Best Self-Monitored Security System: Abode vs SimpliSafe vs Ring vs Nest Secure vs Canary vs iSmartAlarm

To sustain this free service, we receive affiliate commissions via some of our links. This doesn’t affect rankings. Our review process.

1st
2nd
3rd
Compare All Products

There are two types of home security systems prevalent on today’s market: those with professional monitoring (by a central monitoring station) and those that are self-monitored (by you and your network of contacts). The former typically includes ($20 to $50) monthly fee to cover the cost of the monitoring station, while with the latter you typically only pay for the equipment. Like with all things in life, however, you get what you pay for.

While they come with an added expense, we feel strongly that professionally monitored security systems are safer than self-monitored systems because someone else is watching over your home while you’re at work, asleep, on vacation, etc. However, we understand if a monthly monitoring fee doesn’t fit into your budget. That’s why self-monitored security systems have become so intriguing.

Self-monitored systems put you in control of your system, and you still have access to cutting edge “smart” technology that you can control from your smartphone. With these DIY (do it yourself) security systems you (and contacts you designate) are in charge of when the authorities are called to your home and how you secure your home.

Article Overview

101 On DIY Home Security Systems

First, some background on the terminology that gets thrown around, and which we occasionally use interchangeably:

  • DIY can apply to any system, pro or self-monitored, that you can install without the assistance of a professional installer. The advantage here is that you typically know your home better than anyone, and can probably do a better job. You’ll see, it’s easy!
  • Wireless – Your home security system devices (also called sensors), are installed via sticky adhesives instead of having to drill and hardwire them in (something that’s a pain should you ever decide to move – with wireless home security, moving your system is easy (and free)).
  • WiFi/broadband – A security system that runs over your home WiFi or broadband network (i.e., it will need to connect to the internet).
  • Cellular – a security system that runs over a cell network, similar to your smartphone. Sometimes security systems use both WiFi and cellular.
  • Landline – a security system that runs over your telephone line. This typically only applies to older, professionally monitored systems.
  • Z-wave technology – a standard that allows smart home devices (think door locks, lights, thermostats, etc.) to be powered by and compatible with your home security system.

All In One vs Separate Component Systems

When you think of a security system, you probably think of a base unit with separate sensors (door, window, motion, etc.) like iSmartAlarm and Ring. While some of these systems are designed this way, others are “all in one,” meaning they are a single unit device with all the sensors built-in to it.

For example, Canary and Novi (reviewed in this article) are lone devices that include motion sensor and video footage. There are no door/window sensors that need to be installed. We will discuss more of this in each products’ individual review, but we wanted to give you a “heads up” on what to expect as you learn about each companies’ offerings.

What’s So Great About Self-Monitored?

Here are a few important things you should know about self-monitored home security systems before purchasing one:

  • There are no monthly contracts – that means you will not have to pay a fee if you cancel after a few months or years. This is similar to the “contract” you enter into with your cable television provider, for example.
  • All of the systems mentioned in this article are self-monitored. That means you, or someone in your network of contacts, is in charge of contacting the appropriate authorities if your alarm is triggered.
  • The only additional fee you may have (depending on the company you choose) is for cloud storage video recording. This fee pays for space on the cloud where your video camera footage and the activity noted by your sensors are saved. Some companies require a monthly fee to use the app.
  • No drilling into your walls, typically. Everything is plug and play or peel and stick. Some devices may have mounts that require some drilling.

Best Self-Monitored Security Systems

We chose our top three picks because of how well they work and the variety of equipment available.

Ring Alarm Review

Ring Alarm#1

View on Amazon | Visit Website

Ring (owned by Amazon) has some pretty cool equipment. Known for its video doorbells, Ring also offers outside security cameras for you to choose from. To the delight of those wanting a comprehensive security solution, Ring recently launched its Alarm Security Kit, which includes a base station, keypad, contact sensor, motion detector and range extender.

Ring lets you sync all of your equipment together so you can watch for any suspicious activity around your home. So, if you purchase a Ring security system and the Ring Doorbell, you can access it all within one app. While their Security Kit is still relatively new compared to their doorbell, they’re already making a name for themselves in the self-monitored space. Ring also offers professional monitoring (pricing is listed below).

