Best Self-Monitored Security System: Abode vs SimpliSafe vs Ring Alarm vs Nest Secure vs Canary vs Blue By ADT

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 a monthly fee ($20-$70) to cover the cost of the monitoring station, while with the latter you typically only pay for the equipment.

Should I Pro Or Self Monitor?

While they come with an added expense, we feel strongly that professionally monitored security systems are safer than ones you monitor yourself because someone else is watching over your home while you’re at work, asleep, on vacation, etc.

However, we also understand if a monthly monitoring fee doesn’t fit into your budget. That’s why self-monitored security systems have become so intriguing.

And you’ll note in the reviews below that some of these companies also offer a pro-monitored option, so if you like the company, you can always upgrade.

With many providers you’ll 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 your network of contacts are in charge of when the authorities are called to your home. Our experts dive in and bring you our top picks.

Article Overview

Best Self-Monitored Security Systems

How do we arrive at our rankings? Our researchers take into account the following review criteria: customer service, equipment, technology, ease of use and value. A weighted average score is then calculated to arrive at a total score our experts use to rank the companies relative to one another. For a full explanation of our review criteria and how we calculate the final score, we invite you to visit our home security systems guide.

Ring Alarm Review

Ring Keypad

#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. Ring also has a security system, which includes a base station, keypad, contact sensor, motion detector, range extender and other add-on equipment.

Ring lets you sync all of your equipment together so you can watch for any suspicious activity around your home. So, if you purchase Ring Alarm and a Ring doorbell, you can access it all within one app. Ring Alarm offers professional monitoring at a very affordable price. In fact, it’s the least expensive we’ve seen in our research.

Personal Experience

Erika J., of Greensboro, NC, has the Ring Doorbell 2, Ring Spotlight Cam, sensors throughout her house and a siren. She uses the self-monitoring plan, and below are her thoughts on the system.

Ring Security System has changed the way I feel when I leave my home now. Since getting broken into, I’m very nervous to leave my home unattended for long periods of time. With Ring, I feel secure knowing that when I leave, I can still keep an eye on what’s going on at my home. It even allows me to talk to delivery men if they’re dropping off something that needs my attention.

Pros

Cons

  • Easy to customize
  • Attractive equipment
  • If your equipment is stolen, Ring will replace it for free
  • Professional monitoring is optional
  • No contracts
  • Self-installation
  • 30-day returns
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • Option to add emergency contacts
  • Android and iOS apps
  • Indoor and outdoor cameras available
  • Reports of excellent customer service according to customers
  • Cellular monitoring only available as a backup

Price

Ring Alarm Security System (includes a base station, keypad, two contact sensors, motion detector and range extender) – Check Amazon for availability

Monitoring Plans

 FreeBasicPlus
Price Free$3/month or $30/year$10/month or $100/year
CoverageOne doorbell or cameraAll devices at one address
Ring & Motion AlertsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Live Video On DemandCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
WarrantyOne yearOne 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
  • Approximate three-year battery life for contact sensors and motion detectors

Full Ring Alarm Review

For in-depth equipment pricing, compatible add-on equipment, details on monitoring plans, a video on installation, a deep dive into the Ring app and what it can do, user reviews and more, read our dedicated 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’s 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.

Pros

Cons

  • Stylish design
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Professional monitoring is optional
  • Self-installation
  • No-contract option available
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • More expensive than competitors
  • Not compatible with as many devices as competitors
  • Only one monitoring station (run by Brinks) if you opt for professional monitoring
  • If you sign a contract for professional monitoring, you must pay 100%, even if you cancel

Price

Nest Secure (includes one Nest Guard (base station), two Nest Detects (door/window sensor and motion sensor) and two Nest Tags (key fobs)) – $399.99

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.

  • First month: free
  • Three-year agreement: $19/month
  • Month-to-month: $29/month

Tech Specs

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

Full Nest Secure Review

For in-depth equipment pricing, details on monitoring plans, a video on installation, a deep dive into the Nest Secure app, user feedback and more, read our dedicated Nest Secure review.

Blue By ADT Review

Blue By ADT equipment

#3

Visit Website

Blue by ADT (previously known as LifeShield) is ADT’s DIY security system option. It offers the basic equipment needed in a security system, but it also has many integration options thanks to Z-Wave and IFTTT (If This Then That).

