DIY is the new craze. Websites like Pinterest and Youtube make doing and fixing things yourself a breeze. I am very much into DIY artwork, pallet furniture, and party decorations. At home we frequent Youtube for car repairs and home projects. But there is a limit to what is DIY worthy and not. Even though the Pinterest fails are super entertaining, when it comes to important things like life safety let the pros do what they do best.

Let’s start by talking about DIY alarm systems. There have been a few major players in this new trend. I have done research and delved into as much online content available to help me understand and review these systems. You may say I am biased coming from an alarm company’s stand point. However, my first priority and the reason we started our alarm company is because we are extremely passionate about security. With that being said when these DIY systems came out with high promises and a low price tag, our ears perked. Is this a viable option for our customers? Are these systems offering a real security solution? I had to find out.

I looked at 3 different companies. Searched their reviews, and websites extensively. What I found was that these DIY systems are simple to install. They come in a box, easy to program, and even offer 24 hour monitoring, for a fee. There are a ton of different additional sensors available such as smoke detectors, carbon monoxide sensors, flood sensors and temperature sensors. Each company has an app you can do basic things with like arm and disarm your system, and get alert notifications. You pay up front for the equipment, and a monthly or annual fee depending on the services you choose. Some monthly fees as low as $3.

Traditional alarm companies, us included (I am calling us traditional as we are first an alarm company, not a phone company or a video or automation company breaking into the market), offer the same services and sensors. The very gimmicky websites seemed to suggest otherwise.

Here’s the techy part. Professionally installed systems are not just that, professionally installed systems. They are professional systems. With security as the backbone, not as a add-on to a doorbell camera.

The first red flag I saw was watching video after video of people defeating the door/window sensors of the DIY systems. Yes, they are different then the ones we install. One of the major problems was no tamper switch inside the sensors. (Side note: things change all the time, maybe the other companies will read this and fix the problem. But don’t quote me if they do change, just know that right now it is a problem.) Why is a tamper switch important? When a sensor is opened, which exposes the board and battery, without a tamper switch, the alarm does not react. All sensors/detectors should have a tamper switch. Based on their price points, I can assume removing it lowers cost.

Another way I saw people defeating alarm systems was jamming the wireless signals. Only one company addressed this issue. All “professional” security systems have a feature that sets off the alarm if jamming is detected. This one DIY company made it seem as if they created the technology, :insert laugh:.

There are many systems we install, monitor and service. All of which have one of two types of control panel or main brain. One type is a panel located in a closet or even possibly in the attic. The advantage of this is when/if a burglar comes in it is not easy to get to the panel and destroy it. If they do get to it, by the time they are able to open it and damage it, the signal has already been sent out to the Central Station and being dispatched on. The second type is an all-in-one system. This means the keypad and panel are one in the same. The way that we have been able to keep this option safe and secure is with a technology called Crash and Smash or APL (Advanced Protection Logic), depending on the brand of alarm. How it works is, as soon as a sensor is activated, for any reason, even during the entry delay, the panel is waiting for a disarm, if it doesn’t receive one within the alotted time the signal is sent to the central station as a possible burglary. What makes this different is that instead of waiting for the alarm to go off before sending a signal, the signal is waiting to go out as soon as a sensor is activated. That way, if someone destroys or damages the all-in-one keypad, the signal has already been sent to the Central Station. This is a long explanation, but I wanted to give a clear picture before I say this. All of the DIY systems have a keypad and a base station. The base station is the same as our control panel, it is the main brain of the alarm. Unlike our control panels that are mounted on a wall with a lock and key, and hidden, the base station is plugged in to the wall. Usually in a main area, because they talk via wifi to the sensors. Therefore it cannot be hidden or in a closet because you will have connectivity issues. And for the icing on the base station cake, what happens when an intruder unplugs it and throws it down the street like a frisbee? The keypad can be “smash safe”, but what about the base station, that is plugged into the wall and sitting on your kitchen counter or coffee table? I could keep drilling into this, but I think the point is made. The DIY base stations are not secure and leave much to be desired in terms of security.