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to customize
  • Attractive equipment
  • If your equipment is stolen, Ring will replace it for free
  • Android and iOS app
  • Indoor and outdoor cameras available
  • Reports of excellent customer service according to customers
  • Cannot add emergency contacts

Pricing

Ring Alarm Security System – $199.00

Includes:

  • 1 base station
  • 1 keypad
  • 1 contact sensor
  • 1 motion detector
  • 1 range extender

Optional Add-Ons

Monitoring

 FreeBasicPlus
PriceFree$3/month or $30/year$10/month or $100/year
Coverage1 doorbell or cameraAll devices at one address
Ring & Motion AlertsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Live Video On DemandCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Warranty1 year1 yearExtended
Video RecordingCheckmarkCheckmark
Review, Share & Save VideosCheckmarkCheckmark
Professional MonitoringCheckmark

Coupon Code

Ring products are generally discounted from MSRP on Amazon.

Tech Specs

  • 110 dB siren
  • 24-hour battery backup for base station and range extender
  • Z-wave connectivity up to 250-feet from base station
  • Range extender adds an additional 250-feet
  • Approximately 3-year battery life for contact sensors, motion detectors

Read Our In-Depth Ring Alarm Review

Nest Secure Review

Nest Secure#2

Visit Website

Nest Secure has an attractive system at a higher price. Nest (owned by Google) is known for providing quality equipment that is easy to install. The company has its contact sensor and motion sensor all in one, which is a little confusing on its website and not completely clear at first. The Nest Guard, which is the keypad for the security system, includes a motion sensor as well. Nest gives you the option of self monitoring your system or purchasing professional monitoring (pricing listed below).

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to install
  • Stylish design
  • Many optional home automation products
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Easy to relocate sensors
  • More expensive than competitors
  • No BBB accreditation, D-rating
  • Doesn’t integrate with as many devices as competitors

Pricing

  • $399 for:
    • 1 Nest Guard (Base Station)
    • 2 Nest Detect (Door/Window Sensor and Motion Sensor)
    • 2 Nest Tag (Key Fob)

Purchase additional equipment:

Monitoring

Nest’s monitoring is provided by Brinks Home Security. Brinks is best-known for its armored trucks that transport large amounts of cash. In 2010, it merged with Tyco, the parent company of ADT, and began offering home security. Brinks monitoring is broadband with cellular as a backup.

  • 1st month: free
  • 3-year agreement: $19/month
  • Month-to-month: $29/month

Tech Specs

  • 2-year warranty
  • 1080p HD camera
  • Night vision
  • 85 dB siren

Read Our In-Depth Nest Secure Review

iSmartAlarm Review

iSmartAlarm#3

View on Amazon | Visit Website

iSmartAlarm sent us a system to test out in exchange for an unbiased review. We tested iSmartAlarm in January 2015 and were overall pleased with its performance. The installation process was easy except for the iCamera KEEP. Fortunately, customer service helped us through it.

Overall, we had a great experience with customer service. We did initially have to contact them more than we wanted to, but they always answered our questions, had short wait times and helped us learn more about the system. Their equipment isn’t the most attractive, but it performs well.

Since testing the system a few years ago, the equipment hasn’t changed aesthetically or performance wise. Home security is constantly evolving and the fact that iSmartAlarm hasn’t changed much the past few of years is a bit disappointing since we think there are a few things they could improve on, as you’ll note in our cons below. iSmartAlarm was previously #1 in this article but its failure to evolve has booted it out of the top spot.

Pros

Cons

  • Great customer service
  • Android and iOS apps
  • Audio detection for alarms (e.g. CO detector, smoke alarm, etc.)
  • Add emergency contacts
  • Email, phone and help center support
  • Great equipment quality
  • Cameras perform well and have night vision
  • Key fob is pretty handy and works within 30 feet
  • Easy and fast installation
  • Inexpensive home security option
  • Delayed notifications
  • No backup source
  • Inside only
  • Spot camera, when used as a baby monitor, has been known to trigger false alerts

Pricing

  • iCamera Keep – $131.07
  • iCamera Keep Pro – $161.00
  • Spot –Out of stock
  • Keypad – Out of stock
  • Motion Detector – $29.00
  • Door/Window Sensor (two-pack) – $49.99
  • Smart Switch – $29.49
  • Preferred – $120.22 (includes 1 CubeOne (the brain of the system with siren built-in), 2 contact sensors, 1 motion sensor, 2 remote tags)
  • Deluxe – $129.99 (includes 1 CubeOne, 4 contact sensors, 1 motion sensor, 2 remote tags)
  • Premium Package (Video Camera Bundle) – Out of stock (includes 1 CubeOne, 1 iCamera Keep, 2 contact sensors, 1 motion sensor, 2 remote tags)

Coupon Code

iSmartAlarm savings vary based on the season so click this link to make sure you get the best deal.

