Home Security Systems – Types of Burglar Alarms and Security Lighting to Protect Your Home

Summary: Home Security Systems allow you to secure your home by deterring intruders. In this project we cover the most common burglar alarms - wired, un-wired and monitored - and also look at different outdoor security lighting options. Find out what home security systems are available and which one will work best for you.

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We all like to feel secure at home and the idea of being burgled is upsetting for all of us. There are steps you can take to improve home security and make you feel more secure:

  • Put off burglars from attempting to gain access by fitting security lighting, CCTV cameras, and burglar alarms
  • Stay in control by having secure door entry systems, so you only let in people you trust
  • Raise the alarm if someone tried to get into your home a burglar alarm may be all it takes to send them packing
  • Gather the evidence by fitting CCTV security cameras

Don't forget, that as an additional bonus an alarm will also normally reduce your home insurance premium - but you must set it to benefit from these reduced premiums.

What are the Different Types of Burglar Alarm System Available?

Different Burglar alarms have different ways of detecting an intruder. They also have various methods of raising the alarm.

These can vary from loud noises, bells and bright lights, to informing a security centre or even yourself via an SMS text to your mobile phone. They may also include a combination of the above. The common alert types for home security system are as follows:

  • Bells-Only Alarms: This alarm type normally only features an alarm system. When a sensor is tripped e.g. a door is opened or a motion detector picks up movement then the system will trigger the alarm bells to start ringing and alert anyone in the surrounding area. The disadvantage of this is that it depends on whether anyone does actually take notice and respond
  • Notification Alarms: When the system is triggered a response is either sent to a monitoring centre or an email or text message is sent to a designated phone number or email address alerting the recipient to a potential break-in. Speech dialers also fall under this category and they are designed to call a set of phone numbers until they receive an response or can leave a message.

When it comes to the sensors or detectors, home security systems tend to use two main types:

  • Magnetic Contacts: Magnetic contacts on doors and windows are attached to either side e.g. the fixed window or door frame and to the opening section and when closed create a circuit but when they are separated i.e. the circuit is broken the alarm is activated. These types of sensor can come in a range of different types and styles. An example can be seen below:
  • Magnetic catch door and window alarm

    Magnetic catch door or window alarm

  • Interior Passive Infrared Detectors (PIR's): These detect movement and body heat within a defined arc and then activate an alarm, like the one shown below. This is the most common type of detector used in burglar alarms. As with most modern systems they can either be hard-wired to the main control panel or they can operate wirelessly
  • PIR motion detecting alarm

    PIR motion detecting alarm

DIY Alarms

If you are a fairly competent DIYer you will be able to fit a self-install security system, with no problems. This is a great option if you are on a budget.

DIY security alarm kits are available in a vast array of options such as wired or wireless. Obviously the latter is easier and quicker to install, but both feature upgrade options such as extra PIR's, magnetic contacts, cameras and remote controls.

Most kits are also available as bells-only or notification versions. The latter may be a little tricky to setup as it might involve configuring app's and sim cards etc.... so reading and following the instructions is essential.

One thing to note is that it is very unlikely that you will be able to use a DIY installed kit alarm kit in a ″monitored″ setup (see below). Most companies supplying a monitored service will insist that the system is installed by one of their own engineers.

With either type you can 'personalise' your system with a PIN that activates and deactivates the alarm.

There are no on-going monthly fees with a DIY package, as there is no control centre involved.

Yale wireless alarm DIY installation kit

Yale wireless alarm DIY installation kit

Monitored Alarms

The main benefit of a monitored alarm is that if it goes off you know it won't be ignored. How many times have we just turned over and gone back to sleep if we hear and alarm in the night?

Monitored alarms are linked to a security centre that is manned 24-hours-a-day. They will alert one or more of your nominated key holders.

These alarms are fitted by a professional who is recommended by or employed by the security company.

You pay a monthly fee depending on the service you choose. These monitored burglar alarms are more expensive than off-the-shelf kits and you have to factor in the monthly fees they attract, but if you live in a vulnerable property you might think the extra money is well spent.

There are now quite a few companies supplying these services both local to many regions around the UK and also some of the more well-known national brands such as ADT and in most situations most will offer a maintenance contract for your alarm system. This can include remote error checking and also on-site checks and repairs.

There are normally several levels of security cover when it comes to ″paid for″ services:

Keyholder Monitoring

This service is normally supplied through your monitoring company and depending on the level of support you have, the company will either send out one of their own security officers to inspect your property or contact your nominated keyholder.

In terms of your nominated keyholder, common stipulations are that they need to be within a 20 - 30 minute car journey from the property (so they must be capable of driving) and have a set of keys that will enable them to access the property. If you change your locks then you must supply your keyholder with a new set, this is your responsibility!

It is also your responsibility to keep the monitoring company up to date with the name(s) and contact details of your chosen keyholder and also supply second and sometimes third options if the primary contact is unavailable or away.

Police Monitoring

This level of support ensures that not only is your monitoring company notified to any breaches in your security system but also your local police station (normally contacted by the monitoring company).

Under most contracts, for the police to be called out at least two sensors within the property must be tripped (e.g. a door sensor and a motion detector).

