LifeShield: Another DIY Home Security System

by dave

Another DIY Home Security SystemI want to tell you about one of the systems Iʼll consider for my apartment security: LifeShield.

A little while back, I reported on another (Simplisafe).

The types Iʼm looking at—because Iʼm in an apartment (which also make great “starter” systems for first-time homeowners)—are “all-in-one”, or DIY home security systems.

By the way, Iʼm in the middle of a 2-part series on the podcast on wireless, all-in-one systems. Hereʼs part 1 for you to check out.

I want a system thatʼs primarily wireless, because I doubt my landlord would appreciate me drilling holes in his walls and running wires all over the place.

I want to be able to take it with me when I eventually move. I want something I can do myself. I donʼt need a big name alarm system company to tell me how itʼs going to be.

LifeShield

Where SimpliSafe seems to be all about simplicity of, well…, everything, LifeShield seems to be about options and providing thorough, customized protection.

Theyʼve got a wider selection of sensor types and devices. Theyʼve got more ways to monitor your system.

Theyʼve also got a lot more decisions for you to make and a more-complex setup process.

What I like

This DIY home security system appears to be just as portable as SimpliSafeʼs. Mounting of many (or maybe all…I canʼt tell from their web site) components can be done with adhesive (great for renters). Some components can also be more permanently mounted, which ought to please homeowners.

As with any portable, all-in-one system, it can be a lot easier for a burglar to disable the system by going for the base unit. LifeShield thought of this and built in redundant ways for your system to summon help if a burglar tries to take out the system.

LifeShield allows for cameras to be integrated into your system (for an extra charge, of course). And only their cameras will work, so forget about using your own webcams as part of this system.

The system connects via your internet service, allowing monitoring by internet and VOIP. What confuses me, however, is that it not only requires high-speed internet access to work (even when monitoring by phone), but it insists that it be a hardwired connection.

So, while I have wireless internet throughout my apartment that could be utilized, their system would insist instead on connecting directly to my DSL jack. Maybe this makes sense somehow, but from the limited information on their web site, I couldnʼt figure out why. It just comes across as confusing and a bit annoying.

In another example of confusing internet connections, the cameras they offer are touted as being wireless, but the online manual shows them needing to be hooked up with ethernet cables. Thereʼs no way Iʼm running ethernet cables all over the place, especially in an apartment.

Letʼs take a closer look…

Iʼd like to point out a few details about the system.

Sensors and components

LifeShield offers a wide range of sensor types, all of them wireless.

You can get

  • door & window sensors
  • glass break sensors
  • pet-immune motion sensors
  • temperature & water sensors (not so much for burglaries, but keeping an eye on your place while away)
  • cameras
  • fire/smoke sensors (they offer both heat/smoke detectors that integrate into the system as well as “siren detectors” that listen for your existing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and then report back to the system).

They offer no dedicated Panic button, except as integrating “panic” into their other devices, such as keychain remotes, the console/keyboard and their handset (which can also be used as a cordless telephone—for those of you who still have landlines).

Basic packages

They offer two kits, one for apartments and small homes and another for “average to larger homes”.

The smaller kit includes a base unit, console, handset, 3 sensors (I assume this means door/window sensors), a yard sign and window stickers.

The larger kit is the same, except that it includes 8 sensors and “grid extender” (more on that in a bit).

Expandability

Additional components can be added, up to a total of 50 sensors. This should be sufficient for almost any installation.

Monitoring options, including internet!

LifeShield gives you the choice to self-monitor or to have them monitor. Both cost money.

Both offer the ability to check up on and control your system via internet or mobile phone (including via smartphone apps!) and provide email and text messages to keep you informed on activity at home.

They offer monitoring by landline, VOIP, internet, and cellular (which, unlike SimpliSafeʼs, is not included for free).

They also offer a “grid extender”. This clever little device is a backup connection between your system and the monitoring center.

Itʼs small, so it can be semi-hidden and can be placed anywhere in wireless range (even your neighborʼs home). When it senses (wirelessly) trouble in the system, it will and connect to the monitoring service (by landline phone only) when other methods donʼt work.

Monitoring plans

Their monitoring plans are no-contract, a most-welcome feature.

To self-monitor, you must sign up for their “personal monitoring” plan, which is $20 a month. Their “professional” monitoring plan is $30.

Both include still camera and video support, but if you want live video, thatʼs an extra $6 per month.

And a cellular connection is still more. You first have to buy their cellular gateway (which is not cheap) and then pay another $8 per month!

What this would all mean to me

LifeShield provides all the service I could get from SimpliSafe and then some. So itʼs definitely worthy of being included on my “short list” of systems Iʼll consider.

To have a point of comparison, letʼs take a look at what it would cost to get the same level of coverage that SimpliSafe provides and then Iʼll also see what it would cost to take advantage of the extra capabilities.

First, just matching the level of protection Iʼd get from SimpliSafe…

Iʼd need 10 door & window sensors to cover entry points, so Iʼd probably want to start with their larger kit ($299–on sale) which includes 8 and then get two more ($25 each).

Iʼd previously said 5 motion sensors would adequately cover my rooms. Thatʼs another $625. For cellular monitoring, Iʼd need the cellular gateway, which is $200.

The kits normally donʼt include keychain remotes, but LifeShield seems to be running a promotion that includes one with the larger kit. Iʼll need at least one more. Tack on $35 (the sale price).

Iʼm looking at just under $1300, not including any monthly monitoring fees. SimpliSafe would be around $500.

