home security definitions

Home Security Monitoring Definitions

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Active Infrared Motion Detector: This motion detector emits an infrared signal and, similar to an Ultrasonic Motion Detector, its signal is interrupted by an intruder, trigging the sensor. Unlike a Passive Infrared Motion Detector, it does not deal with heat energy emitted by an intruder.

Alarm Monitoring: When an alarm is triggered by a fire or intruder, a signal is sent to a team of operators, who will immediately notify the proper authorities. There are a number of different alarm system monitoring companies to choose from, both locally and nationally.

Alarm System: An alarm system is a device - or system of devices working together - that triggers an alert when there is a potential home security issue. Equipping your home with an alarm system can make all of the difference in keeping you safe during a home invasion or house fire. A suitable home alarm system should include a phone jack, control keypad, battery, transformer, bell or alarm, and window and door sensors. Learn more about the best home alarm systems here.

Automated Lighting: See Indoor Motion Lights and Outdoor Motion Lights.


Bells / Sirens: A home security monitoring company can equip your home with a bell or siren that will notify your household in the event of a fire or intrusion. Also see Indoor Sirens.

Burglar Alarm: Burglar alarms use a loud noise to scare off burglars and other intruders. If part of a complete home alarm monitoring system, local authorities will be notified in the event of a home intrusion. Find more burglar prevention tips here.


Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Carbon monoxide is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it is odorless and colorless. A carbon monoxide detector detects high levels of this deadly gas in a particular area and alert authorities to it. If your carbon monoxide monitor goes off, don’t wait for EMS to arrive; get everyone out of the house as quickly and safely as possible. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can be released from your gas stove, furnace, gas or wood fireplace, automobile parked in a garage, and defective chimneys.

Closed Circuit Security Systems: With a closed circuit system, the security system circuit remains closed while a door is closed; however, if a door is opened, the circuit is broken and an alarm is triggered. See also Open Circuit Security Systems.

Contacts: Contacts are hidden devices that detect the opening of protected windows and doors. If the contact is broken while the home security system is activated, a chime will sound and a signal will be sent to the alarm monitoring company. If the system is disarmed, a opened door or window will give off a chime or bell but will not send out a signal to the authorities.

Continually Monitored Security Systems: With a continually monitored security system in place, a triggered alarm will alert your security monitoring company, who will subsequently notify the police and other safety officials.

Continuous Wave Radar Motion Detector: This motion sensor detects subtle changes in the frequencies that it emits through microwave signals, setting off the sensor’s alarm. A burglar or intruder passing through the field of this motion detector will disrupt the frequency and trigger the sensor’s alarm. Continuous wave motion detectors are generally more expensive than other sensors because of their increased sensitivity and reliability over broader areas.

Control Keypad: The control keypad, or control panel, is the central intelligence of a home alarm system. The panel is typically located somewhere readily accessible to the homeowner while out of view from others. To deactivate the security system, you must enter your keypad password within a certain period of time when arriving home. If you fail to enter in the correct password within the designated timeframe, the alarm will sound.

Control Panel: See Control Keypad.


Door Contacts: See Door Sensor.

Door Sensor: Door sensors, or door contacts, are among the most important components of a successful home security system, and are typically comprised of two distinct parts: the piece that connects to the door and the piece that connects to the doorframe. When a burglar attempts to open a door that is equipped with a sensor, the magnetic contact is broken, causing the alarm to sound.


Electric Circuit Home Security Systems: Electric circuit is the simplest type of home security system, making it one of the most common. Electric circuit home security systems do an excellent job of guarding the outside of the home, including the entryways through which a burglar may attempt to gain access. There are two types of electric circuit alarms: open circuit security systems and closed circuit security systems. The intended outcome of both types is essentially the same.

Electronic Surveillance System: Electronic surveillance within a home security system typically includes wireless security cameras and may also incorporate burglar alarms, closed circuit television and a number of other electronic devices that protect homes from break-ins, burglary and assault.


