The essential pieces of a home security system

The essential pieces of a home security system

house with an EPS sign out front

The term “home security” encompasses a wide range of terms, services, and products. While it can refer to physical security features, such as deadbolt locks, fences, and window bars, it is most often used to reference a system of electronic devices specifically designed to detect threats against your home. Within this home security system are numerous products and functions of varying complexity, which all play a role in protecting your property.

Often lost within the maze of security system features is just how an alarm system serves to protect the average home. Phrases like “smart home automation,” “4G LTE cellular signal communication,” and “one-go, all-go,” can muddle the most basic, essential benefits that a professional home security system provides. Understanding the foundations of a home security system is the first step in devising a multi-layered security solution tailored fit to your home’s needs.

proseries all in one keypad control panel
The Honeywell Home ProSeries All-In-One keypad and control panel.

The alarm control panel: the “brains” of the operation

The components of a home security system can be broken down into two foundational categories: the “brains” of the system and its “nerves.” As you may have guessed, the “brains” are responsible for interpreting electronic signals and sending all alarm events to a corresponding monitoring center. In a monitoring center, a group of trained operators receive signals and dispatch authorities when warranted. Additionally, monitoring center operators will call to confirm alarm signals with the homeowner or corresponding contact in order to evaluate potential states of emergency and the well-being of the occupants.

In a home security system, the central “brains” are housed in a control panel. Often, these control panels are located out of sight in a basement or mechanical room. These control panels are then hooked up—wirelessly or via cabling—to various detection devices. A panel’s most essential function is sending the signals it receives from these dedicated devices to a monitoring center. Some control panels communicate via landline, however, most modern control panels are hooked up to a cellular alarm signal communicator or contain a cellular communicator module to bypass the need for phone lines entirely. These systems transmit alarm signals via cellular radio waves and/or the internet, removing the need to maintain a dedicated (and often costly) phone line for the sole purpose of home security.

Historically, a control panel is a separate entity from a keypad. A keypad is a device that works with a discrete panel through which a homeowner interfaces with the system. It allows them to:

  • Arm the system for “away” or “stay” using a designated code

  • Bypass specific devices on the system

  • Disarm the system using the same designated code

Keypads on more recent systems likely contain more advanced features, including controls for smart home devices, current weather information, and even a built-in camera to identify who entered a certain code at a certain time. The keypads themselves may come with alphanumeric buttons and LCD displays or, on higher end systems, touchscreen interfaces for the sake of simplicity and accessibility.

Home security technology has advanced to the point where it is possible to purchase a control panel that doubles as a keypad. For instance, the Honeywell Home® ProSeries All-in-One panel and keypad that EPS frequently uses in its installations functions both as a control panel and touchscreen keypad. By combining these functions, the ProSeries All-in-One eliminates the need to reserve space for control panel housing and consolidates both into one aesthetically pleasing device.

Devices: the “nerves” of a home security system

In the human nervous system, the brain itself does not feel pain, but it does receive pain signals from associated nerves throughout the body. Likewise, a control panel does not detect an intruder or a fire on its own. This panel relies on a variety of detection devices to send signals after being triggered or “tripped.” While home security systems are often thought of simply as burglary prevention or detection systems, even entry-level systems typically contain devices for detecting a wide variety of human and environmental threats.

Life safety devices

Perhaps the most important detection device on a home security system is that of the smoke detector. Homeowners should be familiar with these devices because they are required by law in every residence. Smoke detectors use photoelectric or ionization technologies to detect the presence of smoke in a given space. When they do detect smoke, an alarm within the devices triggers—sounding an alarm loud enough to alert occupants even in a deep sleep.

The smoke detectors put in by contractors or builders are usually not hooked up to any sort of security system. Thus, when smoke is detected, no one is notified other than those inside the home. This elevates potential risks. For example, if smoke is detected while no one is home, homeowners may not be aware until after disaster strikes. In fact, they often are not. Therefore, many people prefer to have their smoke detectors tied into their home security system. When a smoke detector on a monitored home security system is triggered, it sends a signal to the designated monitoring center. With 24/7 monitoring, you can count on first responders to be dispatched to your residence with urgency.

