Wireless Home Security 101 – Listen Up! Glass Break Sensors Explained

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Tradition has it that home security is built around door/window sensors and motion sensors, and that’s been true – just about every system includes both of these devices. But we also find more and more customers selecting glass break sensors to enhance a system, as an effective cost-saving device when protecting a group of windows in one room. And, unlike motions sensors, glass breaks are active in both the “Stay” and “Away” modes. For more detail on that important topic, here’s a link to my post on How to Arm Your Alarm System. Since folks are increasingly arming their systems when home at night, glass breaks could be the key. Today I’ll explain glass break technology – and why using these sensors could make sense for you.

The Right Design

Plenty of alarm companies try to fit you into a “one-size-fits-most” solution, instead of customizing your system to your specific needs. For instance, few of them focus on safer cellular monitoring. Our handy video on alarm system design touches on each device and how it is used, to help you make the right choice.

Another thing to bear in mind is that our lives change – and so do our neighborhoods! You may want to add devices to your system to increase your peace of mind, or use your system differently – and having a system that is flexible and grows with you can be a real asset. This is another area where an easily self-installed alarm system offers a definite benefit: allowing you to add any device, at any time, easily and affordably.

How Glass Break Technology Works

So, how does a glass break sensor work? It listens for the specific frequency that is generated by breaking glass. Glass breaks sensors are active any time your system is armed, so once you turn your system on (even in the “Stay” mode!), you need to remember that accidentally dropping a glass could trigger an alarm. These sensors (and we use GE’s proven “ShatterPro II” technology) have a range of 20 feet in any direction.

That means one sensor can cover lots of windows in a single room, as long as there are no doors or walls blocking the “sight” of the sensor.

Where Do You Use Them?

Clustered window areas like sunrooms are a natural spot – and one sensor is great for a room with several windows and a sliding glass door, in case the intruder breaks through the glass door.

Other good areas are fixed windows (some of my windows are painted shut!), and vulnerable spots where my motion sensors will not be active in the Stay alarm mode. Wireless glass break sensors mount on the wall or ceiling, and don’t have to “point” at the glass they are protecting – they just need a clear “line of sight” to do their thing.

Bad guys do break glass, often to reach in and unlock a window: it’s much more efficient to use a single glass break sensor than place a door/window sensor on every window in a room.

Using the right sensor for each application is where good home security starts – and Frontpoint has built its approach around providing you with the protection and peace of mind you deserve. We continue to offer interactive, wireless home security solutions that lead the pack.

And when it comes to customized, fully featured alarm systems, including glass break sensors, you can expect us to have the best advice you can find. We’ll be listening for you!

Comments (22)

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  1. Mountain Mike

    Is this technology available for cars, as well?

    • Katie Rynex

      Mountain Mike, at this time, this feature is not available for cars. Thanks for reaching out and please let us know if you have any other questions in the future!

  2. Glenn

    ADT just installed 4 glass break sensors. I want to make sure this stuff works because the motion detector didn’t and he replaced it. I had the volume cranked up good on my home theater and played a few glass breaking wav files and nothing. It sounded pretty realistic to me but not sure if the frequencies that trigger it can be reproduced through speakers. How do you ensure they’re working without smashing glass?

  3. Martine

    We had what appears to be a false glass break alarm this evening. Haven’t had a false alarm before and have had the system for over half a year. Could something Gallo g on hardwood or shifting dishes in the sink have set it off? Alarmed to wake up from sleep in such a way, but feeling better after securing house and glad alarm system is working.

  4. Roy

    I live in a 3000sqft ranch home with basement with a large amount of windows. I have a bunch of ADT glass break sensors installed and find them to be highly effective and a must for a secure home. My contract will soon be up with ADT and I will be giving them the boot they deserve with will manage my own home security system. If you go to something like Amazon you will notice the most of ADTs sensors cost less then $20 but the mark them up over 100s of dollars and really give it to you in the seat of your pants. But back to the point Glass Break Sensors are truly a must and you won’t be displeased. Now I have had false alarms by such things as shutting a cabinet too hard or pulling 2 plates out of the dishwasher and they clap together and set off the alarm or even a pint of ice cream dropping from the freezer to set it off. I find all of theses issues to be reassuring that my sensors work and will catch or deter a thief if he tries to gain entry by breaking a window. BLUF: I just need to be more careful when my alarm is activated. I also have an American Bulldog who only barks at people invading our space. If she is in the right place she can activate the glass break sensors but it’s not an issue if need be you can put you dog in an area away from a glass break sensor to prevent a false alarm. BTW I am a retired 27 year VET who truely believes in having a secure home and glass break sensors will definitely round off your system… Roy

  5. Jared Knight

    Does anyone know what the minim db level is to set off the alarm?

  6. Lee Wardwell

    We had the same issue Erin had. No activity in the house and the sensor set off the alarm in the middle of the night. Quite unsettling.

    • Jamie Botzer

      Hi Lee, that is quite unsettling! I’ll have one of our Customer Support Representatives contact you to see if they can help troubleshoot what happened. As Peter said to Erin, we want all of our customers to trust their FrontPoint system, and maintain peace of mind. Thank you!

  7. Tony

    Hello,

    I believe I had a false alarm tonight where my cats knocked over some glass coasters on a glass side table. Nothing broken but the alarm sounded. Does this make sense? Would it cause a similar frequency even though it did not break?

  8. Tony

    Hello,

    I believe I had a false alarm tonight where my cats knocked over some glass coasters on a glass side table. Nothing broken but the alarm sounded. Does this make sense? Would it cause a similar frequency even though it did not break?

