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Pros and Cons of a DIY Alarm System

Pros and Cons of a DIY Alarm System

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

The housing market is booming.

The need to work remotely and spend more time at home has increased the demand for larger living spaces. Additionally, more Americans are buying or refinancing their homes because of the current low interest rates on mortgages.

This could also be the reason why the DIY industry is gaining momentum. The home security systems market alone ‘was valued at USD 53.6 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 78.9 billion by 2025.’

Instead of slowing down during the pandemic, it is reported that homeowners ‘have continued to spend money on home improvements’ while paying special attention to DIY alarm systems.

A DIY alarm system might seem like an attractive option. But, how can you decide if it’s a good alternative for your property?

It really depends on your security needs and how tech-savvy you are.

When you first visit a DIY company website, you might notice that they place most of their attention in the buying process. This is because they aren’t required to obtain a license for installations. In a sense, they are like many other companies that only sell you a product.

This doesn’t necessarily mean bad business. However, it does mean that the company you choose has to be transparent and have a solid foundation. Not all security companies abide by the same values and some advertising of DIY alarm systems can be misleading.

But before you jump into reading reviews and comparing products, the following tips can help you decide if a DIY system is a good fit for you and your home.

Where does a DIY Alarm System perform best?

A DIY alarm system works best for small spaces like apartments or flats. An apartment usually has less doors and windows to secure, therefore, you will likely also need less motion sensors.

A second reason is that most wireless systems have to be within a certain distance of their wireless network. This is not difficult in small spaces but becomes more complicated in a multi-level building.

The Pros of Purchasing a DIY Alarm System

Installation is economical.

A professional installation tends to cost more. This is because of the high quality of the system and the personalized service you’ll receive if you hire a full-service company. This is why one of the main appeals of a DIY alarm system is that if you install it yourself, you’ll save big bucks.

This choice will not only give you the advantage of getting your system sooner but you’ll be saving on initial costs. Nonetheless, it’s recommended to first research the DIY company of your preference to make sure it is well-established. This is important because a DIY system allows you to add other products in the future so you don’t have to buy it all at once.

For example, if you first want to buy an alarm system and a year later a video doorbell, you’ll be able to integrate both systems as long as you buy them from the same company.

It’s also important to ask about the equipment’s warranty and return policy. Since not all DIY alarm systems are good quality, a good return policy can protect you if the system doesn’t work well or it isn’t what you expected. Only because the system fits your budget, it doesn’t mean it will also fit your needs.

Take your DIY Alarm System Wherever you go

If you are tech-savvy, it will not be difficult to uninstall your DIY System. If you rent your apartment or move often, this might be a good option for you. The ability to take the system wherever you go will not only be convenient but installation costs will again not apply as you will re-install the system yourself.

You’ll be Free from Annual Contracts

Most professional security companies require that you sign a 1 or 2 year contract of alarm monitoring services. This means that as soon as your alarm is installed, it will be monitored by a central station. In case of an emergency, the monitoring station will call you to verify if they need to alert the authorities.

In contrast, with a DIY alarm, you’ll have the task of self-monitor your security system.  This means that your alarm system will not be monitored by a central station and when the alarm is activated, it’ll be up to you to alert the authorities. You’ll also be free from a monthly monitoring fee and responsible for any repairs the system will require in the future.

The Cons of Purchasing a DIY Alarm System  

DIY Installations Can Be frustrating

Some DIY companies don’t even include information about the installation process in their websites. They focus on describing the system’s features and having images of people using their systems.
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Before you start adding items to your cart, it’s reasonable to want to know if a company has a support team. If questions about the installation arise, you’ll need someone to guide you through the process. You should also ask about the options you’ll have if and when the system malfunctions.
For example, Park’s Associates’ Senior analyst Dina Abdelrazik, told Security Systems News  that “From our data, on average, consumers spend 4 hours or more installing their DIY security system in the home – that is a very long time,”.
Are you willing to spend 4 hours or more installing your system? Have in mind that this time only accounts for installation. Additional hours of your time will be required to self-monitor and repair your system.
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This is one of the main reasons why if you are not tech-savvy, its best to stay away from DIY alarm systems.
We often receive calls from people who ask if we can fix or re-install a system they purchased online. The problem is that most professional companies will decline. Why? Because we can’t provide a warranty for neither the job or the system. Additionally, we can’t verify if the equipment is faulty or if it has been altered prior to installation.

Limited Technical Support & Maintenance Madness

What can you do if your DIY alarm system malfunctions?

A) Call the company who sold you the equipment
B) Search the Google bar and try to fix it yourself
C) Continue to use the system even though it doesn’t work well

If you decide to call the company who sold you the DIY system, you might be on-hold for long periods of time. It can be frustrating to wait to get an answer via text or email when you are worried about your family’s safety.

If you opt to try to fix the system yourself, it can also be time consuming and frustrating. And there is still not a guarantee that it’ll work!

Option C is not really an option. Using a faulty alarm system is like not having a system at all. If you are lucky enough to get a professional company to agree to service your DIY system, they’ll likely won’t guarantee the issues will be fixed. Nonetheless, they will still have to charge a fee to inspect your security system.
With time, the costs of  repairs and maintenance will potentially exceed the money you initially saved.

Remote Access Can be Hacked. 

Remote access is not only convenient but usually a secure way to control your alarm system. Nonetheless, when your options to customize your alarm system are limited, it makes your system more vulnerable to hacking.

Once a hacker has your username and password, they can use it to disable your alarm system. Additionally, hackers can get very creative. A Forbes’ article described how a popular alarm brand was disabled with magnets and tape.

What can you do to minimize the chances of being hacked?

If possible, customize your systems’ settings. Take advantage of any security features your DIY system provides.

If you decide to hire a professional company, ask them to walk you through the process of customizing your settings and privacy. They can also help you set up your remote access App or provide training to better manage your system.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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