Asset Protection & Alarms                   
Complete Security Solutions

Burglar Alarm Components

Before you invest in a security system, you should take a minute to understand what makes up an alarm system. The components can be broken down into the following categories:

Control Panel The Control panel is the “brain” of the alarm system. It is a microprocessor that is programmable to fit your particular needs. It is powered from an electrical outlet and has a back-up battery. The circuit boards are placed in either a metal or plastic box (can). This panel often is mounted in the basement or a closet. If you have an all-in-one unit (discussed later), it usually in mounted near your main point of entry. If you have a wired system, all the wires go to this panel. All the sensors report back to the panel and panel has a circuit to sound a local siren and a communicator to talk with the monitoring station.



  Keypads Keypads are used to arm and disarm (turn on & off) the system. They also indicate the status of your alarm and can tell you which sensors ,(zones) have been activated. They also report to you a history of past alarms and perform programming functions. Keypads are unusually conveniently located near the door you use to leave or enter your home or business. You can install a 2nd or 3rd keypad in convenient locations. Some examples are: your bedroom so you can activate the alarm system at night or at a back office in a sparely manned office so you can hear when someone comes in the front door.  The keypad allows you to arm all the sensors of your system, when you are leaving the location or just the perimeter sensors if you are staying in the location. (Called stay or night mode)


                                                                         Touch Screen

 Horn or Siren The siren makes noise when the alarm is activated. This is a separate function than the communication to the central station. The main purpose of the siren is to scare away the burglar. He/she will know they have been detected and should leave immediately. It also alerts the user in case they did not operate the alarm correctly and caused a false alarm. This way the user can then make sure they disarm the system correctly so the police will not get dispatched by accident. In the past, before monitoring was affordable, sirens were installed outside the premise, with a hope to alert the neighbors, who would then call for help. This is not done too often anymore.



Input sensors  - These are the sensors that will activate if someone breaks into your house. Some examples are door & window contacts, motion detectors and glass breakage detectors. These sensors can be hardwired back to the panel or wireless (They run off batteries and communicate with the panel wirelessly.)

Perimeter devices are ones that will activate when someone penetrates the perimeter of your location. These are usually door & window contacts and glass breakage detectors. These are the sensors that are armed when you put your system in stay or night mode.

Interior devices will trip when someone is already in inside your house. It is a 2nd line of defense. These are usually motion detectors or contacts on interior doors.

24 hour input devices – These include smoke, heat and carbon dioxide detectors. They also can include panic, hold up, temperature, water, and humidity sensors and more. These devices are on 24 hours a day and do not need the alarm to be armed (turned on) to send an alarm.


Door or window contact These sensors tell the control panel when the door or window is opened. Usually they are installed on every perimeter door, including the door to the garage. They are often installed on accessible windows. They can be hardwired or wireless, hidden or visible.  Another big and widely used feature of these sensors is when they used as door or window chimes. Even if the system is not armed, the keypad will beep or annunciate in English, every time the door or window is opened. This is very useful to watch kid activity in and out of your house, or in an office where no one is stationed at the front door. If you plan on arming your system at night when you go to bed, (highly recommended), the more perimeter protection you have, the better. This is due to the fact that most likely you will not want to turn on your interior motion detector so if you get up in the middle of the night and walk around your house, you will not cause a false alarm.


Glass Break Sensor.  These sensors will trigger the alarm when it detects the noise and vibration of breaking glass.  They are usually mounted on the ceiling or wall near the glass and can detect glass breakage within a given distance. The better detectors have dual sensors to eliminate false alarms.  There are other glass break sensor that are also door contacts or  mount directly on the plate glass window, which is sometimes needed depending upon the environment.




 Motion detectors – Motion detectors will trigger the alarm when they detect motion in their area of coverage. Usually motions are referred to as PIR (Passive InfraRed) sensors. Some sensors utilize both PIR and microwave for increased reliability. They are usually installed in the path an intruder would most likely go. Wall mounted detectors usually have a 90 degree area of coverage, so they are often installed in a corner. Ceiling mount motions have a 360 degree area of coverage. Motions provide an additional layer of protection in case someone got by the perimeter or was a stay behind. Motions are more likely than door or window contact to cause false alarms. They must be set up correctly and an effort must be made to make sure foreign items are not in their field of view. Additionally, some are rated to work with Pets and others are not. Please see the paper on FALSE ALARMS in the EDUCATION section of the web site.




 Fire and environmental sensors – These sensors are on and monitored 24 hours a day and are not dependent upon the alarm being armed (turned on).  These include smoke detectors, heat detectors, carbon dioxide detectors, water sensors, temperature sensors and more. The difference between these smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and the ones already in your house, is that upon alarm these will send a signal for help to be dispatched. Your existing smoke and carbon dioxide detectors just make a noise locally, so if no one is home, no one is aware of the problem. Heat detectors can sense a sudden increase in temp or if the temperature goes above 135 for 190 degrees. They are often installed near kitchens (where there could be smoke from cooking), bathrooms, and areas with bad or dusty environment. Water sensors can tell you if you have water on your floor which might signal a leak of your hot water heater, furnace or your plumbing. Temperature sensors can tell you if it is getting too hot or too cold. They are often used in vacation houses, walk in freezers or anywhere maintaining temperature is important.  Special thermostats can also be connected to some systems that will give you remote control of your heating and air conditioning systems. 


                                                                   Remote access & Programming


 Keyfobs & panic buttons A Keyfob is a device you attach to your key ring and allows you to turn your system on and off. (arm & disarm). It might also have some additional buttons to use as a panic device or for remote control of lights. Standalone panic buttons are also available. They are on 24 hours a day and if your press the button, the siren will sound (in residential situations) and also send a signal to the monitoring station for help. 



All in one panels
With the advancements in supervised wireless systems, all-in-one panels are becoming very popular. They combine the control panel, keypad, siren, and communicator, all in one. Some have a touch screen and others have a more conventional keypad. Also some home automation in included in some of the units.


Communicators – Alarm systems used to communicate to the central station over regular phone lines (called POTS lines (plain old telephone). With the digital revolution and the advent of the Internet, many people are using VOIP (Voice over IP) in their home or business or have eliminated using regular land lines. Most panels still have the ability to communicate over POTs lines but also offer radio communications or communications over the internet. Many panels allow you to have more than one path of communication ensuring your signal gets to the central station.  





















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