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Ask Slashdot: State of the Art In DIY Security Systems? 248

An anonymous reader writes "For geeks that want to secure their home, it seems that the choice of Do It Yourself solutions are limited. And in case you prefer to use a company, most of them require to subscribe to a contract for 3 years that costs at least $20 a month. In case you want to make a DIY security system without a monthly fee, few options are available. Some products (such as ismartalarm, Lowe's Iris system or also the fortress security) let you install your own system but seem not to be very mature (for some the alarm is not loud, for others they do not use the internet and only a land line, etc.). Is there any recommendation for a basic DIY home security system for monitoring the house and just have notification by e-mail or through a mobile application? Is there any open standard for home automation and security devices? Any suggestion about how to build something simple, affordable and efficient?" How to top the big-name subscription-based security companies is a recurring question, but one worth exploring every once in a while, as sensors and software both advance, and especially as more and more people are carrying around phones well-suited as remote monitors for in-house cameras. (And here's a preemptive link to ZoneMinder.)
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Ask Slashdot: State of the Art In DIY Security Systems?

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  • Insurance? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:09AM (#45863181)

    DIY security systems are nice, but your insurance policy will dictate what you must have. Once you pass a certain threshold of personal property, they'll require you have a monitored system with specifics. What equipment and who you pick comes down to whether or not you want to fight the insurance company when you file a claim.

    This means most of us sign with the 3 letter well known company since we know it'll be rubber stamped.

    Posting as AC since my one flaimebait post from 5 years ago would bury this post. It'd be nice to have decaying karma.

  • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:19AM (#45863225)

    Have you looked into X10 []?

  • Blue Iris (Score:5, Informative)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:19AM (#45863231) Journal

    Google "blue iris security software". I think it's $50 for the full version. It supports a wide variety of security cameras, including those pan and tilt wifi models.

    I paired Blue Iris with a 4 channel capture card (about $100) and four Bulldog wired cameras (about $28 apiece) and a few minutes work with dyndns and the built-in web server, and I can monitor my house from anywhere I have network access, and any movement will send snapshots to my phone and record an AVI that gets sent to a secure server. The software supports configurable "dead zones", so if you have a tree that trips the motion detector in the wind you can block it out.

    To my knowledge, this is the absolute cheapest you can go and have a usable configuration.

  • by alanshot ( 541117 ) <rurick&techondemand,net> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:44AM (#45863347)

    I work for a company that installs alarm systems. Dont want the insane mothly monitoring with a contract? Dont let them install "free" systems. You are paying many times over for the life of the contract for that "free" system.

    Pay for the T&M up front, and many local companies will do the monitoring for as little as $10/month. (ADT and other national companies wont, but odds are you have a locally owned company that will.)

    And beware DIY systems; If you dont do it RIGHT, you can end up paying more due to false alarm fees. Many municipalities charge per alarm after so many alerts. So if you dont know what you are doing and end up sending in multiple false alarm calls the the police, you could end up paying hundreds per incident in penalties.

  • Many options (Score:5, Informative)

    by pirodude ( 54707 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:50AM (#45863367)

    You are looking for either the HAI Omnipro II or the ELK M1 gold. Check out [] for all the information you will ever need.

  • by chazchaz101 ( 871891 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:55AM (#45863399)
    I had a good experience building a DIY security system based on a M1 controller from Elk Products. The documentation was clear and there are add on options for connecting it to the internet and interfacing with other home automation equipment. []
  • Build your own... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Slick_W1lly ( 778565 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:55AM (#45863403)

    I have done just this. After ADT refused to 'update' the installation I had done about 12 years ago, and wanted to charge me $800 or so AND continue to charge me the $50 a month for monitoring.

    So, I junked their old (crusty and mostly non-working) system and bought all my own kit. You'll find you can *always* buy better than what they give you in their 'free' package anyway, and tailor it to your own needs. You can find a monitoring company for around $10 a month. My insurance company doesn't care who does it, as long as it calls the police, alarms for fire, etc etc etc.

