Whether you’ve already made the decision to go the DIY route for installing a home security system, or if you’re still exploring your options, you might wonder how DIY home security systems work.

The beauty of DIY systems is that they provide you the freedom and flexibility to set things up your way on your schedule. But with freedom comes choices about what you want your system to include, what you need and don’t need, and how to go about putting the whole thing together.

In this article, you will learn the ins and outs of what components you may want to include in your DIY system, how each of those components works, and how the system works as a whole in conjunction with your smart hub and smart home security app. 


DIY Home Security System Basics


The basic process of setting up a DIY system involves:

  • Planning: to determine how much security you need and what you should buy

  • Shopping: to find the best devices that meet your needs

  • Installation: which you will be doing yourself, possibly with the assistance of online tutorials or a few phone calls to a support line

  • Monitoring: which may be done yourself or via a professional monitoring service

The key difference between a DIY home security system and a professionally installed one is the installation, you have an expert determining what your home needs, what devices make sense to purchase, performing the installation, and taking care of the monitoring set-up and testing. 

But while you have to have some self-reliance to take on any DIY project, installing a DIY home security system can be fairly straightforward if you go with the right company. With Blue by ADT, for example, installation often takes less than an hour. 

Before you tackle installation, you need to decide what components you want to install. To make informed choices, it’s worth getting to know how each part of a security system works.


Customization Options in DIY Home Security Systems


During the planning phase of setting up your DIY system, you will make decisions about customization options. Among the options to consider are the following:

  • How many and which types of security cameras do you want to include? You will have your choice of indoor, outdoor, and doorbell cameras, which may come with any number of features. Consider which areas of the interior and exterior of your house you want to be able to monitor when deciding on cameras.

  • What sort of door and window sensors will you need? Ideally, every door and window on the ground floor should be equipped with a sensor that can detect if it is opened when it shouldn’t be. You may want additional sensors on second-story doors and windows.

  • What company will you purchase your devices from? It makes the most sense to purchase all devices from the same company to ensure compatibility. You will want to choose a reputable and reliable company that can offer support if you need it.

  • What type of monitoring do you want? When installing a DIY home security system, you will likely have the choice between self-monitoring or a monthly professional monitoring subscription.

In the following sections, we’ll describe the components you might consider.

6 Features You Can Customize With Your DIY Home Security System

  • Base and Entry Keypad

  • Door and Window Sensors 

  • Motion Sensors 

  • Wireless Cameras

  • Other Sensors like Glass Break, Fire, Carbon Monoxide, and Flood

  • Professional vs. Self-Monitoring


Base and Entry Keypad

The foundation of any home security system is the base and keypad. The base is the device that all of the security components “talk” to. It receives signals from each component and can sound an alarm if anything goes wrong.

The entry keypad, which may be found on the base itself or exist as a separate device, allows you to enter a code to arm and disarm your system and also has buttons that you can press in the event of an emergency for help. Adding and removing devices from your security system can sometimes be done using the base and keypad. 

Additional keypads can often be purchased if you would like the ability to arm and disarm your system from more than one location in your house.

If your base acts as a smart hub (that is, it connects wirelessly to your security devices and home internet), then you can make changes to your system online or via an app. 

These systems are often battery-operated or have a battery backup, which means they will continue to operate if the power goes out. 


Door and Window Sensors

A key part of any system is door and window sensors that can alert you if doors and windows are opened when they shouldn’t be.

These devices typically have a switch, which is attached to the window frame or door frame and a magnet, which is attached to the pane or the door. When the window or door is closed, the magnet keeps the switch’s circuit closed. If the window or door is opened, the circuit breaks and a signal is sent to the control panel. 

These devices are usually wireless and are attached with strong adhesive. They need to be aligned carefully so that when the door or window is in the closed position, the magnet and the switch are parallel and very close together. 

You can set your system up to only notify you if doors and windows open when the system is armed, or it can alert you with a simple chime any time a particular door or window is opened. 

The best practice is to install such sensors on every door and window on the ground floor of your home, as well as any doors or windows on higher floors that might be accessible. 


Motion Sensors

In addition to window and door sensors, you may opt to set up motion sensors inside of your home. These sensors can detect movement, and more advanced versions can have their sensitivity adjusted so that they aren’t set off by branches blowing in the wind or your dog strolling by.

Motion sensors generally work in one of two ways. The first way is that they send out a signal (either a form of light or sound) that is reflected back. If there are changes to the amount that is reflected back, then motion is detected. 

Another way is through passive infrared detection, which means that a sensor detects infrared energy (essentially, heat energy) that is emitted by warm bodies. But a body standing still won’t necessarily set off such a detector, as they are usually designed to send an alert only if the amount of energy changes in some way, indicating movement.

