How To Install An Alarm System In Your Home

The fundamentals of self-installed security systems


You may think that it’s difficult or risky to take on the project of installing your own alarm system for your home or small business. The fact is, the technology has progressed to the point where almost anyone can get a high-quality interactive security system up and running in minutes. Manufacturers have come a significantly long way in the design of their systems. Today’s systems offer more features than ever before. And when purchased from the right provider, they’re incredibly easy to self install. It’s fair to say that the industry has progressed to the point that “installation” is not even required. Professional systems arrive at your door fully programmed, tested, and ready to simply unbox and turn on. This may sound hard to believe, but it’s true!

Sophisticated Technology — Ready to Go in Minutes

When it comes to setting up a security system yourself, the hardware and provisioning make all the difference in the world. I’m not talking about dumbed down, low-quality stuff. I’m talking about state-of-the-art, world class technology that is sold and installed by some of the largest, most respected providers in the world. When you purchase your gear from a professional security specialist, you can open the box, place and position your devices, and start enjoying your system instantly.

Let's look at the actual activation and component placement process. In this article, I'll touch on the placement and activation of your system. Future articles will take a much closer look at placement component by component.


Situating the Main Control Panel

The main control panel is the brains of the system, and it's important to place it in a safe area: away from any area that can be easily seen by a person looking in from the outside. Place your control panel close to an electrical outlet that is not controlled by a light switch and is not a GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter).

When placing your main control unit, you’ll also need to consider its proximity to the doors you and your family typically enter and exit from. In the past, it was important to place the control panel close to these doors. But with today’s wireless systems, location is much less important, since your system can be controlled not only by the main panel, but also via any smartphone or tablet.


Window and Door Sensors

Windows and doors are primarily protected with magnetic contacts. These sensors come in two parts: a magnetic case (the larger of the two units) and a contact with a built-in wireless transmitter. If possible, it’s best to mount the larger case (the contact/transmitter) on the non-moving part of the door or window. Then mount the magnet on the moving part. It should be very close to the magnet, but not touching it. Just make sure the guide arrows on each of the two main components are aligned. Repeat this for every door and window.


Passive Infrared Motion Detectors

Passive Infrared motion detectors (PIRs) are placed or mounted in areas depending on the layout of the home. These PIR detectors are most sensitive when people walk across their pattern of protection, which refers to the usable viewing area of the detector. The detector needs to “see” its target to work properly. The pattern of protection is usually 90 degrees. To better understand this, picture a spray can that starts spraying at its nozzle and covers roughly a 90-degree angle. Depending on the sophistication of the detector, its range could be 10 feet or or more at that 90-degree angle (check your individual product for more exact specifications).

Here’s an example. Assume you’re protecting a rear family room that has windows and glass sliding doors leading to the backyard. The best place to mount the PIR would be in the part of the room where the rear wall meets the wall that stems towards the front of the house. This would create a pattern of protection that would detect an intruder who was breaking through the rear windows or doors. This placement would offer maximum sensitivity because the intruder would be cross-walking directly through the “spray” of protection.

To clarify: I’m using the word “spray” to help simplify the explanation, but a PIR does not transmit anything. A Passive Infrared Detector is just that: passive. It's similar to a camera; it views. What is views and how it works will be discussed in future articles, as will other security components, such as glass break sensors and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

To sum up: Don't hesitate to install your own system. But do take the time to understand who you are buying it from. And make sure you understand what to expect when your shipment arrives. All security providers are not the same. You can purchase spark plugs and hundreds of other engine components from an autoparts store and then figure out how to build a car. Or you can go to a reputable dealer, buy the car, put the key in the ignition and drive away. In both cases you purchased the parts. But In the latter case, it was much easier to get where you wanted to go.

Published September 22nd, 2021