How to Design a Smart Home Security System
Installing a smart home security system is an excellent way to protect your family and your home from unwanted intruders. A smart security system allows you to monitor your home, with the ability to switch vantage points depending on how many cameras you have connected. Plus, through the use of motion sensors, you can be alerted if something is going on in and around your home – giving you the chance to act quickly and alert the police if necessary. In short, you’ll have greater peace of mind in the knowledge that you have far greater control over the safety and security of your home or business.
That being said, with so many options on how to put together a smart home security system, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by your choices. Not to mention, all the terminology and technology you’ve got to get to grips with. So, to clear things up for you a bit, this post looks at all the aspects of putting together a smart home security system.
Types of Home Security Systems
Here are some common types of home security systems you’ll come across. These are roughly categorised by their characteristics but there’s a lot of crossover between different types.
A smart security system has the ability to be interconnected with other services or is connected to the internet and, as a result, can be accessed by devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. Smart security systems usually consist of alarms, cameras & intercoms or access control. Some platforms allow you to integrate lighting, automatic blinds, garage roller doors and air-conditioners.
A wired (or hardwired) security system is one that’s physically connected by a series of cords or cables. A wired Security Camera system relies on physical cables for the transmission of information, such as the footage captured by cameras and transmitted onto monitors and recorded onto DVRs or NVRs. In the case of an alarm system, the hardwired cable provides continual power allow the system to respond faster than a battery-powered wireless device.
Now, on one hand, while wired security systems require professional installation and maintenance, they are often more reliable & cost-effective in the long run. Hardwired CCTV Cameras draw instant & continual 240v power from the recorder, it does not rely on a charged battery. There is no concern around interference or loss of wireless internet connectivity, it is hardwired into the router. With all hardwired CCTV systems, we recommend an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) to support any intermittent power surges or losses to your router and recorder should your mains power fail. Hardwired CCTV does not rely on an internet connection to transfer the footage to the recorder meaning the recorded footage won’t be affected by poor internet connectivity. Wireless security systems rely on batteries & good wifi connection.
Hardwired Security Alarm Systems are faster to respond and draw power from the 240v to the main alarm panel. This panel comes with a 12-24hr backup battery should your main power fail. There is minimal ongoing cost other than a recommended annual service, test & clean. Unlike the wireless system which relies upon charged battery power to each device. These devices have an ongoing cost of replacing the batteries. Depending on their usage, they may require replacement every 1 to 2 years. In some cases where there is a lot of activity at the site, they may require replacing more often.
In contrast to a wired security system, a wireless security system doesn’t have any cables and wires, instead of relying on wifi connections and batteries (though some might have a discreet power supply). They can be useful for renters and hard to get to locations with a hardwired cable.
Wireless security systems are easier to install than wired security systems however the cost of the product is higher and they also depend on a constant internet connection. We recommend an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) be installed to support your router in case of loss of power to your internet.
Wireless devices can often require battery replacements and recharging throughout the year. This is an ongoing cost not acquired by a traditional hardwired system.
The ‘professional’ aspect of a home security system could refer to the fact it was installed professionally by a certified security technician, that it’s monitored by a professional surveillance team or both.
A home security system that’s installed by professionals will have the benefit of all the cameras, and other components such as smoke detectors, motion sensors, medical pendants and fobs, installed correctly and in the optimum positions. A professional home security company has the experience to advise you on the best surveillance solutions for your home or business and will take its particular layout into account. They are trained in how the devices should be installed and programmed to meet Australian Standards. A certified professional installer undergoes criminal history police checks before obtaining their license. They must show a Cert 2 Security License and be a member of a Security Industry association such as ASIAL or SPAAL to name a few.
A professionally monitored home security system, meanwhile, provides peace of mind that a team of people from the control room to the patrol guards are watching over your home 24/7 and keeping your loved ones safe. Best of all, many professionally monitored home security systems are configured to still work during power outages and other common infrastructure issues to ensure maximum safety.
