There are a number of factors to take into account when you’re shopping for a home security system. Price, quality, ease of use, and effectiveness are at the top of the list, but it’s time to make room for a fifth important consideration.
Once upon a time, it was strictly a professional job to install a monitored home security system, running wires and placing equipment based on years of experience. But now, with the dominance of wireless home security systems, you can choose equipment with “do-it-yourself” installation.
You don’t have to be an electrical engineer to install quality home security. With a little bit of tech savvy – and the ability to read a manual or follow instructions from a mobile app – you can install and set up your own wireless home security system whenever you’re ready.
Here’s a quick look at advantages and disadvantages of professional and DIY home security installation. Look for a system that offers both options, and make an installation choice that works for you.
Start with peel-and-stick
When you’re shopping, you’ll quickly discover that the best home security systems are typically wireless. Once you identify a power source for your control panel (typically a standard electrical outlet), it’s just a matter of placing your control panel, sensors, detectors, cameras or other devices where they will be handy and effective.
Try to find a system that doesn’t require any tools for installation. Many top-rated security systems aren’t just wireless – they feature equipment that adheres to any surface using peel-and-stick.
“Peel and stick doesn’t just make it easy for do-it-yourselfers to install their equipment,” said Chris Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer at Brinks Home Security, one of the nation’s largest home security providers. “It gives them the option of easily relocating devices to more effective locations in the home, or even taking them along in a move to a new home.”
Size means everything
However, Johnson added, larger and more sophisticated systems may require the experienced touch of professional home security installation.
“A larger home presents certain challenges, especially when it comes to systems that run on a wireless network,” Johnson said. “A professional understands the nuances and requirements for signal strength, particularly for video cameras and other devices that might be located far from the router. That’s an instance where lack of experience might be a detriment for DIY.”
A professional can also offer suggestions about optimum placement of equipment such as motion detectors or video cameras. When positioned correctly, they’re powerful weapons in the battle for home security.
Advantage: Professional installation
Integration with voice control
Millions of homeowners have chosen to add voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to their homes. More often than not, they’re typically used for simple tasks like answering questions, forecasting the weather, or even ordering dinner. But they can also be effectively integrated into home security and smart-home technology.
This is where the difference between DIY and professional installation depends a great deal on the system you choose. Some are tightly integrated with Amazon Echo and Google Nest Home, to the point where the system will automatically detect and set up new equipment.
It’s an area where the technology and devices are rapidly evolving to the point where a professional doesn’t necessarily have an edge. If you’re looking for a professional, make sure they have experience with Amazon or Google integration. If you choose the DIY route, carefully research your equipment and search for instructions online, or even how-to videos on YouTube.
Who’ll do the monitoring?
A big part of the DIY vs. Professional discussion goes beyond installation and integration. It becomes a matter of who takes charge whenever there’s a potential emergency.
Most home security systems can be monitored by the homeowner using a mobile app; or by a professional monitoring station that instantly receives alarm signals. Be sure to choose a system that allows for either option, giving you the most flexibility.
DIY monitoring is a two-edged sword. It saves money on monthly monitoring charges, but it also puts the responsibility for alarm response squarely on your shoulders. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you know what to do and when to do it whenever you receive an alarm alert.
Professional monitoring can cost anywhere between $19 and $59 a month, depending on your provider and the sophistication level of your system. But a professionally trained security expert deals with thousands of calls each year, and knows how to react in virtually any situation.
Whenever there’s an alarm, they take charge by determining the source, reaching the homeowner if possible, and dispatching emergency assistance if necessary.
“Monthly rates make a difference, but it all comes down to your comfort level,” Johnson said. “Every moment counts in an emergency, so DIY makes sense if you feel confident in your ability to make the right decisions as quickly as possible. But professional monitoring makes sense if you want to be sure that the alarm will be handled by someone who knows exactly what to do.”
The bottom line
By now, you’ve seen that DIY and professional approaches to home security systems each have specific advantages and disadvantages, with some areas that are too close to call. So let’s boil it down to three specific tips that will get you going on the right foot when it comes to home security.
Keep your options open. Pick a system that offers both DIY and professional installation. That way, even if you try DIY and get in over your head, you’ve got a fallback position by enlisting help from a professional.
Choose a flexible system that fits your needs. Don’t settle for cookie-cutter home security, or a brand you’ve never heard of. Your home is unique, your needs are specific, and you want the flexibility to adjust your system for maximum efficiency along the way.
Choose monitoring that fits your life. DIY saves money and works perfectly for homeowners who are glued to their smartphones, but it requires a cool head and a steady hand. Professional monitoring is for homeowners who don’t mind paying a monthly fee for peace of mind.
Robert Ogle has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years, with extensive experience as a journalist and freelance contributor. Robert focuses on home security, smart-home technology trends, and the impact of disruptive innovation on U.S. industries. He currently serves as Senior Copywriter for Brinks Home Security, a leading provider of security systems and solutions.