Home ownership rates in America are on the decline. As more people come together in rental buildings, home security becomes a priority. The good news is that smart home technology is booming. This article outlines the basics of DIY apartment security using smart home technology.
Old-school security systems from big companies like Vivint and ADT require professional installation. Workmen will come in heavy boots to drill holes in your walls and run wires.
Damaging your landlord’s apartment isn’t necessary with a DIY security system.
DIY sensors attach to windows, doors and walls using 3M-style adhesive tape. If you change apartments, peel off the sensors, chuck them in a box with your hub, and set up fresh in your new apartment.
Key devices to improve apartment security
Most popular DIY security starter kits come with at least four components needed for a basic setup:
- Motion detector
- Entry sensor for a door
- Entry sensor for a balcony or window
Many DIY starter kits also come with high-decibel alarms. For people living in apartments, we don’t suggest using these. One false alarm will sour your relationship with all tenants in the building. That’s why you should use a phone alarm instead of the included high decibel one. In place of a high decibel alarm, add a smart light bulb.
How the pieces work together
Here is a sample setup based on a 1-bedroom 3rd floor apartment. The balcony is high enough off the ground, but we added two entry sensors there for peace of mind. We placed the smart light in the bedroom hallway – you could also put it in the living room.
First, set up your motion and entry sensors. Peel off the adhesives and stick to desired spots. Next, screw the light bulb somewhere in the hallway.
Plug in the hub. Download the app. Pair the app with your hub.
Finally, within the app, set up the light bulb to go off if any of the sensors activate.
Let’s imagine a goon scales the water pipe up to the third-floor apartment and stands outside on your balcony.
The sensor triggers as soon as he opens the balcony door. The light bulb turns on. Your phone alarm goes off. It’s not as loud as a high decibel alarm, but loud enough for the intruder to hear it.
All of a sudden the intruder is disoriented. Fight or flight mode kicks in. The intruder turns around and flees the scene.
Apartment security systems: do it yourself starter kits
Below are two DIY starter kits that can achieve the security strategy outlined above. With either kit, add or omit gear as needed.
When you leave home or go to sleep, arm the system. If a sensor triggers, prepare to take action.
Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit
The Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit gets deserved rave reviews. It’s everything you need to improve apartment security.
It boasts reliable performance plus industry-leading versatility. Other products can connect to dozens of devices. The SmartThings v3 Hub can connect to hundreds.
That makes the SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit a great foundation. Along with the hub, this kit contains two entry sensors, one motion sensor and one smart switch.
- Integrations: IFTTT, Garmin and Apple watches.
- Voice Assistants: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa.
- Supported wireless protocols: ZigBee, Z-Wave, Wi-Fi.
Check out the full list of SmartThings integrations and compatible devices. The hub can control thermostats, lights, door locks, cameras, doorbells and more.
Based on our sample setup you should add at least one smart LED light bulb to your order. Check out our SMART LED buying guide to learn more about Smart LEDs. Below is one of the recommended bulbs.
BERENNIS Smart Light Bulb
Besides helping with security, multicolor smart LEDs open up mood lighting possibilities. Warm up a room by changing to a rich yellow. Cool down the vibe with a blue tint. Set bulbs to a warmer color for breakfast and a richer one for dinner.
The BERENNIS Smart Light Bulb has 16 million colors to choose from. No hub required. Download the Magic Home Pro to control your lights from anywhere using wifi. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice integration also included.
The BERENNIS Smart Light Bulb also includes IFTTT integration. Check out the full list of IFTTT smart light applets.
One other thing you might want to consider in this kit is a smart home camera. The best option with a Samsung unit is a SmartThings Camera:
Samsung SmartThings Indoor Security Camera
The Samsung SmartThings Indoor Security Camera Full offers 1080p HD with a 145° field of view.
In our model apartment security setup, we would add the camera in the living room. The 145° field of view is wide enough from there to cover the sensitive areas in the unit.
The SmartThings Security Camera has built-in IR LED night vision and 2-way audio. It includes free 24-hour rolling cloud storage.
If a thug breaks into your house, the lights will turn on, your phone alarm will blare and the camera will turn on. As you watch the intruder on your phone, speak to them on the 2-way mic.
Tell them you are watching. You are armed and dangerous. Cops are on the way. They have five seconds to get out.