It can be a good idea to set up motion sensors near entryways or even to have them connected to lighting that turns on when motion is detected. This can act as a deterrent in addition to alerting you of motion.


Wireless Security Cameras

Security Cameras are great because they allow you to see what is actually going on inside and outside your home and can help you determine if an alarm is really a threat, as well as help identify intruders. 

There are several types of security cameras to consider when setting up a DIY home security system. First and foremost, you will want to work with wireless cameras so that you don’t have to do any electrical work or drill any holes in your walls.

Outdoor cameras are designed for watching the exterior of your home. They are designed to withstand weather and more extreme temperatures. It’s a good idea to place outdoor cameras so that they have a view of all entryways. 

Indoor cameras allow you to monitor what goes on inside your home. Often, these are used for monitoring children, pets, the elderly, or the nanny, as opposed to watching for intruders. 

Doorbell cameras are connected to the existing doorbell wiring and can allow you to see who is at the door, whether you are home or not. 

Depending on which security cameras you choose, they may come with any number of features, including night vision to allow you to see in the dark and two-way communication so that you can talk to whoever is at your door, say hi to your kids when they get home, or tell a potential intruder to step away. 

Cameras often have SD slots that allow for a limited amount of activity to be recorded locally. They also communicate to your smart hub and can save recorded data to the cloud for later retrieval. Because they connect to your smart hub, you can also view the camera feeds remotely from anywhere through an application.


Other Sensors

Many other types of sensors are available, as well. This includes glass break sensors, fire sensors, carbon monoxide sensors, and even flood sensors. 

By including such sensors in your system, you can be alerted to more than just potential intruders but other home disasters as well. 


Professional vs. Self-Monitoring 

Once your smart home security system is installed and set up, you are ready to put it to everyday use. The primary function of a security system is to allow you to be notified in the event of a break-in or emergency, as well as allow you to access help if something occurs.

You have two choices when you set up a DIY home security system. You can choose to monitor the system yourself, or you can pay for professional monitoring.

Professional monitoring means that a team of professionals is always paying attention to any alarms or alerts your system sends out, and they are ready to contact you or dispatch emergency services as needed 24/7. 

When you set up a system yourself, as opposed to having it installed professionally, you can usually pay for professional monitoring every month without the need for a long-term contract. 

Self-monitoring is free, but it does mean you need to remain diligent in paying attention to notifications. You can self-monitor via an app, which you can set to send you alerts based on different events, such as windows being opened, glass being broken, or a stranger wandering onto your porch. 

If you don’t know which type of monitoring you’d prefer, if you set up a DIY home security system using Blue by ADT, you can get one month of free professional monitoring That way, you can try it out and see if it is right for you.


The Importance of Window Stickers and Signs


Not to be overlooked are window stickers and signs. Although these are extremely low-tech compared to other security devices, they can act as a deterrent. A potential intruder scoping out your neighborhood is less likely to make an attempt at your house if it is obvious from the signage that a home security system is installed. 

Signs can be placed out in the front yard, and stickers may be placed in windows where they are easily visible from the porch or the street.


Smart Hubs and Smartphone Apps


Often, the security base in a modern system doubles as a smart hub. If your security devices are “smart” devices, they can connect to the hub, which can be controlled via an application on your smartphone or another device. 

In addition to linking all security devices under one system, you can connect other smart home devices to the smart hub as well, allowing you to control all of your home devices in one place with a single application.

These systems can often be linked to your home voice assistant, such as Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home Assistant, to allow for voice command as well.

When you install a modern smart home security system, part of the installation process involves installing an app on your smartphone. This app will allow you to set up devices as well as monitor and control them from afar. 


Smart Home Automation


Another added benefit to smart home security and smart home devices is the ability to create automations. Automations are like programs that allow you to set events to occur on their own at a certain time or to set up a command that will instigate several actions at the touch of a button.

For example, you can set up all of your lights to turn off and your thermostat to turn down at a certain time of day or upon activation of your security system as you leave. You may also choose to set up an automation that will turn everything off as you go to bed at night with the touch of a button.

Automation can allow you to set up for your door to be locked automatically when you leave so that you never forget, keeping you safer, in addition to adding considerable convenience.


Get Your DIY System Off the Ground Today


If you’re ready to get your DIY system set up, consider Blue by ADT. ADT is your one-stop shop for personalized DIY equipment tailored to your lifestyle. And more than that, it is backed by our 145 years of expertise, so you know it is a system you can rely on.

With Blue by ADT, there are a variety of products and kits to choose from. You also have access to service and support as you install your system.

In addition, you can choose whether to self-monitor or pay a low monthly fee of $19.99 for ADT’s experienced professional monitoring service, which comes with three layers of protection and 24/7 assistance.


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