The $300 Abode Starter Kit is an excellent entry-point into DIY home security. It really has everything -- a Z-Wave and ZigBee hub with a built-in siren, two door/window sensors, a battery-powered security camera and motion detector, and a key fob for remote arming and disarming. (Abode isn't currently sold internationally, but the Starter Kit converts to roughly £240 and AU$390 at the current exchange rate).
Abode also sells a variety of other hardware accessories you can add to the system at any time, as well as a range of optional professional monitoring services. Factor in its support for over two dozen Z-Wave and ZigBee devices, integration with Alexa, IFTTT and Nest, and you have a smart system that's easy to recommend.
Welcome to Abode
Setting up Abode's starter kit begins with the related app. Download the Android or iOS software and follow the instructions to pair all of the accessories. Each piece of wall-, door- or window-mounted hardware comes with an adhesive backing for easy installation. You can remove it from a surface with relative ease, but you won't want to do this often -- I accidentally stripped off some paint when we pulled the battery-powered camera/motion detector from a doorframe.
Here's a quick overview of each accessory included in the starter kit:
- Hub -- Connects to your Wi-Fi router via an included Ethernet cable and power adapter. It works with select Z-Wave and ZigBee devices, has a 93-decibel siren and a 12-hour backup battery. See the complete list of compatible Z-Wave and ZigBee devices here.
- Door/window sensors -- Attach to a door, window, cabinet or anything else to track opening and closing.
- Security camera and motion detector -- This 90-degree battery-powered camera doesn't offer live streaming, but it will take three images when the system is armed and it detects motion.
- Key fob - Stick it on your keychain to arm and disarm your system remotely.
Abode also sent us a live-streaming camera to test alongside the starter kit. This camera is available as an optional accessory for an additional $149.
Take a look at Abode's specs versus some of its competition:
Comparing DIY security systems
|Hardware cost||$300 (starter kit)||$276 (hub and accessories, no camera)||$150 (starter kit)||$230 (starter kit)|
|Required monthly fees||None||$10||None||None technically, but you need to pay the $15 - $25 contract-free fee to access any remote features|
|Professional monitoring||Yes ($30/month, includes cellular backup)||Yes ($20/month, includes cellular backup)||No||Yes (no extra charge)|
|Cellular backup||Yes ($10/month without professional monitoring)||Yes (no extra charge)||No||Yes (no extra charge)|
|Power outage backup||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Camera||Yes (add $150)||Yes (add $169)||Yes (add $100)||Yes (add $100)|
|ZigBee/Z-Wave compatibility||ZigBee and Z-Wave||ZigBee only||No||No|
|Smart home partners||Alexa, IFTTT, Nest||Alexa, IFTTT, Nest||IFTTT||Nest|
A couple of things stand out here. Abode's system is more expensive up front, but unlike Scout and Simplisafe, there aren't any required monthly fees. Abode also offers more smart-home integrations than its fee-free counterpart, iSmartAlarm. Its starter pack also comes with a camera -- a unique feature that none of the other starter packs offer.
You have four main monitoring options with Abode:
- Free - Three-day timeline storage of recorded events and other activity, self-monitored
- Temporary professional monitoring - $8 three-day or $15 seven-day 24-7 monitoring for vacation and other quick trips
- Cellular backup only - $10 per month/$96 per year for 3G cellular backup, 14-day timeline storage
- Monthly monitoring and cellular backup - $30 per month/$240 per year for 24-7 professional monitoring, 3G cellular backup and 90-day timeline storage
One annoying thing is that you have to create rules and other custom automations in Abode's web app. I wish you could also do that from your phone. I do like having web access, though, so you can pull up a larger screen with all of the details clearly displayed.
Abode worked very well throughout testing. Whether I was using an Amazon Alexa device, the key fob or the app, arming and disarming was responsive. I also created an IFTTT rule that turned on the interior entryway lights (via IFTTT-compatible Lutron switches) every time I opened the front door. Again, it worked great.
I also received prompt notifications and emails, alerting me to status changes (switching to Home mode from Away mode, for instance). The system's auto-arm and -disarm function, which is tied to the location of your phone, also worked as expected.
If it wasn't already clear, Abode's $300 starter kit is a great DIY option. It makes particular sense if you have more ground to cover than an all-in-one system like the Piper NV or the LG Smart Security Wireless Camera can handle, but you aren't sold on a massive, contract-based system.
And, if you decide later on that you want to add more devices, you can -- either from Abode's own cache of temperature sensors, flood detectors and cameras or from its list of approved Z-Wave and ZigBee devices. The fact that Abode doesn't force you into a monthly fee and works with Alexa, IFTTT and Nest is pretty great, too. Take a close look at this system if you're considering a flexible DIY security setup for your home.