Home security system basics

There's no magic formula to figure out exactly how much security you need - it really depends on your needs. There are many security systems to choose from, in a wide range of prices.

A whole-house security system may include:

  • A master control panel, where all the information from the system components is processed.
  • A keypad that allows the system to be easily turned on and off plus one-touch police and fire emergency buttons.
  • Perimeter sensors that trigger an alarm if the doors and window they're attached to are opened.
  • A motion detector that's triggered by motion is an open area.
  • An alarm.

If a whole house system doesn't fit your needs, the first and best line of defense is the exterior doors. Install dead-bolt locks on all doors, including the door from the garage to the house. Once they're installed, get in the habit of locking all the deadbolts every time you leave your house.

Replace old, cracked, or hollow doors with doors made of metal or solid hard wood. And on the outside of the house, you can install security or motion-sensing lights near the doors.

To protect windows install glass-breaking sensors. This device can detect the sound of breaking glass. When it does, it trips an alarm. It's better than a motion detector if you have pets that roam the house at night.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are two of the best security features you can install to protect yourself, your family and your home. They provide early warning signals so you and your family can safely escape. They also may reduce your home insurance premium if your system is monitored.

The Home Safety Council recommends using hard-wired, interconnected detectors with a battery back-up. These alarms are tied in together, so if one alarm is triggered, they all signal together.