the security companies out of the equation. They allow you to know if anyone has entered your apartment without permission, including management.

Firearms owners – For the average American prepper, firearms are a major part of their security preps in times of unrest. A rifle, pistol, or shotgun is a tremendous force multiplier when faced off against superior numbers of assailants or attackers who are physically imposing. Unfortunately, they can also be a double-edged sword.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), hundreds of thousands of guns are stolen every year from law-abiding citizens. In the worst cases, these stolen guns go on to be used in heinous crimes. As responsible preppers and gun-owners, it falls to us to ensure our weapons are properly secured and protected (1).

The first step is to secure your firearms when not in your physical possession, the second is to harden your home against burglary. A self-monitored home security system is one of the best ways to do this.

Preppers with young kids or teenagers – When we have children our lives change in ways we never imagined beforehand. One thing we realize is that we’d do anything to protect them. Installing a self-monitored home security system does double duty as a way to protect your kids from the dangers of the outside world and a way to keep an eye on them when you can’t be there in person.

Children are a joy, but as any parent knows, they can be a real handful sometimes. As they get older they’ll no doubt be excited about the thought of being left home alone as responsible young adults. A home security system lets you make sure the home is secure while they’re there and alerts you if they, or anyone who shouldn’t be there, opens exterior doors.

For teens, a self-monitored security system can be a great way to keep them from sneaking out and monitor when they come home. Teens love to find new ways to push your authority and explore their independence. Effective security systems let you know what time they arrive back home and alert you if they trigger a motion sensor or camera while trying to sneak out.

Small business owners – If you own your own small business keeping your investment safe is no doubt a constant concern. A self-monitored security system is a great option for small business owners who don’t want to spend the substantial monthly fees for a commercial policy.

Once it’s set up you’ll receive real-time alerts, camera feeds, and motion sensor triggers right to your smartphone or computer. You can keep an eye on your investment at all times for a fraction of the cost of a commercial security system.

Preppers who maintain reserves of physical cash or precious metals – As preppers, we look for ways to insulate ourselves from the minor to major emergencies that others ignore. One way many preppers look to be ready is with physical cash on hand in case banking and credit card systems have broken down (2).

Other’s often keep reserves of gold, silver, and other precious metals on hand to hedge against local currency collapses. This is especially important if you live in a nation without strong rule of law protections, as gold is gold anywhere in the world. If you have gold on hand you’re safe against most localized currency devaluations.

The flip side of these preps is that any burglary can hit you much harder financially. A self-monitored security system makes it easier for you to protect your financial preps alongside your other preps.

How we ranked 

We focused on six key factors while creating our list. These were effectiveness and usability, ease of installation, self-monitoring features, affordability, smart home connectivity, and privacy and data security.

Effectiveness and usability – Effectiveness for a self-monitored security system comes down to how well the sensors work, what kind of range they have from their base/your router, and how easy it is to actually use them. Self-monitored home security systems need to have a more user-friendly interface with at minimum smartphone notifications and preferably the ability to remotely monitor and control them. 

Ease of installation – Self-monitored home security systems are almost entirely DIY systems. Because of this, the installation process needs to be as painless as possible.

We looked for sensors and cameras that could be applied with adhesives, magnets, and other non-destructive methods, or at the very least that required no permanent wiring. For the technical setup, we considered how long it took to get an account set up with the company in question and the process for connecting your different sensors. Some require a base/hub unit while others can connect directly through your home’s WiFi.

Self-monitoring features – Not all self-monitored security systems are the same. Many DIY systems promise incredible features but significantly limit them if you don’t purchase a monthly monitoring subscription.

We looked for systems that at a minimum allowed remote monitoring and alerts through a smartphone or computer. Local only alarms don’t provide anything close to the same level of value.

Affordability – Since self-monitored home security systems have no monthly fees to deal with, we focused entirely on the initial costs of purchase and installation. With security systems more expensive isn’t always better. Several of our top-ranked options are substantially less expensive on a unit by unit basis than others.

