Basic Home Security Systems HowTo

This article is to help the many people wanting to know what security systems the pros use and the ins and outs of a basic security system.  I have seen so many questions and made so many comments on this subject so I though this article would help.  As a sales rep for security systems for many years I can tell you the basic equipment used and what not to use and why.  I am trying to keep this brief, so keep in mind there are going to be many things I don’t talk about such as partitioning a security system, wireless sensor detail, zone detail, and so forth.

First, the most popular question is what to use.  I am not trying to sell any equipment for anyone (I am just trying just give you a starting place), but here are the facts from my knowledge.  The most widespread security system used for home security systems is the Ademco brand (made by Honeywell) and has been for the past 10 to 15 years.  Just do a search on the internet for Ademco it should take you right to their site.  Next in line would be DSC Brand (made by Tyco who also owns ADT security systems).  Most nationwide and local security companies will usually carry and install one of the two systems.  

Next, which product and why.  By far the most commonly used residential system is an Ademco Vista-15P control panel with the DSC PowerSeries 8-32 being next inline.  There are many other choices from Ademco and DSC, but the main difference will usually be as follows:
•      Does it support wireless sensors (needed sometimes for two story houses),
•      How many zones will it support (more zones are needed for bigger houses or more security options)
•      How many keypads will it support
•      Onboard relays
•      Expansion board support (for relays , outputs, etc…)
•      Logging detail

As you can probably already tell, more option, higher the price.  This is where planning comes in.  If you already know what you want you can just compare the different models and choose what you need.  If you don’t know what all you need hopefully this article will help you figure it out, but all in all the Ademco 15P will usually get you were you need by adding expansions boards such as wireless boards, zone expanders,  and relay boards to it (this is probably why it is the mostly widely spread unit used).  Units such as these are great because you can always expand to it later.  

Both of the systems stated above will have a control unit that usually goes in a closet or an attic and with keypads at the main entry points of the house and sometimes a keypad in the master bedroom.  My recommendation is to never use a system where the control unit and keypad is the same unit mounted on the wall.  Why, because someone could just rip it off the wall and you wouldn’t have an alarm system anymore (I’ve seen it happen).    By now you should be able to see the benefits of separating the control unit (which usually goes in a metal box requiring a key to access) from the keypad.

Here are the basics of a security system:


Basic System

•      Control unit (in closet or attic)
•      Keypads (main entry points)
•      Door and window contacts (all doors leading to exterior)
•      Motion detector (usually only one is required as a burglar will move around in the house, also pet immune motion detector are available)
•      Indoor siren


•      Wireless option (usually works up to around 300 feet)– will support wireless devices such as a keychain type key fob to turn the system on/off and wireless sensors for some doors and windows since not all door are accessible with the required wire unless the house was prewired while it was being built.
•      Glass break sensors (yes they do work).
•      Outdoor siren (some people consider this a nuisance, we've all had that one neighbor whose home alarm went off all the time)

Now for people that plan on installing these themselves its pretty simple if you read the installer manual, but may seem complicated at first.


•      A good place to lookup sensors and accessories would be on the Honeywell site it is well laid out, just do a search for Honeywell security
•      Buy a 4 foot 3/8 inch drill bit to install the sensors in the doors and windows, sometimes a 6 ft drill bit is required for windows.  I know this sounds expensive, but these usually only cost $12-$18 each.  Most hardware stores sell a screw together set for a 4 foot drill bit, but save yourself the trouble and by a less expensive one that is all one piece.
•      Most door and window sensors that go inside the door or window seal are 3/8 inch round and usually cost $4-$8 each.  If the house wasn’t prewired you will drill a hole upward in the top of the window/door seal or frame and for a window run a wire down to the surface mount sensor.
•      Buy a 6ft fiberglass pull rod for $10 or so if you don’t already have something to pull the wire through the hole you have drilled.  

If you found this article to be helpful, please give it a vote and I can do more articles.

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