ADT is known for its professionally installed and monitored systems, but is the security giant’s foray into the world of DIY worth it?
ADT has long been recognized as a leader in the home security space. It has been around for over a century, and its professionally monitored and installed systems have been protecting people’s homes and families for generations.
As Bob Dylan once sang, however, the times, they are a changin’. An increasing number of homeowners are enjoying the benefits of DIY home security systems — namely their customizability and low costs. That can leave more traditional security providers like Brinks and ADT in a lurch. That is, of course, unless they adapt.
It would seem ADT has risen to the occasion, offering its Self Setup packages for homeowners and renters looking for a more modern approach to protect against break-ins. But can these packages compete with the upstarts and disrupters? When we reviewed SimpliSafe, for instance, we found its equipment to be high quality and extremely affordable. Can ADT say the same?
We’ll get into that below, but let’s first contextualize this discussion with some pros and cons.
Now that we have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking at, let’s get our arms around what is being offered.
As we note in our exhaustive ADT review, the company offers high-quality, traditional home security systems. That means you’ll pick up the phone, talk to a sales representative, have someone out to the house to install everything, plunk down the credit card, and continue to pay a not-insignificant monthly fee. Thumbs up from the not-so-hands-on crowd, thumbs down from folks looking to save money by doing it themselves.
That’s why Self Setup exists: to appeal to the DIYers. But the Self Setup isn’t the first ADT system built for that purpose. From 2020 and up until early 2023, ADT had a security system called Blue by ADT, which we also tested. And much like the Self Setup system, Blue by ADT was completely DIY. So what’s the difference?
First, Blue by ADT existed separately from ADT. It had its own website, for instance. Self Setup exists within ADT’s traditional offering, which means you can find details about the system and buy it from the ADT website itself.
It’s also worth noting that Self Setup uses security cameras from Google Nest, made possible by ADT and Google Nest’s partnership that started sometime in 2021. The Blue by ADT system included ADT-branded cameras, which to be honest, aren’t as great as Google Nest Cams.
Other than those, Self Setup and Blue by ADT are pretty similar. You could say that the former is a rebranding of the latter, but having tested both systems, we know that the Self Setup is so much more (more on that later).
With ADT Self Setup, you can select from two systems — Starter and Premium — or build your own system from the ground up. Let’s break down the first two, and then we’ll talk about the third option in depth.
|ADT Self Setup kit
|Smart home hub
|Door and window sensors
|ADT yard sign
|ADT window stickers
|Google Nest Doorbell
|Google Nest Hub
|Pro monitoring cost
|Starting at $24.99 per month
|$34.99 per month
Now wait a minute. The only difference between the Starter and Premium package is the addition of a Google Nest Hub? That’s right, and it actually makes sense. That piece of equipment retails for $99.99, which is the exact difference between the two packages.
Really, though, the “packages” are a bit of a misnomer. They’re actually just suggested starting points, and you’re encouraged to add additional equipment to either of them. You could technically build a Premium package from a Starter just by clicking “add” on the Nest Hub. We’re not sure why ADT chose to do things this way, but we’re sure their marketing team had a reason.
Self Setup’s pricing is more budget-friendly than ADT’s pricing for its traditional security system. It’s more or less on par with SimpliSafe, one of the most affordable systems we’ve tested. A SimpliSafe system with four entry sensors, two motion sensors, and one video doorbell costs $498, not too far off from the Starter package with the same pieces of equipment. This goes to show that Self Setup is a strong entry from ADT to the DIY market, at least in terms of price.
Pro Tip: If you’re interested, both the Starter and Premium packages are 30-percent off right now, bringing down their prices to $335.97 and $405.96, respectively.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the third option: customizing your own system.
From our years of experience testing DIY security systems, we know that the best way to protect your home is to customize a security system tailored to your specific needs. And to do that, it’s typically best to build a security system from scratch rather than relying on pre-customized packages.
You can do just that with the ADT Self Setup, and below is the price list of available equipment. That being said, there’s a $194.98 required initial cost, which covers the price of the ADT Smart Home Hub and one entry sensor. This is, once again, par for the course for DIY systems. The build your own package option from SimpliSafe, for instance, starts at $199.98, which has one base station and one keypad included.
|Google Nest Cam
|Google Nest Doorbell
|Google Nest Cam Indoor
|Door and window sensor
|Flood and temperature sensor
|Google Nest Wi-Fi router
|Google Nest Mini
|Google Nest Hub
|Google Nest Hub Max
|Google Nest Thermostat
|ADT yard sign
|ADT sticker pack (4)
|Nest cam weatherproof cable
|Extended Nest cam weatherproof cable
|Trim kit for Nest Thermostat
|Door and window sensor spacer (4)
At first glance, that seems to be a pretty comprehensive list of equipment. However, having tested dozens of DIY security systems from popular brands like SimpliSafe or Ring Alarm to lesser-known ones like Cove, we find ADT Self Setup’s equipment options a little disappointing for three reasons.
The use of Google Products itself isn’t a drawback at all. As you may know from our review of Google’s cameras, they’re great pieces of equipment. In many ways, the Google Nest and ADT partnership is beneficial to customers. It’s pretty much like the relationship between the Ring Alarm system reviewed and Ring security cameras. You can monitor, view, and control Google Nest cameras using the same app you use to monitor the Self Setup system, called the ADT+ app. You can even use advanced features like Familiar Face Alerts.
