Our reviewers evaluate products and services based on unbiased research. Top Consumer Reviews may earn money when you click on a link. Learn more about our process.

Self-Monitoring Home Security Systems: Pros and Cons

Wednesday, June 23rd

Self-Monitoring Home Security Systems: Pros and Cons

Homeowners have plenty of options when it comes to security systems. They can choose hard-wired or wireless. They can also choose from a wide variety of security features such as video cameras, motion detectors and smoke and fire alarms. Now, they also have the choice of paying a monitoring company to monitor the system or choosing to self-monitor the security system.

Smartphones, tablets and laptops have made it easy and convenient for homeowners to self-monitor security systems. With self-monitoring, the security system notifies the homeowner either through e-mails or text alerts when the system detects a break-in or other problem such as fire or smoke. Feed from video cameras can also stream to the homeowner's mobile device. The more features a system has, the more the homeowner can control and monitor. For example, with the right features, the homeowner can monitor and control lights, appliances and thermostats.

With today's high-tech systems, homeowners are able to monitor their security systems just as well as a monitoring company. In addition, the homeowner can do it from wherever he is, whether at work or on vacation.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to monitoring your own security system.

Advantages of self-monitoring include the following:

  • Cost. Self-monitoring saves money. With self-monitoring the homeowner does not pay a monthly fee to a monitoring service. While the monthly fee of $10 or $20 may not seem like much at first, over a period of a year or several years, that monitoring fee starts to add up.
  • Control. With a self-monitored system, the homeowner is responsible for making the decision on whether or not to call for professional help such as police. This can save money in fines or other costs incurred when a monitoring service sends the police or fire department when it's a false alarm.
  • More choices. There are many do-it yourself alarm systems that allow for self-monitoring available at a number of price points. Go online to find the system that suits your needs.

Disadvantages of self-monitoring include the following:

  • Unreliable. With a monitoring company, someone is monitoring your system 24/7. With a self-monitoring system, you are the monitor. There's a chance you may miss the call, text or e-mail alert from your security system notifying you of a problem at your house. In the case of burglary or fire, this could have devastating consequences.
  • Next steps. Once the security system has notified you of a problem, you're left to decide what steps to take next. If you're too far to get home quickly, you're left deciding whether to not act, to call a friend or family member to check on the problem or notify authorities. However, in many cities and municipalities, police and fire departments may not come at all or at least not come as quickly if the homeowner reports a security breach as they will if monitoring system reports the problem.

To find out more about security systems that can be self-monitored, go online and compare features and prices.

The Best Home Security Systems Compare Home Security Systems Compare Home Security System Reviews What are the best Home Security Systems Best Home Security System Reviews

Home Security System FAQ

There are more than 2 million break-ins every year in the United States alone. Home security systems are the most logical way to give yourself the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you, your loved ones and your property are being watched over.
The most important feature is 24/7 monitoring, which most services offer as part of your monthly fees. At a minimum, you'll want to have sensors for all of the exterior doors in your residence.
There are many add-ons that can offer additional security and protection. Your home security system could have smoke and CO2 detectors, flooding sensors, motion detectors, night vision cameras, and much more.
You'll find plans both with and without required service contracts. The tradeoff is usually in the price of the equipment vs. the monthly service fees. (See the next question for more on that.)
That depends. You should expect two costs: equipment and monthly service charges. Some providers of home security systems give you the equipment "for free", as long as you sign a contract (usually 2-5 years). Others have you pay for the equipment upfront as a one-time charge, but their monthly fees tend to be lower. And, with most services, you'll pay more for monthly monitoring if your system has all of the bells and whistles.
One of the most customer-friendly aspects of today's home security systems is DIY installation. While there are still a handful of companies that require you to sit down with a sales rep and then wait for a professional to come and set up your system, the vast majority are designed to be easy and fast for you to install yourself. You'll have ample support via phone or online chat if you need extra guidance during the process.
Yes, most of the time. You'll typically have a 30-day window to use your home security system and decide if it provides the protection and service you need. Terms vary, however: you may get a full refund for all fees paid, or you may only be allowed to break your contract without getting any money back. Be sure to understand the details of any plan you select, before you sign up.
Usually, yes. Because of the do-it-yourself nature of most of today's systems, you can uninstall and move your equipment just as easily as you set it up the first time. You'll just need to update the company with your current address, so that emergency responders have the right location in the event of an alarm.
See the Best Home Security System
The Best Reviews of Home Security Systems