Important Decisions on Home Security Systems


Home security systems come in a range of types with an even wider range of features and options. How do you figure out which is right for you and which is something you really don’t need?

Do you need pressure plates outside your first floor windows? What about glass breakage sensors?

I’m going to try to blow some of the fog away so you can make a more informed decision when it’s time for you to start making your home more secure.

Professionally Installed Versus Do-It-Yourself

There are a number of companies in the United States that specialize in installing home security systems. These companies can present you with a range of security solutions, ranging from entry-level systems that just protect main entry doors, up to full-featured systems that protect doors and windows, and have detection systems to alert you when people are walking around outside your house. ADT Systems and XFINITY Home are leaders in this field. We’ve even set up a list of 13 Facts About Home Security systems┬áthat might help you.

You can also visit stores such as Radio Shack and Fry’s Electronics and buy do-it-yourself home security systems. Some of these are quite basic, where all you have to do is mount a control panel and control module, then place radio frequency intrusion monitors on doors and windows.

There are other systems for the DIY-types, but you have to run wires to and from the panels, have loud sirens that mount on the outside of the house. Some even have auto-dialers to dial the police or fire emergency services when it detects an intrusion or fire.

If you’re the DIY-type, the decision to go wired or wireless is one of your biggest decisions. Do you want to open walls and crawl through basements and attics to run wires? Or would you rather stay clean and comfortable and not cut any holes in your walls or ceilings?

Wired sensors are more reliable and less prone to interference, but they take a bit more effort to install.

The next decision to make is whether you want video surveillance or not. This is something I’d choose with small children. You can have cameras inside and outside the house, monitoring the area around your home, as well as the children’s rooms and main rooms.

Nanny cam, anyone?

Home Security Systems Sensors

If you’re not the type that likes to do these types of projects yourself, the company you call to give you a quote on home security systems will tell you all about the various types of sensors available.

Home Security Systems
There are over 2 million burglaries in the U.S. every year, yet only about 17 percent of American homes have a security system.

Doors are the main points of entry for bad guys. There are two basic types of sensors here: indoor and exterior-mounted.

With the indoor sensors, a hole is drilled into the top or side of the door and the magnet part of the sensor is installed into this hole. The reed switch is then either mounted into the top or side of the door frame opposite the sensor, or on the outside of the frame, in-line with the magnet. Window opening sensors are the same way, except we usually install a second magnet to allow the window to be opened about four inches for ventilation.

Windows don’t have to be opened to become access points so most manufacturers make sensors that detect when the glass is cut or broken. These are known as “glass breakage sensors.” The old style consisted of metal foil that went around the edge of the window, but these were too easily bypassed. Now, they rely on the sound of the glass breaking to trigger the sensor, and they are normally mounted so that they can protect several windows at once.

Motion detectors come in two types:

  • Ultrasonic detectors: They detect the sound of a body moving through the protected area,
  • Motion detectors: They use a short-wave radar signal to detect movement in a protected area. These are normally installed to protect large areas with lots of valuables.

For those that want some forewarning that a bad person is outside the house, there are sensors placed in the ground. When stepped on, these pressure-plate switches close a contact and send a signal to the main control processor, usually causing the system to emit an audible chirp to alert the occupants of the house.

However, the processor can be set to cause the alarm to trigger, such as during the night when nobody should be prowling around outside your windows.

These are just some of the basic types of sensors and switches available for home security systems. The stores listed above can help you with the more esoteric switches and sensors they have available.

To Monitor or Not to Monitor

Home security systems monitoring is a big business these days. Companies, like ADT and XFINITY Home, that provide security system monitoring usually have roving patrol officers that get to your home quicker than the police when an alarm is triggered. The monitoring center will normally also call any numbers listed in your contract to verify the alarm and check on your condition, as they dispatch their security officers and the police.

How much this monitoring will cost depends on what company you choose and what level of monitoring you want. Services with security officers that get dispatched will obviously cost more than those that just call you and the police.

There are also systems and services available where you’re given an emergency pendant with a button to press when a medical emergency occurs.

And lastly, some systems have subsystems that monitor for carbon monoxide and when gases produced by combustion (fire) are detected.

Hopefully, I’ve been able to shed a little light on what is and isn’t available in the market for home security systems. Click here and enter your address to see which services and deals are available in your area.

Photo credit: Mr. T in DC via photopin cc