I want to talk about “Professional Monitoring” service. Las Vegas is a very different market than most other cities or jurisdictions. In Las Vegas, when an alarm goes off, the Police DO NOT RESPOND. I don’t care what any other company tells you. If you don’t believe me, call non-emergency 311 and ask. Due to this, we have to offer a guard service to respond. It is a third party, and every alarm company has to do the same. When your alarm goes off, the Central Station will call the phone numbers you have provided, in the order you have provided, to alert you of the alarm and ask for instructions. This is pretty standard across the board, professional company or DIY service. Here’s where it changes. Professional companies have accounts with a local third party guard response. If you do not answer, or if you give the wrong password, or if you request it, your alarm will be dispatched on by one of the third party guards. From what information I could gather, depending on which DIY company you choose, and what service level you choose, will change this process dramatically. There was only 1 DIY company that will send a guard, for a pretty hefty charge, the others leave the responsibility to you to find a company and create an account for response. Here is an easy plug, our company paired with one other company that provides guard service for only our two companies! And it is new digital technology that sends your information directly to the closest guard, digitally, for the fastest response time. Everyone else in our Las Vegas valley are sharing guard response with 2 main guard companies. Everyone, even DIY, and even you if you have to provide your own service. Even the popular alarm company with 3 letters that offers their own guards, use the same 2 companies as overflow when they are too busy. It doesn’t take a masters degree to figure out that those 2 guard companies get overwhelmed quickly and your response suffers. We are very proud of our guard response solution as we are not mixed in the pool. Finishing up on monitoring service, our company has a live human available to talk 24/7. The Central Station can give basic tech support and above that someone is available 24/7 if it needs to be escalated. I bring this up because not many companies, professional or otherwise, can say that. Especially the DIY ones. Try to call, or do a review search if you are interested.

I am going to briefly go over some other points of interest before wrapping this up. First, since the DIY uses wifi, it is easily jammed and/or cut from the cable box outside. Leaving you without a connection which is your notifications and communication to the Central Station. Next, the systems do not offer a 2-way voice option. Which is the ability for the Central Station to speak to you via the keypad in the event of an emergency. The Central Station can also hear if there is an intruder an respond accordingly. Also, on some of the DIY apps, you have to be signed in, in order to get your notifications. Total Connect and Alarm.com are our most popular apps, and neither require this. Additionally, the sensors from the DIY systems that need to be mounted on a door, window or wall, come with double sided tape. :shaking head: How hot is it in Las Vegas? Remind me how well tape holds up sitting against a hot window… Needless to say, we secure all of our sensors with a screw. It is not slipping, sliding, or melting off in the heat or otherwise. Speaking of door and window sensors, do a quick internet search for gaps in the DIY sensors. They can be opened several inches before being tripped. Again, probably a cost thing because the professional systems are more sensitive and trips much sooner. Leaving the ability to defeat it almost nil. Lastly, besides the base station being plugged into the wall, everything including the keypad needs batteries. Which means you are changing batteries in everything. Not ideal.

Here is my take away. These DIY companies did a great job of marketing their product. The alarm industry, us included, could take note and offer more information on our systems. Knowledge is power. In the past the market did not want to know the tech side of things. But as always things change. And this generation wants to know what they are buying and how it works. It should be our job to educate on what we specialize in and let the consumer make a choice with all the information. We will definitely be adding more in depth information to our marketing material moving forward. The DIY companies exposed a hole that we will fill.

I did not include every single line item here. It was long enough. I just put out there the things I thought were most important. There is definitely room for the DIY market. Small temporary spaces I think are ideal. If you are wanting actual security, not a toy, a professional system will give you the most security and peace of mind, IMO. They are not easily defeated, and years of research and development prove this. There is a reason we have to hold a special privileged business license and insurance, your life is on the line. “Professional monitoring” that only offers a phone call, is not true security, it leaves gaps. I do believe something is better than nothing. I also believe that an educated customer is the best customer. We cannot put a price tag on your belongings, family, pets and peace of mind. And beyond the expense of a break in, the feeling afterwards never leaves you. Trust me. Searching for reviews on service, reliability and connectivity are a good place to start when searching for a DIY alarm system, or one through your phone/internet company (which work similar to the DIY), or any system for that matter.

Happy searching, I hope this helps you to know what questions to ask based on whats most important to you.


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