5 Of The Best Self Monitored Security System (January 2020)
Are you someone who prefers self-monitored surveillance systems to professional ones? Read on, then — this review is for you.
Professional security systems will provide you with proper 24/7 coverage. However, they tend to cost a pretty penny, and not everyone can afford them. For that reason, people are looking for a decent self-monitoring alternative. But finding the best self-monitored security system can be quite challenging, so allow me to make your search a bit easier.
Below are my top picks for the best security systems that don’t require professional setup. You can easily install any of these yourself and keep your home safe from potential intruders. In addition, the handy buyer’s guide at the end will let you know what to look for when shopping for a DIY safety setup.
Editor Side Notes: Seeking to have a reliable security camera for your outdoor or yard? Here is our guide on the best outdoor wireless security camera system with DVR in which you can surely keep a longer time of a record for your security footage and view it anywhere through a smart phone with our recommended products.
Comparing the Camera Systems
A pioneer in self-monitored surveillance, the Canary CAN100USBK is simple and effective, perfect for college dorms and single rooms.
The Best Security Systems of Early 2020 — My Top Picks
1. Abode iota
As someone who uses HomeKit, I was instantly drawn by Abode iota. But don’t worry; it also covers Alexa and Google Home in case you prefer those services to HomeKit.
Of course, it wasn’t just the compatibility that drew me to this product. iota has an amazing black and white design, giving you a feeling of owning a top-of-the-line Apple product. The starter kit itself contains an all-in-one device (1080p camera, a siren, and motion sensor), two mini motion sensors (one for the door, the other for the window), and a key fob that will help us arm and disarm the system easily.
The Abode iota is quite compact. Admittedly, it’s not the best solution if you need coverage for the whole house. However, it’s perfect for monitoring a single room. Most parents that I speak of use this product, as it is ideal for the baby’s room. Live video streaming is crystal clear, even during the night. More importantly, the iota has the capability of adding more sensors onto it if you want to expand on its features. And with smart home compatibility included, this system is an absolute win to me.
- All-in-one main device with a camera, a motion sensor, and a 93 dB siren
- 1080 resolution and excellent night vision
- Comes with two extra mini sensors
- Excellent for a single room
- Incredibly easy to install
- Smart home compatible with Google Home, Alexa, and HomeKit
- Does not come with a phone emergency call option
- You need to buy more than one if you want to cover the whole house, which is a high additional cost
2. iSmartAlarm Deluxe Home Security Package
iSmartAlarm has several different packages to offer, each with its own sets of benefits and flaws. Personally, I liked the Deluxe package the most since it has everything a single bedroom apartment might need.
Compatible with both Android and iOS, the iSmartAlarm covers roughly 90% of smartphone users who need proper home surveillance. Within the Deluxe starting package, you get the main CubeOne hub with a built-in siren, four contact sensors, two remote tags, and one motion sensor. Of course, you can expand that number at any point by buying additional sensors.
iSmartAlarm is a fantastic system for DIY enthusiasts like myself. It’s easy to install, straightforward to use, and it requires no contracts or monthly fees. With iSmartAlarm, I can receive free messages, push notifications, and email alerts. Though this product does support home automation integration, it’s not the best at it.
3. Arlo Pro 3
Arlo really doesn’t need any introduction. It’s a top-tier brand that has produced some of the best surveillance gadgets in recent memory, and I never use the term “best” lightly. One look at an Arlo camera will tell you everything you need to know about it. It’s durable, functional, weatherproof, versatile, and, let’s not forget, beautiful.
The Arlo Pro 3 system comes with two such cameras. They produce high-quality 2K HDR footage that looks crisp and clear 24/7. Moreover, it has intelligent motion detection as well as an integrated spotlight. In addition, you can actually capture full-color video footage during the night, giving you an extra layer of safety.
One signature feature of all Arlo products is that they’re wireless and easy to install. Sadly, you do need an Arlo hub to control all of the cameras, and it’s sold separately. But once you get it, the setup is quick and painless. Moreover, you can connect the Arlo Pro 3 system with several different smart home platforms, such as Alexa, Google Assistant, and even IFTTT.
4. Canary CAN100USBK 1080p HD Security Camera System
A single black cylinder with incredible features and simple design — that would be an adequate description of the Canary CAN100USBK or CAN100 for short. I should also note that the CAN100 was one of the first all-in-one systems to hit the market. In other words, Canary is a name with a good track record.