    So. Here's what I got :

    Vista20p panel. It's what most 'big name' companies install, except YOU get to set the 'installer code' and the ability to change / add stuff you hook up to it.
    Honeywell 6120RF keypad. You'll need a 'keypad' to program your panel. This one also takes care of wireless sensors.
    Various door sensors, heat / smoke sensors, break-glass sensors, Pet Immune movement sensors.
    Don't forget the siren :P

    If you have a landline, you can hook it up to this panel and have it call your monitoring-company-of-choice when an event trips. If you don't, you can get wireless addons which call them via cell-phone.

    All this stuff is easy to order, easy to physically install. The programming for the Vista20P is a bit arcane and reminds me of programming assembly from my youth, but a day or two with the manual and some judicious googling and you should be set.

    One of my requirements was that it hook up with the z-wave stuff I'd started installing, and I'm a fan of gadgets. So I *also* bought some touch panels with pretty graphics and stuff on them. They're expensive, mind (about $400 a pop) and their z-wave capabilities were limited. I ended up not using them for that and got a Vera-lite anyway. The wife, however, likes them.. so I consider the investment worthwhile (they can also display security camera feeds).

    Note: NONE of this stuff allows you to monitor without a contract to a company. If you want to do that, then you can buy the add-on daughter board for the Vista20P called the Envisalink3. Hook that up to your home network and it can send you mails and stuff when things occur. Also note: if you do that and your power goes out, and you don't have battery backup for the internet gateway it sends through, you'll uh.. not get notified.

    All this stuff I bought from 'the home security store'. Which is a haven for DIY'ers. They have a very helpful forum, very helpful staff and their prices are reasonable. I bought my bits a year or so ago and I've been a very happy customer.

    Links follow :

    Vista20P : []
    Wireless Keypad : []
    Touchscreen pads : []
    Glass break sensors :*ava=0%5D []
    etc etc etc

  • Re:Build your own... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Slick_W1lly ( 778565 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:56AM (#45863411)

    Oh, and here's the envisalink3 which lets you do your own monitoring : []

  • Re:Z-Wave (Score:5, Informative)

    by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @12:58AM (#45863425) Homepage Journal

    Z-Wave, the wireless mesh protocol behind most of these systems, is an open protocol.

    If by "open" you mean "closed & proprietary, but with some reverse-engineered partially-functional open-source API impementations", then you're right.

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @01:09AM (#45863475)
    There are two better uses for that $20 per month. You could either bump up your dataplan so that you are sent lots of pictures to your phone of any vaguely interesting activity. Or if you have a good data plan then you could use $20 per month to get a data only plan for your security system so that it can communicate via your internet connection or via a cell data system as backup.

    My sister has me as a contact for her security system. So I have driven across town more than once only to find one of her family has set it off and the phone is turned down or off the hook. It would be great to just get a snap of whomever set it off. Neice. Nothing. Nephew. Nothing. Guy in balaclava with sack over his shoulder, call the cops and give them a blow by blow description of who is exactly where.

    So a DIY security system should not only be as good as traditional ones but should be way cooler.

    On a side note, don't mount the cameras up high looking down. All you will get is an image of the robber's hoodies or baseball cap logo. Mount the cameras in a concealed location at eye level. This way you basically get a mug shot. If you want cameras for deterrent you can get fake cameras to mount up high. The only cameras you want up high are to capture the over all picture. I will tell you that you will be sorely disappointed if your security camera only provides enough evidence to say that a guy(race unknown) 5'4" to 5'10" wearing a Blue Molson hat, a grey sweatshirt, jeans, and black sneakers took all your stuff. Get a good enough picture at eye level and the police will drive right over to the halfway house and arrest him 20 minutes later.
  • by sylvandb ( 308927 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @01:18AM (#45863515) Homepage Journal

    X10 went bankrupt in mid-2013. The current reincarnation purchased the name and IP at auction. So far they seem more professional, but time will tell if they can continue to build and improve the product line. []

  • Security Checklist (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @02:06AM (#45863701)

    Maybe this is a good time to review some anti-theft tips. Keep in mind the 4 D's:


    * Install motion sensor lights on the front and back of your house.