Smart home connectivity – There are more connected appliances, smart speakers, light bulbs, and even door locks than we ever thought possible. Many home security system manufacturers have started to build compatibility with these systems to allow you to control your security system with voice commands or tie it into your lighting system.

Several highly ranked home security systems connect seamlessly with smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home, or other devices. If you already have smart devices in your home this can be a major value add.

Privacy and data security – As with just about everything these days, privacy and data security are paramount. With a home security system, especially ones with cameras inside your home, this becomes even more important. There have already been several unfortunate cases where DIY and self-monitored security systems have been hacked (3)(4).

We compared the privacy policies and security transparency of every security system on our list to make sure they were all up to snuff.

Brands we trust – There are several great companies out there making security equipment that allows full self-monitoring. Three of our favorites are Ring, Google Nest Secure Alarm, and Wyze. Ring and Google Nest Secure Alarm both offer very similar features, design, and usability. They’re effectively the competing products of Amazon and Google, and showcase the technical expertise of both companies. 

Wyze focuses mainly on effective and affordable camera systems with both free and inexpensive self-monitoring options available. 

Things to avoid – Self-monitored home security systems are excellent, but it can be easy to get drawn in by promised benefits only to discover they aren’t quite what they seem. Some companies have initially offered their products as self-monitored only to later restrict or paywall their features. Make sure the company you choose has a record of self-monitoring to ensure that doesn’t happen to you.

We used these criteria to create a ranked listing of the best features of different self-monitored home security systems. Our list above includes the best and most cost-effective systems out there.

Benefits 

Self-monitored home security systems cost far less than those with monthly monitoring plans – By far the biggest cost of traditional security systems is the monthly monitoring fees. Old-school companies like ADT or Brinks Home Security can charge you upwards of $50 a month for monitoring services that haven’t been shown to be any more effective than just having dummy cameras set up.

Modern DIY and self-monitored security systems allow you to purchase exactly the security system components you need at highly affordable prices. Once you’ve got them they’re yours, no contract, no monitoring fee, nothing. You can get instant updates to your phone or computer whenever something is detected, exactly the same level of notification you’d get with professional monitoring. 

Self-monitored home security systems let you DIY the installation – If you have experience with traditional home security companies you know the nightmare that installation can be. They give you an appointment window of noon to six on a Thursday, then show up sometime around 7:30. To make it even worse, they charge you a hefty fee for the privilege.

Self-monitored home security systems are almost entirely DIY. They’re designed to go from unboxing to fully functional in minutes and require very limited setup. Many modern sensors are so small and energy-efficient that they run on batteries and can be attached to your walls and doors with adhesive tape.

You’re in total control of your security system – With a self-monitored security system you know everyone who has access to your home. Professionally monitored systems give strangers access to your comings and goings, and potentially to video feeds as well.

Security systems with modern encryption built into them, combined with a strong password and two-factor authentication, allow you to limit who has access to your system to only those you allow. 

You can scale up or down the size of your system as your needs or budget changes – One of the best features of modern security systems is how customizable they are. Gone are the minimum packages and ‘basic installation’ sets that include sensors you neither need nor use.

You can start off with a few window and door sensors, then add on cameras, additional motion detectors, a home siren system, and even things like smoke/CO2 detectors and smart door locks. Self-monitored systems give you the flexibility to adjust your system whenever and however you need to.

Self-monitored home security plans let you completely avoid long-term contracts – One of the biggest downsides of traditional home security systems were the long and expensive contracts they loved you into. Some companies required two or even three year-long contracts for an initial installation.

With self-monitored home security systems, there’s no plan and no contract. There’s no monthly fee at all in most cases, and in the few that do charge a fee for additional features, it’s 100% contract-free.

FAQ 

Q: Why do I need a home security system?