Flood Water Sensor: Flood water sensors are ideal for people who live in flood zones, as well as people who own vacation homes or other frequently unoccupied properties. A flood water sensor is a device that notifies property-owners of any water-related issues at their property. Flooding is not only caused by rain storms, but also by septic tank backup and broken pipes.


Glass Break Detector: This device provides an important level of defense that is often overlooked when selecting a home security system. By breaking a ground floor window, a burglar can gain entrance to a home without disrupting door and window contacts. A glass break detector is triggered by the sound or vibration of breaking glass, setting off an alarm and alerting the home security monitoring company.


Hardwired Security System: A key advantage of a hardwired system is that – unlike a wireless system – it works on electricity, which means not having to worry about security outages caused by dying battery power. On the other hand, hardwired systems can be difficult to install. The most ideal time to install a hardwired system is during the home-building process; once the walls are up, it makes hardwiring a home security system a far more difficult process. Hardwired systems may become rather costly over time since they have many parts, take more expertise to install than wireless systems, and require frequent maintenance.

High/Low Temp Sensor: Considering the significant damage that can result from a broken down furnace or air conditioner, people who own vacation homes or other frequently unoccupied properties can greatly benefit from high/low temperature sensors. If the temperature in a home reaches a certain level and is not adjusted by the furnace or air conditioner, a high/low temperature sensor alerts the property owner, even if they are not present.

Home Security Light Timers: These are meant to illuminate a particular area at the same time every day, which is helpful for anyone who is frequently away from home at night. For instance, you can have the lights turn on at dusk and have them remain on until dawn. When the sun begins to rise, the lights will automatically turn off.

Home Security Signs: Home security company-branded stickers and signs tell others that your home is protected by a home security alarm system. Additionally, signs that say “beware of dog” or “neighborhood watch” should not be overlooked, as these can and will scare burglars away before they ever get close to your home. Even if you do not have a security system, you can purchase these signs and stickers online.

Home Security System: Any comprehensive system that protects a home from the threat of intrusion. There are two basic types of home security systems: do-it-yourself (DIY) systems and alarm company monitoring systems.


Infrared Motion Sensor: The best available motion detectors are those that are infrared. Infrared motion detectors sense the movement of an intruder in your home by picking up infrared radiation. This type of motion detector provides a high level of reliability with few false alarms.

Indoor Motion Lights: Motion lights turn on only when there is movement within your home, allowing you to scare off intruders without having to leave your interior lights on all of the time.

Indoor Sirens: Indoor sirens and bells can alert your family and neighbors to a problem occurring in your home. The system can be customized so that different events trigger different alert sounds. Most security companies install a 15 watt siren, which should be loud enough to alert everyone inside of the house. However, a more robust option is a 30 watt siren, which can be heard from outside of the house and helps to alert neighbors if someone has broken into your home. See also Bells / Sirens.


Lighting: See Indoor Motion Lights and Outdoor Motion Lights. Or view a complete guide to home security lighting systems and products here.

Local Alarm System: A local alarm system simply sounds an alarm when the security system is triggered. Although the authorities are not notified, the alarm is typically enough to scare off intruders.


Motion Sensor: Motion sensors detect home intruders and subsequently notify the authorities. To reduce the likelihood of false alarms, these devices can often be programmed to be triggered only by specific movements, such as those of large animals and people.


Outdoor Motion Lights: Motion lights turn on only when there is movement within a certain distance from your home, allowing you to scare off burglars without having to leave your light on at all times. It makes the most sense to install automated lighting in poorly lit exterior areas and around entryways, such as garage doors. View additional outdoor home security tips here.

Open Circuit Security Systems: With an open circuit system, the security system circuit is completed and an alarm is sounded when a door is opened (for example). See also Closed Circuit Security Systems.


