Written by: Aaron Hall | Best Company Editorial Team
Last Updated: September 18th, 2020
Home security systems are rapidly becoming more affordable as technology continues to advance. In recent years, systems have also adopted home automation tools like thermostat regulation and remote light switches. Regardless, all systems can operate the basics of arming your doors and windows and emitting an alarm when the sensors are triggered. Here's an in-depth look at how home security systems operate and what that means for you.
To understand how a home security system operates, you should understand a few of the basic components to a home security system:
- Keypad—This is the "brain" to your system. All of your sensors and cameras communicate with this unit, usually attached to a wall in a central location in your home. With some newer systems including smart home features, your smartphone could double as a keypad.
- Video cameras—These are more common with a DIY unmonitored system but are offered by many professional monitoring companies as well. Often, you can stream live footage to your smartphone and receive notifications when the cameras detect movement.
- Window and door sensors—These sensors come in two pieces: one piece is attached to the edge of a door or window, and the other is attached to the edge of the door or window frame next to it. These are the most standard features of a home security system. When the system is armed and the pieces become detached from each other, the magnetic sensors inside them are triggered and your system registers a break-in.
- Yard sign—More useful than you may think, the mere presence of a yard sign indicating a monitored security system tells would-be burglars to back off.
You'll be able to arm and disarm your system at will from the central keypad, your smartphone, or both, depending on the package you ordered. When a sensor is triggered, the brain of the system will send a cellular, landline, VoIP, or internet signal to a professional monitoring station. But first, it has to be installed.
When it comes to installation, most home security systems will be installed yourself or by a licensed professional. Do-it-yourself systems are fairly common. You can pick them up at most major hardware stores and install them in a weekend. However, these systems usually consist of only video cameras and don't have the full capabilities of a professionally monitored system. Some top-rated companies have taken the best of both worlds and adopted a system of providing consumers with do-it-yourself installation while still providing professionally monitored service.
In regards to professional installation, you know you'll have a team of certified professionals installing a security system when they show up at your door. However, this means that they'll need to set an appointment in order to come to your home and install all the equipment, which may come at an inconvenience to you. You might have to take a day off work and put up with a lot of noise before your system is fully installed and operational. Once your security system is installed and activated, it will immediately be monitored by a remote team of representatives.
An alarm monitoring station (aka a "central station") is a location where home security systems are monitored for burglaries, fires, carbon monoxide, and other disasters. These stations are monitored 24/7 to make sure whenever a disaster strikes, there is someone on task to react accordingly. The best central stations will be certified by Underwriters Laboratories, a leader in measuring and accrediting performance capabilities. The organization has strict certification standards that cover a variety of different industries, so keep an eye out for them when considering a home security company.
Keep in mind that a professional monitoring station is important because this is the station that will send a signal to local police. When a signal is sent to the station from a security system encountering a break-in, fire, or another disaster, a professional at the monitoring station can dispatch local authorities to check on your residence. Sometimes these signals can be accidents, like opening your window after you've armed your system, but in any case, a professional is available to keep an eye on your system all day, every day.
Maybe you're thinking a home security system isn't a big deal. After all, only 17 percent of U.S. homes operate with a security system. But if you've decided that you want to take the extra measure to protect your home and your valuables, look into top companies that offer the best in pricing and equipment.