Home Security System Basics

Sad as it seems, more and more homeowners are choosing to install home security alarm systems. While selecting a home security alarm system may seem straightforward, many considerations are involved in choosing the correct one 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 expensive as you wish. You can choose monitored services and unmonitored. You can choose to have security cameras, not cameras, or put up fake security cameras. You can select home security systems that alert you in fire or carbon monoxide cases. Again, you can have a monitored system where someone on duty is alerted to your danger before you even become aware and call emergency personnel.

Home Security Errors

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


It isn’t easy 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, which 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 to notify emergency response activities without taking action yourself. Still, the cost will go up with every bell and whistle (literally) which you add.


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 with the BAD news.

The two major advantages I see to do-it-yourself security systems are 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 occasionally and vary from company to company, prices are quite reasonable considering the services provided. When writing this article, a quick survey of a few companies found installation costs ranging from free to a little over $300.00. Since these are generally monitored systems, you can expect to pay a monthly fee for the monitoring service, but it is usually only about $30.00 per month. Again, this may vary from company to company, so by all means, shop around.

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 Walmart 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 features and services you might expect 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, and warnings can be given to others in the house using a device such as a horn, whistle, chime, or similar items. It is often possible to install more than one station or keypad, such as one in the living area and one in the bedroom.

Many professional companies expect to make their money off the monthly monitoring.* Door and Window Sensors: These are generally simple devices, but their cost can add up when you buy them one by one. 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.

*Motion Detectors: Should an intruder approach your home or gain entry by some means, motion detectors can 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 that you may carry with you. These range from small units suitable to be held on a keychain to larger units intended to be taken from room to room within your house.

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

*Alarms And Other Warning Devices: The familiar “alarm” is almost passé. 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 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 shortlist 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, 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 safety buffer that may be worth the cost. Some companies also offer security review services to help you judge your particular home security situation and options for defense. Again, these services and their prices 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 possibly take to improve your situation.

First, make sure that all your doors and windows are locked. If several people may have had access to keys previously, go ahead and change the locks and ensure that only the people who 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. Ensure 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. Solar-powered lights can cut down on your electric bill, and lighting can be attached to inexpensive motion detectors.

Third, put all emergency services on speed dial and ensure 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 a faster response.

Fourth, make a plan for an emergency and ensure that everyone knows their job and where to meet if they 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 purchasing 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. Still, some reasonably realistic-looking phony security cameras are around, and just “not knowing” may be enough to deter an inexperienced burglar from looking for an easy score. The cameras I have seen in the movie have a pulsing red light, making 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.