  9. Jeremy

    Do glass break sensors work with block (cube) windows, the kinds often found in basements? Also, what about tempered glass? Thanks!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Jeremy – thanks for your great question. We have spoken with the smart folks at GE Security on the exact properties of the glassbreak sensor that we sell. These sensors operate by detecting the specific frequencies of certain types of glass when broken, thereby reducing the likelihood that other noises are interpreted as activations – potentially causing false alarms and unnecessary police dispatches. It’s a tricky balance. As for this specific sensor, it works with plate glass, tempered glass, wired glass, and laminated glass – but not with glass block. I suspect it’s becasue glass block gives off a very different type of frequency when broken. Thanks again for your question.

  10. Jeremy

    Do glass break sensors work with block (cube) windows, the kinds often found in basements? Also, what about tempered glass? Thanks!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Jeremy – thanks for your great question. We have spoken with the smart folks at GE Security on the exact properties of the glassbreak sensor that we sell. These sensors operate by detecting the specific frequencies of certain types of glass when broken, thereby reducing the likelihood that other noises are interpreted as activations – potentially causing false alarms and unnecessary police dispatches. It’s a tricky balance. As for this specific sensor, it works with plate glass, tempered glass, wired glass, and laminated glass – but not with glass block. I suspect it’s becasue glass block gives off a very different type of frequency when broken. Thanks again for your question.

  11. M.V.

    Hello – I’m researching a package for my home, and I had two questions about glass break vs. window sensors:

    1. Are the glass break sensors prone to false alarms (other than breaking a glass or something of the sort)? A consultant from a security company told me a story to this effect about a couple whose newborn would trigger it.

    2. In the event that an intruder was to break a window with a window sensor on it without disturbing the frame, will it register and trigger an alarm? Not a high-probability event, I suppose… just curious as I evaluate the two options.

    Thanks!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, M.V. – Great questions!

      1) We seldom see anything other then breaking glass setting off these sensors. The sensor we sell uses the very stable GE “ShatterPro II” technology, so that many of the sounds that trigger older glassbreak sensors have been factored out: barking dogs, crying babies, and even a dropped set of keys. With well over 100,000 of these sensors in the filed, we consider them remarkably reliable. That being said, we have heard of two false alarm situations: one was a drum set when played by a teenager, and the other was a very unusual kind of parrot with a long and loud squawk. Seriously!

      2) The door/window sensor is a magnetic device with two components: the sensor itself, which is normally mounted on the frame, and the magnet, which is mounted on the door or moving part of the window. When the sensor and magnet are separated by only a small amount, usually an inch or so, that triggers the alarm. If an intruder manages to break a window and does not dislodge the components of the sensor, then no alarm would be triggered. And it’s not unusual for an intruder to do that: a great example is a sliding glass door, where intruders are increasingly breaking through the glass. For those situations, we generally recommend a door/window sensor on the door, and a glassbreak to cover the glass in the door and any other glass within the range of the glassbreak sensor: 20 feet in any direction, line of sight, from the sensor.

      Thanks again for your questions.

      • Erin

        I had a false alarm last night with the glass break sensor by my front door in the landing. What would have caused this? There wasn’t any activity in the house when it went off.

        • Peter M. Rogers

          Erin – We have asked the Support team to contact you directly on this issue to get more information on what happened, and to help resolve your concern. Thanks for letting us know that you had a situation like this – we want to make sure all our customers trust their FrontPoint systems, and have real peace of mind. Thanks again.

  12. M.V.

    Hello – I’m researching a package for my home, and I had two questions about glass break vs. window sensors:

    1. Are the glass break sensors prone to false alarms (other than breaking a glass or something of the sort)? A consultant from a security company told me a story to this effect about a couple whose newborn would trigger it.

    2. In the event that an intruder was to break a window with a window sensor on it without disturbing the frame, will it register and trigger an alarm? Not a high-probability event, I suppose… just curious as I evaluate the two options.

    Thanks!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, M.V. – Great questions!

      1) We seldom see anything other then breaking glass setting off these sensors. The sensor we sell uses the very stable GE “ShatterPro II” technology, so that many of the sounds that trigger older glassbreak sensors have been factored out: barking dogs, crying babies, and even a dropped set of keys. With well over 100,000 of these sensors in the filed, we consider them remarkably reliable. That being said, we have heard of two false alarm situations: one was a drum set when played by a teenager, and the other was a very unusual kind of parrot with a long and loud squawk. Seriously!

      2) The door/window sensor is a magnetic device with two components: the sensor itself, which is normally mounted on the frame, and the magnet, which is mounted on the door or moving part of the window. When the sensor and magnet are separated by only a small amount, usually an inch or so, that triggers the alarm. If an intruder manages to break a window and does not dislodge the components of the sensor, then no alarm would be triggered. And it’s not unusual for an intruder to do that: a great example is a sliding glass door, where intruders are increasingly breaking through the glass. For those situations, we generally recommend a door/window sensor on the door, and a glassbreak to cover the glass in the door and any other glass within the range of the glassbreak sensor: 20 feet in any direction, line of sight, from the sensor.

      Thanks again for your questions.

      • Erin

        I had a false alarm last night with the glass break sensor by my front door in the landing. What would have caused this? There wasn’t any activity in the house when it went off.

        • Peter M. Rogers

          Erin – We have asked the Support team to contact you directly on this issue to get more information on what happened, and to help resolve your concern. Thanks for letting us know that you had a situation like this – we want to make sure all our customers trust their FrontPoint systems, and have real peace of mind. Thanks again.