A: Home security systems allow you to monitor your home’s integrity even when you aren’t around. The FBI estimates that one American home is burglarized every 20 seconds. With a self-monitored home security system, you add a significant deterrent for casual thieves and harden your home against more determined robbers (5).

Q: Should I use a wired or wireless home security system?

A: Generally we recommend a wireless home security system. They’re easier to install, much less expensive, offer many more options in cameras and other sensors, and just as effective when used properly. Unless you have heightened security concerns or know that you’re being targeted by sophisticated attackers, a wireless security system provides just as much protection as a more expensive and less flexible wired one.

Q: How do self-monitored security systems work?

A: Self-monitored security systems rely on app-based control systems and the rapid increase in internet bandwidth available to most people. Instead of using phone lines and having to pay expensive monthly premiums, a self-monitored system allows you to monitor and control all the sensors, cameras, and other equipment of your security system using nothing but a smartphone and an app.

Q: Do self-monitored home security systems lower homeowner’s insurance premiums?

A:  It depends. Professionally monitored security systems almost always give you a savings of 15% to 20% on your insurance premiums, depending on your company. Self-monitored systems are newer and not as well understood by insurance underwriters. We recommend you get in touch with your homeowner’s insurance provider and ask if they do. If not, there are definitely providers who do (6).

Q: Are self-monitored security systems as good as professionally monitored ones?

A: Yes and no. Self-monitored security systems use effectively identical equipment and sensors as professionally monitored ones, just without the expensive monthly fees. They also allow you to cut out the middleman for alerts and receive them directly to your phone or computer. They provide the same level of alerts and notification but don’t give a stranger access to your home. The only case where professional monitoring may be a benefit is if you are present in your home when an alert goes out and unable to quickly get word to first responders. Even then, you’re much better off than someone with no security system.

Q: Are self-monitored home security systems effective?

A:  Absolutely. The vast majority of criminals are looking for an easy score without complications. Studies have shown that homes with security systems are 3X less likely to be burglarized than those without. Given that the FBI estimates the average burglary costs $2,799, it’s easy to see how well a small investment in a home security system can pay off (7)(8).

Q: Are home security systems tax deductible?

A: Probably not. Because home security systems mainly protect your private residence there is no specific IRS deduction available. The exception to this is if you maintain a dedicated home office within your residence. In that case, you can deduct the percentage cost of that area of your home as a business expense. If your office takes up 20% of your home, you can then deduct 20% of the cost of your security system (9).

Q: What home security systems work with Google Home or Amazon Echo?

A: Most modern home security systems have at least some smart home connectivity. Nearly all the systems on our list will integrate with multiple different systems, including Amazon’s Alexa or the Google Home system.

Our top pick for a smart home connected self-monitored security system, also our overall number one pick, was the Ring Alarm 2nd Generation.

Q: Do I need cameras in my self-monitored home security system?

A: Whether or not you need cameras depends on your needs. We highly recommend adding cameras to your home security system, as they can take the place of motion sensors while also providing you with a live feed of what’s happening in your home. Given that self-monitored home security cameras are more affordable than ever, the only reason not to use them is if you’re looking for sensors in a private area of your home such as a bedroom.

Q: Do self-monitored home security systems have a monthly fee?

A: Mostly no. Some companies offer options that allow you to buy more capabilities or more cloud video storage, but overall they will function just fine without paying a single penny in monthly fees.

Q: Are self-monitored home security systems a good value?

A: Absolutely. Self-monitored home security systems offer one of the best values in home security you can find. The initial cost of equipment is often the same as with DIY systems, but the real savings come in your monthly fees.

The vast majority of self-monitored home security systems cost nothing to operate from month to month. This offers substantial savings over the long-term.

Recap

Self-monitored home security systems are just as effective as traditional ones yet cost a fraction of the price over the life of your system. They allow you to control every aspect of your home security system and make it easy and affordable to scale up the sensors and equipment as your security needs change.

For Survival At Home’s #1 self-monitored home security system recommendation, click here.

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