Your Resource On The Web For Do It Yourself Home Security Alarm Help.

If you have questions regarding an existing alarm system in your home or office, or are considering a Do It Yourself home security system project, then you have come to the right place.

HOMELAND SECURITY... One home at a time

The DIY Home Security Alarm Forum Needs Your Input

This website was created to provide a robust database of information for use by end-users, homeowners and industry professionals alike. Our site is a unique resource, which provides an opportunity for experts in their fields to exchange ideas and information and to share their knowledge and experience with others.

If you have questions regarding your home security alarm system or if you are considering a Do It Yourself project, look through our General Reference Materials and Frequently Asked Questions sections to familiarize yourself with the terminology and components associated with security alarm systems. The DIY Alarm Forum's Glossary of Security Related Terms will help beginners understand the terminology found in security system installation manuals. The NBFAA's (National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association) Ten Commandments of Wiring and Minimum Installation Standards are excellent references for professional and beginner alike. Scanning posts on the various forum boards is time well spent. Use the Search feature to find Topics which are of particular interest to you.

Be sure to download manuals for your existing system, the DIY Alarm Forum has manuals for many of the most popular alarm systems available as free downloads for our members. If you are considering a DIY security system project, download manuals for the systems that you are considering and compare features and options before making a purchase. If you don't find the particular manual that you are looking for, just email Tech Support and ask.

Whether you are looking for information on an existing burglar alarm system or DIY systems we hope that, upon exploring our alarm forum, you find the help that you were seeking. If not, please do not hesitate to post your questions; after all, that's what we're all about. We have a large community with volunteer experts from all segments of the security industry willing to assist you with the help you seek.

This alarm forum flourishes because of user generated content and interaction. So, when you receive answers to your questions or find information on our site and apply it to your system or Do It Yourself installation, please come back and let the community know what the results were, your feedback will help others.

The FBI's Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2005 shows an increase in violent crimes, murders, property crime, and more pointed, robberies and burglaries across America. The fact is, if you live in a metropolitan area, these crimes are more likely to occur and it is up to you to protect your family and property. Statistics also show that homes without burglar alarm systems are four times more likely to be targeted. We encourage you to avail yourself of the many benefits of a security system; installed professionally or as a Do It Yourself home alarm project it is an investment in personal safety for you and your family.

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Click here to view - Top 10 Things you Need to Know about Home Security

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How To Choose An Alarm Company

If you are considering a home security system but have decided that you have neither the time nor the inclination for a do it yourself project then it's time to find a professional.

Here are some tips to consider when looking for an alarm company:

  • Call your insurance agent first, most insurance companies offer discounts ranging from 2% to 25% on homeowners' policies when a home is protected by a security system (that should tell you something). Ask how much you could save, which types of systems will qualify you for the greatest savings and see if the agent can offer any referrals.
  • Check with your state alarm association for referrals to companies in your area. Association members agree to abide by a Code of Ethics and provide quality services.
  • Ask neighbors, friends and relatives about their experiences and for referrals.
  • Contact the Better Business Bureau regarding complaints that may have been filed against any of the companies.
  • Narrow your prospects to 3 or 4 companies; call them to schedule an appointment. Schedule at a time when all members of your household can be present, be sure to ask for the name of the person who will be calling on you and verify their identification upon their arrival.
  • Ask for an inspection of your premises, a demonstration and a quote in writing. Ask for references and check them later at your convenience.
  • Ask if the company has all licenses and permits required for your area. Are their technicians licensed and/or certificated? Ask if they screen their employees or conduct background checks before hiring.
  • Does the company maintain adequate insurance coverage? Do they carry Errors & Omissions?
  • Will you be given thorough training on the operation of the equipment? Everyone who will be using the system should be present during this training.
  • READ THE CONTRACT! Does it include everything that you were promised verbally? Does it include a 3-day right of rescission clause? Does it specify what equipment you will own, and what equipment, if any, will remain the property of the security company? Will you be provided with all system codes upon the expiration of the agreement or will they change them and provide you with the new codes? What will they charge for this service call?
  • Make sure that you understand the terms and conditions of the monitoring agreement. What is the total cost over the life of the contract? What Central Station will be monitoring your account? What are the provisions regarding early termination of the agreement? Is the agreement assignable?
  • Don't forget to check the references

Take the time to become an educated consumer. If you have questions at any point in the process don't hesitate to post them on the forum, after all, that's what we're all about.

