New smart home products and DIY security systems are springing up everywhere these days, especially after the home tech extravaganza that was this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. Among smart home systems, one of the most popular sub categories is home security. In the US, home security is the factor that most motivates people to install a smart home system.
If you’re interested in adding some inexpensive home security to your house or apartment, there are several ways to go, including starter kits from most of the major smart home companies (such as Lowe’s Iris, SmartThings, Wink and Staples Connect). However, those DIY starter kits are just starters—they usually include the main hub/gateway and only the minimum devices you’ll need to have your home fully covered.
To help make your home security system more complete, here’s a rundown of the types of devices you’ll need, plus a few ways you can use them.
But before we get to the gear, you need to decide who’s going to install it. For DIY systems, the assumption is that the user/homeowner will install the system him/herself, though some dealers also offer installation services. If the devices require any hard-wiring to your electric system, or you just aren’t all that handy with a screwdriver, you may want to look into other options. Also, many of the system you can purchase through telecom providers such as AT&T, Xfinity and Time Warner may offer both DIY and professional install packages. Many of the devices mentioned here require a main system controller or hub to operate.
For many people, the security camera is the main component in a home security system. In fact, for some users, it’s the only component. Today’s DIY security cameras, especially those from companies like Piper (Piper has a new night-vision camera) and Dropcam, include multiple sensors and WiFi connections to allow basic notification and recording in case of intruder events. The Piper, with its included Z-Wave capabilities, can be synced with other smart home devices to make it much more than just a camera. The Dropcam, likewise, can be integrated with a Nest smart thermostat or the Nest Protect smoke detector.
Tips: Cameras with microphones and speakers allow you to speak, remotely to people in the room. Select the right number of cameras for the space you want to cover. Use cameras with night vision capabilities if seeing in the dark is important (it is).
With a DIY home security system, it’s the sensors that do all the work. Contact sensors that detect when your doors and windows are opened or closed are relatively cheap, so you should make sure you have enough for at least your whole ground floor. Motion sensors are also handy because they can tell you which room a person is in, and are a good backup in case a door/window sensor didn’t trigger the appropriate alert.
Tip: Your can program your system for multiple “armed” modes. In a sleep mode, when everyone is home, you can set the indoor motion sensors off so they don’t trigger when someone gets up for a drink.
Smoke, water leak and glass break detectors are also useful in a DIY security system. Glass break detectors work by sound and recognize the audio frequency of breaking glass.
While some people prefer to keep their security systems silent, a loud alarm can be a great deterrent when an intruder has entered your home. Some include lights and messages (such as “The authorities have been notified.”) designed to convince a burglar to get the heck out of there fast. Sure, maybe it makes catching the person red-handed more difficult (you have camera footage, right?), but at least the thief will be gone, and your family safe.
Smart Door Lock
A smart door lock allows you to lock and unlock a door remotely, with your smart phone. When integrated with a security system it can automatically lock when you arm the system, and you can check the lock’s status via an app when you’re away. You can also remotely open it for visitors or repair people. While it’s not absolutely necessary in a security system, it’s a convenient addition.
Tip: Some smart locks allow you to assign individual codes for each user so you can track who lock/unlocked the door and when.
Beyond the basics, additional devices like smart plugs or wireless light bulbs (to automatically turn on lights when a sensor is triggered), wall-mounted keypads (so you don’t always have to use your phone or tablet to arm the system) and thermostats (to automatically adjust the temperature when you leave the house) are easy to add to most system, and help turn a security system into a smart home system.
Also check out this new home security system coming from Swann.
If water leaks are a fear in your home, read about smart leak detectors here.