Our gripe with this arrangement has to do with the pricing. With Ring, you get discounts if you bundle the Ring Alarm with a Ring security camera or doorbell. With the Self Setup, you’ll still pay retail costs for the Google products you add to your package.
Thankfully, a Nest Aware subscription is included in the $34.99 Self Setup monitoring package. That means advanced features and cloud recording will be automatically added to your Google Nest cameras without having to pay Google another subscription fee.
FYI: Google Nest hasn’t been around all that long — a little under 10 years.2 During that time, though, it has grown to be one of the biggest names in the DIY home security industry.
The good news is you won’t have to have multiple apps to control the equipment in your package. The ADT+ app has native controls for Google Nest equipment, so you’ll be able to monitor your video feeds and check notifications all from one place. That’s definitely a step in the right direction.
We’re not exactly blown away by our options. When you take away the Google equipment and accessories such as signs and cables, there are really only five pieces of equipment to choose from. That doesn’t feel comprehensive, especially when you consider the galaxy of security equipment under the ADT umbrella. We understand that this list of equipment is what the company considers do-it-yourself-able, but we still would have appreciated some more options.
This circles back to the Google products. If we look at Self Setup’s pricing for its own equipment, it’s pretty affordable. An entry sensor costs $14.99, while a motion sensor costs $24.99. With SimpliSafe, for instance, an entry sensor costs the same, but a motion sensor costs $34.99. That means the Self Setup is affordable if you’re sticking with just the basic sensors. For instance, if you live in an apartment and don’t need outdoor or front door video monitoring.
Pro Tip: Speaking of apartments, we’ve created a rundown of the best security systems for apartments if you’re not completely sold on ADT Self Setup.
The cost starts to balloon up, however, if you add in security cameras and other smart equipment. Google Nest cameras are known for being not-so-affordable. They’re mid- to high-end in terms of security camera pricing. Without partnership discounts, you may end up paying more with ADT Self Setup than a cheaper security camera provider like Ring Alarm or SimpliSafe.
To demonstrate the difference, here’s how much a system with one doorbell, one indoor camera, one outdoor camera, one keypad, two motion sensors, and four entry sensors costs from each provider.
|ADT Self Setup
Pro Tip: If you’re looking for inexpensive security equipment, you may want to read our guide to the most affordable home security systems in the industry. With one of those systems, you’ll really be able to stretch your security dollar as far as it can go.
To be fair, that’s just the equipment costs. When you go with ADT, you’ll also receive professional monitoring from one of the best names in the business. We named ADT the best home security system with home monitoring this year. So let’s talk about what that entails.
ADT is one of the largest security providers in North America, servicing nearly 6.5 million subscribers.3 It makes sense that its home monitoring is among the best we’ve seen. ADT’s Self Setup system works on the company’s SMART Monitoring platform, which electronically connects you to the police eight times faster than traditional voice. In the event of a break-in, you and your family will be covered.
The secure text platform allows you to manage alerts, requesting police assistance or labeling it a false alarm. This makes alert management a little easier, especially if you’re living with family members. It coordinates your alarm response with the rest of the family, eliminating confusion during potential emergencies.
There’s also a one-tap emergency-request button in case you or a family member is in an emergency and needs immediate help. ADT says it handles more than 95 percent of its critical alarms within 60 seconds, which means help will get to you a lot faster than if you were on your own.
Pro Tip: When you’re talking about monitoring, you’re talking about contracts. If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, check out our list of the best no-contract home security systems and protect your property without bringing ink and paper into the equation.
In that respect, this security system does exactly what you want a security system to do: alert the authorities quickly if there is a break-in and send help as quickly as possible. Is that enough to make the ADT Self Setup system worth it?
Overall, we rate ADT Self Setup with a SecureScore of 8.6 out of 10. That’s its score in five crucial metrics:
ADT is a great security company, and it’s really difficult to go wrong with any of its systems. Its equipment is high quality, and its monitoring is superb. It really is the Cadillac of home security. That was true 100 years ago, and it’s still true today.
That said, not everyone wants a Cadillac. Some people want a Jeep, and if you stick a Jeep owner in a Cadillac, they’ll wonder what all those buttons do and why you can’t take the thing off road.
OK, that’s not a perfect analogy, but we think you get the point. If you’re looking for a DIY home security system, you’ll be looking for things such as inexpensive options, tons of flexibility, self-monitoring plans, and reasons to break out the power tools. Is ADT Self Setup a solid system for protecting your family? Sure. But is it one of the best DIY home security systems? We don’t really think so.
It’s not DIY in every sense of the word, but ADT’s Self Setup systems are the closest thing the provider offers to a do-it-yourself option.
There are affordable options available from ADT, but it is one of the pricier home security providers in the industry.
Yes, ADT Self Setup systems require professional monitoring. The packages start at $24.99 per month.
One of the best things about ADT Self Setup is that it’s customizable, meaning you will be able to select the equipment appropriate for your security needs. Outfitting a modest single-family home with one of these systems will likely cost between $500 and $700.
ADT has been around for over a century, and it is one of the largest security providers in North America. It has a great reputation in the security industry, and its monitoring data demonstrates some of the fastest response times available.
ADT. (2023). Our History.
Encyclopedia. (2022, Nov 9). Google Home.
Statista. (2022, Apr). Vendors of electronic security systems and services in the United States ranked by number of subscribers from 2015 to 2021.