Tech Specs

  • 1-year warranty
  • Night vision
  • 110 dB siren

Read Our In-Depth iSmartAlarm Review

Comparison Table

 1st: Ring2nd: Nest Secure3rd: iSmartAlarmAbodeCanaryNoviSimpliSafeSkylinkNet
1st: Ring2nd: Nest Secure3rd: iSmartAlarmAbodeCanaryNoviSimpliSafeSkylinkNet
System Price$199.00$399$120.22$199.00$47.00Check on Amazon $229.96$129.99
Power SourceAC/DC or BatteryAC/DCAC/DCAC/DCAC/DC or BatteryBatteryAC/DCAC/DC
Backup SourceNoneBatteryNoneBatteryBatteryNoneBatteryBattery
Motion-Activated CameraCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
IndoorCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
OutdoorCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Warranty1 year2 years1 year1 year1 - 2 years1 year limited3 year1 year
Field of View140°130°350°152°147°170°120°Pan 355°
Night VisionCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Siren110 dB85 dB110 dB93 dB90+ dB90 dB105 dB110 dB
Two-Way TalkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Key FobCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Motion DetectorCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Smoke AlarmCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Entry SensorCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Smart PlugCheckmark
Range ExtenderCheckmark
Video DoorbellCheckmarkCheckmark
Smart ThermostatCheckmark
Z-Wave & Zigbee CompatibilityZ-WaveCheckmark

What’s The Least Expensive System?

For those of you that want a comparison based purely on price, we also have a review comparing the least expensive self-monitored systems and individual cost factors that set them apart.

Abode Review

Abode EssentialsView on Amazon | Visit Website

Abode’s starter kit includes 1 Gateway, 1 mini door/window sensor, 1 remote keyfob and 1 motion sensor. You can also connect lights, door locks, thermostats, garage door openers and other home automation devices to your system from other companies like Echo, Nest, Philips Hue, First Alert and more. Abode has a modern, sleek look, but can get a little more expensive than our top 3 picks. You can opt for professional monitoring if you’d like as well (pricing listed below).

Pros

Cons

  • Battery backup (cellular backup available for additional fee)
  • IFTTT capabilities
  • Compatible with Alexa and other home automation devices
  • Easy to use
  • Little customer feedback online
  • Limited customer support
  • Complaints of camera footage being low resolution

Pricing

Abode offers more equipment on its website that you can view. We suggest checking Amazon prices before purchasing on the website because there are often lower than MSRP pricing.

Monitoring

  • Basic: Free self-monitoring and 3 days of media storage
  • Connect: $10/month for cellular backup and 14 days of media storage
  • Secure: $20/month for professional monitoring and cellular backup

Tech Specs

  • 1-year warranty
  • 1080p HD camera
  • Night vision
  • 93 dB siren

Read Our In-Depth Abode Review

Canary Review

Canary All In One

View on Amazon | Visit Website

Canary is an all-in-one system and has 3 devices from which to choose, Canary All-In-One, Canary Flex and Canary View. These can be connected on the same account (up to a total of 4 connected devices).

Canary All-In-One is the original Canary device that has a manual siren and home health sensors (temperature and humidity levels). Canary View is nearly identical to the All-In-One except it does not have a siren or home health sensors. The Flex varies more since it can be used inside or outside, but it does not have a siren to help scare off intruders either. All cameras do have two-way talk, which could be used for that purpose.

The Canary Flex is a great solution as an outdoor and indoor security camera. We recommend one of the Canary All-In-One devices and adding on Canary Views to cover other areas of your home. This allows you to have a siren that you can manually activate.

