Home Alarm System Features

A great way to protect personal property, assets, and loved ones is by installing a home alarm system.  There is considerable competition in this space and the offers from sellers of these systems can be quite attractive, which is good news for consumers.

In this article, we're going to explain some of the features of today's systems, and what to look out for when hiring a contractor or supplier of home security services.  We'll also provide some tips on how to choose an alarm system based on the installation challenges found in a home.

Alarm System Components

Today's home alarms are more than just security systems; they are complex monitoring services.  These fully integrated systems typically include a mix of hard-wired and wireless components as determined by the installer, and are normally composed of the following sub-systems:

  • Burglar Alarms
  • Smoke and Fire Warning Systems
  • Carbon Monoxide Alarms
  • Water / Temperature Sensors

Each of these functions is discussed in more detail in the sections below; they also fall into three categories that consumers need to carefully consider when making a purchase decision: security, safety, and the protection of personal property from damage.

Burglary Alarms

When most people think about home alarm systems what typically comes to mind are burglar or home intrusion alarms.  These systems monitor the perimeter of the home and / or the movement inside to detect the presence of a burglar.

When consumers think about the bare minimum functionality of a home alarm system, they're thinking about burglar alarms.

Smoke and Fire Alarms

There are two basic types of fire alarms.  Most homeowners are familiar with smoke detectors, which can be purchased in large home building centers.  Heat detectors are used to supplement smoke detection in homes equipped with alarm systems.  A heat detector is able to sense a sudden rise in temperature that may indicate the presence of a fire.

Smoke and fire alarms supplement the security features of a burglar alarm with a safety feature.

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Carbon monoxide is not only a poisonous gas; it's colorless and odorless too.  Full-featured alarm systems include carbon monoxide detectors, which are usually installed on each floor of the home.  Fortunately, carbon monoxide normally builds up slowly, and these detectors will alarm when it is present at levels above a recommended threshold.

Carbon monoxide is another example of a safety feature that can be added to a basic home security system.

Temperature and Water Sensors

This final set of alarms has to do with temperature and water sensors.  A temperature sensor is used to warn the owner if it becomes too cold inside the home.  This type of alarm protects the home's pipes from freezing in the wintertime.

Water sensors are used in the basement to detect water intrusion or a ruptured pipe.  These sensors protect against flood damage, and can also be used to detect a leaking water heater tank.

Temperature and water sensors provide the third category of benefits derived from home alarm systems:  asset and property protection.

Centralized Monitoring

Home alarm systems are typically sold along with a subscription to a centralized monitoring service.  In fact, most systems are sold at a deep discount to consumers, and the monthly monitoring fees are used to supplement the cost of installing the equipment.  These services are normally integrated with two or three local authorities:

  • Police:  the first responders to a burglary alarm, these systems can be integrated with the local police departments.
  • Fire:  the first responders to a fire, heat, or smoke alarm.
  • Ambulance:  some systems come equipped with a medical alarm that alerts the local ambulance squad to an emergency in the home.

Researching Home Alarms Systems

Before reaching out to a contractor or service provider to install a home security system, there are certain steps homeowners should take when researching their options.

Surveying a Home

Take a walk through the home, and figure out which doors and windows need to be integrated into the security system.  Try to figure out where the control panels and keypads should be installed.  Alarm keypads are typically installed near the two most common entrances to the home along with the master bedroom, which might also include a panic alarm.

Wired versus Wireless Alarm Systems

Since the control panel is the centralized location for gathering all of the sensor information, it's important to understand how the wires for a wired system, or the wireless devices for a wireless system, might communicate with the security control panel.

Because of the limitations of pulling wires through an existing home, most wired systems are installed during the construction of a new home, while wireless systems are installed in existing homes.

Tips for Picking a Home Alarm System

In most areas of the country homeowners will have a choice of several well-known providers which work with local installers, and offer alarm systems at a discount if a monthly monitoring service is purchased.  The following are some factors to consider when choosing an alarm system or working with an installer / service provider:

  • When working with an installer, it's critical to understand where they intend to locate the control panel, and how they expect each sensor to communicate with the panel.
  • Sensors are usually grouped into zones, and zones communicate back to the alarm panel.  Again, homeowners need to understand how each zone is going to interact with the control panel.  If the installer is running wire through the home, have them review the plan indicating where holes will be drilled.  It's important to understand the number of repairs needed following installation.
  • Make sure the home alarm system has all of the desired features.  This includes burglar, carbon monoxide, smoke, heat, temperature and water sensors.
  • Have the installer demonstrate how the key pad and control panel work before deciding on an alarm system.  Make sure the codes and the overall security process does not seem overly complex.
  • Finally, if there is a family dog or cat, make sure the sensitivity of the motion detectors can be varied to accommodate the pet's size.  This feature will prevent false alarms caused by the pet's movement through the home once the motion detectors have been activated.

About the Author - Home Alarm System Features (Last Reviewed on September 14, 2016)