No More Monthly Fees: How to Build Your Own Home Security

Smart home security systems are ideal for monitoring what’s going on inside and outside your home, but not everyone has the need or budget for a complete professional monitoring system from ADT or Vivint. DIY systems like Ring Alarm Pro and SimpliSafe are compelling alternatives to save money, but they restrict you to using only components supported by the platform. The third option is to build a selective home security system with the best components on the market. Here we highlight the top-rated hardware for every part of your home security system to help you get started.

Wise Camera V3.0

Start with the security camera

Any DIY home security system worth their salt includes one or more security cameras to monitor activity inside and outside your home. You can find a good indoor camera for under $100, depending on features like motion and sound alerts, local storage capabilities, and face recognition.

Look for a camera with a resolution of at least 1080p that can interact with third-party smart home devices such as door locks, lights, and sockets. If you use Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands to control your smart devices, choose a camera that supports voice control and/or streams to a compatible smart display. One of our favorite low-cost models, the Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan & Tilt P24, offers 2K video, local and cloud video storage options, motion tracking, and mechanical pan and tilt control. It also supports Apple HomeKit.

External cameras tend to vary in price more. Winner of our Editors Choice award for affordable outdoor cameras, the Wyze Cam V3 offers plenty of features including color night vision, intelligent motion detection, voice control, built-in siren, and local video storage. It also integrates with many third-party smart devices and can operate door locks, lighting, and external sirens. On the other end of the price spectrum, the Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight offers stunning 2K video, color night vision, a bright light that activates when it detects movement, and a rechargeable battery that enables a completely wireless design.

Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera

Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera

Highlight outdoor movement with Floodlight Camera

Floodlight cameras are useful all-in-one devices for monitoring outdoor activities and lighting at night. Most floodlighting cameras feature powerful wide-beam LEDs to illuminate large areas such as driveways and backyards, and use motion detection sensors to operate the lights and the camera.

The setup process for these devices usually requires electrical wiring, but there are some battery-powered models. For example, the fully wireless Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera offers 2K video, color night vision, and interoperability with plenty of other devices.

If you’re replacing an existing wired fixture, the Ring Floodlight Cam Wired Pro is an excellent choice that works with other Ring cameras as well as many third-party devices; It also offers 3D motion tracking, HDR video, color night vision, and voice controls. For a more affordable wired solution, the Wyze Cam Floodlight brings you 1080p video, sound and motion detection, a pair of bright LEDs, and a built-in siren.

Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro Wi-Fi Smart Lock

Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro Wi-Fi Smart Lock

Smart locks: a convenient way to control access

A smart door lock is an essential component of any connected home security system, and should ideally support interaction with your home’s other security devices. Some smart padlocks like the Kwikset Halo Touch are complete padlock kits that include power locks, strike devices, interior and exterior security badges, and hole punch dies. Others, like the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock, rely on most of your existing devices and only replace certain components.

If you want a smart lock that you can control remotely with your phone, make sure it offers Wi-Fi connectivity. Alexa-enabled locks, Google Assistant, and/or HomeKit let you use voice commands to lock and unlock your doors, and work with other devices on those platforms like cameras and lights.

We also recommend choosing a lock that offers multiple locking and unlocking methods like our Editors’ Choice winner, the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro Wi-Fi, which you can unlock with your voice, fingerprint scanner, touchpad, mobile app, and traditional key.

Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell

Arlo Essential Wire-Free Video Doorbell

Preview methods… See who’s there with the video doorbell

If you want to know who’s on your doorstep before opening the door to a potential security threat, consider installing a video doorbell. These versatile devices record video and send a push alert when it detects movement or when someone presses the doorbell. Most models can also power other smart devices such as indoor and outdoor security cameras, door locks, and lights.

Recommended by our editors

Wired doorbells such as the Ezviz DB1C use your existing doorbell wiring and are relatively easy to install. If you’d rather not deal with wires, a battery-powered model like the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell is a better choice.

Look for a doorbell that offers at least 1080p video, has a built-in Wi-Fi radio, and offers an affordable video storage plan or local storage option. Expect to pay more for doorbells with advanced features like 2K HDR video, beam detection, and smart motion alerts that distinguish between animals, people and vehicles.

D-Link DCH-S161

D-Link DCH-S161

Smart sensors: protect your home from the inside out

Once you are equipped with the right mix of cameras and locks, you’ll want to start thinking about other accessories that can protect your home from threats inside and out. For example, you can place Eve Motion Sensors in different rooms of your home to receive motion alerts while you’re away, or you can configure them to turn on other HomeKit devices like lights and sockets. Similarly, Kangaroo Motion + Entry Sensor lets you know when someone opens or closes a window or door; If you sign up for a professional monitoring plan, the agent alerts local authorities when something triggers the sensors.

Last but not least, water and leak detectors like the D-Link DCH-S161 Wi-Fi Water Sensor alert you to any leaks and can help prevent serious damage to walls, floors, and cabinets. Our Editors’ Choice winner, the Flo By Moen Smart Water Detector, can turn off your home’s water supply if you pair it with a Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff valve to prevent further damage.

house illustration

(Illustration: Bob Algreen)

Smart’s Beyond Security

Aside from keeping you safe, smart devices can help make your home more livable…and more automated. We’ve tested hundreds of smart home products in over 20 categories to help decide what’s best for each room inside (and outside) the home.

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