Grand Designs House, Hillcott Barn, threshing window
Thomas Studio

Home security systems

If you have had a spate of recent break-ins in the area its time to invest in a home security system for your home or office. The options are almost overwhelming.

  • Do you want to self-monitor the system or have a third party monitor?
  • Do you need cameras? Should every door and window be connected to the system?
  • How many motion detectors?
  • What about smart-house options?
  • Do you want a professionally installed system or do it yourselves?

    Contemporary home security systems are comprised of three basic sub-systems, burglar alarms, smoke and fire alarms, and carbon monoxide alarms. Temperature and water sensors are also available.

The home security system using a burglar alarm monitors the perimeter of the house with door and window sensors and cameras; the interior is monitored with motion detectors. Select motion detectors that are pet sensitive and will not be set off by your animals. Most people opt for a combination of the above. Depending on the visibility of your house to your neighbours, second storey window sensors may not be needed.

The home security system using smoke and fire alarms can be the basic smoke detectors or be upgraded with a heat detector, which monitors a sudden rise in temperature. Building regulations requires a smoke and fire alarm to be located in each bedroom, outside of each bedroom, and on every level. The alarms must be interconnected (either wirelessly or hardwired) so that all the alarms will sound when one is activated.

Carbon monoxide is an adourless, colourless, poisonous gas. The carbon monoxide alarms are installed on each level of the house and detect when carbon monoxide is present at an unsafe level. The building regulations requires carbon monoxide alarms in houses with fuelled fired appliances and/or houses with attached garages. Most systems offer a combination smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide alarm. This reduces the number of sensors mounted on the walls.

Temperature sensors monitor cold air inside the house to prevent pipe freezing. The water sensor detects water intrusion or a leaking water heater.

Cost can be a determining factor in deciding whether to have a centralised third party monitor or to self- monitor. A self-monitoring system will notify you on your smart phone when the alarm is activated. It is then your responsibility to call emergency services or determine if it is a false alarm. One drawback with this system is if your phone is turned off you will not be notified. Centralised third party monitoring has an on-going subscription fee. Many home insurance policies provide a credit for monitored systems so it might be a break-even investment. Both professionally installed systems and do-it-yourself systems offer centralised third party monitoring.

Remote access and the integration with a home automation system is available with most security systems. With the remote access you can log-on and control your security system, thermostat, lights, locks, and other connected items. Some systems will even notify you when someone rings your doorbell and you can talk to them by video on your phone. Most systems allow you to add additional automation features at a later date.

Online reviews of security systems and meeting with local security specialists can help you determine the best solution for your needs and budget. The system often selected is one that is professionally installed and monitored because of the ease of use, the ability to add home automation systems later, and the price is reasonable.