Home Security System Basics

In this day and age, sad as it seems, more and more homeowners are choosing to install home security alarm systems. While choosing a home security alarm system may seem like a straightforward task, there are actually many considerations involved in choosing the correct alarm system for your home.

Your home alarm system can be as simple as a few relatively inexpensive devices placed at each door and window, or as complicated and as expensive as you wish to go. You can choose monitored services and unmonitored. You can choose to have security cameras, not have security cameras, or put up fake security cameras. You can choose home security systems which alert you in a case of fire or carbon monoxide, or again, you can have a monitored system where someone on duty is alerted to your danger before you even become aware and calls emergency personnel for you.

As you can see, one factor which will have to be considered is cost.


Obviously, it is difficult to place a price on the peace that comes with knowing that you have adequately protected your home and your family. However, in the real world, we often have to evaluate the costs of things we desire or need, and this extends to home security systems. Parts and pieces of a home built security system are available from such sources as Radio Shack, which you would expect, and Wal-Mart, which you might not! Even do-it-yourself systems such as these can cost a few hundred dollars and, while providing basic home security, usually will not provide monitoring in the event of your absence. Some do-it-yourself components can be found which will notify emergency response activities without you having to take action yourself, but with every bell and whistle (literally) which you add, the cost will go up.



Now, when I was talking about a do-it-yourself home security system, you probably thought I was giving the good news first. As you read about how expensive this can get, you probably thought that was either the bad news or the good news going sour.

Wrong. I started off with the BAD news.

The two major advantages I see to do-it-yourself security systems is that you can buy one unit at a time for a relatively low cost, and, if you are the handyman type, you can have the joy of installing the stuff yourself.

Here’s the good news.

There are many good quality home security companies out there. You may or may not have heard of ADT, Brinks, and Great Alarms, but you may NOT be familiar with their services and costs. While offers change from time to time and vary from company to company, prices are actually quite reasonable considering services provided. At the time of writing this article, a quick survey of just a few companies found installation costs ranging from free to a little over $300.00. Since these generally are monitored systems, you can expect to pay a monthly fee for the monitoring service, but it usually is only about $30.00 per month. Again, this may vary from company to company, so by all means, shop around.

I personally believe that when you consider what you get with a professionally installed and monitored home security system, you will probably skip the trip to Radio Shack or Wal-Mart and hire one of these companies to install your system.


Actual components and services will vary from company to company, but here is an overview of the components and services you might expect to get from a home security system.

Home Security System Components

*Command Stations: This may be referred to by various names depending on the service provider. Great Alarms calls it a “command station”, ADT a “touchpad”, and Brinks a “keypad”. From this commanding point, the system can be armed or disarmed, help can be summoned, warnings can be given to others in the house by means of a device such as a horn, whistle, chime or similar item. It is often possible to get more than one station or keypad installed, such as one in the living area and one in the bedroom.

*Door And Window Sensors: These are generally simple devices, but when you buy them one by one yourself, their cost can really add up. Many professional companies expect to make their money off the monthly monitoring. Home security companies can acquire these items in bulk at much lower prices than you or I would pay, and that is why installation as a package, is often much less than what you would have to pay just for the items if you bought them individually yourself.

*Motion Detectors: Should an intruder approach your home or by some means gain entry, motion detectors can be used to sense their presence and activate alarms or summon help.

*Remote Controls: In addition to the command station, touchpad, or keypad, many systems include a remote device which you may carry with you. These range from small units suitable to be carried on a keychain to larger units intended to be carried from room to room within your house.

*Sensors: There are sensors available to detect fire, carbon monoxide, heat, moisture, breaking glass and flex.

*Alarms And Other Warning Devices: The old familiar “alarm” is almost pass√©. You can get sirens, chimes, and even strobe lights to warn you of break-ins or other emergencies.

*Security Cameras: While most home security systems that the average family can afford will not use security cameras, this is still an additional option.

Home Security System Services

Once you have seen the short list of components above, you will have a pretty good idea of what services can be provided. Most commonly, intrusion or activation of a sensor by other means, by fire or carbon monoxide, for example, is the cue for the monitoring team to go into action. Primarily, they can summon police, fire, or emergency medical personnel for you if you are incapacitated or away from home. Since this service is around the clock, it provides you and your family with a sense of security and buffer of safety that may well be worth the cost. Some companies also provide security review services to help you judge your particular home security situation and options for defense. Again, these services and their costs vary from company to company, so shop around.


If you honestly feel that a home security system is out of your price range at the moment, there are a few inexpensive steps you can take to possibly improve your situation.

First, make sure that all your doors and windows lock. If several people may have had access to keys previously, go ahead and change the locks and make sure that only the people that need them have keys. This trip to Wal-Mart or Home Depot will be nowhere near as expensive as the cost of a break-in. Make sure all your windows can be locked and ARE locked, except when YOU want them to be unlocked.

Second, light the areas around your home at night where someone could get close and break in. There are solar powered lights which can be used to cut down on your electric bill. Lighting can be attached to inexpensive motion detectors.

Third, put all emergency services on speed dial, and make sure numbers are prominently posted near all phones anyway. Don’t assume that 911 will always do the job. Sometimes a call directly to a fire department may get the faster response.

Fourth, make a plan for an emergency and make sure that everyone realizes their job and where to meet up if people get separated.

Fifth, buy an air horn and don’t be afraid to use it. You can apologize to the neighbors later.

Sixth, there are places where you can buy signs for your yard and decals for your windows. Nobody has to know you never got around to buying the system, do they?

Seventh, get your hands on some fake security cameras. I don’t exactly place a lot of personal faith in this one, but there are some reasonably realistic looking fake security cameras around, and just “not knowing” may be enough to deter an inexperienced burglar looking for an easy score. The cameras I have seen the move, and have a pulsing red light which makes it look official.


Alcohol scholar. Bacon fan. Internetaholic. Beer geek. Thinker. Coffee advocate. Reader. Have a strong interest in consulting about teddy bears in Nigeria. Spent 2001-2004 promoting glue in Pensacola, FL. My current pet project is testing the market for salsa in Las Vegas, NV. In 2008 I was getting to know birdhouses worldwide. Spent 2002-2008 buying and selling easy-bake-ovens in Bethesda, MD. Spent 2002-2009 marketing country music in the financial sector.