TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2023
Your home is a place where you should feel safe and protected — it should be a source of sanctuary and comfort. For many people, this means installing a home security system. That said, if you’ve never shopped for security equipment before, the process can be a little daunting.
Understanding your choices in types of systems will help you land on a particular brand. For example, there are monitored vs unmonitored alarm systems, DIY vs professionally installed systems, and systems that provide security from intrusion only vs systems that include environmental protections.
While shopping for a security system can be challenging, if you’ve done your homework, the whole process is much easier. This guide will bring you up to speed on what’s currently available in the home security world.
This guide covers everything from home security system features and accessories, to payment options and contractual obligations. It also shines a light on factors that you may not have thought about (but are highly critical). And of course, we break it down into simple-to-understand language and easy-reference sections. Enjoy!
What are Home Security Systems?
Let’s begin with the basics. Consisting of various pieces that work cooperatively to protect your home, a home security system includes some or all of the following: entryway sensors, motion sensors, a base station, security cameras, video doorbells, home automation controls, floodlights, panic buttons, glass break sensors, keychain fobs, smart smoke detectors, smart carbon monoxide detectors, and water leak detectors. Each is explained in more detail below.Entryway Sensors
- Core Function – Also called door and window sensors, they are the backbone of a home security system. They sound the alarm when a door or window is open (and the alarm is set). This deters criminals and alerts the homeowner of a security breach.
- How it Works – Entry sensors come in two parts, a magnet and a sensor. The two components form a magnetic field when in close contact with each other. However, when the door or window they are attached to opens, the magnetic field is disturbed and the sensor signals the base station to sound the siren.
- Key Features & Tech – Unlike systems of the past, many home security systems are made for the DIY crowd who wants to avoid paying for professional (read: pricey) installation. These systems come with easy-to-follow instructions, with sensors you install yourself with velcro or adhesives. When a sensor is triggered, a mobile alert is sent to the homeowner.
- Add-ons and Integrations – Some systems allow users to automate IoT devices based on the entry sensor’s status. For example, when a door opens, the base station can signal smart lights to turn on. Also, users can purchase more entry sensors to protect every door and window in their homes. It’s highly recommended to place an entry sensor on every possible first-floor entryway and on easily-accessible second-floor win
- Core Function – Motion sensors sound the alarm and/or trigger mobile alerts when motion is detected inside of the home. They are meant to be used as an added layer of protection.
- How it Works – These devices emit an invisible light/laser, which when disturbed sounds the alarm. Some motion detectors (like the one pictured below) use infrared technology that can sense body heat. These motion sensors, called PIR sensors, are less prone to false alarms, as they only trigger when the moving object emits body heat.
- Key Features & Tech –The best motion detectors can distinguish between people and pets, to limit false alarms. Some, particularly those integrated into security cameras, even have facial recognition technology. Others can shine a floodlight whenever movement is detected.
- Add-ons and Integrations – Certain motion sensors can be integrated into smart home ecosystems and be configured to perform a number of commands.
- Core Function – Security cameras are mounted inside and outside of the home to keep a constant watch for safety. Many cameras record continuously and notify the homeowner when activity occurs. Just the presence of a camera is sometimes enough to deter a criminal.
- How it Works – Today’s cameras offer continuous recording or motion-activated recording. Either way, they record video and often send real-time alerts. You’re the first to know if it is the pizza guy or a porch pirate on your property.
- Key Features & Tech – The best cameras deliver HD image quality, mobile access with live-streaming, two-way voice, pan and tilt, and more.
- Add-ons and Integrations – Many cameras integrate with existing home automation platforms like Nest, HomeKit, etc. You can configure your cameras with various rules, such as setting it to record every day at 3 p.m. when your kids get home from school.
Installing the Ring Floodlight Cam
- Core Function – A first line of defense, video doorbells help to protect your home from package thieves and burglars. Many doorbell cams let you see and talk with front-stoop friends and visitors from virtually anywhere. Homeowners and neighbors have even used them to identify car thieves. With car theft on the rise, these cameras are a welcome tool for many.
- How it Works – The easy DIY video doorbells replace your existing doorbell. The devices sport a little camera that records activity and takes still shots to be seen and shared. And of course, it works like a doorbell, too.
- Key Features & Tech – Mobile access, monitoring, and control via mobile app is perhaps the best feature to look for in a doorbell camera. Other features include HD image quality, cloud storage, night vision, two-way talk, and more.
- Add-ons and Integrations – Similar to home security cameras, some doorbell video cameras can be integrated into home automation ecosystems for more convenient (and smart!) controls.
Ring Video Doorbell 3
Home Automation Controls
- Core Function – Home automation streamlines everyday tasks to make our lives easier and more efficient. Smart controls allow users to remotely control and automate everything from lights and thermostats, to garage doors, cameras, and even coffee makers. Home automation also enables families to ensure the safety and security of extended family members — like older loved ones who are aging in place.
- How it Works- Depending on the platform, smart home automation controls work via mobile commands (smartphone or tablet), voice commands, or both. You set the rules, and the house reacts accordingly. Turn down the lights!