A professionally monitored system can be set up for self-monitoring or with a team to support you.
When setting up a professional security system, be sure to issue your own alarm codes and admin login details of your CCTV recorder for future reference and control.
A DIY home security system is, just as its name suggests, one that you install yourself. This includes everything from sourcing the cameras, motion detectors, and other components, installing each of them, and ensuring they work together properly.
Now, while this requires a lot more effort and trial and error, the main advantage of a DIY home security system is its low cost compared to a professional one. You have the choice to add as many, or as few, cameras as you want, as well as sensors and other security accessories. You can also choose how and when your security system is to be monitored.
Local home security systems mainly refer to an alarm that’s triggered in the event of a break-in but does not report to anyone such as a control room (back to base) or your mobile phone. These usually aren’t connected to the internet so you have to be in the vicinity of the alarm to hear it going off. That being said, more modern types of these alarms can be monitored either professionally or via a phone app – which sends a user notification in the event of a break-in.
Home Alarm Systems
A home alarm system protects your home by setting off an alarm in the event it’s broken into in some way.
Security alarm accessories
These are components of an alarm system that improve it and extend its functionality. This includes additional motion detectors, panic or medical buttons, smoke detectors for fire, keypads and more. Depending on the type of security system you have, components of a security system include:
- Alarms: Also known as internal and external sirens, these are primarily used to both startle an intruder and alert you (as well as neighbours and passers-by) to their presence. However, alarms can also be silent (for example a duress situation) so they only alert the police and security firm, so the intruder doesn’t have a chance to escape.
- Panic Button: Panic buttons can also be programmed as a Duress button. It is a type of alarm that you can trigger when you feel your safety is threatened, e.g. when an intruder is in your home or your business is being held up against your will. They are usually installed somewhere discreet, so you can trigger it without the intruder being made aware. They are programmed to be audible or silent.
- Key Fob: A key fob is an alternative to a keypad for arming and disarming your security system.
Key fobs can have various uses. They can be programmed to send a duress or panic alert and they can be used to open and close your garage roller door. To do this, you will require a spare input on your garage motor and the technician must be able to cable a hardwire from the alarm panel to the garage motor.
- Remote app: Most alarm and CCTV systems now come with a smartphone app. An alarm app can allow you to arm and disarm your alarm and receive notifications of your alarms activity. A CCTV app can allow you to view, retrieve and store video footage to your phone. Both systems have to be set up correctly via your internet to allow this functionality. The connection can be done via a hardwired cable into your router or a smart wifi extender using your wifi in the home. You will need stable internet at the premise and good wifi on your smartphone to provide this service.
- Signs and Stickers: These can be placed in and around your property, such as on windows, doors, and gates, to inform would-be-intruders of the fact your home is under surveillance. As such, these stickers act as a deterrent (and encourage burglars to pick an easier target).
- Sensors: Sensors come in a variety of types and are used to detect irregular activity in a given place. The most common of these are motion detection sensors, but they also include window and door open sensors also known as reed switches.
- Keypad: Professionally installed alarm security systems have to be activated and deactivated, and this is usually achieved through a keypad. When you enter your home or business, your security system will be triggered and you’ll be required to enter a key code to deactivate it. In the event you don’t deactivate it, your security company will call you to see if you triggered it. If it wasn’t you, or if you can’t be reached, help will be dispatched. An entry/exit delay time can be set up on the motion detector covering the keypad to allow you time to arm and disarm the alarm. You can also utilise a smartphone app or a key fob to arm and disarm your alarm depending on the model type.
What Is a Motion Sensor Alarm?
A motion sensor, or motion detector, an alarm is a device that uses optical, microwave or acoustic sensors to sense movement around your home. When one of the senses is triggered, an alarm will sound to alert you to the fact that there is an unfamiliar presence. Motion sensors can also be attached to cameras which are then activated and start taking snap footage. In some smart security system setups, these images can be sent to an app on your phone so you see what’s happening in real-time and take appropriate action. Motion sensors can be set up for partial arming so you can arm your detectors downstairs whilst sleeping upstairs.