The CAN100 is exactly what it looks like — a simple, easy-to-use system for small apartments or college dorms. You can set it up in two easy steps:
- Turn on the hub
- Connect it to the Wi-Fi
While it doesn’t come with any extra sensors or gadgets, the CAN100 still has a lot to offer. For example, I can use its two-way audio feature to talk to the children in the house while I’m away. Alternatively, if a babysitter is taking care of the kids, I can maintain contact in case something goes wrong. The system itself can connect to Alexa for added convenience. In addition, the camera has state-of-the-art facial recognition software.
My absolute favorite feature of this all-in-one system is the one-touch emergency access. With a single touch, it can connect me to the police or the fire department, which would save me a lot of time and grief in case of a dangerous situation.
5. SimpliSafe Wireless Home Security System
Nearly every list of DIY systems has to contain SimpliSafe. After all, it’s the go-to system for people who don’t want to deal with contracts and monthly payments. But does it deserve such popularity?
Well, judging by the starter package itself, I can say that this product is an excellent idea if you live in a huge house. It comes with no fewer than eight separate pieces. The base station is the largest part, containing a powerful 95 dB siren. Next, there are the four entry sensors and one motion sensor; they can connect to the base from as far as 1,000 ft. No matter how big your home is, the SimpliSafe will have you covered.
My favorite feature is the panic button. In case of an emergency, I can smack it and trigger the alarm instantly. The very second it’s active, it’ll dispatch the police. But more importantly, it has the silent dispatch function in case of a life-and-death situation.
All of these features sound awesome enough. However, SimpliSafe isn’t a part of so many top lists for no reason. Namely, if I wanted to upgrade it with additional sensors, I could do that. Again, that doesn’t sound all that revolutionary until you learn that you can hook up to 100 additional sensors. To put it simply, SimpliSafe can keep an entire medieval castle secure!
6. Samsung F-MN
Like SimpliSafe, Samsung is a powerful brand. Of course, I’m not here to discuss their amazing smartphones or tablets, though they would come in handy with the F-MN, also known as the Samsung SmartThings home monitoring kit.
The SmartThings section of that name refers to the central hub of the F-MN. This base has a wide range, and it can connect multiple smart devices wirelessly. Aside from the base, you also get two multipurpose sensors. They can receive alerts during any suspicious activity, such as windows opening and closing suddenly. You can also connect these sensors to the lights so that they can switch on and off when you open the door.
One feature that I found amusing was the SmartThings outlet. Using it, I can control the lights and other electronics from a distance. In fact, I can even give commands to small electrical appliances with this outlet plugged in.
Of course, I can’t forget the amazing SmartThings motion sensor. You can set it to turn devices on and off when people enter the room (or leave it). Once the device spots unexpected movement, it receives alerts, just like the smaller multipurpose sensors.
Possibly the best feature about the F-MN SmartThings system is its compatibility. I can actually connect it to third-party surveillance hardware, and it will work like a charm. Moreover, it also supports platforms such as ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Internet Protocol.
- SmartThings hub that connects multiple devices
- Powerful motion sensors with multipurpose features
- Smart outlet that controls the lights and other electronics
- Excellent third-party compatibility
- Easy to install and use
- Smartphone app is clumsy and cluttered
- Device-pairing takes a bit of time
7. Reolink Argus
It might feel like I’m repeating myself, but Reolink is in the same category as SimpliSafe and Samsung when it comes to quality brands. My experience has taught me that most people who want to get into surveillance products start with Reolink. And I don’t blame them; Reolink has had amazing products over the years, so it’s no wonder that their simple Argus 2 system has made it onto this list.
Simplicity is key here. Reolink Argus 2 consists of a single wireless camera and a rechargeable battery. There is no need for a base hub or anything else, really. If anything, you can buy a miniature USB solar panel because Argus 2 can charge its battery in direct sunlight.
As a camera, the Argus 2 is quite versatile. It has a wide viewing angle of 130°, splendid night vision, and 1080 HD resolution capture capability. However, it wouldn’t be on this list if it were just a camera. With its built-in motion detector and a 75 dB siren, Argus 2 stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best surveillance setups out there. And to top it all off, it can sync with both Alexa and Google Assistant, and it uses Cloud to store footage.
8. Scout Alarm Smart
Alexa, Google Assistant, Philips Hue, Yale Locks, IFTTT, LIFXNest Cameras, Nest Protect — these are all of the platforms that Scout Alarm can connect with. It’s by far the “smartest” of the smart DIY systems I came across late last year.