Pros

Cons

  • Canary Cloud offers access to events from the past 24 hours for free, and you can bookmark up to 5 videos
  • Great customer service, according to online reviews we’ve read
  • Ability to add emergency contacts
  • Air quality, temperature and humidity sensor (Canary All-In-One only)
  • Android and iOS app
  • 60-day money back guarantee
  • Canary Flex can be used indoors and outdoors
  • Can only connect up to 4 devices on the free Canary Cloud membership plan
  • Some video lag
  • Flex and View do not monitor air quality and have no siren

Pricing

  • Canary All-In-One: $47.00
  • Canary All-In-One (2 pack): $99.00
  • Canary View: $49.00
  • Canary Flex: $129.98
  • Free shipping
  • Canary Cloud
    • Free Access: 1-day storage of 10-second video previews for up to 4 devices
    • Membership: 30-day storage of full-length videos for $9.99/month or $99/year for unlimited devices

Coupon Code

Canary products are generally discounted from MSRP on Amazon.

Tech Specs

  • 1-year warranty (2-years for devices with cloud membership)
  • 1080p HD camera
  • Canary All-In-One and View field of view: 147° wide-angle lens
  • Canary Flex field of view: 116° wide-angle lens
  • Night vision
  • 90+ dB siren (Canary All-In-One only)

Read Our In-Depth Canary Review

Novi Review

NoviView on Amazon | Visit Website

Novi was previously in our top 3 but has since been removed because other companies have evolved and created new products while Novi has been rather stagnant. However, we still think Novi is among the best DIY security systems.

The Novi camera attaches to your ceiling and can only be used inside. It is a lone device as well, similar to Canary. What makes it stand out from the competition is that inside each camera is also a smoke detector. So, instead of having multiple things attached to your ceiling, Novi can cut that number in half. The downside is, it takes only photos, not video, but you can take as many photos as you want with Novi.

Pros

Cons

  • Battery lasts 1 year
  • No wires or power cord
  • Android and iOS app
  • Add emergency contacts
  • Adjust motion sensitivity
  • Photoelectric smoke detector in every sensor
  • Made in the U.S.A.
  • Doesn’t take video, takes photos instead
  • Inside only
  • Not much feedback online from customers
  • No backup
  • Firmware problems in the past

Pricing

Coupon Code

Novi products are generally discounted from MSRP on Amazon.

Tech Specs

  • 1-year limited warranty
  • 720p HD camera
  • Night vision
  • 90 dB siren

SimpliSafe Review

SimpliSafeView on Amazon | Visit Website

On first glance, it appears that SimpliSafe is setup to offer a solid self-monitoring solution. However, they require a pro-monitoring package for use of their app, which means there’s no true “self-monitoring” option available. If this were to change, we could see them earning a top spot in our review.

Pros

Cons

  • Security and environmental sensors
  • iOS and Android app
  • Easy to relocate sensors
  • 60-day money back guarantee
  • Hazard sensors options include linked smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and flood and freeze sensors
  • Excellent customer service and A+ rating from BBB
  • No true self-monitoring option (tied to a monthly payment plan)
  • No outdoor security cameras
  • Equipment costs are higher than competitors
  • Website and app don’t indicate low battery alert and pre-shipped battery drained quickly

Pricing

 Build Your OwnThe FoundationThe EssentialsThe OakstoneThe HearthThe BarringtonThe KnoxThe HavenSS3 New Generation - 12pcSS3 New Generation - 10pc
PriceVaries$229.96$259.95$359.88$374.91$388.93$309.00$308.00$499.99$549.99
Number of Pieces100 maximum46129813141210
Base Station$114.99111111111
Wireless Keypad$69.99111111111
Keychain Remote$24.99111111
Entry Sensor$14.99138326454
Motion Sensor$29.99111112221
SimpliCam$99.00111
Glass Break Sensor$34.99
Panic Button$19.991111
Smoke Detector$29.99111
CO Detector$49.99
Freeze Sensor$29.991
Water Sensor$19.991
Siren$59.99111
Video Doorbell$169.001

Monitoring

You can purchase a SimpliSafe security system without adding on a monitoring plan; however, the system is almost useless without monitoring (only a local alarm siren will sound). You won’t be able to self-monitor it or be notified of system activity unless you pay a monthly pro-monitoring fee.

But, if you’re willing to pay the monthly fee for pro-monitoring, you will receive text messages and have app access to your system. You can read more about SimpliSafe’s pro-monitoring options here.

 StandardInteractive
Price Per Month$14.99$24.99
24/7 Professional MonitoringCheckmarkCheckmark
Cellular ConnectionCheckmarkCheckmark
Environmental MonitoringCheckmarkCheckmark
Mobile AppCheckmark
Unlimited Camera RecordingCheckmark
Home AutomationCheckmark

Coupon Code

SimpliSafe products are generally discounted from MSRP on Amazon.

