Abode: Self-Installed Security for your Home

Abode: Self-Installed Security for your Home

My family has always liked the idea of having an alarm system.  Not because we live in a bad neighborhood, but simply for peace of mind.  Since this was a “want” and not a “need” we never wanted to pay the high monthly fees from the big alarm companies.  Being a tech-oriented person, I quickly became interested in the ever-growing array of self-install DIY solutions that have recently hit the market.  After doing a lot of research, the decision came down to two products.  Abode and SimpliSafe.  There is a lot to like about SimpliSafe, but one thing continued to bother me – their wireless traffic is not encrypted, leaving it open to a possible relay attack.  Unlikely? Yes… but why chance it?  We researched Scout as well, but their sensor design (huge) was a turnoff.  Enter Abode.

I want to stress that our family purchased this system outright and we were not in any way compensated or influenced by Abode or any other company.

Not only is Abode a full-fledged alarm system, it also acts as a home automation hub, opening a world of possibilities for your home while even integrating with the Amazon Echo, but we’ll discuss that a bit later.  You can opt for professional monitoring if you’d like, but even more interesting is that you don’t have to sign a contract or even pay for an entire month at a time.  Going out of town?  Simply pay for short-term monitoring while you’re gone.  Cellular backup is also a paid option, either included in the top-tier monitoring plan or paid separately.  You’ll want to make sure your system has connectivity, even if your primary internet connection is down, so cellular backup is a good idea.

Abode Starter Kit

What is it and what does it do?

When you decide to purchase an Abode system, you’ll begin by buying the starter pack.  It includes the security gateway, a motion detector with integrated wide-angle camera, a key fob, and two door/window sensors.  It would have been nice to see it include a couple more sensors, but this will get you going.  I don’t feel like you have to be a technical person to install this system at all.  Plug the gateway into power and connect the wired Ethernet port to your router or switch.  The instructions are straight-forward but their support team will gladly help if you have any issues.  Once the system is talking, you’ll run through the wizard on their website to name the included sensors.  Naming is important – giving detailed names will allow you to know which sensor is tripped when the alarm is triggered, among other things. 

Install the sensors with the included double-sided tape and bingo!  You’re done.  You’ll almost certainly want to setup the companion app on your phone – it is compatible with both iPhone and Android and this is most likely the way you’ll interface with the system the most.  Integrating mobile devices also opens up the opportunity to use your location as part of the automations.

Some basic installation thoughts: Clean your surfaces well before applying the tape. The last thing you want is for your door sensor to fall off and have the alarm activate in the middle of the night when your kids are sleeping!  If you are sticking the sensors to a painted surface that you don’t want to destroy, consider using [3M Command Tape].  The system can move from house to house with you and the tape will make sure you can easily accomplish that.  The siren is part of the gateway, so make sure it is tucked out of the way but still in a place it will be heard.  To be honest, I don't believe the built-in siren is loud enough, so you'll want to consider an additional siren if your home is of a decent size.


Now that we’ve discussed the basic install, you might be wondering what else you can add to the system.  Abode sells numerous devices that will seamlessly integrate.  We purchased keypads, an extra fob, leak detection sensors, acoustic glass break sensors, a system status indicator, and many door/window sensors to complete the package.  Other options that we haven’t tested are an indoor streaming Wi-Fi camera, an occupancy sensor, a ZigBee power outlet, add-on siren, and temperature/humidity/light sensor. 

Being Nest Camera users already, we like the level of integration between the products.  Abode carries the “Works with Nest” certification and although that doesn’t allow a company such as Abode to live-stream, you will see images when the alarm is activated and can use motion detection to set home and away modes.  The Nest Protect smoke/carbon monoxide detectors alert you and allow you to notify the authorities with the push of a button if you deem the situation a real emergency.  Google/Nest does not allow that process to happen automatically.  Overall, if you use both systems, the integration is well thought out and useful.


Let’s talk about the devices we have experience with.  All are completely wireless with a massive range.  Battery life is exceptional and you can expect 5+ years out of most devices.  Plus, changing the battery is easy once you need to. 

  • The keypads stick to the wall and provide a way to check the alarm status, arm/disarm with codes you can set in the web console, and give you the ability to trigger the alarm.  Triggering isn’t 100% intuitive, as you need to press a two-button combination.
  • The door/window sensors were extremely easy to install and work exactly as you'd expect.
  • The wide-angle camera is a great indoor option for those who don't feel comfortable with a live video feed inside their home.  This camera only takes pictures when the alarm is triggered and the bright LED flash turns on at the same time so it is very obvious that it is doing so.
  • The leak detection sensors do what you’d expect and they trigger the alarm if water flows beneath them.  We put one in our water heater drain pan so we’ll be alerted if a leak occurs.
  • The fobs aren’t amazing.  They work but are bulky and the buttons have non-intuitive symbols on them.
  • The acoustic glass break sensor has three sensitivity levels.  We have had a couple of false alarms (kids screaming, dishes clanking) but with the latest software update they can be disabled in standby mode.
  • The status indicator blinks when the system is armed and nothing more.  A nice feature, but possibly too bright to mount in the house.  It almost gives a strobe effect in the dark. 
  • There are many Z-Wave and ZigBee third-party sensors, outlets, light bulbs, etc. that work natively with Abode, but even more can be used via IFTTT.

Automations and Quick Actions

What exactly is IFTTT you might ask?  Short for “If This Then That,” it is a piece of software (free) that allows you to setup actions and/or automations with other products.  Want Abode to automatically arm at a certain time?  Use the corresponding IFTTT applet.  Want to flash your connected light bulbs if the alarm is activated?  IFTTT… you can even turn your lights on at dusk and off at dawn if you’d like using IFTTT.  Check out the IFTTT Abode channel to see what is possible.

Automations can be location-based via your mobile device(s) as well.  Want to arm your alarm when your cell phone leaves a certain geofenced area?  It will do it.  The automations also allow you to trigger an action with a compatible device.  You can open your garage door when you arrive home, unlock your doors, etc.  Quick Actions can be easily setup as well.  Want to turn your connected lights on?  Just trigger the quick action via the app or Amazon Echo and you’re set.

Push notifications and email notifications are almost instant and Abode allows each authorized person in your household to set their own notification preferences.  You can even be alerted each time someone opens or closes a door or window if you’d like.  We have zero complaints about the way notifications work.

Should I buy Abode?

Sure, all of these features sound great, but this is a fairly new market segment and the companies still have a lot to prove.  So far, Abode has been adding new features on a regular basis and there is quite a bit of evidence that they listen closely to customer feedback.  Support is key and they seem to be doing a good job.  There is also an active subreddit [] where you can get help, make feature requests, and see ideas of how others are using the product.

Something to be aware of: Abode recently altered their return policy.  You now have only 14 calendar days to return the product and you will be possibly charged a 15% restocking fee if you find you just don’t want the product (note, defects are covered under warranty).  We ordered directly from Abode.  However, Amazon does carry some of the components, including the starter kit, and it would be worth it to consider ordering from them due to the improved return policy.  You’ll still find that you must go directly to Abode for some sensors and add-ons, however.

I hope this information proves helpful in deciding which DIY security system to purchase.  We have been very happy with Abode and feel the pros outweigh the cons.  Please feel free to contact me or leave a comment with any questions, or even just to let us know which system you end up getting.  Thank you for reading!


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Posted by The Efficient Dad in Reviews, 2 comments