Are You Safe At Home? Security systems explained in non-techie language

security systems explained

When thieves recently targeted my suburban neighborhood, I felt we needed some kind of security system. So I set to researching the subject like I do for lots of other things I want to know more about.

I’m not too proud to admit, the technical jargon was over my head and more bewildering than helpful. So I did what any Boomer with a kid who’s a Millennial, IT professional would do. I asked him to explain the levels of security systems in understandable, non-techie language.

And what he shared with me, I now share with you. In case you have a problem with thugs and thieves where you live, too. Or, in case you need to know what’s happening within the walls of your house when you’re not there.

Who Needs Another Monthly Bill?

We all know there are monthly subscription services that will take on the responsibility for equipment installation and 24/7 monitoring of it. Easy peasy. But who wants another monthly bill? I don’t.

So the security systems explained in the remainder of this post are those that don’t require a monthly maintenance payment. The security systems explained in this post are those that don’t require a monthly maintenance payment. Because who needs another monthly bill? Click To Tweet

Security System, Screamer Edition

The most basic system you can buy is window and door sensor kits that do nothing more than emit a piercing noise when the contact points are separated. You simply hope the screaming noise is enough to deter the intruder and keep a baseball bat by your bed. There’s no visual image displayed or recorded. And if you’re away from home, there’s no notification sent to your phone to inform you that your “system” has been activated.

If “possible deterrent” is all you really want in a security system, you can get it at any home improvement store for about $50.

The Self-Monitoring Security System Explained

If you want sensors, video cameras, and phone alerts, there are systems for that – expensive (like Nest) and inexpensive (like Zmodo).

Even the inexpensive system is impressive. If a door or window sensor is activated, a single interior camera with a wide-angle view can be programmed to turn toward that sensor. An alert will be sent to your smartphone with a short video clip and you’ll have the ability to verbally communicate inside the house with 2-way audio and pivot the camera angle to adjust the sightline and get real-time video. So you can talk to whoever’s in your house, and watch them live, and record them.

This system is not only useful to keep an eye on your possessions while you’re away but also on family members you’re concerned about. A working parent can monitor their kids after school or an adult child can monitor an elderly parent still living independently.

There are limitations to this system. It can only store so much recording – about 2 days worth. When it reaches capacity, it begins to overwrite the oldest recordings. For many people, this isn’t an issue. However, if you want your recordings stored on the Cloud, that’ll cost you.

The Evidence Collector

Some people are more interested in watching what goes on outside their home than inside. Think porch pirates, disputes with neighbors, and rogue teenagers for examples. In that case, what you’re looking for is a set of – typically four or eight – outside-mounted cameras connected to a digital video recorder (DVR) inside your house.

These systems can be set to record continuously or motion activated and store much more of what they record. For example, a DVR with 2 terabytes of storage and 4 channels (4 cameras operating) can record about 2 week’s worth of continuous video or about a month of motion-activated recordings. When the storage is full, it will begin to overwrite the oldest recordings.

You can connect to these systems with a mobile app and view from anywhere in the world and set alerts for motion triggers. However, the cameras are stationary. You can’t adjust the viewing angle. And you also have to run wiring from the outside cameras to the inside DVR unit. Or you can pay significantly more to get wireless cameras that you still have to connect to a power source.

A friend of mine with a small 2-camera system captured his off-street parked truck being damaged by a neighbor. He took his irrefutable video recording of the event to the police. They, in turn, told the neighbor to write my friend a check for the damage or have charges pressed against them. Friend got a fat check that paid for the truck damage and the cost of his security system.

Stealth Surveillance

Finally, sometimes the security you want from a system is to know what’s going on inside your house with people you’ve given permission to be there. You don’t need alarms or alerts but you need peace of mind to know they’re behaving properly. For example, you might want to observe a new babysitter or a caregiver for your aging parent. Or you may want to make sure personal items aren’t stolen during showings for your listed house.

In these cases, you don’t want obvious cameras. You want hidden ones. A quick Amazon search will direct you to tiny cameras hidden in phone chargers, clocks, smoke detectors, clothes hooks, outlet covers, and even a screw head!

Look for WIFI capability in these products if you want to watch video in real time via an app for these products which are shockingly affordable.

security systems explained