Wireless Home Security 101 – How to Design Your Alarm System

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Here’s another installment of Wireless Home Security 101 – your new source for helpful and objective information to help you choose a wireless home alarm company, pick the right technology, design the system, and get the most peace of mind from what you buy.

Today’s post is a logical follow up to my discussion on system arming – but how do you design the right system to begin with? There are plenty of options out there, and it can be confusing. In fact, some alarm companies would like to keep you in the dark, or try to sell you a system that is too small, just because it’s “free” and is an easier sale for them. There’s really no mystery to good alarm system design – and with today’s technology, a little basic information and some common sense is all you need.

What you Need to Know – the Top Ten

  1. Wireless cellular monitoring. We’ve covered this one in detail in earlier posts: cellular monitoring is still the core of every safe and reliable alarm system. Don’t pay extra for the cellular radio, or for extra monthly charges – you shouldn’t have to!
  2. Wireless sensors. They work, and they are the easiest (and most convenient) way to protect your home or business. You can add to your system at any time, move them or even move the entire system. Plus, they allow pre-programmed systems to be self-installed, which will eventually be the norm.
  3. Start with your exterior doors. Almost 60% of burglaries happen through the front or back door, and when you add in the garage, the total is two thirds of every forced entry. Clearly this is the place to start your design – and don’t forget your basement, or that door from the garage into your house. Having good locks (and using them!) should go without saying.
  4. Windows – basement and first floor. First floor windows are next in line behind the front door as points of illegal entry: 23% of burglaries happen through a first floor window. What’s even scarier is how many of these windows are not even locked! Start with sensors at the back and side windows of your house first, as they are generally the most vulnerable, with less illumination and less visibility from the street. Think about the windows you consider the most easily accessible and the most hidden – that’s how the bad guys think!
  5. Decide how you are using the system. Here’s where we need to remember the “Stay” and “Away” modes discussion addressed in the prior posting about how to arm your system. All good alarm systems allow both way to arm the system, and the way you are going to use the system will determine not only which mode to use, but also which sensors you select. Here’s an easy link to that post, where you can learn the definitions of Stay and Away, and how they affect system design.
  6. Work up from the basement. If you don’t have a basement, then it’s simple. But if you do, remember that those doors and windows are also vulnerable. Finished basements may be treated just like the first floor, while unfinished basements may allow a simpler solution – like a motion sensor that can be armed even in the Stay mode. When you get to the second floor, you can usually relax – the incidence of entry above the ground floor is extremely low, unless there is a low roof, or stairway that provides easy access.
  7. Think about your pets. Pets are an important alarm system design consideration. Your large dog with the run of the house during the day probably means that you won’t arm your motion sensors, so you may need more window sensors or glass break sensors. Also, pets are a really good reason to make sure you have monitored smoke/heat sensors. My dogs are clever, but they do not dial 911 very well!
  8. Speaking of fire monitoring… The better alarm companies will recommend at least one monitored smoke/heat sensor with every system. They should not cost much, and what’s more important – there should be no additional monthly charge for fire monitoring. Also, be sure to get the maximum discount from your insurance company for a monitored system – even more savings with fire monitoring.
  9. Environmental sensors. I just wrote about the nasty lesson I learned from the flood in my basement – so make sure you add those sensors for carbon monoxide, water/flood, and low temperature. Again, there should be no additional monthly charge for adding these.
  10. Get the full picture with cameras. More and more alarm systems include cameras that are integrated for even more peace of mind. You can live-view remotely from any web-enabled device, and even receive motion-activated clips sent to you real-time. Indoor cameras can be pointed out a window very easily – and you can even get outdoor cameras if needed.

All of these design components will of course work better if you have a system with interactive monitoring capabilities. With interactive features, you not only have the confidence that comes with professional monitoring, but also the added benefits of remote arming, text and email notifications from your system, and even special free apps for your iPhone, BlackBerry, or Droid device. FrontPoint, a nationwide leader in interactive, wireless security systems, specializes in these interactive services. FrontPoint is also famous for helping you customize the right system for your home and how you use the system. And yes, there is the perfect FrontPoint video that helps you build your system from scratch. Turns out that when it comes to peace of mind, you can get what you need – and what you want!

Comments (6)

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  1. Alan

    I like the idea of pointing an inside camera out a window as a way to improvise an “outside camera”.

  2. Alan

    I like the idea of pointing an inside camera out a window as a way to improvise an “outside camera”.

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