What Is A Doorstop Alarm?
A doorstop, or door wedge, alarm sits under your door and goes off when someone tries to enter your home. Better still, when activated, it will aim to prevent the intruder from opening the door. In fact, most doorstop alarms are designed to hold the door tighter, the harder its pushed.
These are great because they’re easy to install and you can have several of them. Plus, they’re portable so you can take one away with you when you go on vacation. They are not however connected to your alarm system so it acts as a local alarm only.
What Is a Door or Window Open Sensor Alarm?
A door or window open sensor alarm is also known as a reed switch. It is designed to sound in the event someone tries to enter your home through a door or window and it connected back to the alarm panel. It can notify the back to the base control room or your smartphone app. Door or Window open sensors work through the use of a reed switch and a magnet, which are attached to a window or door pane and its frame. While the window or door is closed, the magnet holds the switch’s circuit together, which keeps a continuous electric flow going. However, as soon as the window or door is opened, the magnet is pulled from the switch, the circuit opens, and a signal is sent to the control panel that sets off the alarm. Reed switches can be enabled whilst you are home and allows you to move freely within your premise whilst feeling secured.
What Is a Glass Break Alarm?
Glass break alarm work alongside window and door sensors by monitoring sound or vibration. If an intruder were to break a window instead of attempting to open it, a window sensor alarm wouldn’t go off. A glass break alarm, on the other hand, can detect the sonic frequency or shock waves caused by glass breaking and is triggered as a result. What’s more, in contrast to motion sensor alarms and doorstop alarms, glass break alarms don’t have to be switched off when anyone is at home.
Home Security Cameras
A home security camera is designed to monitor property and record the events that take place. Instead of trying to scare off an intruder with a piercing siren-like an alarm does, home security cameras main purpose is to record footage to prove who committed a crime. New Ai cameras now come with siren alerts to deter an intruder.
They can also act as a deterrent if positioned as such, such as cameras overlooking your front and back doors, along with stickers telling would-be intruders that the place is under surveillance. The best smart security systems have multiple cameras, which are placed both indoors and outdoors for maximum surveillance.
CCTV and Security IP Cameras
Closed-circuit television, or CCTV, is a small, private network of cameras and recording equipment. It’s referred to as a ‘closed circuit’ because the recording network can only be accessed by those who set it up and subsequently monitor it. This is in contrast to regular TV which broadcasts a signal that can be picked up by any receiver. The term CCTV often refers to the original analogue systems (recording onto tapes and hard drives) and are still used pretty widely, but now technology has progressed to IP cameras.
Internet protocol, or IP, cameras carry out the same functions as CCTV cameras, with the main difference being that they can transmit footage via the internet, instead of coaxial cables alone. IP cameras also feature higher resolution images and additional functionality like remote zoom and repositioning lens. They also give you the option to view footage on an app – be it on a desktop, tablet or smartphone, as well as to record them directly onto any digital storage device instead of tapes & hard drives like CCTV. IP cameras work best on CAT5e or CAT6 cable. If you have an old coaxial cable, converter modules will need to be installed at either end of the cable to support IP camera technology.
It’s important to note that, nowadays, there’s a lot of crossover between the two terms. Modern CCTV cameras can also be viewed remotely via the internet, their footage is stored on digital devices, and they have the same modern functionality as IP cameras.
Lastly, both types of cameras require professional installation, but you can choose whether your home security system is professionally monitored or if you’re going to monitor it yourself. Also, once your security system is initially installed and the system in place, it’s easily scalable with you able to add more cameras without too much effort.
Night cameras, also known as night vision cameras, use infrared light (IR) LEDs to give you better surveillance at night. Many night cameras have sensors that sense the level of light and change to night vision mode as soon as it gets dark enough. The footage from night cameras is usually in black and white.
