Glossary of Alarm System Equipment

Control  Panel: A security system starts with a control panel. Usually located in a closet or a basement, the control panel contains the “brains” of the security system, and essentially operates as a central computer. Various sensors connect to the control panel from locations throughout your home. If your security system is armed and the sensors detect a problem, they send signals to the control panel. The control panel activates the siren and automatically dials the central monitoring station, where the proper authorities (police, fire, ambulance) are notified.

Keypad:  You operate your security system by entering your security code at the keypad. Generally located at entry doors, keypads can arm and disarm with push-button ease, and literally put security at your family’s fingertips! Good features to look for include illuminated keys to provide you with greater visibility at nighttime, easy-to-read English displays that spell out your system’s status at a glance, and one-touch function keys that provide single-button operation for arming, disarming or emergencies. Most keypads even offer convenient additional user codes to give friends, neighbors or service people access to your home.

Magnetic Contacts:  Magnetic contacts are two-part devices used to safeguard windows and doors. One part of the contact is a switch installed in the window or door jam; the other contains a magnet and is placed in the window or door itself. Any noticeable shift in contact with the switch results in an alarm. These can be home-run wired back to the main control panel, daisy-chained with other door/window contacts or part of a wireless transmitter combo.

Smoke Detectors:  You probably already have a battery-operated smoke detector. Do you need one installed as part of my security system? Smoke detectors are highly effective in preventing loss of life and property.  However, there are differences between the “stand alone” or battery-operated smoke detector you would buy at your local hardware store and one installed as part of your home security system. “Stand alone” detectors are not connected to other detectors or warning devices. A smoke detector connected to your security system offers more protection when it is monitored by a central station. If fire strikes, the detector sets off an alarm and sends a signal to the control panel. The control panel dials the central station, where the operator notifies the fire department. Only central station monitored smoke detectors provide automatic notification of authorities when you or your family are asleep, not at home or unable to get to the phone. Smoke detectors protect your pets from fire while you’re away from home.

Heat Detectors:   Heat detectors are devices that trigger an alarm when the temperature reaches a certain temperature. There are two types of detectors. Fixed Temperature  Detectors trip at either 135 degrees or 190 degrees.  They are basically a fuse that melts at that temperature and triggers the alarm system. One they trip they have to be replaced. Normally 135 degree detectors are used. 190 degree detectors are used in furnace rooms, laundry rooms and attics where sometimes the temperature can exceed 135 degrees.   Rate of Rise (ROR) Detectors are a combination of a Fixed Temperature detector and a detector that will activate ith a change of more than 15 degrees per minute. If an ROR detector triggers it will reset provided the temperature does not go  above the fixed temperature rating of the detector.

Glassbreak Detectors:     Glass break detectors are units that detect the sound frequency of breaking glass. Glass breaks at a certain frequency and these detectors are designed to trip when they hear that particular frequency. Most glaas break detectors also use a low frequency shock detector in addition to the high frequency glass breakage detection. This prevents alarm activation from “white noise” type of events like thunder or shrieks or in some cases the rattling of keys or chains. If a window or door glass is broken it will create a low frequency shock or cuncussion along with the high frequency glass breakage.  Glass break detectors usually are mounted on the wall opposite the windows and will usually protect about 25 feet of spread. They do not work well in rooms with heavy curtains and usually will not work in rooms adjacent to the detector. Often times they are used in daylight basements with lots of glass or in applications where pets make motion detectors impractical.

Dual-Technology Motion Sensors:   Many modern motion detectors use a combination of different technologies. These dual-technology detectors benefit with each type of sensor, and false alarms are reduced. Placement of the sensors can be strategically mounted so as to lessen the chance of pets activating alarms.  Often, PIR technology will be paired with another model to maximize accuracy and reduce energy usage. PIR draws less energy than microwave detection, and so many sensors are calibrated so that when the PIR sensor is tripped, it activates a microwave sensor. If the latter also picks up an intruder, then the alarm is sounded. As interior motion detectors do not ‘see’ through windows or walls, motion-sensitive outdoor lighting is often recommended to enhance comprehensive efforts to protect your property. False alarms are those usually caused by technical errors such as electrical and mechanical failures. Nuisance alarms are system activations not commonly caused by attackers or intruders but rather from wind blown debris, animals, insects and foliage. Sequencing alarm systems to trip the alert mechanism only when both alarm sensors have been activated will reduce nuisance alarms, but may also cause the probability of detection to decrease. 

Water Detection Sensors:  Water detection sensors are used in conjunction with burglar alarm systems to monitor for leaks in water heaters, washing machine hoses or other potential flooding possibilites. They are usually connected like fire alarm components so that they are active all the time (regardless of whether the alarm system is armed or disarmed) 

PIR Motion Sensors:  A passive infrared motion detector (PIR) is an electronic security device that detects intruders by “sensing” motion or body heat in the area being protected. Most PIRs are designed to be used when your family is away from home or when no one will be passing through the area “covered” by the PIR. Recent innovations in security technology have resulted in the creation of “pet immune” motion detectors-allowing dog and cat lovers to enjoy the same level of protection they would receive with a standard PIR. These state-of-the-art sensors provide “pet immunity” for animals weighing up to 80 lbs. Pet immune PIRs allow your pet to move about freely but can still detect an intruder’s movement.