Want even more add-ons for your Samsung Smart Hub? Check the SmartThings website for a full list of compatible devices.
abode Essentials Starter Kit
Current price: Price not available
The abode Essentials Starter Kit comes with a free basic package and two advanced ones. Using the free basic plan, you monitor the system yourself over wifi. If wifi goes down, your system goes down too. For $3.33 per month, you can unlock celluar backups. That means if wifi goes down, your system will continue to work using your cellular hotspot.
For standard apartment security, the abode Essentials Starter Kit with free basic plan is enough.
The base station can manage up to 160 devices. The starter kit also includes:
- One Gateway base station
- One mini entry sensor (for doors or windows)
- One motion sensor
- One remote keychain fob (for one-click arming or disarming)
A big reason the abode Essentials kit is so popular is because of its versatility. It integrates with most big protocols. That makes it compatible with hundreds of possible add-ons.
- Integrations: IFTTT, Nest, Philips Hue, Kwikset and more
- Voice Assistants: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa.
- Supported wireless protocols: ZigBee, Z-Wave, Z-Wave+, Wi-Fi.
Check out the abode website for a full list of abode integrations.
Finally, note that each Gateway base station also has a built-in siren. For sake of your fellow tenants, disable the siren. Use a high volume phone alarm instead.
abode Essentials Addons
Let’s start by adding a smart light bulb to the equation. The BERENNIS bulb listed in the Samsung section will work perfectly.
After that, consider the following abode compatible extras. These also work with the SmartThings hub.
abode entry sensors
abode entry sensors work out of the box with your Gateway base station. Each unit has adhesive attachments for easy self installation on windows or doors. Each unit has a 10-year battery life. Free shipping included.
First Alert Z-Wave Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector
This device works with most smart hubs including abode essentials and Samsung SmartThings.
It’s a battery powered smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Using Z-Wave technology, it sends mobile alerts if the alarm goes off.
A photoelectric smoke sensor helps reduce false alarms caused by cooking. Plus, an electrochemical carbon monoxide sensor provides advanced detection technology.
Around 400 people die in America each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. Apartments with gas stoves, clothes driers or fireplaces are most vulnerable.
Apartment home security FAQs
Can you put a security system in an apartment?
Rental properties cycle through tentants, landlords, agents and maintenance staff. It’s hard to know who has access to the unit. Renters have the absolute right to protect their homes.
That’s why the first thing you should do when moving in a new apartment is change the front door lock. Then, set up a home security perimeter.
Using a DIY home security system, you don’t need to drill holes or run wires. Attach sensors using adhesive tape and run security wirelessly over your phone.
Note that many smart security hubs have built-in high decibel alarms. These are loud enough to startle the entire building.
Instead of causing such disturbance, disable the siren and using a phone alarm. In apartments, phone alarms can be set loud enough to do the job.
How much should I pay for an apartment security system?
In this article we used two security systems as references. The Samsung SmartThings starter pack plus light bulb and camera costs around $220.
The abode Essentials kit plus light bulb and smoke alarm costs around $270.
Both are much cheaper than professional security packages.
For example, a Vivint Smart Security package costs $669 for parts. It also includes a monthly monitoring fee of $29.99. In your first year, the total cost of your Vivint system would be $1028.
How will an apartment security system benefit me?
A smart security system will give you control of the perimeter that you can manage on your phone.
Entry sensors will fire if doors or windows open. Motion sensors catch movement, even in the dark. Smart lights can turn on when sensors trigger, startling intruders. Everything fires to your phone via real time alerts.
What else do I need beyond a smart security system?
Smart security systems will warn you about intruders, but can’t help further. If your home alarm fails to scare them off, you need to take action.
Check out this list of non-lethal home security weapons. These will complete your security plan with brutal but humane force.
This article gives you a complete picture of apartment home security. DIY apartment security costs much less than professional options, without any hidden costs.
As we did with our model 1-bedroom unit, you should build a smart home strategy around the layout of your apartment. Buy a home security starter kit and then build out with parts as you need.
Consider cameras, smart lights and smoke detectors as add-ons to your base unit.
After that, pick up some non-lethal weapons as a last line of defense.
Finally, arm your system and ease into bed.
Relax with the confidence that your rock solid security plan is armed and ready for action.