    * Install a fake camera. For deterrent value, a fake camera will work as well as a real camera, but will cost far less. It should have a bright blinking LED to make it more noticible. You can buy realistic decoy cameras for less than $10 on Amazon.

    * If you install a real camera, make sure it is good enough to actually identify the perp. Otherwise, what's the point? Install several fake decoy cameras as well. If the perp is trying to avoid the fakes, he is more likely to be seen by the real camera.

    * Put a "Beware of Dog" or "Vicious Dog" sign on the gate to your back yard, whether you actually have a dog or not.

    * Put up a security alarm yard sign and window stickers, even if you don't have an alarm system. Yard signs and stickers are available on Amazon, eBay, etc.

    * Get some old, well worn work boots, size 14 or larger. Leave one pair on your front porch, and another by your back door.

    * When you leave home, leave a radio playing on a talk station. Set the volume so it is slightly audible from outside your home.

    * Set up timers to turn lights on and off when you are not home.

    * If you have an alarm that frequently goes off accidently, get it fixed. Otherwise your neighbors will ignore it.

    * Valuables should not be visible from any door or window.

    * Put wood dows or PVC pipe in the slide track of each window and sliding door. These should fit snugly, so they are not easy to dislodge by someone reaching through the broken window. Make sure everyone in your home knows how to remove the stop in case of a fire.

    * When not home, lock internal doors. This will prevent an intruder from moving quickly around your home.

    * Leave out some decoy valuables, such as an old laptop with no HDD, or some fake jewelry. Decoy valuables should be left in a conspicuous place, but not visible from outside.

    * Frost or laminate your garage windows, so a perp cannot see if your car is gone.

    * If you have a safe, bolt it to the floor with a bolt that is only accessible from inside the safe. Cut the bottom out of a cardboard box and put it over the safe to hide it.

    * If you have a an unused safe or lockbox, fill it with bricks, lock it, and put it in a conspicuous location.

    * If you have a second story, don't store a ladder in your yard or shed.

    * Trim any trees that can be climbed to reach a second story window, or make sure those windows are secure.

    * Use plants with thorns, such as roses, in front of your windows. Keep them trimmed below the window sill, so neighbors can see anyone breaking in.

    * Go through your wallet and purse. Do you really need to carry more than one credit card? Write down the account number and phone number for each card, so that you can cancel them quickly if they are stolen.

    * Make your possessions easy to identify. Paint the handles of your tools orange or lime green. Laser etch a custom design on the back of your phone or laptop.

    * Take photos of your valuable possessions, and record any serial numbers.

    * Scan any important documents, and save the images off site.

  • Re:Insurance? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Slick_W1lly ( 778565 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @06:29AM (#45864209)

    Perfectly understood. For my insurance premium reduction they simply require that an alarm be installed which is monitored - ie: automatic calls to police, fire etc. And I test my install regularly. They're quite happy with what I provide them.

    I also understand an insurance company's policy is to attempt to pay the minimum, or not pay at all, or other methods of reducing outgoings. I have to say though, that the company I have now - and I'll be quite forthright: It's Amica - were exceptionally good with Hurricane Sandy damage. They sent out an appraiser, gave me what I considered to be more than reasonable recompense. I have 10 computers in an office which got mashed by two trees. Normally they'd not pay out on 'large numbers of household items'. Like.. say you claimed for 10 toasters you said got ruined? They'd pay for only one, since that is 'normal' for a household.

    I had called them the year before to explain: I have all these computers in my house, do I need to increase my premium to cover them? They said 'no', you're fine. They made a note of it in my file, and come time to claim? They paid for 10 computers.

    I could not be happier with my insurance company. :P

System checkpoint complete.