DIY Alarm Kits Surveyed

By Brian Rhodes, Published Apr 22, 2012, 08:00pm EDT

When protecting one's home with an alarm system, deciding between professionally installed and DIY offerings is a fundamental choice. DIY options are far less known and can be more challenging to choose from, given the number of kits available.

In this note, we examine several common DIY systems:

Review of Systems

Skylink SC-1000

This kit contains a control panel, an emergency dialer, a single PIR, and two door/window contacts. All components are wireless, and the central panel can accommodate up to 30 Skylink branded accessories. Monitoring is not supported, however the dialer will notify up to 9 different phone numbers in an emergency. The SC-1000 kit can be purchased for about $150 USD online.

Pros

  • Includes dialer
  • Expandable to 30 sensors

Cons

  • Kit only includes 1 remote keyfob
  • Expansion sensors are difficult to source

Swann Model #SW347-WA2

This basic kit consists of a 110 dB siren, a central controller keypad, two motion PIR detectors, two combo door/window contacts, and remote control keyfobs. This system is not expandable beyond what is furnished in the kit, and does not support a dialer or monitoring. This kit is available for around $90 USD online.

Pros

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  • Inexpensive 
  • Kit includes siren

Cons

  • System only supports two PIRs and two door/window contacts
  • System does not support dialer or external notification

Q-See QSDL503AD

This DIY system, manufactured by a familar vendor of budget analog surveillance systems, is not well reviewed. However, it is a kit carried by 'big box' retailers [link no longer available] and is a common choice in the DIY market. This wireless 433 MHz system is not expandable, but consists of four combo door/window sensors, two motion PIR sensors, an ultrasonic 'driveway' motion detector, and a remote keypad. This kit is available for around $120 USD online.

Pros

  • Widely available through 'big box' retailers
  • Includes an ultrasonic motion detector

Cons

  • Manufacturer has poor product quality reputation 
  • System does not support dialer or external notification

Mace Security Wireless Home Security System

This system includes provision to expand to 16 total sensors. The basic kit includes [link no longer available] a 105 dB siren, a PIR motion detector, and a combo door/window sensor, and a central keypad. The system includes a dialer unit. Interestingly, the dialer also includes 2-way audio capability, so that 'listening' in on alarms and broadcasting your voice through the central panel is possible. This kit can be purchased for about $100 online.

Pros

  • Supports 2-way audio surveillance
  • System is expandable to 16 sensors

Cons

  • Basic kit only includes 1 PIR motion sensor and 1 door/window contact
  • Expansion sensors are difficult to source

American Alarms AAS 600 Wireless Home Security Alarm

In terms of number of sensors, one of the largest DIY systems on the market is the AAS 600. This system kit includes a central keypab control panel, five motion sensors, 25 combo door/window contacts, an indoor 110 dB siren, an outdoor 120 dB siren, a glass break detector, and 4 keyfobs. It is important to note that each sensor is powered by either AA or AAA alkaline batteries, and keeping fresh batteries in all system components will be costly and burdensome to maintain. However, the system supports up to 32 discrete alarm zones, and includes dialer support for up to 9 different phone numbers. The AAS 600 can be purchased online for around $330 online.

Pros

  • System kits support a large number of sensors
  • Expansion sensors can be purchased directly from manufacturer website

Cons

  • Manufacturer technical support is limited, and no web forum exists
  • Large systems require a significant number of batteries to operate

Conclusion

While the limitations of these systems may not make them a good choice for everyone, low cost and no protracted contract fees present an ideal alternative for some end-users. We've provided some guidelines from kit selection below:

  • Apartments: Swann's inexpensive #SW347-WA2 system is ideal for small living spaces with only a few openings to secure. 
  • Houses: The SC-1000 kit is designed to accomodate most family sized homes, and includes dialer support for limited alarm notification.
  • Small businesses: The large quantity of sensors and multi-zone support of the AAS 600 make it ideal for deployment for a small business. Overhead doors, offices, and warehouse spaces can all be secured by the system.
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