Scout Alarm is incredibly easy to set up. More importantly, you have the ability to add as many motion sensors as you want, and it’ll still work exceptionally well. And since it’s wireless, it requires a reliable power source. Luckily, the 4G LTE hub comes with an extra battery pack, just to be on the safe side.
To me, this product is perfect for people who have a huge home, as the sensors can connect to the hub at a distance close to 2,000 ft. More importantly, multiple people can connect to the system using the app, which makes it great if you want your family members to help you keep the house safe.
The Buyer's Guide to the Best Self-Monitoring Home Alarm Systems
It goes without saying — a system like this ought to be easy to install. A huge part of any DIY home security product is...well, the DIY part. Of course, I've got nothing against getting professional help, but then you have to add installation expenses to the current system fees.
Fortunately, lots of these products come with handy guides that help customers set everything up. In addition, you can find lots of installation instructions online.
One thing that separates the best unmonitored home security systems from others is that you are in charge of everything. That's why it's extremely important for users to be able to control them easily.
When owning a system, we have to pay attention to a few things. First off, we're the ones who have to arm and disarm it. Next, we have to be the ones to set it up according to our needs. Finally, it's our responsibility to change the system's different modes (Home, Away, Asleep, On Vacation). The best unmonitored security system will allow us to do all of that at the push of a button.
There are safety products out there that come with special contact sensors. These provide specific alerts when they spot movement, especially when doors and windows either open or close. Such systems are fantastic for large houses with dozens of rooms.
A few people have asked me if they can skip buying security cameras and just stick to other hardware. Let me be perfectly clear on this matter — you will most definitely need cameras. Motion detectors and other gadgets are great, and they CAN keep you safe. But unless you can see what's going on using a smart device, you can end up running back to your house on false alarms.
Both indoor and outdoor cameras must have a powerful resolution and a wide viewing angle. That way, you can see everything that's going on clearly. Shoddy, low-quality cameras can cost you your valuables since the police can rarely recognize an intruder on a grainy, low-res video.
Home security doesn't end with cameras. In fact, DIY surveillance systems integrate a large number of devices. For example, carbon monoxide detectors will measure the level of carbon monoxide in the air, letting us know if and when to react. The same goes for fire or smoke detectors, possibly the most important safety tools for the kitchen. Of course, there are also humidity sensors that warn people of a potential flooding problem.
Finally, I'd also like to add smart doorbells. Not only are these gadgets perfect for conserving energy and saving space, but they are incredibly easy to install and use. More importantly, they integrate with other smart devices and often include a two-way audio recording option. Lots of them come with Wi-Fi connectivity and can even link to Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant.
In terms of how you power the system, you have two choices: wired or wireless.
A wired system is quite reliable. I can speak from experience that wired detectors and cameras are more reliable than their wireless counterparts. After all, they get a permanent power source from the cable linked to the house's electric grid. However, the biggest problem of such a system is that you can't really move it about. Each device has to stay fixed in one spot because of the cable. Moreover, you'll need a professional to install them.
Naturally, wireless systems don't have these problems. They are easy to install, simple to replace, and straightforward to control. Unfortunately, their biggest flaw is that they require a power source, i.e., a battery that lasts for a long time.
Lots of regular surveillance systems for home protection have automated communication that provides us with professional monitoring. To put it simply, with a regular system, the police or the fire department automatically get notified if something is happening in my house. Unfortunately, a self-monitoring home security system doesn't have that option. If I want automated communication, I have to set it up myself.
Luckily, with modern smart devices and easy-to-use mobile apps, I can do just that. With some tinkering, I can get my system to send notifications to my phone via an app. In addition, if there's a security breach, the system will call me on the phone immediately. But more importantly, I can set it up to contact the proper authorities if I'm not around. What's more, people tend to link all of the emergency hotlines to a single panic button that makes the calls easier.
I mentioned Google Assistant and Alexa earlier. Integrating your self-monitoring alarm system with other smart devices is a clever idea. You can even take it a step further and go for the IFTTT integration.
IFTTT, or If This Then That, is a web-based service that helps its users automate specific tasks. For instance, I can use IFTTT protocols to set up my security systems, self-monitoring or automated. When connected, my safety devices will act according to the protocol's parameters. A smoke detector won't go off unless it meets the IFTTT protocol, and neither will other detectors. Alternatively, if there's a carbon monoxide increase in the air indoors, the heating systems will cool, or even shut down.
