Napco sounds alarm over DIY security systems

March 24, 2015
Company's CEO discusses common pitfalls associated with consumer-installed solutions

As the demand for connected devices within the residential market has increased with the rise of the smart home in recent years, there has also been increased interest on the part of consumers in do-it-yourself security systems. From small startups to tech giants like Google, which doled out more than $3.5 billion last year to acquire Nest and Dropcam, everyone is rushing to grab a piece of this burgeoning market. In fact, according to a recent report from IHS, the DIY video surveillance equipment market topped $1 billion for the first time in 2014.

However, according to Napco Security Systems Chairman and CEO Richard Soloway, something that is commonly lost in the hype surrounding the market potential of DIY home security products are the potential risks they pose to consumers. Soloway said that one of the primary pitfalls of purchasing consumer grade security equipment is that it can be unreliable.    

“The first risk is that many of these products are made by consumer electronics companies that don’t have experience in making professional alarm equipment, which is supposed to operate under all kinds of adverse conditions without missing a beat. For instance, when there are incidents of transients coming in over the AC line… these types of consumer electronics systems fail,” explained Soloway.  “You could be out of your house and you could have a fire, burglary or someone is home and they push the medical panic button and they find out that the system doesn’t function because it has to be rebooted. That is a no-no in security and people are not aware of that.”

Additionally, Soloway said that the components in these consumer grade products not built to the same standard of quality that professional products are, which can also lead to system failure at critical times.

“The quality of industrial grade components have to withstand 24/7 operation year in and year out without going bad. Consumer electronic systems typically last for a couple of years and then they start to default or not work properly,” he said. “You can’t have that in professional security equipment. It must function all the time, perfectly.  That is what we do. Consumers don’t know this because when they see the word ‘security’ on a box they think, ‘well, security is the same,’ but it is not.”

Even though many people may think that installing a DIY alarm system or security camera is foolproof with today’s technology, Soloway said that’s simply not the case which is why he recommends that home and business owners enlist the help of an experienced installer.

“(The consumer) doesn’t know exactly where to place the sensors or the cameras so that they function every single time the system has to operate. Sometimes they’ll work, sometimes they won’t,” added Soloway. “If the gap between a magnet and the sensor that the magnet is operating is too big or off center by an eighth of an inch, the unit won’t work all of the time when somebody tries to break through a window. You are putting yourself in jeopardy when you put in a do-it-yourself (system) because you don’t know the details of installation.”

The challenge for dealers, according to Soloway, is to educate consumers about the benefits of having a professionally installed and monitored system, which is also something that Napco is dedicated to.

“Dealers have always said you need professional monitoring and a professionally installed system, but they haven’t been that vocal about it. I think it will become more apparent to people as dealers talk about it. We want to be a leader in this space and make the industry talk about it, so people don’t get lulled into a false sense of security,” he said. “Dealers have to be vocal with homeowners’ associations and they have to talk to their local press about it so that consumers out there are really knowledgeable about the detrimental effects of DIY systems.”

Although he’s not opposed to all forms of DIY solutions, such as those that primarily control various home automation devices, Soloway believes consumer-installed systems related to fire and life safety within the home are a potential tragedy waiting to happen.

“If you are talking about a DIY system where you have timers on your lights and you plug it into the wall and you set it… that’s not life safety. That is different from having a fire alarm, burglar alarm or a medical alarm that is not installed professionally. That is very dangerous and detrimental to consumers’ health,” he said.  

Also, just because a system is professionally installed doesn’t mean it has to be expensive or cannot be put up in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.

“You can get alarm companies to put in wireless, professional alarm systems that do not leave any holes in the wall, but it is professionally installed and sensors are put in the right place.  For example, a fire detector should not be put in a corner where it can’t read as well. Professional alarm installers know not to do that because smoke is delayed in getting to it. The local alarm company can put one in and do it inexpensively and with equipment that is built to last,” concluded Soloway. 

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.