When you’re shopping for a home security system, one of the most important things to understand and research are the home security components – the hardware that will be part of your system. You might notice that security systems vary widely in price. Aside from brand names, home security components are the main reason that prices differ dramatically. So before you buy, check out our basic guide to these components.
The control panel is the brains of the whole setup, and also what you use to arm and disarm the system. Many systems are set up with two of these home security components—one control panel near the main entrance, and one in a more secure location, like the master bedroom. This makes it easy to arm the system when you go to bed.
Secondary keypads let you come and go through other doors or the garage, but not reprogram the whole system. Exterior keypads, when combined with electronic locks, allow keyless entry to anyone who enters the right code. Add-on keypads are relatively inexpensive and a good way to make the whole alarm system easy to use.
Various kinds of sensors are the home security components that will trip the security alarm. Window and door sensors use magnetic contacts to tell if one is open. Infrared and microwave sensors detect body heat or motion if someone's inside. There are even sensors that listen for the sound of glass breaking. An alarm company rep should be able to describe exactly what type of sensors you need for optimal security.
Older systems used pressure-sensitive panels in the floor, but due the cost of installing them and the dropping prices for other kinds of sensors, they're not usually used any more.
Many home security systems include audible and visible indicators of trouble. Sirens, horns, or bells should be loud enough to be heard throughout the house and at the street — larger homes may need more than one. For most amateur crooks, a loud alarm means "time to run" and will get them out of your home in a panic.
Flashing lights — strobes or rotating beacons — are more commonly used in businesses, but can also help police confirm where the trouble is in an emergency. If your house is hard to pick out from the street, these types of home security components might be a good addition.
Much like a key fob that lets you lock and alarm your car, a key fob for your alarm system works like a remote control for the entire system. Typically these home security components only offer a few basic functions — arming or disarming the entire system, and a panic button – but they can be real time savers.
No matter how sophisticated your alarm system is, it can't work without power. If you don't want a burglar to be able to disable your entire system by cutting the power, investing in a backup battery is critical. These batteries automatically provide power to your burglar alarm if the power goes out – some for up to 24 hours. Batteries are one of the home security components that can expire in five years, so it can be worth it to purchase a few when you’re first installing your system.
It's amazing how the simple "Protected by …" signs you see on homes are among the most trivial yet important parts of a home security system. Simply put, if the bad guys don't know a system is in place, why would they avoid your house? An audible alarm can still scare them off once they're in, but if you're home at the time and a criminal gets spooked by a siren, a dangerous situation could develop.
Better to advertise! There are so many houses out there without alarm systems that in most cases, a burglar will simply move on to the next likely target, rather than try to defeat a monitored alarm.
Of course, the cheapest home security system of all – far less than a dog – is the 'signs but no system' approach. It is certainly a cheap way to deter some potential criminals – but it can also give you a false sense of security. Home Security Comparison – along with most law enforcement and safety experts – does not recommend this approach.