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Need Help Deciding if a DIY Home Alarm System is Right for You?

A DIY Home Alarm System isn't for everyone. Here are tips on what to consider, so you can "look before you leap".

If you haven't done so already, get a few Free Home Security Systems Quotes from alarm companies in your area. This will give you a good idea of the cost of having a system installed, as well as how much you could save by doing it yourself.

Everyone’s situation is different, but these are some important points to think about:

What are Your Abilities?

Before attempting to install a diy home alarm system, you should consider your physical condition and fitness level. While you don’t have to be a Navy SEAL, you will need to be able to stand on a short ladder, use basic hand tools, and bend, twist, and lean a little.

Good manual dexterity is a plus. This isn’t exactly brain surgery, but there are small parts and wires involved that can get to be tedious.

If you don’t own or use tools, and don’t really care to start, then leave the alarm work to the pros.

Ditto if you can’t stand the thought of putting a hole in one of your walls for a plastic anchor.

After the equipment is installed, you’ll need to program at least a few things to make it work. A programming guide comes with most DIY security systems, or can be found online easily.

Wireless or Hardwired?

Wireless DIY security system

  • A basic wireless DIY home alarm system isn’t difficult to install. If you’ve ever hung a picture or put up shelving, you have all the skills needed to install one of these systems.
  • I always suggest a hardwired system normally, but for the average do-it-yourselfer, it’s definitely a challenge.

Hardwired DIY home alarm system

  • Installing any hardwired do it yourself home alarm is much more demanding. It usually requires attic or basement crawling, which is a challenge for many.
  • For a clean install, notching wires into drywall with a razor knife takes time and a lot of patience.

To get an idea of what it takes to wire a complete security system, check out Home Alarm Wiring for a New House.

If you'd like to see what's involved in making wiring connections to a typical hardwired system, see Ademco Vista 20P Wiring Diagram.

DIY home alarm system basic tools


Putting in a DIY home alarm system doesn’t require any special tools, provided you stick with a wireless model. If you’re pretty handy around the house, you may already have what you need for a wireless system. Wire strippers and screwdrivers of various sizes are about it. Other things save time and come in handy but aren’t necessary, like a cordless drill for driving screws.

For a hardwired system, you’ll probably need to expand your tool collection a bit. Luckily, local home centers now carry everything you need. Some of these are as much about technique as they are about the tool itself.

Will the System be Monitored?

Cost considerations

A diy home alarm system may not save you much money if you plan on having it monitored. Many larger alarm companies offer free or $99 systems. As I mention elsewhere on this site, these systems aren’t truly “free”, because you must also agree to pay for monthly monitoring.

But, if you intend to have it monitored anyway, you’ll be paying somebody for it. You might as well get a system installed cheaply while you’re doing it.

You can also choose a system that reports directly to your cell phone or other mobile device, avoiding monitoring fees altogether. This option isn't for everyone.

Learn more here: Should You Self Monitor Your Alarm System?

You may also want to check out 5 Ways to Get a Cheap Home Security System.


Most alarm companies only perform service on systems they monitor. This means when there’s a problem, you are the service department! Usually this isn’t anything major: batteries need to be replaced every few years, magnets sometimes get knocked loose, etc.

Check with alarm co’s in your area. Some smaller companies are willing to work on any system, no matter who installed it. Remember that you’ll probably get charged more, since they aren’t getting monthly payments from you if you don’t monitor with them. Also, their monitored customers will get top priority if the schedule is busy…

Time Frame

Ask yourself two questions:

  • How much free time do I have to install and program the system? If you work full-time, have kids, and any kind of social life, you’ll probably be forced to do your alarm sys a piece at a time.
  • How soon do I need the system working? If you’ve just moved into your house, you may want an alarm system up as soon as possible. If so, chances are good you have a long list of things to do to your new home, with the alarm being just one of them.

Either way, time could be the deciding factor on whether or not to go with a do it yourself home alarm system.

How long does it take to install do it yourself alarm systems?

As a rough guideline:

  • Basic wireless: Can be done in a weekend or two.
  • Anything more involved, especially a hardwired system, allow several days minimum.

Your mileage may vary, depending on your schedule, skills, patience level, etc.

So, what should you do if you are pressed for time?

I suggest you go with a basic wireless DIY security system. Yes, I’ve said elsewhere that a hardwired system is always the first choice, and it still is. But, when time is short, wireless systems have an important edge. And, I’d much rather see you install a wireless system than nothing at all!

The basic system covers just the exterior doors and a motion detector to begin with. Sure, it’s not as complete as you might like, but it the fastest way to get you up and running. You’ll have a working system as quickly as is possible. You can easily expand it later into a more complete system. I’ll cover this basic system in detail soon.

For more help on deciding whether to go with a DIY system or a professional installation, see "Home Security Systems Comparison - DIY or Pro Install?"

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