Although this sounds like a great feature there are a few things to be aware of in that firstly your monitoring company must be registered with the local police, secondly that this does not necessarily ensure that the police will attend in a timely manner as it depends on what else they are dealing with at the time and thirdly if they respond to three false callouts within 12 months then you will be struck off the list and they will not respond again.

Cost of Installing a Burglar Alarm

You can buy single magnetic alarms for windows and doors and these cost around £20 each.

A full DIY security packages ranges from approximately £100 - £300.

Monitored security systems usually start at £100 - £150 for installation plus monthly fees of around £20 - £30.

GSM Alarms

First of all let's do some explaining. What is a GSM Alarm? Well GSM means Global System for Mobile communications. So it doesn't need a phone line, it works with a SIM, like your mobile phone. These days GSM alarms are designed to let you use your mobile phone as a remote control for your security system.

There are different options available including GSM temperature detectors and flood detectors.

When a sensor is tripped, this can then trigger the system to send notification to a mobile device and also to a control centre, depending on whether you have a monitoring contract or not.

CCTV Systems

CCTV means Close Circuit Television. If you own your property it is perfectly legal to install a CCTV system. Just check if you require planning permission.

The camera should only be trained on your property, and not your neighbour's property, unless they give their permission.

Just be careful where you are pointing your cameral, any cameras trained on areas beyond your property boundaries could amount to harassment, and they could contravene The Human Rights Act.

Panic Button

Panic Buttons bring peace of mind to the elderly and vulnerable. A panic button does what it says on the tin. If you hit the panic button, it will raise the alarm.

You can get wall-mounted panic buttons, integrated intruder alarms and panic buttons and it may be combined with a personal alarm worn as a pendant. When activated it dials one or more of the programmed contacts as well as alerting a customer security centre.

Dummy Burglar Alarm Box

You can fit a dummy alarm box on the outside of your house, which may deter a small-time opportunistic burglar. However professional thieves can tell the difference between a working alarm system and an empty plastic box sitting on the outside of your house.

This device is not likely to work very effectively, and you won't benefit from reduced contents insurance premiums either, so you're probably better off spending the money on better locks for doors and windows to secure your home better.

How To Identify 'At Risk' Areas

Different types of homes have different weak points when it comes to home security.

A house with large gardens may have large areas around ground floor windows that are badly lit at night. This will allow intruders to pick an easy access point without been seen. So security lights, burglar alarm and security camera are all valid home security measures.

In a second floor flat, the main at risk area would be the hall adjacent to the entry door as this is the only reasonable entry route. A door entry system with a video link might be the best solution here.

A terrace house with a long footprint could benefit from detectors at the front and back doors. These may have magnetic contacts on each door or PIR's positioned on the walls opposite.

In most homes the front door is generally deemed the most likely entry/exit route. So it makes sense if you are fitting a home security system to have the control sited near the front door so you can activate it easily when you leave your home.

Using Exterior Lighting to Improve Security

Outdoor lighting is a simple, cost-effective, way of protecting your property against both vandalism and burglary. It's fair to say that intruders would much rather go about their business in the dark!

The different types of outdoor security lighting include:

PIR Security Lighting

PIR (Passive Infrared Sensor) motion sensor lighting is activated when someone walks within the detection area. The light will come on for a set amount of time, and then if there is no more movement it will turn off until it detects movement again.

Halogen PIR security light

Halogen PIR security light

Dusk to Dawn Security Lighting

'Dusk-to-dawn' lighting provides all-night illumination. The time that the light comes on can be set by a timer or is activated by a light sensor. These will not alert you of any movement on your property, but they should make your home much less attractive to burglars.

Dusk-to-dawn outside light

Dusk-to-dawn outside light

Hi-Lo Security Lighting

'Hi-Lo lighting' switches on automatically at dusk using a light sensor. This light is less bright than the full setting, which is triggered if it senses movement or body heat within range. Hi-Lo lighting effectively combines the two systems above.

Don't forget to include back doors and side alleys when you are fitting security lighting.

It is convenient to have motion sensor lighting at the front of your home so you can find your keys, but don't forget the main purpose is to show up any likely burglars. Stand outside your home in the dark and check which areas might benefit from a security light.

Hi-lo security light

Hi-lo outdoor security light with PIR sensor

Solar and LED Energy Saving Options

The majority of the cheaper security lighting available will either use a Halogen bulb or domestic-type bayonet or screw in bulb. If these lights are left on for long periods during the day or night this can mount up in terms of energy usage and costs. Fortunately today, most security lights are available as LED's so it's worth shopping around. They will be more expensive to purchase but will save you a fair bit in the long run.

On a comparative level a 20W LED security light will use 90% less energy than its 400W counterpart.

As well as LED options, many outdoor lights are available in a solar version meaning that not only can they be easily fixed in any location (as you don't need to connect to the mains) they are effectively free to run!

LED security floodlight with PIR

LED security floodlight with PIR

Need any more help?

Visit our security projects section for more advice on fitting home security systems, burglar alarms and door entry systems, new locks and cameras.

If you want to secure your home you will find a range of home security systems and products in our online store.

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