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Designing Your Security System

Security System Design – Questions to Ask Yourself


OK….you’ve selected the company you feel offers the best value for your situation.  Now it’s time to design your system.  There are a number of variables to take into consideration when designing your security system.


  • Will you be arming the system when you are home, away, or both?
  • Do you have pets?  How many and how big are they? Are they relegated to specific areasQuestions to ask when designing your security system.-Considerations for designing a home security system or do they have free rein of the property?
  • Who will be using the system?
  • What life safety and environmental protection would you like included in your system?
  • Are there any possessions or sensitive items or papers which might require additional protection?
  • Are you interested in home automation features and creating a “smart home”?
  • Do you want to include cameras in your system?
  • Would you like the ability to view the cameras and control your system remotely?
  • What is your budget for your system?


The last consideration will likely impact many of the features that you will include in your system. The most common components are listed below.

When designing your security system, at a minimum, I always recommend protecting all of your doors and using a motion detector to be used as a backup if entry is gained through a window.  A minimum of one smoke detector will ensure that, in the event of a fire, a signal is sent if there is no time, or you are unable to contact the fire department. Each of the above considerations will be dealt with in greater detail in the blog or you can get additional information and guidance here.

 Designing Your Security System -Common Home Security System Components


Home Security Systems 101-Components of a Home Security System

There are a wide array of components that can interface and be monitored with today’s sophisticated alarm system.  A comprehensive protection package might contain any or all of the following components.


Control Panel

The control panel is the ‘brain’ of your home security systems. It communicates with sensors and detectors throughout the house. It usually has a keypad that enables you to arm, disarm and activate your alarm system.

Siren/Alarm Annunciator

Home security systems activate an internal siren to alert you of the presence of an intruder, or other alarm situation.  Life safety sensors can activate alarms to warn your family of a number of potentially dangerous situations. A comprehensive system can detect carbon monoxide, fire, flood, or other critical systems as well. Many systems also include chime functions and voice annunciation to describe the nature and location of an alarm signal.

Door and Window Sensors

 The foundation of a home security system, these sensors create a magnetic contact at the most vulnerable points of intrusion doors and accessible first story windows.  They are comprised of 2 parts- a transmitter and a magnet. When a door or window is opened, the magnetic contact is broken and the transmitter sends a signal back to the control panel.

Motion Sensors

Motion detectors can generally detect motion from 40 to 80 feet away and can be connected to your home alarm system or to a security camera. They work on passive infra-red technology, detecting changes in heat signatures, and often offer “pet immunity” to screen out small animals.

Glass Break Sensors

Glass Break Sensors detect either the sounds of breaking glass or sense the impact-or both.  These are enrolled in the system as perimeter protection and are active in either the “stay” or away” mode.

Security Cameras

CCTV cameras are used for surveillance and to capture images and video. Surveillance cameras can be either Analog or Digital and can transmit signals either by cable or wirelessly for observation and can be stored locally on a DVR (digital video recorder) or offsite on a web server.

IP/network cameras are similar to analog/digital cameras but have an IP address assigned to them.

Outdoor Perimeter Protection

Specially designed motion sensors, contacts, and security cameras can also be used to activate alarms and monitor outside of the home.  They are designed to withstand the elements and be less susceptible to false alarms.

Smoke Detectors

Unlike the average ionization home smoke detectors, these smoke detectors combine photoelectric technology with heat sensors.  This provides reliable protection for any type of fire and is less susceptible to false alarms.

Heat Detectors

These are used in areas where excessive smoke might be an issue – garages, basements, kitchens, and around wood stoves.  They detect a rapid rise in temperature.

CO Sensors

CO sensors detect the presence of Carbon Monoxide.  Often used in bedrooms above garages and where propane is burned.

Environmental Sensors

Sensors that can detect flooding and low temperature can protect your home from freezing pipes and flooding.  These are typically placed in the coldest area of the home and areas most affected by potential flooding.

Home Automation

Recent advances in technology enable the alarm system to control lights, thermostats, door locks, and a host of other devices.  The entire system can be controlled remotely on your phone, tablet, or computer with apps, anywhere in the world where there is internet access.

Cellular Back-Up

In areas where there is reliable cellular service, a system can be equipped with cellular communication as either a primary or backup means of communication. This eliminates the potential of a system being defeated by cutting the phone or cable lines.