- Key Features & Tech – The features and tech range from simple commands (like turning on a reading light) to powerful AI-driven surveillance technology. It’s up to the user to decide how futuristic they want their home. The sky’s the limit with smart home automation controls.
- Add-ons and Integrations –Many platforms can support literally hundreds of smart devices. This means users can customize their systems to their heart’s content. Most hubs work with devices that use Z-Wave, Zigbee, IFTTT, and more. A lot of them also work with voice assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant to allow for hands-free voice control.
- Core Function – Floodlights’ primary purpose is to shine a light on suspicious activity. After all, the perimeters of many homes can be dark, thus making them especially vulnerable to intruders. They also help with visibility at night for guests entering and exiting, especially seniors who don’t see as well.
- How it Works – These motion-activated devices “flood” a yard or driveway with a bright light. Criminals prefer the cover of darkness, and floodlights completely eliminate the dark and expose the bad guys.
- Key Features & Tech – Many floodlights can be mounted in just minutes. Most boast ultra-bright LEDs, and some have a built-in siren that sounds when motion is triggered. Today’s best floodlights double as security cameras.
- Add-ons and Integrations – Depending on your platform, you can set customizable motion zones, custom scheduling, fully integrate into a smart home ecosystem with mobile controls, and the list goes on.
- Core Function- These wall-mounted devices have a built-in help button. The life-saving button is pressed in the event of a medical emergency or home invasion. They summon help immediately.
- How it Works – Many control panels have a built-in panic button that works via landline, Wi-Fi, or cellular to send a signal to the monitoring center (if the user has professional monitoring). In a time of crisis, simply press the panic button and rest assured that help is on its way.
- Key Features & Tech – These devices are fairly simple. And simple is exactly what you want when precious seconds could save a life. Some control panels with panic buttons have two-way voice so you can talk directly with responders.
- Add-ons and Integrations – N/Glass-Break Sensors
- Core Function- As the name suggests, glass-break sensors detect glass breaking. The moment a security breach is detected, the alarm sounds and alerts are sent. These sensors are often sold separately, but they’re highly effective and work well alongside of magnetic window sensors.
- How it Works – Mount them near a window, as the sensors have tiny microphones that detect the high-frequency sound of glass breaking. When glass breaks, the sensor triggers the alarm and alerts, hopefully making the burglar tuck tail and run.
- Key Features & Tech – N/A
- Add-ons and Integrations – NCore Function- Keychain fobs allow users to remotely arm and disarm their system. Many keychain touchpads also include a panic button, which offers peace of mind when coming and going in the dark.
- How it Works – Hook the small device to your keychain, or keep it in your pocket or purse. If you forget to arm your system when you leave your home, just take out your keychain fob and you’re back in business. These devices are powered by batteries, and are helpful if your system doesn’t offer mobile access.
- Key Features & Tech – The best keychain fobs have a long battery life and are small enough to not be a bother. While most have remote arm/disarm buttons, not all include a panic button.
- Add-ons and Integrations – N/A
Smart Smoke Detectors
- Core Function- Fires often happen when the homeowner is away, rendering the traditional smoke detector useless. But a smart smoke detector not only sounds the alarm, it also sends real-time alerts to your smartphone.
- How it Works – The device is app-based, so you can be up and running within minutes. You can access and control the smoke detector just by opening the app, then monitoring any potential situations.
- Key Features & Tech – Smart smoke detectors often send low-battery notifications straight to your smartphone, integrate with IFTTT and other smart platforms, offer helpful voice instructions when smoke is detected, and more.
- Add-ons and Integrations – Most smoke detectors offer seamless integration with third-party platforms. Also consider CO detectors and water leak sensors (mentioned below).
Smart Carbon Monoxide Detectors
- Core Function- These life-saving devices send real-time alerts and notifications to your mobile device. That way, you’ll never walk into a home with a CO leak and risk a potentially fatal outcome.
- How it Works – Similar to the smart smoke detectors, these devices come pre-configured and ready to go. Just plug it in and follow the easy setup instructions in the companion app. Anytime it senses CO, the alarm will sound and you will get an instant alert(s).
- Key Features & Tech – Users should look for long battery life and a sleek companion app with convenient mobile access and controls.
- Add-ons and Integrations – Connect a smart CO detector into a home automation system to access everything on one user-friendly dashboard.
Water Leak Detectors
- Core Function – This device is worth its weight in gold, as water damage can be devastating. If your home springs a leak while you’re away, don’t worry, a water leak detector will notify you, allowing you to call the plumber asap.
- How it Works – Put the sensor near faucets and other appliances/fixtures that have the potential to leak. If (or when!) a leak occurs, the sensor will sound an alarm and send you a mobile alert.
- Key Features & Tech – Some water leak detectors communicate with smart water valves to shut off your water at the source (if needed), thereby limiting or even eliminating water damage. Smart! Some water leak sensors also have built-in freeze, flood, and humidity sensors, too.
- Add-ons and Integrations – Same as smoke and CO detectors listed above.
In other words, a home security system is a network of electronic devices that protect and secure your home or apartment from criminal activity such as burglars, thieves, and home intruders.
Posted 10:28 AM
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