Five Things You Should Know About DIY Alarm Systems

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You may consider yourself the DIY (do-it-yourself) type, or you may shudder at the thought. But if you’re in the market for home security, chances are you’ve heard about DIY alarm systems, which recently have been taking over the security industry. There are many reasons for their popularity. But are they right for you? This straight scoop on DIY alarm systems will help you decide, as well as provide a few shopping and setup tips.

DIY Alarm Systems Are Wireless

What’s the key difference between DIY alarm systems and traditional systems? Wireless technology. Traditionally, alarm system components have been wired together – and this wiring requires a trained technician, like the guy who installs cable or satellite TV at your home.

Wireless alarm systems, on the other hand, are basically plug-and-play. The components communicate on a wireless frequency. If you can hang a picture, or stick a magnet on your fridge, you can set up your wireless security equipment.

How DIY Alarm Systems Work

DIY systems function the same way other security systems do, but the wireless technology makes them simpler and more flexible. Security equipment positioned strategically around the home watches for signs of danger: doors opening, windows breaking, smoke, etc. A central control unit maintains constant communication with all security devices throughout the home. When a sensor detects a security issue, it triggers an alert to the control unit. The control panel forwards that alert to a monitoring station, where a team of security professionals respond accordingly – usually notifying both you and the local authorities (police, fire, ambulance, etc).

The wireless connection is, in fact, a major break-through for the security industry. Traditionally the home phone line served as the connection. Linking the alarm system to the phone system was too complicated and technical for a homeowner to do on their own. The DIY system, however, comes with a cellular device already built into the control unit.

How to Set Up DIY Alarm Systems

Typically you can order DIY systems online or over the phone. All the components should arrive at your house pre-programmed for wireless communication. The box will include simple instructions, and the alarm company will have a support rep standing by to walk you through setup over the phone, if you desire.

In most cases it takes no longer than 30 minutes to set up your entire system. There’s no drilling required, which means you have the added benefit of no holes in your walls.

Each alarm system will be slightly different from the next, but usually Step 1 is to attach the antenna to the control unit and then plug it in.  The control unit is about the size of a tablet, and can sit on a shelf or countertop. Place it in a central location, so you can access it easily for arming and disarming.

Next, place the sensors, motion detectors, etc, around your home. The number of sensors you have will vary, based on your home and requirements. If you chose a company that’s known for good customer support, their security adviser helped customize your system with you, over the phone.

Most wireless sensors have double-sided adhesive, so you can simply peel off the adhesive cover and stick the sensor wherever you want it, on a wall, or sometimes the ceiling. Sensors can also sit on shelves. Again, your provider will advise you if you have any questions.

The last step is also quick and simple: just call the alarm company to activate the system. At that time they’ll test the connections between all the components, and between your home and the monitoring station. The beauty of it is: there’s almost no way to mess it up.

DIY Alarm Systems Are Safer

DIY home security is quickly gaining popularity because it’s more reliable than traditional wired systems. Wires are vulnerable – they can be broken. Whenever you watch a heist movie, don’t they show the criminals snipping the phone lines? Burglars watch the same movies. If they want to hit a home that has an alarm system (although many look for easier targets) they know their first step is to knock out communications. Once the connection to the monitoring station is broken, the alarm system is basically useless.

DIY Alarm Systems Save You Money

Three words: no installation fees. With DIY you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Shopping Tips

Consumers have responded extremely well to DIY alarm systems, due primarily to the benefits of wireless technology. Many home security providers now offer a wireless option. Note, however, that unless the system is 100% wireless, with a cellular connection to monitoring, it will not be DIY.

Here are a couple other tips for finding the best DIY alarm systems:

  • Cellular monitoring should come standard – don’t accept any added fees.
  • Choose a company offering a wide range of wireless equipment, to cover all types of emergencies. Besides burglary, protect for threats like fire, flooding and leaks, freezing temperatures that could burst pipes, carbon monoxide, etc.
  • Since you’ll be receiving advice over the phone, read the customer reviews to find a company that provides great service.
  • Make sure your security contract stipulates that you own the equipment, so you can take it with you when you move.
  • Make sure the provider won’t increase your monthly fee if you add sensors in the future.
  • All alarm systems require electricity to run, so find a system that includes a good back-up battery, lasting at least 24 hours, to get you through power outages.
  • DIY sensors run on batteries, usually lasting as long as 5 years. Look for a system that can notify you if any of the batteries are running low.
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