Considering ST as a budget alarm system but have some questions

Looking for a budget alarm system for an apartment without monthly fee for monitoring with the ability for cloud-based camera set-up (or something similar so no memory card is being used).

I’m on a budget and just need to basic system (door sensor, motion sensor, a few outlets). I don’t know if I want to go with a siren (concerned about false alarms setting off siren when I’m not at home and causing a nuisance) or just have some speakers blast music and turn on lights, etc.

If there a reliability difference between going with the ST home monitoring kit or purchasing the sensors separately? What’s a good, inexpensive brand for sensors, outlets?


That’s a lot of different questions! With a lot of different answers. :wink:

First of all, outlets are not usually part of a home monitoring system, that’s mixing home automation with home security. So it complicates the answers.

Second, “good“ and “inexpensive“ are usually two different things. So you need to be a little more specific about what you mean by both of those. There are devices which are pretty good given how inexpensive they are. And devices which are good but cost significantly more than the cheap ones.

Most people who want some kind of home security put reliability as their top priority. Once you do that, the cost of individual devices generally goes up.

Smartthings Itself is primarily a cloud-based system. There are a few things that run locally, but not really very much. And probably a lot less than you expect. Just as an example, if you get the Samsung SmartThings Hub And the smartthings cloud is not available, either because it is down or because your Internet is not working, then The mobile app won’t work at all and you won’t be able to either arm/disarm any of the security features.

The much better alternative if you are looking for a security system (and the one you will find if you follow any of the links labeled “security” on the smartthings site) is the dual logo ADT/smartthings security panel. That system has a lot more stuff that can run locally, and also has cellular communications so It can send you notifications even if your Internet is out. But you have to use its own dual logo sensors with it. And that system costs more than the basic smartthings home automation system.

Anyway, you put all of that together, and we would really need to know more about your own priorities before we can answer the questions you raised.

If you primarily want a security system, even a self monitored one, then you should really be looking at the ADT/smart things security panel and comparing it with other low-cost security systems like Abode, Simplisafe, Scout, etc.

If you want to spend as little money as possible and you’re OK with a cloud-based system with less reliability, then we can talk about options using the Samsung smartthings hub. :sunglasses:

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I think you’d be happy with Arlo. It has free 7 day cloud storage for up to 5 cameras, and a siren. It’s going to cost you a couple hundred bucks, but they work well. No need for a door sensor, just point your camera at the door. The camera can trigger off of motion or sound. At a future date if you want to add smartthings, along with other smart sensors you can. Arlo integrates with smartthings pretty well. I’ve got a 5 camera system and am really happy with my purchase.
2 camera system 379
1 camera system 234

Arlo Pro by NETGEAR Security System with Siren – 2 Rechargeable Wire-Free HD Cameras with Audio, Indoor/Outdoor, Night Vision (VMS4230)

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Thanks, I’ll look into this. Is there a reason why I wouldn’t choose smart things as primarily a budget security system? Arlo is a little more expensive. I like the that I can automate things such as lighting with ST in conjunction with the security system.

thanks for the comments. Any reason why I wouldn’t choose ST as a security system? I’m not too concerned about reliability (just don’t want false alarms reoccurring frequently) as I’m just looking for something to send an alarm when a breach occurs (system to act as a deterrent). I think ADT will be a bit too expensive for my budget.

SmartThings “Smart Home Monitor” (SHM) is what I use as my budget security system. I know it has reliability issues and I deal with false alarms. I have original Arlo system too and they both have false alarm issues from my experience. I’ve never used a “real” alarm system but I imagine the trade-off is remembering to arm it every time you leave and having to type in your PIN within so many seconds every time you return. SmartThings hub/SHM does not have a delayed entry PIN type device.

If you are single or everyone have phones you could use cellphone based presence to arm/disarm (it has reliability issues though too). I try to use schedules and the SmartThings Routines to arm/disarm but still not perfect. I got a siren with one of my GoControl kits but don’t have it activate automatically because I don’t want to be nuisance as you described. I could turn it on manually if I knew there was a real breakin.

Regarding the kit vs 3rd party sensors… I generally have stuck with 3rd party (GoControl brand) z-wave sensors and they are very reliable for me (SmartThings branded sensors use Zigbee). I was fortunate to get most of my sensors on clearances at HomeDepot & Lowes. There is a deals group here that I check daily for sales/clearances. Monoprice has some decent z-wave sensor&outlet prices especially if you wait for their sales.

For $170 you could get started…
ST hub $85
Monoprice door sensor $21
Monoprice motion sensor $21
Sengled smart bulb $10
Cheap WiFi camera $30

Then watch for sales and get addicted like the rest of us :wink:


I only have a door and patio door to deal with. Any reason why I would be getting false alarms with an Arlo system? I think combining it with the SHM wouldn’t make sense for me since I don’t really plan on using automation that much. If I wanted to put a light on timer I could just use a programmable timer since that’s about the only think I would consider using the ST system for.

