Home security systems come in a wide assortment of what I call “flavors.” You can spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars on a system, or you can go budget-savvy and spend just a couple hundred dollars.
Let’s explore some of the options that you have available to you, as far as what you can install or have professionally installed for you, and who you can contract with for those installations. According to the FBI, there were more than two million home burglaries in the United States in 2009, the last year for which data is available.
Spare-No-Expense Home Security Systems
The panic room, or safe room, is a perfect example of “spare-no-expense” home security systems that will keep your family safe if someone breaks into your house. If you’ve seen the movie by the same name, you have an idea of what this kind of solution entails. You’ve got a room that’s basically bulletproof and completely secure, once you and your family are in it. And you’ll be able to call for help. Gaffco is one of the nation’s premier builders of panic rooms. Their sales and installation people will walk you through the process of determining exactly what your needs are and how they can meet those needs.
Along with the safe room, top-tier home security will include a full-featured closed circuit television system, with motion-activated digital video recording and low-light capable cameras. You’ll be able to customize the motion-activation, so that if you have pets, they won’t activate it. For added security, these cameras can have their signals piped across the Internet to your office. You can even have it sent to a remote monitoring station, when the system is armed.
You’ll also need a way to control access and alert you and the authorities when unauthorized access (a break-in) has occurred. Some of the more expensive systems are controlled by key, keypad, magnetic card key, or even biometrics. We’re talking fingerprint and retinal scanning here. No worries about stolen or forgotten codes or keys. You’ll have door and window locks that are electro-magnetically controlled. With these types of systems, you can grant access to certain areas and restrict it from other areas.
Since motion detectors are easily defeated, these top-tier systems will use ultra-low power lasers to detect movement within protected areas. These will project invisible beams of light between the laser and a sensor. When the beam is broken, the alarm will sound. Depending on the area being protected, your system may have one per room, or may have several at different heights.
Mid-Range Home Security Systems
Not everyone needs or can afford a safe room in their house, but they still want the peace of mind of knowing that their house is safe, whether they’re home or away. This is where companies like ADT and XFINITY Home come in. For a few hundred dollars, they can install an alarm system that will include monitoring of all likely access points, as well as central monitoring of your system. For a little more, with ADT, you can also add fire and carbon monoxide monitoring to your system, so you can sleep peacefully at night knowing that someone’s watching out for your family’s health and well-being.
With an ADT system, you’ll have a central control pad from which you can arm and disarm your system, as well as a pendant/key fob similar to your car alarm’s remote control. Every door and window that is accessible will have magnetic switches mounted that connect to the main control panel. Large common areas, such as living and dining rooms will have ultrasonic motion detectors. These are similar to very low power radar sets, sending out radio waves into the room. When the pattern is disrupted, the switch is set and the alarm activates.
You can also add video surveillance to your home security systems for that added level of peace of mind, like when you take the wife out for dinner and a movie and leave the children in the care of a babysitter. Cameras can be placed conspicuously, so everyone knows they may be being recorded, or inconspicuously, so you can see how everyone acts when they think they’re alone.
For the Do-It-Yourselfer
Companies like Radio Shack and Fry’s Electronics carry a full range of home security products. These run the gamut from a small device you hook over a doorknob that will emit a shrill siren when the doorknob is touched from the opposite side, to complete home security systems.
With the complete systems, you have your choice of sensors that are hard-wired, radio frequency, and a combination of the two. If you don’t want to crawl around in attics or crawlspaces or open walls to run wires, radio frequency is your best bet. Except professional burglars might have equipment to confuse this type of sensor.
Most complete systems will include a control pad and a central processing unit. The pad can be mounted on a wall outside a closet, with the processor being mounted on the wall inside the closet behind the pad. This cuts down on the amount of cutting into the wall that will need to be done. For added peace of mind, you can add an auto-dialer that will call 911 for you in the event of an alarm being tripped.
Before you make a buying decision, I heartily recommend that all or both decision-makers sit down and decide on a budget and the level of security they want or need. Then contact a few of the local installation contractors near you and have them tell and show you what they think. This way you can make the most informed decision possible.