You’re probably used to seeing high installation and monitoring fees with ADT, but Blue by ADT is the complete opposite. It has a DIY setup, and monitoring is affordable at only $19.99 per month (if you opt for professional monitoring vs doing it yourself). Everything is customizable with your Blue by ADT system, so you don’t have to worry about paying for equipment you won’t end up using.

We could see Blue by ADT move up in our rankings, but since the acquisition just took place in 2019, we’d like to see how stable it is and how it performs for a longer period.

Pros

Cons

  • Three monitoring stations (if you opt for professional monitoring)
  • 30-day trial period
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • Self-installation
  • No contract or cancellation fees
  • Affordable professional monitoring if you choose to upgrade
  • Indoor, outdoor and doorbell cameras available
  • Customer service reputation is spotty
  • New acquisition has caused some turbulence for existing customers

Price

ADT offers security packages ranging in price from $109.19 (Build Your Own) to $349.99 (Blue Doorbell Camera System).

Coupon Code

Use this link to get the best deal we can offer from Blue by ADT.

Monitoring

  • Self-Monitoring: Free
    • Includes 24 hours of media storage
  • Professional Monitoring: First month free, then $19.99/month
    • Includes 30 days of media storage

Tech Specs

  • One-year warranty
  • 1080p HD camera
  • Night vision

Full Blue By ADT Review

For in-depth equipment and plan pricing, details on monitoring plans, a video on installation, a look at what the ADT app can do, user reviews and more, read our dedicated Blue By ADT review.

Comparison Table

 1st: Ring Alarm2nd: Nest Secure3rd: Blue By ADTAbodeCanaryiSmartAlarmNoviSimpliSafeSkylinkNet
System Price Check Amazon for availability $399Starts at $109.19 Check Amazon for availability $95.00 Check Amazon for availability Check Amazon for availability  Starts at $229.96 Check Amazon for availability
Entry SensorCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Motion DetectorCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Key FobCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Indoor CameraCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Outdoor CameraCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Video DoorbellCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Smoke AlarmCheckmarkCheckmarkFire Safety SensorsCheckmarkCheckmarkCheckmark
Smart PlugCheckmark
Range ExtenderCheckmarkCheckmark
Smart ThermostatCheckmark
Z-Wave & Zigbee CompatibilityZ-WaveZ-WaveCheckmark
Backup SourceNoneBatteryBatteryBatteryBatteryNoneNoneBatteryBattery
Warranty1 year2 years1 year1 year1-2 years1 year1 year limited3 years1 year

101 On DIY Home Security Systems

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

  • DIY (Do It Yourself) – This can apply to any system (professional 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. 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 Ring Alarm and Nest Secure. While some of these systems are designed this way, others are “all in one,” meaning they’re a single unit device with all the sensors built in.

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

What’s Unique About Self-Monitored?

  • There are no long-term contracts. This means you won’t 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.
  • Self-monitored 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. Unfortunately, some companies require a monthly fee to use the app (here’s looking at you SimpliSafe).
  • No drilling into your walls, typically. Everything is plug and play or peel and stick. Some devices may have mounts that require some drilling.

Canary alarm on counterWhat’s The Least Expensive System?

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

Companies That Didn’t Make Our Top 3

Although these companies weren’t our winners, we feel they’re still worth your consideration, since each company has unique offerings that may be a good fit for your needs.

Abode | Canary | iSmartAlarm | Novi | SimpliSafe | SkylinkNet

Abode Review

Abode EssentialsView on Amazon | Visit Website

Abode’s starter kit includes a gateway, mini door/window sensor, remote keyfob and 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

  • 30-day returns
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • Self-installation
  • No contracts
  • Little customer feedback online
  • Limited customer support
  • Complaints of camera footage being low resolution
  • No outdoor security cameras
  • Six to seven hours of battery backup
  • No two-way voice

Pricing

Monitoring

  • Planless: Free self-monitoring, view live video, get push notifications
  • Standard: $6/month or $60/year for self-monitoring and home automation
  • Pro: $20/month or $200/year for professional monitoring, cellular backup and more

Tech Specs

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

Full Abode Review

For in-depth equipment and plan pricing, details on monitoring plans, a video on installation, a look at what the Abode app can do, Z-Wave and Zigbee compatibility, comparison to competitors, user reviews and more, read our dedicated Abode review.

