(Frequently Asked Questions)
First time buyers of security systems often ask
questions about what they should buy. They ask friends
who have systems and salespeople who sell them.
Very often, friends don't know whether they have a
genuine system or just a collection of parts. But they
do know whether the installation was neat. They also
know whether their alarm company offers timely,
efficient service. Pay
attention to comments like "they finished on time
and cleaned up as they worked."
The following questions and answers will help explain
some of the many qualities you should look for in a
door and window be protected?
Every accessible door and operable window
should be protected. All glass windows should be
protected with some sort of shock/audio
detector. Windows can also be protected using
alarm screens instead of contacts and
shock/audio detectors. Obviously in a three
story residence, the windows on the third floor
cannot be opened by normal means; screens,
vibration sensors or audio detectors should be
sufficient if the windows are kept locked.
Rather than contacting these third floor
windows, the money could be spent on additional
interior protection or other security features
like fire detection. However, if you would feel
unsafe with these windows uncontacted, contact
them. It's your security and your peace of mind.
Garage overhead doors are a special case. A
lot of people get these doors contacted and then
pay extra to have the door bypassed
automatically when the garage door opener is
used. Since the only way to open these doors is
by using the garage door opener, they are paying
for the door to be protected and then paying
more for it to be unprotected. Don't spend money
to protect a door and then spend more to bypass
the protection every time the door is used.
Spend your money on additional protection or
If there is no automatic opener, a contact
can be useful protection on a garage door. If
there is an automatic opener and you wish to
protect a boat or trailer stored in the garage,
there are devices designed to attach to the boat
contacts used on windows be visible or recessed
in the frame?
This depends on you and your installing
company. Does the burglar seeing the switch go
elsewhere because he now knows you have more
than just a sign and some decals? Can the
burglar defeat the contact just because he can
see it? Some people cannot tolerate the sight of
normal surface mounted contacts or feel unsecure
because "the burglar knows what's
there." Other people feel secure seeing the
switches because "the burglar knows I
really do have a system installed by a
professional." Surface mounted switches
often are easier to install. Although the price
for installing recessed switches may be higher
with some companies, generally prices run the
same for either switch.
One hype concerning recessed switches is the
size of the switch in a wooden door or wooden
door frame. If the switch is recessed in the
frame, you cannot see it when the door or window
is closed. As long as it fits the frame properly
without overlap, it does not matter what the
diameter of the switch is.
In steel doors and steel door frames, the
switches and magnets need to be isolated from
the metal so they can work properly. These
switches and magnets are usually inserted into a
3/4 inch or larger hole. The larger switches are
usually used. However, plastic adapters can be
used to hold a smaller switch in the hole.
What are EOL
resistors and why should I have them?
An End-Of-Line resistor supervises the wiring
between the alarm panel and the switch. Some
panels have a limited number of detection zones
and do not require EOL resistors. But if the
panel can use EOL resistors to supervise the
wiring, the resistors should be used. If more
than one detection device is on a single
detection circuit, the EOL should be at the last
device. When feasible, every alarm detection
device should have an EOL resistor at the
device. If the EOL resistor is at the burglary
contact on a door, the panel sees the wire open
when the door is opened and sees the resistor
when the door is closed. The thief who shorts
wires together hides the EOL resistor from the
panel, letting the panel know that something is
going on. The thief who cuts the wire causes an
open circuit, the same as if he had opened the
Hold-up alarms and Fire alarms use an
"open circuit" detection scheme. The
panel normally sees the EOL resistor at the end
of the detection circuit. A short on the wire
causes an alarm and a break in the wire causes a
Since normally closed switches can weld due
to high voltage like lightning, the normally
closed switches used for burglary detection must
be checked after severe weather to see that they
still work properly. Since devices on a
"open circuit" normally cannot weld
open, lightning and power surges should not
"weld" these switches into an
inoperable state. Some security systems even use
this high security mode for their burglary
EOL resistors be installed?
What makes EOL resistors so important is that
they can supervise the wires only when they are
at the end of the line. When properly placed in
the circuit, EOL resistors prevent wire
tampering on normal switches. EOL resistors in
the control panel are usually ineffective. The
usual net effect of putting the EOL resistors in
the panel is that the panel acts as if it has no
EOL resistors. Even open circuit devices like
smoke detectors and hold-up buttons are not
properly supervised when the EOL resistor is
attached in the panel before the end of the
Many companies install the EOL resistors in
the panel or use panels
that do not supervise the wiring.
Some alarm manufacturers show the EOL connected
at the panel. One alarm company owner, in an
attempt to impress us, asked if we knew the
difference between End-Of-Line resistors and
In-The-Panel resistors. He had been confused by
drawings showing improper placement of the EOL
resistors. The proper
placement of an EOL resistor is
at the End-Of-Line, the last switch on the
detection circuit. EOL resistors do not belong at
Should I get a
wired system or a wireless system?
Many factors affect this choice. The major
factor is the construction and decoration of the
premises. Can the location be wired and how much
labor will be involved in wiring for the alarm?
Will wireless devices be able to communicate to
the alarm panel? Plaster walls with metal lathe
in them can block the wireless signals. Large
mirrors, foil wallpaper, metal lockers and other
radio systems nearby might prevent a wireless
system from working properly.
Many new systems integrate wired devices with
wireless devices. The main thing to consider is
whether the system meets your current needs and
whether it can expand to meet your future needs.
ABOUT WIRELESS SYSTEMS
How often must
the batteries be changed?
Typically, alkaline batteries must be changed
every year. Newer systems often use lithium
batteries that should last 5 years or more.