Is the “Basic Package” enough?

When designing your home security system you will ultimately need to establish priorities and a budget to be able to formulate a security strategy that will meet your needs.  It is helpful to think in terms of layers of protection when constructing your security system.  A comprehensive security system may incorporate a combination of perimeter protection, interior protection, life safety, and home automation components.  Each of these topics is addressed in greater detail individually in my posts.

But, one thing to keep in mind is that some protection is better than no protection.  Most systems are fully expandable up to 40+ zones of protection. For some, it may make sense to have a long-term strategy that includes upgrades.  Frankly, it is rare that a basic system package will provide complete protection.

Consider the following scenario.




The sound of breaking glass being shattered by the blow of a Stanley ball pein hammer pierces the night- awakening you from the deep slumber of a midsummer’s night. You sit bolt upright, cradling your pillow to your chest in fear.burglar-break in

Silence…for a moment….and the sounds of crickets chirping on a  balmy August night. Then…the faint crunching of broken glass against tile -made by size 10.5 Timberlands as the intruder climbs through the sliding glass door,  making his way stealthily across the kitchen floor.

Your heart is pounding as you hold your breath, struggling to hear the faintest of sounds as the footsteps have gone silent. Then….a barely discernible creak on the loose floorboard beneath the tattered carpet runners on your newly refinished hardwood hallway floor….that leads to your new 1st-floor master suite.

Your mind is racing…and you curse yourself for not having updated your Security Master 2000 when you renovated your home. Why didn’t you listen to the security specialist when he pointed out that your motion detectors would not be active in the “stay mode”?

Shaking yourself back into reality, you slowly reach under the bed, with trembling hands, for the 32” Louisville Slugger you kept since your sandlot baseball days in elementary school. Fumbling past the dust bunnies, old books and unworn shoes…you finally grasp the reassuring piece of ash wood with your now sweaty palms. 

And then….the faint creak of unlubricated brass hinges…as a shadowy figure slowly enters the room…

No shrill 105 db sirens to scare off the intruder….no automatic calls to a trained professional dispatcher at the monitoring center…no reassuring police sirens approaching.

Just you…your Louisville Slugger and an unknown assailant.

If only you had upgraded your alarm system…

OK….a bit melodramatic…but, it does illustrate the importance of carefully considering all your options when planning and designing your home security system. For true “peace of mind,” it may make sense to look beyond the pre-packaged 3 doors and a motion detector basic, entry-level system and carefully consider some of the additional components necessary to create a more comprehensive protection package.


Security System Design – The Basics

Designing the Best Home Security Systems


Perimeter Protection – The first consideration when designing a home security system is perimeter protection.  The priority at this stage is to deter potential intruders with yard signs, window stickers, and visible outdoor cameras.  Doors should have solid locks. Your security system should include sensors mounted on all doors as well as any vulnerable windows.

Interior Protection – There should be a second line of defense, to detect an intruder if they get past the perimeter protection.  Motion detectors can be strategically mounted in high-value areas and/or centralized areas where an intruder might pass. Extra keypads or panic buttons can also be mounted in areas where one might spend extended amounts of time-such as an office or bedroom. Indoor security cameras can be set up to keep an eye on any part of the home.

Asset Protection- Sensors can also be mounted to monitor other areas of concern such as gun cabinets or office doors to protect valuable items. You may want to consider setting up certain sensors as “non-reporting. This means that, if they are set off, they will only send a signal to you through your Mobile App, while not activating the alarm.

Environmental Protection – Your system can also be set up to monitor environmental hazards such as fire, carbon monoxide, flooding, or freezing. Most security companies have specific sensors for each of these applications.

Home Automation-  Alarm systems can serve as the central hub to control lighting, cameras, heat and air conditioning, doors, and garage door openers. It can be configured to manage virtually any home automation function remotely on your Mobile App.


Whichever company you feel is best, I would encourage you NOT to procrastinate, put away that Louisville Slugger and take whatever steps you feel are appropriate to protect your home and family…and get the peace of mind you deserve!

Please feel free to offer your comments, feedback, or experiences on designing your security system below.

Last Updated on November 8, 2021 by

Designing Your Security System was last modified: November 8th, 2021 by

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