Passive Infrared Motion Detector: Currently the most popular motion detection type – and relatively inexpensive in comparison to others – Passive Infrared Motion Detectors deal with heat energy emitted by an intruder and are able to detect changes in ambient infrared radiation.

Pet Immune Motion Sensors: Most pet motion sensors are able distinguish humans from household pets that are under 2.5” tall and weigh up to 85 lbs and will not trigger an alarm if a small pet passes by the sensor.


Recessed Magnetic Door Contact: Recessed magnetic door contacts are typically used on Closed Circuit Alarm Systems and work by magnet sensors mounted inside of a doorframe. When the door is closed and the magnets are lined up, the switch is closed. Recessed magnetic door contacts cannot be seen, making them both aesthetically pleasing and less prone to tampering. The pros and cons of using this type of door contact can be found here.


Single Premise Alarm: Homeowners seeking a basic home security solution should consider this option. A single premise alarm is basic, alerting residents of potential security issues such as a door being opened or smoke in the home.

Smoke and Heat Detectors: Fire protection is one of the most critical add-ons of a home alarm system. If smoke or fire is detected, the fire protection feature will alert residents to the danger. Fire protection helps to ensure that everyone home safely escapes the house, and notifies the fire department instantly in the event that nobody is at home during a fire.

Solar Lighting: Powered by the sun, solar lights collect energy during the day that is used to keep them lit when the darkness of night rolls in. The appeal of setting up the lights and letting the sun do the rest of the work has greatly increased the popularity of solar lighting.

Surface Mount Magnetic Door Contact: Surface mount magnetic contacts are used on Closed Circuit Alarm Systems. As the name suggests, these devices work through magnets; when the magnets are lined up, the switch is closed. Surface mount magnetic door contacts are a preferred easy-to-install option for homeowners who frequently leave their home’s windows and doors open. The pros and cons of surface mount magnetic contacts can be found here.


Telephone Dialer System: When the home security alarm is triggered, a telephone dialer system calls a preprogrammed number, contacting the security company. A security service representative then notifies the authorities of the issue.


ULC / UL Certified: The first thing to consider when selecting a home security monitoring company is whether or not the company is either ULC- or UL-certified. The Underwriter’s Laboratory Canada (ULC) and Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) limit their approval ratings to home security companies that operate under high standards. Although ULC- or UL-approval rating is not the only detail to consider, it is an important factor to consider as you assess different companies.

Ultrasonic Motion Detector: This type of motion detector uses sound energy to detect movement within a particular area. Quartz-crystal transducers emit ultrasonic sound energy waves, which are disrupted and trigger the sensor when movement is detected. Because of their reliability and straight-forward installation, motion detectors are generally used in automatic doors. The cons of ultrasonic motion detectors are that they are vulnerable to being blocked by just about any material and they are set off easily.


Vibration Motion Detector: This type of motion detector detects simple vibration. It can be purchased as an electrical device or created as part of a do-it-yourself (DIY) project using from materials at home. The DIY approach typically involves using a lever to activate a switch when vibration is detected.


Window Contacts: See Window Sensors.

Window Sensors: Like door sensors, there are also sensors that can be put on windows. There are two types of window sensors common among home security systems: glass break detectors and magnetic sensors. A glass break detector picks up the sound or vibration of breaking glass and activates the alarm.

Wired Home Security System: See Hardwired Security System.

Wireless Alarm System: Homeowners preferring to install do-it-yourself home security systems should consider a wireless setup. Wireless alarm systems are easy to install and maintain, even for amateurs. Although wireless systems have few parts to replace, these systems still require service and maintenance. The biggest advantage of a wireless system may also be its biggest drawback: since wireless alarm systems are built with state-of-the-art technology, they offer the best available protection beginning as soon as they’re purchased; unfortunately, this also means that a system will quickly become obsolete and may require an occasional upgrade. The pros and cons of installing a wireless alarm system can be found here.