Security Systems Buying Guide

Security System
Security and Alarm Systems, along with Surveillance Systems, are the primary sub-systems to address the safety concerns you may have for your home and family. Before deciding what features are important to providing a safe home environment for your family, we encourage you to first review our discussion on the key features of home security and surveillance systems in the home automation primer. This will provide you with some base information helpful in defining your own key buying decisions.

In order to develop a list of key features to guide a buying decision for a home security and/or surveillance system you will need to decide what it will take to provide "a safe home environment" for your family in your community.

    Start to develop your list of key features for your home security system by answering these questions:

  1. Do I want a security system I can self-install in my existing home?
  2. Do I want a security system that will dial-out to a security firm or my cell phone when intrusion is detected?
  3. Do I want a security system that will sound a local alarm only when intrusion is detected?
  4. Do I want to also control lighting and/or climate (i.e. room temperature) from my security system?
  5. Do I want to control my security system with the same remote or user interface from my entertainment system?
  6. Do I want a security system with an integrated surveillance system?

You Answered YES to Question 1 Only

The combination of "self-install" and "existing home" points to a wireless security system like the SecureLinc System shown at the top left of this article. This category of home security system will generally use wireless sensors and activate a local alarm. However it very well may fit the key features you are looking for. For more details click here.

You Answered YES to Questions 2 and/or 3

While most all security systems will activate a local alarm when an armed zone is tripped, not all have the capability to dial-out to a security firm. The latter feature is normally found in a "full function" security system.

    Select the features important to you from the list below to begin to formulate the key features for your home security system. Then add any features you need not mentioned below to your list:

  • Zone intrusion detectors, includes:
    • perimeter detectors - normally infrared devices or contact sensors mounted in doors and windows,
    • interior detectors - includes floor pads and motion sensors.
  • Smoke detectors - for fire alarm notification,
  • Outdoor intrusion - may include motion detectors for people or vehicle movement, as well as a gate open sensor,
  • Local siren alarm - activated when system is armed and intrusion is detected,
  • Coordinated flood lights - come fully on or blinking when intrusion is detected,
  • activity logs for detected events.
  • External alerts include:
    • dial-out to security service or homeowner's cell phone or neighbor's phone,
    • page to security service/homeowner's/neighbor's pager,
    • send email to homeowner or other contacts.

You Answered YES to Question 4

Some full function Security Systems have options to include an integrated thermostat or an interface to X10 or UPB lighting control systems. These additional capabilities are accessible from the user interface supplied with the security system, which ranges from a wall-mounted keypad to a web browser running on any PC located anywhere with web access. Examples of these security systems are the Elk M1 Gold, the DSC 32-Zone Security System, and the HAI Omni II family.

You Answered YES to Question 5

You should consider a whole-house automation system that controls the entertainment center with an entry-level controller and supports a serial interface to a security system. The level of integration is typically limited to arm/disarm the security panel and notification of security sensor change in status. Examples of these systems are the HC-300 Controller from Control4 and the MultiBrick System from HomeLogic (see

You Answered YES to Question 6

    Consider the following Security camera features for your key features list:

  • motion triggered video capture to archive,
  • night vision to a specified range,
  • black & white vs. color and frame resolution,
  • live external activity monitoring with outdoor pan/tilt/zoom cameras,
  • live monitor for children or pets with indoor pan/tilt/zoom cameras.

IP Cameras are becoming more popular as they can be plugged into your home data network making them accessible to any computer with access to your network as well as security systems or whole-house automation systems supporting this camera type. For more information click here.

For relevant Security Systems product reviews click here.