All home security systems operate on the same basic concept. The ultimate goal is to secure entry points (eg doors and windows), as well as interior points that contain valuables. No matter the size of your home, or the number of entry points or interior rooms a homeowner decides to protect, the only difference is the number of security components deployed throughout the home.

What is a Security System?

The general definition of a security system is found within its name. It is quite literally a system by which something is secured via a system of intertwined components and devices. We’re talking about home security systems. These are systems of interconnected electronic devices working together to protect your family and home against burglars and other such home intruders via a central control panel.

A typical home security system includes the following devices:

  • A central control panel, which functions as the primary point of control for a home’s security system
  • Window and door sensors
  • Motion sensors (both interior and exterior)
  • Security cameras (wired or wireless)
  • A high-pitched siren or alarm
  • A yard sign and/or window stickers

How Does a Security System Work?

A home security system works on the basic concept of securing all entry points into a home. Sensors that communicate with a central control panel work together to secure the home. This control panel is typically located in a central location within the home that is easily accessible.

Said sensors are typically located in doorways that lead to and from the home. It is also common practice to place sensors by easily accessible windows, specifically those on the ground floor. Motion sensors help secure open spaces inside the home.

Control Panel

The control panel is the brains of the operation. The control panel also unifies all of the connected sensors. It also arms and disarms the home security system. Furthermore, the control panel also alerts users when an intruder breaches a secure zone. A professionally monitored system will notify local authorities in the event a sensor is tripped.

Most control panels feature a touchscreen for easy programming and general interaction. Users will use the control panel to arm or disarm the system as they see fit. Users can also operate their control panel via voice commands through the assistance of a virtual assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa. In addition, users can also operate their control panel via smartphone apps and wireless key fobs.

Door and Window Sensors

Door and window sensors consist of two pieces. The two pieces are typically installed adjacent to one another. The first piece is installed on the door or window and the other is placed on the door frame or windowsill. When a door or window is closed, the two pieces are joined together. This creates a complete security circuit.

When the security system is armed at the control panel, these sensors communicated with it by reporting that the point of entry is secure. However, should a point of entry open unexpectedly, the circuit is broken. This will notify the central control panel and will typically trigger an audible alarm. Furthermore, local law enforcement will arrive on site to investigate the matter.

Motion Sensors

Motion sensors, when armed, protect a given space by creating an invisible zone and cannot be breached without sounding an alarm. These devices are typically employed to protect rooms containing valuables. Motion sensors can also be used to protect areas with lighter foot traffic in larger homes.

Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance cameras are available as either wired or wireless. These cameras can be used in several different ways within a larger overall security system.


Typical uses include monitoring:

  • Hard to see or distant areas of your property
  • Remote buildings like garages, barns and workshops
  • Entry points, both exterior and interior, like garage doors and front doors

Surveillance cameras can be accessed both remotely on computers, smartphones and tablets. They are often used as such when homeowners are out of town in order to watch for deliveries and other service personnel such as caregivers and landscapers. Surveillance cameras are also a great way to make sure that your kids arrive home safely from school. They can also be used to record any security breaches, which could result in having footage of a home invasion, including a good look at the burglars and perhaps even the vehicle they drove.

High-decibel Alarm

Loud enough for neighbors to hear, home security alarms serve a few different purposes. First, they alert the people inside the house that a problem occurred. They’re also shrill enough to send a burglar running while also notifying nearby neighbors to the situation.

Yard Sign and Window Stickers

On the surface, these items might seem like nothing more than marketing tools for alarm companies, but they play important roles in home security. When you place a security company’s sticker in a front window and plant their sign in your front yard, you are telling burglars you home is professionally protected and not a wise choice for an attempted burglary. They are effective at conveying this message and should be used as recommended by the security company.

What Happens when an intrusion occurs?

Security systems are designed to perform certain tasks when a secured zone is breached. What your security systems do in the event of an intrusion depends on the type of system you’re using.

Professionally Monitored Security Systems

If your security system is professionally monitored by an alarm company, they are alerted when a security problem arises in your home. Along with the high-decibel alarm that sounds, the monitoring company is alerted. A trained security expert might attempt to communicate with the homeowner via the control panel if it’s set up for 2-Way Voice communication, or will call the emergency contact number listed on the account.

These types of security systems communicate with the monitoring company in one of several ways, including:

  • Over existing home phone lines, which continue to work during power outages when battery backup is in use.
  • Wirelessly through cellular radio frequencies like cell phones use, which also continue to work during power outages when battery backup is in use.
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which typically doesn’t work in a power outage.
  • Via the Internet, which also typically does not work in a power outage.

In the event of an actual emergency, the monitoring company will notify the appropriate emergency response personnel in your area. This includes police, firefighters, and paramedics. The monitoring company will also try to maintain communication with you until emergency response teams arrive at your home.

Monitored systems typically allow for the homeowners (or designees) to be notified by text message and email when a security breach occurs.

Non-monitored Security Systems

There are plenty of DIY security systems available today that don’t include professionally monitored services. In the event of a home intrusion when this type of security system is installed, a high-decibel alarm sounds (provided one is installed). Contacting the police, fire, or other emergency response personnel must be initiated by the homeowner by dialing the appropriate number, typically 911.

These types of systems may or may not allow for text messages or email notifications to be sent to the homeowner in the event of a security breach, depending on the provider and the system you opted for.

What are the advantages of having a home security system?

Numerous studies show homes without security systems, when compared to those with professionally monitored systems, are up to three times more likely to be burglarized because burglars are opportunistic by nature and are on the hunt for easy targets.

Homes without security systems are high on their list.

When you have a home security system professionally monitored, and advertise this by displaying window stickers and yard signs, you’re letting burglars know the likelihood they’ll fail and be caught are very high.

Another advantage is the ability to remotely manage your house. With this, you can typically arm and disarm your security system from anywhere in the world via a web-enabled device, monitor who arrives and leaves your home, as well as use a panic button to elicit an instant response from your alarm monitoring company.

Finally, most home insurance companies provide great discounts-up to 20% when you have a home security system in your home.