Know your terminology

July 2009

The control unit
* The control unit is the brain of the home security system. It receives signals from the switches and triggers the alarm.
* The control unit can be powered by mains or battery. Some can be fed by mains with the battery for backup power. This backup battery will automatically recharge when power is regained.
* The control unit may have the capability to dial the phone number of a security company or nominated neighbour.
The switches
* Switches are magnetic devices fitted to frame and casement of a window or door (there are other options, but this is most common). When the window or door is opened, the circuit is broken and the alarm triggered. All windows and doors must be closed when the alarm system is armed.
The alarm
* Most alarms are sirens and serve as noisy deterrents, so you will want to make sure the alarm you choose is loud enough. Anything below 95 decibels cannot be heard over distance. Most sirens sound for 20 minutes then shut off. Some alarms are connected to a monitoring service via phone line, and some external sirens also incorporate a bright flashing strobe light.
Panic button
* This is a manually operated button, similar to a car remote (or key fob). The panic button can be placed by the bedside, couch, or wherever it is needed so that the user can trigger the alarm whether or not the rest of the system is on.
Wired home security systems
* Wired home security systems need to have a closed electrical circuit, meaning that when the alarm is turned on the circuit is completed. If there is any interference (such as the wires being cut) the alarm will go off. These systems require wires to be run from the control panel to each sensor.
* While wired home security systems offer maximum reliability and are generally less expensive, they are probably not a great DIY option. Determining how to run the wires in an attractive way that is difficult for burglars to defeat is tricky and time consuming.
Wireless home security systems
* Wireless home security systems can be a great DIY option. They are battery powered, which means no complicated wiring is involved, and transmit a radio signal to the control unit in order to trigger the alarm. Many wireless alarm systems can be armed using a remote key fob that doubles as a mobile panic alarm, and some systems offer a repeater unit, increasing transmission range so that outbuildings can be protected on the system.
* Wireless home security cameras, on the other hand, are not always the best use of your money. Wireless cameras run on batteries and guzzle power; most batteries will only provide 24 hours of power to the camera. Another potential drawback to wireless home security systems is that most do not have the ability to be connected to a telephone land line. That means that if you are looking to establish a relationship with a monitoring system, you will have to go with a cellular compatible system.

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