Smart home security systems are ideal for keeping tabs on what’s happening inside and outside of your home, but not everyone has the need or the budget for a full-blown professionally monitored system from ADT or Vivint. DIY systems like Ring Alarm Pro and SimpliSafe are compelling money-saving alternatives, but they limit you to using only those components that the platform supports. A third option is to build an à la carte-style home security system with the best components on the market. Here we’re highlighting top-rated devices for each part of your DIY home security system to help you get started.
Start With a Security Camera
Any DIY home security system worth its salt includes one or more security cameras to monitor activity both inside and outside of your home. You can find a good indoor camera for less than $100, depending on features such as motion and sound alerts, local storage capabilities, and face recognition.
Look for a camera that has a resolution of at least 1080p and can interact with third-party smart home devices such as door locks, lights, and plugs. If you use Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands to control your smart devices, pick 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 controls. It also supports Apple HomeKit.
Outdoor cameras tend to vary more in price. Our Editors’ Choice winner for affordable outdoor cameras, the 1080p Wyze Cam V3, offers lots of features including color night vision, intelligent motion detection, voice control, a built-in siren, and local video storage. It also integrates with many third-party smart devices and can trigger 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 motion, and a rechargeable battery that enables a completely wireless design.
Shine a Light on Outdoor Motion With a Floodlight Camera
Floodlight cameras are useful all-in-one devices for monitoring outdoor activity and lighting up the night. Most floodlight cams feature two powerful wide-beam LED lamps to illuminate large areas such as driveways and backyards, and use motion detection sensors to trigger the lights and camera.
The setup process for these devices typically requires working with electrical wiring, but some battery-powered models exist. For example, the completely wireless Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera offers 2K video, color night vision, and interoperability with lots 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 gets you 1080p video, sound and motion detection, a pair of bright LED lamps, and a built-in siren.
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 other home security devices. Some smart locks such as the Kwikset Halo Touch are complete lock assemblies that include the deadbolt and strike hardware, interior and exterior escutcheons, and drill hole templates. Others, like the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock, rely on most of your existing hardware and replace only certain components.
If you want a smart lock that you can control remotely with your phone, make sure it offers Wi-Fi connectivity. Locks that support the Alexa, Google Assistant, and/or HomeKit let you use voice commands to lock and unlock your doors, and work with other devices on those platforms such as cameras and lights.
We also recommend choosing a lock that provides multiple ways of locking and unlocking such as our Editors’ Choice winner, the Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro Wi-Fi, which you can unlock with your voice, a fingerprint scanner, a touchpad, a mobile app, and a traditional key.
Knock Knock…See Who’s There With a Video Doorbell
If you want to see who is at 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 they detect motion or when someone presses the doorbell buzzer. Most models can also trigger other smart devices such as indoor and outdoor security cameras, door locks, and lights.
Wired doorbells such as the Ezviz DB1C use your existing doorbell wiring and are relatively easy to install. If you would rather not deal with wiring, a battery-powered model such as 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 a reasonably priced video storage plan or a local storage option. Expect to pay more for doorbells with advanced features such as 2K HDR video, package detection, and intelligent motion alerts that differentiate between animals, people, and vehicles.
Smart Sensors: Protect Your Home From the Inside Out
Once you’re 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 both indoors and out. For example, you can place Eve Motion Sensors in various rooms of your house to receive motion alerts while you’re away, or configure them to trigger other HomeKit devices such as lights and plugs. Likewise, Kangaroo Motion + Entry Sensors let you know when someone opens or closes a window or door; if you subscribe to a professional monitoring plan, an agent alerts the local authorities when something sets off the sensors.
Last, but not least, water and leak detectors such as the D-Link DCH-S161 Wi-Fi Water Sensor alert you of any leaks and can help prevent major damage to walls, floors, and cabinets. Our Editors’ Choice winner, the Flo By Moen Smart Water Detector, can even turn off your home’s water supply if you pair it with the Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff valve to prevent further damage.
Smarts Beyond Security
Aside from keeping you safe, smart devices can help make your home a little more livable…and a lot more automated. We’ve tested hundreds of smart home products in more than 20 categories to help determine which ones are best for every room in (and out of) the house.