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Introduction To Home & Business Alarm Systems, Part I

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Introduction to Home & Business Alarm Systems

Looking to outfit your home or business with a reliable alarm system? Let’s start by identifying some commonly asked questions about this topic:

1) What components comprise an alarm system?

2) How do these components work?

3) Where are the best placements for these components?

4) How much money (if any) will it cost to maintain?

In this post, we will answer questions 1 & 2 above. We will tackle the remaining questions in a later post. 

1) What components comprise an alarm system?

The answer to this question can vary depending on the level of protection and security desired. Complex systems can have a variety of different equipment that integrates and interfaces with other components in the system in different ways, e.g. motion sensors that will trigger the recording of a security camera etc. Basic systems, on the other hand, contain only the bare essentials. A typical example of a basic system is a simple door alarm.

The most common components of a DIY home/business alarm system include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Control Panel
  • Window/Door Sensors
  • Motion Detectors
  • Glass Break Sensors

2) How do these components work?

It's pretty simple actually. Let’s get started…

Control Panel

The control panel is the “brain”. It controls every aspect of the alarm system. At your command, with the touch of a button, it can arm and disarm the entire system. It can be customized so that, in order to operate, a passcode must be entered. You can customize this function so either 1) only one password can be used, or 2) multiple passwords can be used (as in the case of a business with several employees).

As the "brains of the organization", the control panel also receives and communicates information to and from all of the individual components in the system. If the control panel receives a disruptive signal from a sensor, it will produce a very loud noise (an alarm), as well as send a signal to whatever monitoring system you have (e.g. trigger a security camera to record, send a signal to your phone, or in some cases, trigger a call to the authorities).

Window/Door Sensors

These come in many different styles and form factors. The most popular style is the Magnetic Contact, a two-piece switch with magnets on both pieces. When the two pieces come within close proximity of one another, the switch will close. If the pieces are separated however, the switch opens, and an alarm is triggered.

There are also physical switch contacts, which close the circuit once a door or window is shut. However, as you can imagine, these are not as as popular as the magnetic contact switches due to the fact the switch arm can break very easily.

Motion Detectors

Motion detectors come in a variety of styles as well. The ones most commonly used in home and business security systems are called Passive Infrared Sensors (PIR). The way a PIR sensor works is by measuring infrared light (heat) radiating from people or pets as they pass through the sensors field of vision. Humans have an inner body temperature of approximately 98 degrees Fahrenheit, and our skin temperature measures around 93 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temperatures, infrared radiation is emitted at wavelengths between 9-10 micrometers (μm). Since PIR detectors operate at infrared wavelengths between 8-10 μm, a PIR sensor can effectively sense the presence of a human or pet.

Other not-so-common motion sensors in alarm systems are radar sensors. The way a radar sensor works is by producing a microwave energy pulse that radiates out from the sensor. This pulse then travels and bounces off of any nearby object and returns to the sensor. The sensor measures the time it takes the microwave pulse to travel away from the sensor and return. If someone passes the sensors “field of vision”, this will alter the travel time of the microwave pulse and thus cause a change in the travel time, triggering the sensor to sound an alarm.

Glass Break Sensors

Glass Break sensors are fairly simple. The sensor is mounted inside of the frame of the glass door or window that you want to protect. It has a metal or wire strip that carries an electrical current. When glass breaks it will disrupt the electrical current and send a signal to the controller to trigger the alarm.

That’s it for now. We'll return to answer questions 3 & 4 above soon. In the meantime, feel free browse our current selection of alarm system packages and components.

Yours In Security,

Dave & Mike


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