If you’ve decided to purchase a security system for your home but are weighing your installation options, the This Old House Reviews Team is here to help. We created an in-depth guide to professional and DIY home security installations, breaking down the benefits and drawbacks of each. We discuss our tips on how to choose a home security system and lay out our recommendations for the best professional installation and the best DIY home security systems.

Professional Installation

Professional installation can be beneficial for customers who lack technical expertise, time, and energy. However, it comes with drawbacks like costly installation fees and long-term contracts. Read on to weigh the pros and cons of professional installation.

Pros & Cons of Professional Installation

✔ Expertise from trained professionals
✔ In-person tutorials and trouble-shooting
✔ Upfront equipment costs are lower

✘ Installation fee is typically $99–$199
✘ Not done on your schedule
✘ Typically requires long-term contracts

Benefits of Professional Installation

The primary benefits of professional installation are that it comes with technical expertise and requires no work on your part. As long as you are comfortable with an installation specialist entering your home, professional installation might be the way to go.

  • Expertise: If you choose professional installation, an expert will be on hand to set up your security cameras, door/window sensors, motion detectors, and any additional equipment you select. It may look easy to install yourself, but without home security knowledge, you could install them in a way that creates blind spots and leaves your home vulnerable. With professional installation, an expert will conduct a security assessment, walk you through the ins and outs of your system, troubleshoot equipment problems, and allow you to ask questions in real time.
  • Same-day installation: Certain home security system providers offer same-day installation. This means that you can have your system set up as soon as it’s purchased.
  • Lower equipment costs: Some companies require professional installation, while others give you the choice of professional or DIY installation. While professional installation often comes with a long-term contract, the commitment can mean lower upfront equipment costs.
  • Wiring: If you have a wired security system, its installation can require more work than setting up a wireless system. If you aren’t comfortable drilling holes into your own walls or dealing with electrical alarm systems, having a professional expert install your system might be a good option.

Drawbacks of Professional Installation

There are some negatives to consider when choosing professional installation, including the cost, lack of scheduling flexibility, and long-term contracts.

  • Fees: Professional installation generally ranges between $99 and $199, which can be substantial when factoring in the cost of equipment and monthly monitoring. If a home security system is already testing your budget, DIY installation might be a better option.
  • Scheduling conflicts: You can work with your home security provider to choose the best time for an expert to begin installation. However, there’s no guarantee that they will be available at a time that’s ideal for you.
  • Contracts: Professional installation typically forces you into a long-term contract of at least one year, with some agreements spanning three years. For customers that prefer flexibility or live in an apartment, this could be a major drawback.

DIY Installation

If you’re handy, tech-savvy, and want to avoid installation fees and having to work around someone’s schedule, DIY system installation could be a solid choice for you. Just like professional installation, there are benefits and drawbacks to DIY installation.

Pros & Cons of DIY Installation

✔ No installation fee
✔ Done on your schedule
✔ Potentially contract-free

✘ Takes time and energy
✘ Upfront equipment costs might be higher

Benefits of DIY Installation

The primary benefit of DIY installation is that it’s budget friendly. Additionally, if you enjoy working on projects for your home, this could be a good option for you. Keep in mind that home security service providers try to make DIY installation as easy as possible with adhesive sensors and freestanding equipment.

  • No fees: With the cost of equipment and monthly monitoring, home security systems can be pretty expensive. DIY installation could be worth it if you can save $99–$199.
  • Can work on your schedule: Why work around someone else’s schedule when you can plan your own time to install your equipment? With DIY installation, you don’t have to worry about carving out time to accommodate a home security expert.
  • Contract-free: Instead of locking yourself into a long-term contract, most providers that offer DIY installation let you operate your system on a month-to-month basis. This could be especially helpful if you have a wired system and plan to move.

Drawbacks of DIY Installation

You should also keep in mind that there are some cons to DIY installation. You should examine each to make the right choice for your home.

  • Effort: DIY installation requires time, effort, and energy that you might not have to spare. It can seem like an uphill battle compared to relaxing while someone else does the work for you.
  • Lack of expertise: Your home security system should come with a manual and links to online tutorials. However, if you’re not tech savvy, you might end up setting the system up incorrectly. Additionally, you might not know the best locations to set up your sensors. For the most reliable protection, it could be best to go with professional installation.
  • Higher equipment costs: If you opt for professional installation, the upfront equipment costs are typically lower because with DIY installation you buy all of your equipment at once. However, some companies like Frontpoint offer financing plans.

How to Choose a Home Security System

Now that we’ve broken down the pros and cons of professional vs DIY installation, it’s time to consider the factors that go into choosing the best home security system for you.

  • Packages and equipment: Home security providers vary in the home security packages and equipment they offer. It’s important to investigate the exact equipment you want before purchasing a system.
  • Cost: You’ll want to make sure that the cost of equipment, monthly monitoring service, and professional installation are within your budget.
  • Reputation: Some companies have better reputations than others. You won’t want to work with a company that has a track record of disappointing customer service. Talking to friends and family and reading reviews on top home security systems can help you learn about a company’s reputation.
  • Smart home integration: If you enjoy using smart home devices and want to sync technology like your Nest thermostat with your home security system, look for offerings that support smart home integration.

The Best Home Security Systems

Our top three choices for the best security systems are:

  • ADT: As our top choice for a home security system, ADT has more than 140 years of industry experience, the largest network of professional monitoring centers, and a six-month money-back guarantee.
  • SimpliSafe: This user-friendly provider offers straightforward, peel-and-stick installation. It also doesn’t require a contract and uses equipment with a battery life that can last more than 10 years.
  • Vivint: Our choice for the “Best Smart Home Integration” offers in-house professional monitoring, a customizable system, and integration with devices like Amazon Alexa and Philips Hue smart lights.

Frequently Asked Questions

Our Rating Methodology

The This Old House Reviews Team backs up our home security recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. Our research includes analyzing product specifications, reviewing service and plan information, speaking with customer service representatives, and analyzing customer reviews. We then score the provider against our review standards for system options, special features, installation options, connectivity and smart-home automation features, pricing, contract terms, warranty, usability, availability of a trial period, and trustworthiness to arrive at a final score out of 100.

To share feedback or ask a question about this article, send a note to our Reviews Team at reviews@thisoldhousereviews.com.