Do Home Security Systems Work?
Installing a home security system has been proven to reduce the likelihood of your property being burglarized. A study by Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice that analyzed crime data from the Newark Police Department over a four-year period showed that burglaries in the New Jersey city decreased as more security systems were installed. “The study credits the alarms with the decrease in burglaries and the city’s overall crime rate,” study author Dr. Seungmug Lee said in a press release. The study also said that technical improvements in home security systems, such as modern sensors and better signaling technology, have made them more dependable.
The main purpose of a home security system is to keep your property and the people inside it safer. Harm may come in the form of a burglary, home invasion, fire, flood, or other environmental disaster. Most home security systems can monitor for all of these. These systems use a combination of sensors that communicate over radio frequencies or wires to a central hub, which then communicates with the outside world using a cellular connection or occasionally a landline. The hub is generally a touch screen mounted to your wall or a small box placed on a counter or in a cupboard.
The sensors are installed strategically around your home at entry points such as doors and first-floor windows, as well as in hallways and high-traffic areas. They detect when a door or window is opened or closed, when someone is moving around in your home, or both. When the system is armed, it sends an alert to the hub after a sensor is triggered. The hub then sounds an audible alarm, sends you a notification (a phone call, text, or a notification on a mobile app), and can alert a monitoring center if you have professional monitoring.
With professional monitoring, trained security company employees track the signals from your system and attempt to contact you and the relevant authorities if a potential threat is detected.
Technology Today Has Vastly Improved!
Most home security systems are wireless and don’t require a landline or electrical work to install. Below is a rundown of the common security alarm features and what each one does:
Control panel or hub This is the heart of a security system. It uses radio signals to communicate with your security sensors, you, and the monitoring center. Most feature a built-in keypad or another way to manually arm and disarm the system.
Key fob and/or keypad These are additional ways to arm or disarm the system. Often a keypad is built into the system’s hub, but you can buy additional keypads, which can be helpful if you have more than one exterior door. With a wireless smart system, you can also use an app on your smartphone to manage the alarm.
Contact sensors These are small, battery-powered devices consisting of a sensor and a magnet. You place the sensor on one part of a door or window and the magnet on the other. When the door or window opens, the contact between them breaks and a signal is sent to the hub.
Motion sensors These slightly larger battery-powered devices are generally placed up high to cover areas people have to move through when they're in your home. These mainly use a technology called passive infrared that detects movement by sensing body heat.
Glass-break sensors A glass-break sensor listens for the sound of broken glass and generally has a range of about 25 feet. They're a good option in homes with large pets who may trigger motion sensors. Because a contact sensor can be bypassed if a burglar shatters a window and then climbs through to gain access into your home, a glass-break sensor is a good secondary measure for windows and sliding glass doors.
Environmental sensors Sensors that detect smoke, heat, carbon monoxide, water, and temperature can protect you and your home from fire, frozen pipes, and gas poisoning. These sensors don’t come standard with most security systems, however. In addition, some DIY systems don’t offer professional monitoring of environmental sensors, so be sure to check if this is something you want.
High-decibel sirens While today’s wireless technologies provide many sophisticated ways to scare off burglars, there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned piercing alarm to alert you and your neighbors to potential danger. All home security systems offer an interior siren. Most are built into the hub, and many have the option of adding an external siren. Generally, these emit a noise somewhere between 80 and 115 decibels.
Yard sign and stickers Brightly colored signs advertising your home security system are standard equipment and are your first line of defense. Many burglars won’t even attempt to break in when they see them. Professor Joe Kuhns of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at UNC Charlotte conducted a study among incarcerated burglars to find out what motivates and deters them. “The burglars themselves suggested to us that if they saw indications of an alarm system, whether that's a sign or a visible camera, they would simply go elsewhere,” Kuhns says.
Cameras Many home security systems don't come with surveillance cameras, but these are the most popular add-on products. Types of security cameras include:
Video doorbell cameras: The most common type of security camera purchased, a video doorbell camera can connect to your home security system with your existing doorbell wiring or wirelessly over Wi-Fi and alert you when it detects motion at the front door. Some doorbell cameras can even detect when a package is dropped off.
Outdoor cameras: Weatherproof outdoor cameras are also common. These either plug into an outdoor socket or are routed to an indoor socket, which usually requires drilling a hole through a wall. Some outdoor cameras are battery-powered, and some have solar panels and don’t need to be charged.
Indoor cameras: These are found in many home security systems as well, although they're somewhat less popular due to privacy concerns. They can be wired or wireless, depending on your needs.
Regardless of the type of camera you purchase or where the cameras are placed, most security cameras can detect motion and send alerts. Some can detect people specifically, and a few even have facial recognition capability.
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