The two biggest reliability issues you will have with a ST based security system is there are occasionally outages. During these times, the alarm will not function. Worse, is when you get home, you have no way to disarm your home. I am running my ST as an alarm without siren and without monitoring as a test. For one, I am troubleshooting/debugging the system as I go. Secondly, I am looking to see how often and how to mitigate these reliability issues.

I currently have a full fledged alarm, complete with $20/mo monitoring and $28/mo phone. My goal is to consolidate this using SmartThings. Since I am starting with a wired system, I have a few options that are discoverable herein this community. Since you are starting from scratch, you have more options, especially with wireless.

And finally regarding wireless sensors. I can appreciate you wanting to go in with as little cost up front - very wise. Just know that both z-wave and zigbee protocols rely on a good stable mesh to operate, so you will want a minimum number of “devices” plugged in that can relay this signals properly. Does not seem like your place is too big. I have a thread elsewhere in this community and I think we settled on a minimum of one device per room or at least for every 5 sensors. Iris makes a plug that will repeat both zigbee and z-wave, so actually cost competitive if you appreciate that it repeats both protocols.

I do NOT recommend the ST/ADT route. Looks like you already dismissed it, but it has a lot of severe limitations not really discussed here.

Good luck with your project!

I think you’d be happy with just the Arlo, they are kinda pricey, but they will do everything you are looking to do, and if you mount them inside, there would be virtually zero false alarms. There is nothing more satisfying than going live on one of my camera and seeing everything is ok. And later down the road the addiction will kick in and you’ll be adding more things.

Your goal is deterrence and if you are ok with the limits as described above (outages primarily) then ST is fine for you. A contact sensor at each door and a motion sensor outside are my recommendations. Turn lights on when motion is detected and the system is armed. Sound the alarm if the contacts are breached and the system is armed. You can automatically arm and disarm using presence sensors, Life360 is a free app that you can take advantage of without buying hardware sensors. This cuts down on the false alarms caused by you coming home and not disarming. With webcore you can code to eliminate false alarms going the other way, when you open the door from the inside and forget the system is armed. These are just my opinions, but they work for me. Like you, I am only interested in the simplest deterrence, a motivated criminal is going to get in no matter what you do. And like you I hate false alarms so I’ve all but eliminated them.

Here is my setup:

  • Arlo Pro for camera monitoring
  • Hue for Lights
  • Samsung multipurpose sensors to check if windows are open or closed
  • ST as the “brain” of the system
  • UPS in case of electric problem
  • 4G modem as an automatic backup if my internet is down

When the security is Armed, ST enable Arlo pro cameras. If a camera detects something it send me a notification and a text and it starts recording. If a sensor is triggered, the same happens. My siren doesn’t sound automatically because I wanted to be able to first verify with the Arlo camera, talk to the guy throught the speaker, saying that he has been detected and recorded then trigger the siren.

Hope it helps :slight_smile:

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As someone mentioned if your arlos are inside you probably won’t get false alarms. When I think of arlo I think battery powered outside though; inside probably don’t need the battery. I guess its really just tweaking the settings of arlo. There is a tradeoff with sensitivity… Too sensitive you can get false alarms, not sensitive enough and the motion sensor might not trigger the recording quick enough (the intruder could be out of of view of the camera when it starts).

As I think about it more, I’m probably not getting false alarms from arlo very often. It’s actually false alarms from SmartThings triggering arlo recordings.

SHM is the “security system” of the regular SmartThings hub & application. It allows you to arm-home or arm-away and have different sensors activated. If they are triggered then SHM will notify you via app/text or optionally turn on lights, alarms, cameras, etc.

In my case I don’t use SHM with my outdoor Arlos as when they are activated no intrusion has yet occurred. I use my routines to set the cameras into standby or enabled and use custom rules to actually record the video and notify me. I also use other outside motion sensors to trigger the recordings a little earlier than the camera would to offset any lag. I don’t want the mailman or delivery driver to set off an intrusion alert that I must then go and dismiss. I just want a notification and a recorded video to let me know what was going on.


Hi Jay

You have given this a proper thought and have set things as I would also want to.

I am looking to see if I can integrate a component that makes a phone call somehow using whatever automation/device.

Some kind of a device connected to ST that triggers a normal phone call with just simple word “alarm” would be fine. I don’t mind sticking a cheap sim card with like a £5 per month plan. A phone call method of notification means you get notified even if your Internet is down.

Also, how do you get a normal txt message in your setup?