DIY Home Security

by Gareth Branwyn for Digital Living Today

When considering a home security system, you might be tempted to order one of the low-cost wired systems advertised on television (usually offered with free or $100 installation). A do-it-yourself (DIY) system will cost more than that, but you’ll be amazed at the sophistication of the system for a very reasonable cost. You also won’t have to poke holes in your walls, you’ll have greater control over the components, the system will be portable (i.e., you can take it with you if you move), and you won’t have monthly monitoring fees.

The heart of a decent DIY security system is the same popular X10 technology used for networking home computers, household appliances and other domestic gadgets (see “House, Control Thyself“). By plugging window and door sensors, motion detectors, inside and outside lighting and video cameras into the X10 network, you can control the operation of all these components from your home computer (or via a stand-alone control console). Installation couldn’t be simpler: plug the X10 control modules into available electrical outlets (X10 uses your home’s wiring as its “network”), plug the security components into the modules and then use the security software on your PC (or the console) to program when the components will turn on and off.

There are basically three levels of security system to consider:


  • A starter system might consist of inside lights and outside flood lighting programmed to turn on and off at predetermined times, at dusk, or when you’re on vacation.
  • A standard security set-up consists of sensors for all vulnerable windows and doors, indoor/outdoor light controllers and an emergency number phone dialer.
  • A deluxe system would include the above, plus sensors on every man-size opening, one or more security cameras, a siren and motion detectors around the perimeter of your property.

The beauty of X10 security is that you can pick and choose the components you want. You might want a starter system, but with an added front door cam, or one that has sensors on every man-size opening and nothing else. You decide based on your needs and budget. Parts for these systems run from a few hundred dollars for a basic set-up to several thousand if you want to turn your castle into an impenetrable fortress.

Here are a few sites with more information on X10 security and online stores where you can order components:

-X10 ( This online X10 store has everything you need to build a system, from the most basic to the most complex.

-X10 Ideas ( A super-site with tips, installation ideas, a product catalog, and a dealer directory covering all aspects of X10 home automation. ( A directory of over five hundred Web sites dedicated to home automation and X10 technology.

***DLT Tip: IBM’s short-lived Home Director was a turnkey X10 security system with easy to use PC-based control software. Although the company doesn’t sell Home Director kits anymore, you can pick them up (along with lots of other X10 gear) very cheaply at online auctions.


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