As well as protecting you while you sleep, night cameras are indispensable for protecting areas with poor lighting.
Active Deterrent Cameras
A spotlight camera is a piece of surveillance equipment with motion lights that illuminates a dark area and starts to record when it is triggered by suspicious events, such as motion. Not only will this startle a potential intruder, letting them know that they’re being watched, but provides better lighting for the camera to record footage of them.
The latest Ai cameras come with the option for spotlight and siren alerts when there is motion triggering events.
Doorbell cameras are a standalone system, also referred to as video doorbells, and are a type of outdoor camera used specifically on front doors. They allow vulnerable people, such as children and elderly people, to see who’s at the door before they open it, through the use of an app. Some models also boast a speaker and two-way talk functionality, which allow you to speak to your visitor.
Best of all, most doorbell cameras come with motion detection which activates the camera and sends a notification through the app when someone is at your door. Some doorbell cameras also have night vision functionality.
Security System Installation
When it comes to installing your smart security system, you can either go the DIY route and install it yourself or you can have it installed by a professional security company.
DIY Security System Installation
The main reason to go for a DIY installation of your security system is cost. DIY installation means you save on the cost of having your smart security system installed professionally, which means you also likely save on the cost of monthly monitoring, for a contracted period. Also, you have complete choice over the cameras and other accessories that will make up your smart security system and can choose those which suit your budget.
The downside of a DIY system installation is that you have to do it all yourself. This means choosing the camera(s) and accessories, assessing the best place to install them, and then the actual process of installing them. You’re also responsible for any maintenance, such as replacing batteries or SD cards.
Professional Security System Installation
When you want to ensure that your home and loved ones are as well-protected as possible, then choose a professional security system installation. A professional security firm will not only know the best equipment for safeguarding your home but they’ll also know where to position each component of your smart security system. For instance, they won’t just consider where a camera should be positioned but how it’s going to be powered and programmed, etc. Just as importantly, they’ll show you how to use your newly installed system to its maximum potential – so there’s less of an adjustment period.
You will also have the ongoing support of your system warranty and if you require further training or support you have a team of professionals available to you.
Within Australia, a professional security installer must hold a Security License Class 2 and a Company must hold a Security Firm License. This ensures they have undergone all criminal history police checks. They must also be a member of a security industry association such as ASIAL or SPAAL. We recommend you ask for their license certificates when choosing a provider.
As far as the downsides of a professional security system installation, the main one is the initial price however this can be managed by taking an interest-free payment option. Some professional installations can offer a back to base monitoring service contract to support 24/7 monitoring of your alarm system. This is an additional monthly fee. A professionally installed alarm or CCTV system can however be set up for self-monitoring only.
Similarly, scheduling might be a problem for especially busy people as someone will have to stay home while the system is installed and for training and handover purposes.
Security System Monitoring
There are two categories of security system monitoring: self-monitored systems and professionally monitored systems.
Self-Monitored Security Systems
Self-monitored security systems are those that you can monitor and control yourself. These systems can comprise security cameras, alarm and doorbell systems. All self-monitoring systems rely upon your internet and wifi connection and come with apps that allow you to remotely monitor your home or business through a phone, tablet, PC, or laptop. The alarm system can send a notification of an event and you can log into your camera system to view real-time footage. You can then call the police to affirm an active break and enter taking place.
The main benefits of self-monitored systems are that there are options on the market for no ongoing expense with a smartphone app. Based on our experience, free apps are slower to report and alert. Paid apps are faster in alert time signals and give more reporting and programming options.
The drawbacks are you have to monitor your mobile phone 24/7 and in the event of a break and enter you will need to attend the site and notify the police. You have no team of security professionals available to assist you with this matter.
Self-monitored systems rely heavily on your internet at the premise and wifi on your smartphone working at all times. You also need to be available to see these notifications 24/7. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) is recommended to provide back up power support to your router should your power cut out.