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Home Security System Component Layout

If you are

  • A new homeowner trying to locate and identify components of your home security system
  • A potential customer who wants to be well informed before dealing with an alarm company
  • A do-it-yourselfer evaluating scenarios and seeking insight on the scope of your project
  • Anyone who wants to gain a basic knowledge of alarm system components

then you've come to the right place!

image of typical ranch-style home used to demonstrate layout of home security alarm system components

Below you will find three floor plans of the same typical single story ranch home to the left.  As you move down the page from one floor plan to the next, the security system installations become more thorough.  At the same time, the explanations and descriptions of the major components become more complete and somewhat more technical.

Place your Mouse Pointer over the symbols on the floor plans to view the home security system component represented by that symbol, along with a brief description.  Placing your Mouse Pointer on the image of the component will identify manufacturer and model number.

Components And Layout Of A Basic Home Security System

floor plan illustrating component layout for a basic home security system

Place Mouse Pointer over symbol on floor plan for additional information

The basic home security system shown above is similar to some of the "free" or low priced alarm systems that are offered as an incentive to commit to longer term monitoring agreements.

Typically this basic system includes a control panel, keypad, transformer, standby battery, RJ31X, motion detector, siren and contacts for the front and back doors. Note that our example home required two additional contacts on the patio French doors. While these systems can be hardwired, wireless or a combination thereof (hybrid), all of our examples are all hardwired.

The control panel has been centrally located in the hall closet providing easy access and short wire runs to 120V AC for the low voltage transformer and the Telco Dmarc (telephone company service) for off-site alarm monitoring. Basements and utility/mechanical rooms are also common locations for the control panel.

The single keypad is conveniently located just inside the kitchen/garage door. The motion detector is strategically positioned to provide coverage for the kitchen and dining areas, living room and segments of the hall and foyer.

In this case, the low voltage transformer that supplies power to the system is located in the closet along with the control panel. While generally located in close proximity to the control, it can be located in a non-switched receptacle anywhere on the premises.

The RJ31X provides a means of quickly disconnecting the alarm system from the telephone line without interrupting service to the house phones and is required by FCC Regulations. The RJ31X is usually found in or near the metal enclosure housing the control.

Considering that a recent study concluded that approximately fifty-five percent of residential burglary points of entry were through front and back doors (see: Burglary Statistics), this system does, at least, provide a very basic level of protection.

That said, it should be noted that this basic home security system does not provide contacts on any of the home's windows, leaving the bedroom areas of the home unprotected as well as the garage. This deficiency will be addressed in the "Typical" home security system installation below.

Components And Layout Of A Typical Home Security System

floor plan illustrating component layout for a typical home security system

Place Mouse Pointer over symbol on floor plan for additional information

The floor plan above illustrates security system component selection and placement for what might be called a Typical home security system. It is immediately apparent that the contact deficiency suffered by the basic alarm system has been corrected. This system has magnetic contacts installed on ALL of the home's doors and windows.

THE PERIMETER IS THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE. Approximately ninety percent of all break-ins occur through perimeter openings (doors, windows, skylights, etc). These openings should be protected so an intrusion attempt is detected BEFORE the intruder has gained access to your home. A motion detector will detect an intruder only after they are ALREADY INSIDE your home and these devices are generally considered a backup for perimeter protection.

The Master Bedroom keypad is more than a convenience; it is an enhancement to personal security. This keypad's Emergency Keys (Panic, Fire and Medical) are within easy reach from the bedroom areas. Additionally, if the alarm should sound in the middle of the night, it isn't necessary to go all the way to the kitchen/garage door keypad to check to see which zone was violated and/or silence the alarm siren.

Like the basic system, this typical alarm system could be hardwired, wireless or a hybrid.

Typical Home Security System With Enhancements

floor plan illustrating component layout for an ENHANCED TYPICAL home security system

Place Mouse Pointer over symbol on floor plan for additional information

* Due to limitations imposed by image size and the increased number of component symbols, the RJ31X symbol has been omitted on this floor plan for the sake of clarity. The device IS INSTALLED as required by FCC Regulations.

The above floor plan incorporates a number of enhancements to the Typical home security system installation:

  • A contact is installed on the overhead garage door and defined in system programming as a Non-Alarm Zone to remind the occupants if the door has been left open.
  • The control panel has been installed in the master bedroom closet, a common location in many parts of the country that may provide additional security for the equipment.
  • Glass break detectors (considered perimeter protection) have been installed to address the possibility of an intruder entering through a broken out glass area instead of actually opening the window or door.
  • The exterior siren in attic over the garage will attract the attention of neighbors and/or passersby.
  • Wireless (cellular) backup communications provides communications with monitoring facilities in the event of landline phone service interruption.