Another equally valuable life safety device is the carbon monoxide detector. Instead of triggering at the presence of smoke, it alarms when it detects the presence of deadly carbon monoxide gas. Because of their shared life-saving purpose, some detectors double as smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, including EPS Security’s ProSeries combination detectors. These combination detectors by Honeywell Home® have the added benefit of voice alarms and color-coded strobes to increase alarm audibility and decrease evacuation times during life-threatening emergencies. Each device on a system is designed to go off at the same time, regardless of where the emergency was originally detected, maximizing the chance that everyone in the house will hear the alarm go off.

proseries door contactDoor/window sensors

While smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are the most essential security benefit of a home security system, many homeowners are specifically interested in the burglary portion of home security systems. Technology in intrusion detection has come a long way in a short time, with advancing devices that offer all of the bells and whistles.

At their core, however, most of these devices still function largely as they always have. Take, for instance, perimeter sensors. Door and window sensors (or contacts) were created specifically to protect the perimeter of a home. By monitoring the most likely points of forced entry, the devices often act as the first line of defense for your home. Appearance-wise, they’re not flashy or hyper-stylized; in fact, one of their key strengths is their low-profile aesthetic, designed to remain out-of-sight to those inside a building by invitation, or without.

A career burglar is likely to case a home before breaking in to avoid detection. Even if a burglar does spot a perimeter sensor through a window, door and window sensors come with tamper-proofing technology designed to send an alarm signal to your control panel (and then your designated monitoring center!) if they are jostled or mishandled. Additionally, many high-end window contacts come equipped with acoustical glassbreak-detection technology or even shock-sensing capabilities to provide dual protection from burglars who decide smashing a window is easier than forcing it open.

honeywell home motionview motion detector with camera
The Honeywell Home MotionViewer motion detector.

Motion detectors

If an intruder does make their way through a door or window, the second line of defense is triggered. A motion detector is capable of sensing motion where there shouldn’t be any. Because of their small sizes and discreet designs, motion detectors are easy to install and position for a variety of coverage options, from a single device covering an entryway or living room, to multiple devices working in conjunction to protect assembly areas and warehouses.

Like other home security technologies, motion detectors have continued to advance with time. Many motions sensors now come with adjustable pet sensitivity settings to avoid alarm triggers caused by your cat or dog. The newest trend in motion detection is that of alarm verification. For instance, the MotionViewerby Honeywell Home® comes with a built-in camera that records a clip of what caused the device to trigger, allowing homeowners to call off an alarm if the event is discovered to be a billowing curtain or an overly-friendly spider.

Environmental sensors

The final “core” group of home security detection devices are those that detect miscellaneous threats to your property. Often overlooked, water and flood detectors are critical security devices that can prevent catastrophic damage to your home. Placed in, around, or under sinks, pipes, sump pumps, and any other area with a high-likelihood of water leakage, these sensors trigger alarm signals at the first sign of water accumulation. While a leaky faucet may not seem like a devastating circumstance, imagine going on a vacation for a week on holiday and returning to discover a flooded basement from a burst pipe. A single water-related event can cost thousands of dollars in repairs, which makes the investment in a few small flood detectors well worth it.

Temperature sensors can also provide an extra layer of protection for your home and family. Heat detectors can help detect smokeless fires or quick changes in room temperature in places where dust might accidentally be conflated for smoke, like in a workshop or attic. Low temperature sensors also warn against sudden drops of temperature in the winter (e.g., a broken furnace) that can lead to frozen pipes or worse. While these detectors aren’t typically the first devices that come to mind when homeowners think about home security, they serve critical functions, rounding out comprehensive home security solutions.

eps vehicle parked in home drivewayGraduating from the basics to the best in home security

Understanding the fundamentals of how a security system helps protect your home and family is important in informing your decision to invest in home security. However, even a good deal of Googling on the subject of home security can’t compare to the knowledge and experience of a professional security provider and installer. It’s hard to argue against the quality of engineering, installation, and service provided by a professional security company like EPS Security. We’ve been an industry leader in home security solutions for 66 years and counting, working closely with the top vendors in the security industry to provide our customers with the best protection at competitive prices. Our consultants, engineers, and technicians work to deliver you a custom security solution that fits your unique needs and protects what matters most. Further, in the event of an actual alarm, you can rest assured knowing the award-winning EPS Monitoring Center is keeping a watchful eye on incoming signals 24/7/365.

When it comes to securing your places, people, and things, trust the tried-and-true security authority of EPS Security and discover the peace of mind that more than sixty years of experience can bring to you and your family.

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