Professionally-Monitored Security Systems
Professionally monitored, or company-monitored, security systems are monitored 24/7 by professional security firms. A dedicated Control Room (also known as Back to Base Monitoring) take care of your alarm events and support you during this stressful time. These systems include security alarms systems and some CCTV systems.
Alarm systems can be monitored for burglar, fire, medical, panic and duress depending on the types of devices installed at the premise. Each of these alert types boasts different functionality, depending on the company and where you happen to live, but all of them are designed to alert a control room whenever there’s an alarm event.
The action taken by the control room can be set up to suit your requirements. Traditionally they will call the site first, then a list of after-hours key persons you nominate on your account. You will first receive a verification phone call to check if you or someone in your household triggered the alarm system by mistake. If no one can be reached, the company monitoring your property will then send their security personnel and police, fire or ambulance to investigate.
The main advantage of a professionally monitored system is that you have someone looking after your property at all times. In the case of a break-in, you don’t need to call the police yourself, or involve a neighbour – it’ll be taken care of for you based on your account set up. Your alarm system will not rely on your internet so there is no risk of ever missing an alarm event due to poor internet or wi-fi coverage.
A security alarm system can be set up via the mobile network with a sim card so the system isn’t prone to Wi-Fi outages, unlike a self-monitored system. The SIM card can be a single or dual network system depending on your location and coverage required.
Cost of Home Security System
The cost a smart home security system depends on a few key factors
- Size of your home or business
- How much coverage you want – burglar, fire, medical, duress
- Quality of equipment – warranties, reliability, functionality
- Monitoring: self or professional?
Home alarm systems prices vary according to the kind of system, size of the system and the technology involved, but prices generally range from $450 to $2,500 in Australia. Business alarm systems can vary from $1,200 – $5,000.
The lower end is for simple DIY home security systems. The higher end of the scale refers to professionally installed smart alarm security systems that can be integrated with other services such as CCTV and Back to Base monitoring.
Does Having a Security System Increase Home Value?
If there’s a possibility you’ll be moving soon, then be advised that installing a home security system can increase the value of your property. This happens for a few reasons:
It’s A Desirable Feature for Homebuyers
A security system is, more often than not, on a list of features home buyers are looking for. If they’re security-conscious, then they’d want one anyway and you’ve saved them the trouble of installing one themselves. If they aren’t that security-conscious, most will recognise it as something they should have and will value your home in a more positive light because of this. Buying a home with CCTV cameras is a great feature to show the prospective buyer. They can view their cameras from their smartphone whilst in the home or away from the premises.
It Increases the Perception of the Property.
Seeing the alarm system increases the perception of the house being ‘safe. This then extends to the neighbourhood being safe, a great place to raise kids, etc. It’s an intangible quality that drives up the value of the house – but the security system is very tangible indeed. As a result, if the prospective buyers look at other houses, they’ll feel like they have something ‘missing’ in comparison.
It Decreases Insurance Costs
Because alarm systems can prevent break-ins, as well as fires, etc., when paired with other monitoring tools, installing a security system often results in a decrease in your homeowner’s insurance premiums. The exact amount, however, depends on your particular situation and the insurance company.
So, whether you choose to install a few cameras yourself or to get a more comprehensive solution professionally installed, a smart home security system is an excellent investment for ensuring the safety of your home, your business and your loved ones. Its presence alone acts as a deterrent to potential intruders and, should one actually trespass on your property, the combination of cameras and sensors immediately alert you to what’s happening in your home.
Best of all, there’s a smart security system to suit everybody’s budget. You can start off relatively simple and add to your system at your convenience.
If you’d like a free on-site inspection to address your home’s security needs, contact us today.
Kylie Butchard is a highly respected and experienced leader in Australia’s electronic security industry, having successfully steered Pacific Security Group for over 17 years. With a career embedded in customer service, she has consistently focused on putting people first – clients and staff. Known for her strong, resilient, positive, values-driven, consistent, and compassionate approach, Kylie ensures that her team delivers top-notch security solutions tailored to clients’ unique needs.