I know full well that people dread to pay a monthly fee for a monitoring plan. That's why you get tons of search results online like “no monthly fee alarm system,” “DIY home security systems & no monthly fee,” “security systems without a contract,” and so on. And yes, security systems without monitoring usually don't require a monthly fee. After all, no company is in charge of keeping it in check — we are.
But there are some advantages to having a self-monitored home alarm system with monthly fees. Legitimate companies will go out of their way to provide you with the most professional service. In addition, some will offer subscription fees for particular features like video archiving. The best piece of advice I can give you is to go over everything you need to keep your home safe. But most importantly, only pick a package that works for you AND that you can afford.
And there you have it — the best self-monitoring systems that early 2020 has to offer. In my opinion, all of these systems deserve to be on the list since they’re easy to install, reliable, and easy to maintain. Therefore, I highly recommend any of them, so feel free to order one today.
Did you agree with my list? Was there something that I might have missed? Feel free to tell me in the comments below.
FAQs for HD Security Cameras
Right now, there are plenty of security systems for homes and outdoor lots that don't require a smart device. For instance, I can link a system to my PC or a Mac and do basic video monitoring from there. Not only is it easy, but the video output is excellent in terms of resolution and image quality.
However, in 2020, companies are slowly phasing out PC/Mac monitoring. Most of them now focus on linking the systems to smart devices for portability and convenience.
There is almost no need for anyone to get a contract in order to have a DIY system. In fact, that's the beauty of self-monitored alarm systems. The only money you end up spending is on the equipment and future upgrades. With professional monitoring, you'd have to pay vast sums on a monthly basis.
Most of the disadvantages of these systems come from the same place, i.e., the owner. As their name suggests, they are DIY systems that require a lot of user input. Moreover, there isn't as much automation as there is with professional monitoring.
As an owner of one such system, I can't count on professional maintenance or quality control. In addition, I could have any number of connection problems that could leave my tablet or smartphone useless during an emergency. More importantly, a professional system has a fail-safe option that contacts users discreetly in case an intruder tries to dismantle it.
Finally, there's the issue of personal stress. In order to contact the authorities during a break-in, I'd have to keep calm and use the advantages of my system. And keeping a level head in such situations is far from easy. Automatic systems notify the authorities as soon as suspicious behavior takes place, but a DIY system, more often than not, doesn't have that option.
Yes, they absolutely do. With modern smart technology, I can sync up any new camera, motion detector, or carbon-monoxide detection device to a central system, and even link it to IFTTT protocols.
They definitely can be, as long as they can sync up with other surveillance hardware or software that you own.
Anyone can “build” a wireless self-monitored security system. Unlike wired setups, they tend to have more mobility and are easy to install. In addition, lots of new wireless safety devices have modern technical capabilities (Wi-Fi connection, Micro SD slots, USB connectivity, external charging either via battery or a solar panel, etc.). However, they aren't as stable as wired ones when it comes to connectivity, and they tend to be pricey.
The best home security system, self-monitored or not, is as good as its owner. Let me explain what I mean by this statement; sometimes, even a completely self-aware homeowner will forget to check their cameras or fail to turn the system on. That's why it's a good idea to have a person you can trust help you monitor the house. Close family members and loved ones can use their own smart devices and link themselves to your home surveillance setup. You can even download an app called Ring Neighbors that helps you keep tabs on the neighborhood. That way, you can know if the lady next to you is getting robbed or if that house across the street has caught fire.
In short, you need to pay attention to a few key elements when looking for the best self-monitoring options:
- Types of hardware that come with it, such as motion detection gadgets and smoke & fire detectors
- Camera resolution and image quality
- Overall hardware quality and durability
- Connectivity options
- Power sources
- Smart home integration (in case you use digital assistants or IFTTT)
- High-quality and quick software, such as phone apps
- Easy installation and control
It all depends on what you need the setup for. Personally, when I look for an alarm system with self-monitoring, I map out my entire house and list as many “hot spots” as I can. Based on their number, I can decide where to put different cameras or detectors. Moreover, I can decide whether or not I want a wired or a wireless system. The price is also an important factor, though that should come last; first and foremost, you need to see how you plan on securing your house.
With or without the monthly fee, the best self-monitored home security system with cameras and detectors will cover everything. Hardware, software, and connectivity have to be top-notch. As long as the setup provides you with the best defense against an intruder and a quick and easy way to contact the police, it's worth investing in.
The best DIY system has to, at least, work as well as a professional setup with monthly fees. That means it has to have some level of automation, reliable connectivity, and as few technical issues as possible. It also helps if the system can integrate other elements in the future.