Tech Specs

  • 3-year warranty
  • 24-hour battery backup
  • SimpliCam
    • 120° field of view
    • Night vision
    • 30-day storage
  • 105dB siren
  • Lithium batteries last up to 5 years

Read Our In-Depth SimpliSafe Review

SkylinkNet Review

SkylinkView on Amazon | Visit Website

I tested SkylinkNet out in 2015 and my experience was less than stellar. I experienced a lot of problems while trying to configure the settings. Small tasks like opening the back of a motion sensor were frustrating and took way longer than they should. Since testing out Skylink, the equipment hasn’t changed much, so we doubt this system deserves reconsideration at this time. Not to mention their website, at time of writing, doesn’t use a secure protocol (SSL), which in this day and age is unusual for a security company.

Pros

Cons

  • One of the least expensive options
  • Customizable
  • Equipment feels cheap
  • Directions are lacking some detail
  • Inconsistent performance
  • Batteries are not included

Pricing

Tech Specs

  • 1-year warranty
  • 720p HD camera
  • Field of view: pan 355° & tilt 120°
  • Night vision
  • 110 dB siren

Read Our In-Depth SkylinkNet Review

Redefining Home Security?

More and more people are moving towards DIY solutions because they not only cover home security, but they also include home automation controls. The cost of a security system is much less than the cost of being burglarized. A home invasion is estimated to cost victims about $20,000. That includes items stolen that need replacing, property damage and criminal justice fees.

But possibly the worst effect of a burglary is the emotional toll it can take on you and your family. Having a burglar enter your home and ransack it doesn’t only create physical damage but may make you feel less safe at home. Help your family feel safe today, and find out why these affordable solutions are gaining popularity.

Self vs Professional Monitoring

Professionally monitored security systems are safer than self-monitored security systems, however, they each come with their own pros and cons. Below are the pros and cons for a typical self monitored and professionally monitored security system. Please know that some items can vary depending on the system.

Self Monitoring Pros

Self Monitoring Cons

  • No professional monitoring fees
  • No longterm contracts
  • Receive notifications when a sensor is triggered
  • Authorities show up only if you contact them, no false alarm penalties
  • Sometimes have fees for cloud storage, app use, etc.
  • You must contact authorities yourself if there’s an alarm, which may be stressful if your home is being broken into
  • If you’re asleep, on a plane, in a meeting or class, at work, lose cell service or battery, receive delayed notifications, etc., your home may be at risk
  • Strong home WiFi and cellular connection for phone is needed, so you can reliably monitor the system

Professional Monitoring Pros

Professional Monitoring Cons

  • 24/7 professional monitoring, so someone is always looking out for you
  • Monitoring station contacts you and authorities if there’s an alarm
  • Receive notifications when a sensor is triggered
  • Peace of mind
  • Requires a monthly commitment, and in many cases a longterm contract
  • Authorities may be contacted without you knowing, so there is risk for false alarm penalties
  • Monthly monitoring fee

Best Professionally Monitored Security Systems

Before setting your eyes on a self-monitored security system, we recommend considering a professionally monitored system. These systems come with a monthly fee, but they put professionals in charge at dedicated central monitoring stations that monitor your home and family 24/7 and dispatch police or medical authorities so you can rest easy at night or while you’re on vacation.

Are you leaning towards self or pro monitoring?

About The Author:

Kimberly received her Bachelor of Arts in multimedia journalism from Simpson College. Her natural curiosity helps her research as she seeks the truth when learning about, comparing and personally testing products and services.

Kimberly has been writing about security and safety since 2013, covering subjects such as home security and automation, identity theft protection, home warranties, medical alert systems and more. In 2018, she had her first child, and that opened up a whole new avenue of security experience with baby gear. She wanted to purchase the safest items for her family.

Security is a passion of hers, and she knows it isn’t a one size fits all category. With every piece she writes, her goal is to help our readers find the best fit for their unique needs.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

3
Leave a Reply

avatar
newest oldest most voted
Virgie
What about the new Nest security system that just came out?
Guest
I’ve been looking to switch to DIY self monitoring from monitored security because we moved to a place that’s more secure and I don’t see the need to pay a lot for the extra protection but do like to have peace of mind. Anyone have experience with any of these top companies that can help make my decision easier?