The above enhancements to our Typical home security system example represent only a few of the available options and are by no means all-inclusive. What you find on your system or what you decide to have installed on your system will vary. Component selection for a home security system and the placement of those devices is largely dictated by what is to be protected and the level of protection desired.

If you would like to learn more about home security system components, consult the forums list of Home Security Alarm General FAQ's

If you are considering a Do-It-Yourself home security system installation, please see the following Home Security Alarm General FAQ: Can I install a home security system myself?


This article is for reference purposes only and is NOT intended as a tutorial on home security system design. The layout illustrations are examples only and the component layouts thereon may not be suitable for your home. Consult with a professional installer from an alarm company in your area to determine what is applicable to your home and meets your specific needs.

The above article is best viewed with Java Script enabled browsers. For the benefit of those whose browsers do not support the pop-up tool tips on the above floor plans, the basic home security system components are described below.


Basic Home Security System Control Panel

To the left is a typical metal enclosure (can) housing the control circuit board and alarm system standby battery.

The terms "control panel", "control", "panel" and "board" all refer to the printed circuit board that is, in essence, the computer "brains" of the alarm system.

The system standby battery (connected to the circuit board by red and black wires) maintains system operation during brief power outages.These batteries have a limited life expectancy and must be replaced every 3 - 5 years (sooner if system indicates Battery Trouble).

For additional information see the following FAQ: Where should I install the control panel for my alarm system?

Image by All rights reserved


Basic Security System Keypad

A keypad is the user interface with the alarm system.

The LED keypad pictured on the left consists of a small keyboard, a piezo electric buzzer and LED indicator lights.

The keypad is used for entering data into the system for purposes of controlling and/or programming and to display system status information.

See FAQ: What's the difference between a Control Panel and a Keypad ?

Image courtesy of Digital Security Controls Ltd. (DSC)


DSC Low Voltage Transformer Model PTC1640U

The low voltage transformer is the primary power source for the alarm system. It plugs into a 120V AC receptacle and is usually secured to the receptacle by a screw.

While often located at a receptacle near the control, it can be located anywhere on the premises.

Although the transformer supplies power to the system, it is not a power supply. Referring to it by its correct name can avoid confusion.

For suggestions on where to look for your transformer, see the following FAQ: How do I find my low voltage transformer?

Image courtesy of Digital Security Controls Ltd. (DSC)


DSC SD15W Siren

The siren on the left is an example of a typical interior audible device.

It alerts dwelling occupants to an alarm condition or a change in status of the alarm system by emitting loud, high-pitched steady tones, warbling tones or a combination thereof.

Bells, buzzers and horns have all been employed in this application in the past; however, speakers and sirens are by far the most common audible devices utilized in today's residential installations.

Want to learn more about speakers and sirens? See FAQ: What is the difference between an alarm system speaker and siren?

Image courtesy of Digital Security Controls Ltd. (DSC)



A motion detector is a sensor that reacts reacts to changes in the environment within its coverage area.

The passive infrared (PIR) detector shown here is an example of one of the most commonly installed motion detectors.

It monitors the background infrared (heat) signature within its detection area and when a rapid change is detected, combined with movement across the sensor's coverage pattern, it is detected as movement.

To learn more about motion detectors see the following FAQ: What are motion detectors?

Image courtesy of Digital Security Controls Ltd. (DSC)


Leviton RJ31X

The RJ31X on the left provides a quick-disconnect between the alarm system and the telephone system and is usually located near the control panel.

This device is required by FCC Regulations Part 68 and must be installed on any home security system that is connected to a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).

To learn more about the RJ31X see the following FAQ: What is an RJ31X, why do I need one and how do I hook it up?

Image courtesy of Leviton


GE 1078 Series Recessed Magnetic Contact

The recessed (flush mounted) 3/4-inch diameter steel door contact pictured on the left with its associated magnet is used on metal clad doors.

This type of contact was used on the kitchen/garage door on both the Basic Home Security System and the Typical Home Security System floor plans above.

To learn more about magnetic contacts see the following FAQ:
What are magnetic contact switches?

Image courtesy of GE Security Products

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