What is the
cost to replace the batteries
Alkaline batteries can be purchased at any
hardware store for a few dollars. Lithium
batteries are more expensive and probably must
be purchased through the security company,
although they are becoming more common.
maintenance plan include replacing the
Depending on the cost of the plan, this can
be an excellent option or it can be an expensive
option. Be sure any contract for a maintenance
policy has what it covers in writing. If
batteries are not written into the maintenance
contract, they are not covered.
Do they check in so that the panel knows they
are working and whether they need a new battery?
Portable devices like pendant panic buttons
should not be supervised because you often will
leave the premises with them for several hours.
Since they don't check in, you will have to test
them manually every month or so. Smoke detectors
and burglary devices should "check in"
at least every hour, since these devices never
leave the premises.
Should I have
a light outside to tell me when the system is
Should I have a light outside to tell a thief
when the system is disarmed?
A lot of older systems required the system to
be disarmed from outside. The owner of the
property needed to know whether the system was
armed or disarmed before opening the door.
Lights were used to indicate whether the system
was on or off. A lot of effort was spent to find
a way to let the owner get into a protected
property without announcing to anyone outside
whether the system was armed or disarmed. The
solution to the outside keystation was to
program an entry delay for certain detection
devices that allowed the customer time to disarm
an alarm system from inside the protected area.
These newer systems require a code be entered in
a keypad after entering the premises. If your
system uses such a keypad, we suggest not
installing an outdoor "armed" light.
Some systems use wireless keys or wireless
keypads to disarm the alarm system. These
devices may be the only wireless devices on a
traditional wired alarm system, or they may be
just part of a complete wireless alarm system.
More can be read on this topic by following this
link to a document on enhanced security.
If a wireless key is lost or stolen, service
is required to change the "key"
immediately. A wireless key disarms the system
with one press of a button; the system does not
care (or know) who actually pressed the button.
Wireless keypads do not require immediate
service if they are lost or stolen. Though
service would be required to replace or remove
the lost wireless keypad, there is no need to
race to the system. Knowing the proper code
would still be required to disarm a system using
a wireless keypad. Bi-directional wireless
keypads let you know (after pressing the correct
code) whether the system is armed or disarmed.
This added security should be considered when
deciding whether or not to use a wireless method
of arming and disarming the alarm system.
I heard that
over 98 percent of all alarms that go off are
false alarms. If this is true, why should I even
bother to have an alarm?
On an average day in Sacramento, about 50 to
75 alarms go off and all but about one or two of
them are false alarms. Many law enforcement
officers report that in their entire career,
they have never personally responded to an alarm
that turned out to be a real burglary.
However, every day there are well over 100
real burglaries reported in Sacramento. That
means burglars are not targeting locations that
have an alarm. Therefore, having an alarm is
obviously a great deterrent and virtually takes
your property "off the market" of
burglars. Since only about 20 percent of
Sacramento residences have alarms, burglars have
plenty of other targets.
authorities charge me if they had to respond to
a false alarm at my home?
There are penalties for false alarms which
vary according to the jurisdiction and location.
Usually there is no penalty for the first
offense. What is most important, however, is
that false alarms can be easily avoided. Most
false alarms occur at the key pad due to
pressing the wrong buttons. Make sure your alarm
is easy to use and that you know how to cancel a
false alarm immediately by calling your alarm
monitoring station. There are usually no
penalties or charges if you call right away.
Do I need to
put an alarm sensor on every exterior door and
It depends on what you are trying to protect.
Are you mainly concerned about protecting your
property when you are gone? Or is personal
safety while you are home your main concern?
Protecting your property can be accomplished
with interior motion sensors. You will still
need a contact on the main entry/exit doors but
if someone comes through the window, a properly
positioned motion detector will set off your
alarm instantly. One such motion detector can
protect many windows and most companies include
at least one with their most basic system.
On the other hand, the motion detectors must
be turned off while you are home. So for
personal safety, you probably want to alarm some
or all of your windows. A wireless panic button
is also a good solution.
also need an outside bell on my home?
Outside bells can provide additional peace of
mind, but there are also some drawbacks:
- Outside bells often cause complaints from
the neighbors, sometimes resulting in a
- If your bell goes off and neighbors do
respond, they could be hurt by an intruder.
When the police arrive, they may confuse a
neighbor for a burglar.
- So many bells go off these days, most
people tend to ignore them. Also, bells are
supposed to be programmed to shut off after
10 to 15 minutes.
A great alternative would be a latching
strobe, a red or blue light on the front of your
house that will begin to flash if your alarm is
tripped. It is less expensive than a bell and
will continue to flash until you physically turn
it off on the control panel. This way, when you
come home, you can look at the light and know
whether a burglary has happened or not. It also
makes the house a little easier for the police
to find at night if they are responding to an
So how much
can I expect to pay for a good alarm system?
If just trying to protect the property, the
average systems cost between $500 to
should include all entry doors, as three out of
four burglars gain entry that way, and at least
two interior motion sensors.
If your home has 10 to 15 doors and windows
and you need the full perimeter protected for
your personal safety, a quality system should
cost between $1,200 to
monitoring ranges from $25 to
$35 per month for
either kind of system.
This is a security issue that is too often
overlooked. Most homes have smoke detectors
installed, but what happens if no one is home
when they go off? More importantly, what if you
don't wake up because carbon monoxide puts you
into a deeper sleep?
A simple but priceless solution is to have at
least one monitored smoke/heat detector to
supplement the others in the house. This way,
the fire department will come whether you are
able to call them or not.
The average response time in Sacramento is
two to two and one-half minutes. Property and
life can be saved if the fire department is
notified in time.