How a Home Alarm System Works

How a Home Alarm System WorksNo matter what company or brand you choose to use, all home security systems work on the same basic principles.  Sure, some are more reliable than others, and some are installed by more capable technicians, but they operate under the same basic philosophy.  They secure your entry points—your doors and windows—and focus extra security on particularly valuable areas of your home, such as rooms with computers or artwork.  The only real difference between a small system and a large system is the amount of security hardware placed throughout the property – more risks are obviously covered with a larger system than a smaller one. For the user, however, everything ends up on the same control panel in the end.

Your home security system is a network consisting of integrated electronic devices, all working together through a central control panel to protect against unauthorized home invasions or hazardous conditions, such as fire, carbon monoxide and freezing temperatures.  You’ll generally have your central control panel — the brain of the system –keypads, sensors on your doors and windows, motion detectors, a communication module, a siren and a yard sign or window sticker to warn potential intruders of the presence of your security system.  All components work together, first to try to avoid people from entering your house to begin with, and then to limit the time that thieves who manage to gain access to your property have, since police will be on the way.

The control panel is the central computer of your system.  It usually is installed in the basement or, they can be inside the keypad for those who want a self-contained alarm system.  The control panel is the piece of the system that a professional installer has to program in order to customize the system, in accordance with your needs and preferences.  It also communicates internally with each alarm sensor and externally with an alarm monitoring company through the communication module, by landline, internet connection or GSM. If a sensor is tripped, it will sound an alarm and contact the appropriate people to ensure a quick and rapid response.

Door and window sensors are located on any potential access points you want to secure.  They consist of two parts—one on the door or window, and the other on the door frame or window sill.  When the door or window is closed, the two parts are connected.  When the alarm system is active, it monitors your sensors to make sure the two parts are still in contact.  When the door or window is opened, those parts break contact, signaling the control panel that an unauthorized access has taken place.  That will trigger the alarm and contact the monitoring company automatically.

Motion sensors are the other primary type of sensor your home security system will use.  There are a few common types of motion sensor, but most will work actively by sending out MicroWaves pulses and measures the reflection off a moving object, or passively, either by detecting sudden increases in infrared energy or focused light.  Placed around rooms containing valuables, they’ll trigger the control panel in the same way door and window sensors will if they detect unauthorized motion while the system is armed and set in away mode.  If the system is set on “stay mode”, of course, the motion detectors are bypassed to allow family members to walk freely inside the home.  Pet-immune systems can also be installed, so that pets can safely walk around the home without tripping the alarm!

There are a number of compliments to a home security system – great additions to help verify whether a crime is actually in progress, or if it’s just a false alarm.  These can include fire protection devices such as smoke and heat detectors, flood detectors, carbon monoxide and natural gas detectors, and freezing temperature sensors – but the most traditional extra are surveillance cameras.

Surveillance cameras can come in wired or wireless configurations, each with their own pros and cons.  Generally speaking, they do not trigger alarms or the security console; that’s what the sensors are for.  They do, however, monitor hard to see areas of your property, remote buildings and your entry points.  When you have a security breach, the cameras should record footage of the burglars, possibly including identifying information and the vehicle they arrived in.  That would give the police a more solid start in tracking down anything that was lost or stolen.  Cameras can also be used to watch for deliveries or monitor the arrival of children from school, and can be access remotely through computers, smartphones or tablets.

Alarms and window stickers are designed for deterrence; the best way to avoid a break-in is to stop people before they start!  The alarm is loud and shrill, designed both to alert anyone inside the home and nearby neighbors.  Often, the alarm itself is enough to get burglars to run, as they know they’ve been detected.  Yard signs and window stickers aren’t just advertising; they warn burglars of the presence of a security system, which often dissuades any potential burglar from even making an initial attempt.

Whenever something goes wrong, these systems will contact your monitored alarm company.  It will communicate either over existing home phone line or internet, or wirelessly over cell radio frequencies, known as “GSM”.  The monitoring company will then contact the appropriate people to respond.  Sometimes, this is just you or your contact included in the Emergency Contact List, to check to see if the alarm was triggered accidentally or not.  Other times, it will include police, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency personnel.  The experts at your alarm company will ensure the proper response is taken.  A ULC Certified Monitoring Station is crucial in ensuring a fast and appropriate response to protect your home and family.

When everything works together, you get a home security system that serves both as a deterrent and a warning system, helping to keep you, your family and your property safe.

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