Home Security Glossary of Terms

 home security glossary (photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/qubodup/)

home security glossary (photo by https://www.flickr.com/photos/qubodup/)

Researching home security systems can be confusing, with lots of terms that you may or may not understand. With this glossary, you'll find definitions for common terms used in home security. Read on to find out what everything from CCTV to pressure mat means in home security.

  • 24/7 monitoring: With 24/7 monitoring, you'll have professional monitoring of your security system around the clock and every day. Professionals will be alerted to security issues and call authorities for help.
  • Access code: Your access code is used to arm, disarm, or gain access to your home security system. This code should be kept private.
  • Activation fee: Activation fees are paid upfront when your home security system is installed and connected to a monitoring center.
  • Alarm: Loud warning signal used to alert home owners, neighbors, and authorities to a problem in the home. An alarm is typically connected to a control unit and will indicate when a door or window opens or is broken, or when motion is detected. Also known as a siren.
  • Alarm zone: Alarm zones break down your home into specific areas that can be monitored and programmed separately.
  • Arming/disarming: When an alarm system is armed, it is actively monitoring for triggers. A disarmed alarm system turns off specific monitors, such as motion detectors.
  • Battery backup: If your home security system uses power to operate, battery backup will be used to keep your system running and monitoring for alerts.
  • Burglary: The illegal entry of a residence, car, or other physical enclosed property using force with the intent to commit a crime.
  • Carbon monoxide: Carbon monoxide (CO2) is a deadly, odorless gas. Many home security systems will monitor for the presence of CO2 and will trigger an alarm for evacuation.
  • Cellular alarm system: Using a cellular alarm system, your alarm will send signals using a cell phone tower rather than a traditional landline phone. Cellular monitoring can also be used as a backup in case of a landline failure.
  • Closed circuit TV (CCTV): A visual surveillance system with video that is recorded, but not broadcast. Cameras may operate continually, be triggered by movement, or turned on when a home security system is armed. New CCTV systems typically have digital video monitoring.
  • Contact: Door or window contacts monitor for the opening and closing of doors and windows, including garage doors. Styles include recessed, vanishing, and wireless contacts.
  • Control panel: Used to manage and display the settings, permissions, and arming of a home security system.
  • Dispatch: Part of your home security monitoring service, dispatch operators watch for alarm triggers and call for help in the event of an emergency.
  • DIY installation: A do it yourself installation allows you to install your own security system. Some home security systems may offer this option, while others require a professional installation.
  • Equipment warranty: Your installed home security equipment may come with a warranty that guarantees the manufacturer will fix or replace the equipment if it is within the warranty term. Warranty terms range from one year to lifetime.
  • False alarm: Alarm signals that are received by your monitoring service or authorities without any need for help are false alarms. They are taken seriously and may incur a fine.
  • Fire alarm: This type of alarm monitors for the presence of fire or smoke and sets off a siren to warn occupants. When used with a home security system, a fire alarm can alert your monitoring service to the presence of a fire, and the service can alert authorities on your behalf.
  • Flood sensor: Using a flood sensor, you can be alerted to early water leaks or the beginnings of a flood.
  • Freeze sensor: A freeze sensor detects for freezing temperatures and offers an alert to warm home owners about pipe freezes.
  • Geofence: Geofences place a virtual fence around your home that can arm, disarm, and apply home automation settings based on the location of your smart phone.
  • Glass break detector: With this sensor, your home security system can indicate when a window or glass door has been broken.
  • Heat sensor: Often part of a smoke detector system, a heat sensor monitors for rapid temperature increases.
  • Home automation: Using home automation, you can manage your home remotely. This allows you to lock and unlock doors, set the temperature, and turn lights off and on, among other functions. Homes that have home automation systems may be referred to as a smart home.
  • Infrared sensor: Typically used in motion detectors, infrared sensors are invisible light beams that can detect movement.
  • Installation: During installation, your control panel, sensors, and other system components will be added to your home and connected together, either wired or wirelessly.
  • Keypad: Typically located on your control panel, a keypad is most often used to enter your private access code.
  • Key switch: Also known as a key fob, a key switch can be used to arm or disarm your home security system without entering the code at the control panel.
  • Light sensor: Using a light sensor, indoor or outdoor lights will be illuminated by movement or remote control.
  • Local alarm: With a local alarm, the home owner is notified, and often, a loud alarm is triggered. However, the authorities are not notified and the homeowner will need to call for help if necessary.
  • Medical alert: Involving a key switch or alert necklace, some home security systems include a medical alert feature that allows you to call for help if you're experiencing a medical emergency.
  • Mobile home security: Mobile home security capabilities allow a home owner to use a mobile app with remote access to a home security system. Mobile options may be available with home automation features as well.
  • Monitoring fees: Monitoring fees are typically paid on a monthly basis to cover the cost of monitoring services.
  • Monitoring service: With a monitoring service, a home security company will monitor for security alerts and place a call for help on your behalf if necessary.
  • Motion sensor: Using a motion sensor, any significant movement in the monitored area will set off the sensor and trigger an alarm. Motion sensors can be set to be immune to pets under a certain size.

  • Outdoor surveillance: Using outdoor security cameras, outdoor surveillance monitors the exterior of your home.
  • Panic button: Typically located on your control panel, a panic button can be pressed in case of emergency to send a signal for help to your home security monitoring company.
  • Panic room: A panic room is a safe room in your home that is fortified and designed to be used during a burglary or home invasion.
  • Pressure mat: A type of sensor, pressure mats are placed beneath carpeting and send an alert when they are stepped on.
  • Remote access: Remote access allows you to control your home security system without standing at your control panel. This can involve a mobile app or a key switch.
  • Security camera: A security camera, either indoors or outdoors, will capture video or images to record activity.
  • Sensor: Sensors are an integral part of a home security system and are used to monitor for movement, opening and closing, carbon monoxide, floods, freezing, fire, and more.
  • Silent alarm: Unlike a siren alarm, a silent alarm does not make any sound. Instead, a silent alarm sends a silent notification to the monitoring system so that criminals can be apprehended.
  • Siren: Also known as an alarm, a siren signals to occupants, neighbors and authorities that a potential emergency exists and needs attention. Sirens are also effective at scaring off burglars and other criminals in your home.
  • Smoke detector: A smoke detector monitors your home for the presence of smoke, and sets off an alarm. Smoke detectors may also be connected to a home security system to alert a monitoring service for help.
  • Spy camera: Similar to a security camera, a spy camera is designed to be hidden and used without the knowledge of subjects.
  • Status: Your control panel will show a status of armed or disarmed.
  • Two way voice: A two way voice feature allows you to communicate with monitoring system dispatch operators through your control panel.
  • Wired monitoring: Hardwired into your home, wired monitoring uses your home's landline phone to monitor and protect your home.
  • Wireless monitoring: Wireless monitoring does not require a landline or wires in your home.