How Home Security Systems Work

Business Security System Equipment

So, we’ve all heard the tips about how to avoid a home break-in — inevitably, one of those tips is having a home security system monitored by a professional monitoring company. What most people don’t know is how home security systems or intrusion systems work. We’re here to try to pull back the curtain on the magic of these fascinating pieces of technology.

A home security system is composed of a few items:

  • Panel – this is the “brain” of the intrusion system. It may be in a square metal box in the basement, attic or closet or in the case of relatively new home security systems, included in the main keypad itself. Most wireless security systems are the “all-in-one” type where the panel and keypad is the same unit.
  • Keypad – this is the actual numeric or touch-screen display where users enter their security code to arm or disarm the security system as well as control all of the other functions. Today, keypads can be found as physical devices 0n-site, or as software on your smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Contacts – these are the actual sensors installed on windows, doors or other items that communicate whether a door or window is open or something has been moved. They are usually magnetic, and can be installed with wires or operated wirelessly with batteries.
  • Sensors – as technology advances, so do the types of sensors we’re able to install to monitor different things within a home. We are now able to sense a water leak, temperatures that are too high or too low, or if a garage door is open or closed.
  • Detectors – unlike contacts or sensors, detectors can monitor the environment around them and “sense” changes. These include motion detectors, which monitor rooms for a person’s movement and/or body temperature. The most important of all detectors are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, which monitor the air quality around them to protect the occupants’ safety.  Unlike other sensors, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are active at all times whether the system is armed or not to protect the property and occupants (including pets) 24 hours a day. Also included in this category are Glassbreak detectors, which through advanced technology can “listen” for the sounds of breaking glass near windows or doors.

So how do all these devices work together? All the devices on the home security system are tied into the main panel and it is here that the panel monitors the status of each device & when a device detects something out of the ordinary, it alerts the panel to the change. The panel then uses this information to determine if the change in status of the device should be relayed to the Central Monitoring Station. The panel communicates the signal information to the monitoring station and to a dispatcher that is trained to handle the alarm signal information appropriately. A professional monitoring company is able to totally customize how a panel and monitoring station interpret these signals and take action on behalf of the client and their wishes.

Here’s an example of how a typical burglary situation would be detected from a home security system and relayed to the monitoring station:

  1. The homeowner is leaving home, and arms the security system in the “away mode” on the keypad or smartphone.
  2. The security system counts down to the “armed” state to allow the homeowner time to leave.
  3. The security system “arms” all sensors inside the home as well as all the protected doors and windows.
  4. After some time, a door sensor reports that it has been opened. Because this door isn’t a programmed entry or exit path for the homeowner, the panel immediately goes into an alarm state and not only turns on the audible siren, but also reports the intrusion to the central monitoring station – including information on which device reported the intrusion.
  5. The central monitoring station receives the intrusion signal from the alarm panel, and immediately processes it to an available dispatcher to begin responding to the signal. If more than one signal is reported from the alarm panel during this situation – such as a motion detector or other windows or doors, or a false alarm cancellation sent by the homeowner, these signals continue to be sent to the same dispatcher so they can respond appropriately to each one and provide relevant information to the client or authorities.

You might be asking how the security system communicates these signals to the central monitoring station. Typically, in the past, home security systems used telephone lines to relay information. Today, technological advancements in internet communication and wireless networks across the country allow for multiple methods for an alarm system to communicate. The best communication method is usually a combination of two or more of these options to provide a primary and backup path for the security system to communicate with the central monitoring station.

So there you have it – a quick guide to home security systems and how they work. Of course, there’s a lot more to this technology and how it can protect you, your family and your home. Learn more by browsing our website, visit our manufacturing partner website, or give us a call – we’d love to show you everything we can do for you!