Security system installation: DIY versus professional
When it comes to customizing your home's security system, one of your first choices is about installation: Should you get equipment you can install yourself or let the professionals handle it? Your decision affects cost, the type of technology you get and how long it takes to get up and running. This guide explores the process of both professional and DIY installations and helps you make the right decision for you and your home.
How much does security system installation cost?
Professional installation of
a security system
usually costs between
$75 and $200.
Professional installation of a security system usually costs between $75 and $200, depending on the company and the complexity of the system. This only includes installation — not the cost of the equipment or monitoring. Some companies don't require upfront payment for equipment and instead spread out the cost over the life of the contract. Installation costs are typically paid upfront.
While DIY installation is free, most companies who offer this installation model require that you purchase equipment upfront. The full cost of a security system ranges from $200 to $700, with the type and number of devices factoring into the final bill. Fortunately, financing options are also available, allowing you to break up the cost into affordable monthly payments.
How long does it take to install a security system?
The time it takes to install a home security system varies based on your home and the type of system. Both DIY and professional installation can take as little as 30 minutes or as long as a few hours. Longer installations typically include complicated equipment, such as wall-mounted control panels, thermostats, locks or security cameras. Meanwhile, systems that are designed for self-install are typically simpler and wireless for your convenience.
If you’re thinking about a system with DIY installation, consider how long you think it would take you to install each component and how much that time is worth to you. If you don't mind sacrificing a weekend afternoon, DIY installation may be right for you. However, those with busy schedules may find professional installation to be a more valuable option.
Monitoring and your professional or self-install home security system
Whether you install a security system yourself or get professional installation, you can sign up for professional monitoring services. These monitoring services rely on Wi-Fi, cellular networks or landlines to transmit data to the monitoring company in the event of an emergency. Most wireless systems even have backup batteries or networks in case your primary service is disconnected.
With DIY systems, you may also have the option to self-monitor your home instead of paying a monthly monitoring fee. This works a bit differently from professional monitoring in that the company won't actively monitor your home or contact emergency services on your behalf. Instead, you'll receive alerts to your phone if anything triggers your sensors, cameras or other devices. This is a good option for those who want to spend less and be in complete control of their security.
If you do decide to complete installation yourself, you aren’t on your own. Home security companies provide helpful installation and troubleshooting guides, plus tech support if you're stuck on any part of the process. If you try to self-install and find it isn't for you, you usually still have the option to pay for professional setup.
Pros and cons of DIY vs. professional installation
There are pros and cons to both professional installation and DIY installation of home security systems. We list the benefits and drawbacks of each type below.
Benefits of DIY installation
- Ability to upscale: DIY systems allow you to start small and add components according to your needs. This is a good choice if you’re unsure of the kind of system you want and don’t want to spend a lot of money on something you won’t use.
- Best for small homes: DIY installation is best for smaller homes or apartments because there’s less area to cover and less equipment needed. Furthermore, most newer systems are wireless, and in a smaller space, you’re less likely to lose a signal.
- Ease of transfer: DIY systems are much easier to transfer from one home to another. If you rent or know you move a lot, you should opt for a DIY system.
- Lower cost: DIY systems are almost always cheaper than ones that are professionally installed.
Drawbacks of DIY installation
- Requires some technical knowledge: If you’re not inclined toward tech, DIY systems may be more trouble than they’re worth. The initial installation and connection should be fairly straightforward but may require tinkering and maintenance down the road.
- Self-monitoring: Some DIY systems require self-monitoring, and you may still have to pay a monthly or yearly fee to the company.
- Responsibility for repairs and replacement: While some DIY companies provide online or telephone help, you usually aren’t able to call a technician to fix equipment on-site.
Benefits of professional installation
- Customization for large spaces: Professionals can design a system specifically for your home and ensure all areas are properly covered. These systems are better for larger homes that require many interconnected components over multiple floors.
- 24/7 monitoring: Most professional systems offer monitoring services for a monthly fee, while not every DIY company does. Professional monitoring includes 24-hour response in case an alarm is triggered in your home.
- Low hassle: With a professionally installed system, all you have to do is choose the level of protection you want, and the company takes care of setting it up. If you have future problems with equipment, a technician can visit your home to fix the problem.
- Integration with existing systems: Professionals can help integrate your new security system with your existing smart devices like smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and thermostats.
Drawbacks of professional installation
- Higher price: Professionally installed systems are almost always more expensive than DIY systems, so if you’re on a budget, consider DIY.
- Harder to transfer: Since many professionally installed systems are designed specially for the home you’re in, they can be hard to transfer to another house.
- May require a long contract: Although companies are starting to move away from lengthy contracts, there are still some that want you to sign a multiple-year service contract.
- Can you get professional monitoring for a DIY security system?
Yes, but not all companies provide this option. Most DIY companies offer self-monitoring for a small yearly fee. Professional monitoring will cost you more.
- Can I monitor my own home security system?
Yes, most DIY home security systems come with the option for self-monitoring, but you may still have to pay a regular fee. Most professionally installed systems feature professional monitoring.
- Can you install a home security system yourself?
Yes, if a system is advertised as DIY, then it’s designed to be installed by the consumer. While you don’t necessarily need to have technical knowledge to do this, it will help.
- Are all DIY home security systems wireless?
Yes, DIY home security systems feature components like sensors, monitors and cameras that connect to a control hub wirelessly and communicate through Wi-Fi and radio signals.
- Is having a professional install your home security system worth the cost?
It depends on how big your home is and the level of coverage you want. If you live in a smaller home or apartment, then a DIY system is probably the right choice. If you live in a large, multistory house, it’s likely worth the extra cost to have a professional installation that’s customized for your property.
- What do you do if your DIY home security system breaks?
Home security companies offering DIY systems have online resources and customer service over the phone for help with troubleshooting. Security equipment also comes with a warranty that covers defective equipment for a specified time.
DIY home security vs. professional: Which is right for your home?
When evaluating whether a DIY or professionally installed home security system is right for you, consider the cost of installation, your home and convenience. If you're tech-savvy and budget-conscious or if you live in a smaller home, you may prefer to self-install; if you have a larger home or less time, you may want to bring in a professional. Read the installation instructions and customer reviews before choosing a DIY system so you know what to expect. If you’re purchasing a complex system or one that’s hard-wired, the benefits of professional installation are likely worth the cost.
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