And then adding the extra capabilities Iʼd like to have…

LifeShield offers extra features that Iʼd like to take advantage of:

  • Smoke & fire protection
  • Cameras

For smoke & fire, another promotion theyʼre running includes a siren detector (mentioned earlier) with the larger of the two kits. So Iʼm covered.

But for cameras, Iʼd need to pay $130 each.

Assuming I get two cameras, that would bring my total up to about $1500, still not including any monthly fees.

Yikes.

Summary

Again, Iʼll say this for LifeShield: they seem to offer a very comprehensive level of protection for your home or apartment, but it does come at a price.

That price may be reasonable for homeowners (although probably less so in todayʼs economy), but itʼs way out of reach for most apartment dwellers. Renters in large urban environments where apartments are more of a way of life than will be more amenable to such prices.

Nevertheless, it may be out of reach for many, except when choosing the most basic of options.

I think Iʼll have to carefully look at what I need vs whatʼs “nice to have” to try to get the price down significantly.

Of course, Iʼm still looking at other systems, primarily wireless DIY home security systems (because of being in an apartment). Iʼll report back to you on what looks promising and then make a decision on what Iʼll go with (at least on a trial basis— theyʼre portable, I can always sell it, right?)

Your thoughts?

I would love to hear from readers that have experience (good or bad) with LifeShield.

What are your impressions?

Please leave a comment—theyʼre always most appreciated!

© 2010, Safe At Home Security Guide: Do-it-yourself home and apartment security. All rights reserved.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

John Carrillo January 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I am a LifeShield subscriber (w/ Prof. Monitoring Service) and I can’t wait to tell you how much I love the system. I agree with you that the one-time setup cost could be high but the features are amazing.

***BIG BIG BIG TIP***: If you need extra Doors/Windows sensors, Motion sensors, and or Smoke/Fire Detectors, search on EBAY!!! The Motion Sensors and Smoke/Fire Detectors are simply Honeywell/Ademco-made universal sensors for many wireless alarm systems. Motion Sensors have P/N of 5894PI, and Smoke/Fire Sensors have P/N of 5808W3. I paid, on average, only $35 for each of those instead of $50+. Since I have 2 Smoke/Fire Sensors and 3 Motion Sensors at home, I only spent $175. Having said that, patience is your friend, coz you need to wait for those $35 deals on eBay.

I love the way that I can control & monitor my system remotely via PC and my cell phone, and the FULLY-customizable notification setup on ANY event occurrence. You can set up such that you will receive EMAIL and/or TXT for EVERY customized event until you feel annoyed by your own spams, LOL.

Reply

dave January 19, 2011 at 8:44 pm

John,

Thanks so much for this info!

I love hearing feedback from people on the solutions they’ve chosen. Hearing such a glowing review will definitely help me make my decision about which system to go with and will hopefully help others too.

I just finished recording two new podcast episodes where I compare LifeShield and SimpliSafe (they’ll come out over the next few weeks), so it’s too late to incorporate your feedback there, but I’d like to hear more about your satisfaction and even about how you came to choose it.

Thanks for the eBay tip too. What a great idea—definitely a great way to save some money.

Take care & thanks for reading,
dave

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Kim February 27, 2011 at 7:53 pm

From what I read, you only initially hook up the camera to get your WiFi. You don’t leave it hooked up; it’s wireless. :) Just like our wireless printer, we had to hook it up first to a wire connection then remove that once the connection is found. We have the system now and will be ordering the camera shortly. :)

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dave March 1, 2011 at 9:55 am

Thanks, Kim!

I guess I’ll have to trust their engineers for the wires being a necessary step. The important thing is that installation steps are clearly explained to their customers and are straightforward.

I’d love if you report back later on how the camera works out for you.

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Hannah September 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Hi,

Not sure why you figured on $1300 for Lifeshield. I got setup for $235 only. I got the base, the console, 13 sensors, 1 motion detector, and fire alarm. Guy gave me 1/2 price on the extra sensors. Also, 1st month free, then 3 months at $15.99, then on, it was $34 per month (included all fees and taxes). 1 year contract and $99 setup fee. Total price came to $235.

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Laura A. October 12, 2011 at 8:54 am

Hi,

I recently signed up with LifeShield and I got the whole rundown. First, LifeShield lets you lease most of the equipment – no up front costs. They have a few kits to choose from, depending on what you need, and you get a free equipment upgrade every 3 years. Also, since you are leasing the equipment, if anything breaks, they just send you a new device, free of charge . You only need to pay for extra sensors or components. (And if there is a device in the kit that you don’t need, they may let you swap it for a free extra sensor that you do need.) They have several communication options – internet, phone line, AND cellular, so unless you need the cellular option to be the MAIN communication (meaning you don’t have a good phone line or internet connection), you don’t need to pay for that either.

If you want a cellular backup as a Plan C – backup option, you can buy a small cellular unit, but I don’t think there are extra monthly fees beyond that. You only pay an extra monthly cellular fees if you use that as your primary means of communication.

You’ll love being able to get text messages notifying you of events, and being able to change your access codes from anywhere. Good Luck making your decision!

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Kim October 12, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Dave, I totally forgot to get back with you. We have the camera and it started out neat. We could go online and watch the videos. We still can but now we have to download the videos to watch them. Just an extra step but I liked how it worked before. Regardless, it’s rather neat and we like it. It only triggers when someone comes in the door so we have a lot of videos of the dogs jumping up on me or my husband but we still like it. No zombies at the door yet but I’m sure it’ll catch it if there is. :)

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Roy Fernandez April 2, 2012 at 7:46 am

I’ve had an incident and been reading through a few home security blogs. I need around 12 sensors, and I had ADT Alarms in mind. As John Carrillo said, I’ll hunt for them on ebay too.

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