Canary Review

Canary All In One

View on Amazon | Visit Website

Canary is an all-in-one system and has three devices: Canary All-In-One, Canary Flex and Canary View. These can be connected on the same account (up to a total of four 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 doesn’t have a siren or home health sensors. The Flex varies more since it can be used inside or outside, but it doesn’t 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 five 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 four devices on the free Canary Cloud membership plan
  • Some video lag
  • Flex and View don’t monitor air quality and have no siren

Canary Cloud

  • Free Access: 24-hour storage of 10-second video previews for up to four devices
  • Premium Service: 30-day storage of full-length videos for $9.99/month or $99/year for up to five devices

Coupon Code

Canary products are generally discounted from MSRP on Amazon.

Tech Specs

  • One-year warranty (two 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)

Full Canary Review

For a comparison of the Canary All-In-One vs Flex vs View in-depth equipment and plan pricing, details on monitoring plans, a video on how the Canary Flex works, user reviews and more, read our dedicated Canary review.

iSmartAlarm Review

iSmartAlarm

View on Amazon | Visit Website

iSmartAlarm sent us a system to test out in exchange for an unbiased review. We tested iSmartAlarm 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 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 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. Our dedicated readers may recall the days when iSmartAlarm was ranked #1 in our review. Unfortunately 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

Price

Below are some packages offered by iSmartAlarm, but you can also build your own.

Coupon Code

iSmartAlarm products are generally discounted from MSRP on Amazon.

Tech Specs

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

Full iSmartAlarm Review

For in-depth equipment and plan pricing, details on monitoring plans, a video on installation, a look at what the iSmartAlarm app can do, user reviews and more, read our dedicated iSmartAlarm review.

Novi Review

NoviView on Amazon | Visit Website

The Novi camera attaches to your ceiling and can only be used inside. It’s 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 one 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

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

SimpliSafe Review

SimpliSafeVisit Website

On first glance, it appears that SimpliSafe is set up 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
  • Hazard sensor options include linked smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and flood and freeze sensors
  • Excellent customer service
  • Self-installation
  • No contracts
  • Compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home
  • 60-day money back guarantee
  • Self-monitoring functionality is 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

Pricing

SimpliSafe packages range from $229 on up, and there is also a BYO (Build Your Own) option.

Monitoring

You can purchase a SimpliSafe security system without adding on a monitoring plan; however, the system is almost useless without monitoring. You won’t be able to monitor it yourself or be notified if a sensor is triggered unless you pay a monthly monitoring fee. The local alarm siren will still sound without monitoring.

 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

Use this link to have our reader discount code applied to your SimpliSafe order.

Tech Specs

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

Full SimpliSafe Review

For in-depth equipment pricing, details on monitoring plans, details on the SimpliSafe app, user reviews and head-to-head comparisons to several competitors, read our dedicated SimpliSafe review.

SkylinkNet Review

SkylinkView on Amazon | Visit Website

I tested SkylinkNet 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

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

Full SkylinkNet Review

For in-depth equipment and plan pricing, details on monitoring plans, a look at what the app can do, a personal test I did of the system, user feedback and more, read our dedicated 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. About one burglary takes place every 15 seconds and the typical homeowner suffers a loss of nearly $2,000 in stolen goods or property damage1. 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

You can learn more about the difference between self and professional monitoring here.

Phone with E911 on screen (caption: everything you need to know about E911)

What’s e911?

When there’s an emergency, you call 911 and are able to talk to a dispatcher that will help locate you in the event of trouble and send authorities to your location. But what if you’re not calling from your home phone and are unable to communicate your location?

e911 stands for Enhanced 911; it’s a chip technology available in smartphones and other devices that can help communicate your location based on your actual physical location. It’s very useful not only if you’re away from home, but for self-monitoring purposes as well. Learn more in our e911 guide.

Best Professionally Monitored Security Systems

Burglar breaking into house tracking on smart phone app (caption: What’s The Best Home Security System In 2020)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?

Sources: [1] Forbes

About The Author:

Kimberly is our home security expert and has been writing about security and safety since 2013, covering everything from security systems and home automation to identity theft protection, home warranties, medical alert systems, and more. She has personally tested hundreds of system components and interfaced with dozens of home security companies to find out what’s happening behind the scenes. Her work has appeared in many notable brands, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Reader's Digest, Forbes, People, Woman's World, and Huffington Post.

In 2018, she had her first child, which opened up a whole new avenue of security experience with baby gear. She wanted to purchase the safest items for her family.

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.

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.

Subscribe
Notify of
3 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Virgie
November 16, 2017 7:40 pm

What about the new Nest security system that just came out?

Guest
December 30, 2016 4:52 pm

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?