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Last updated: 1 October, 2023

Like most industries, the security alarms industry has its share of confusing lingo and terminology.
Here are some of the more common ones you’re likely to come across while researching Home Alarm Systems:


“This is the “brains” of the system. It consists of a metal or plastic enclosure, the ‘motherboard’ and a back-up battery.
It is normally located in a cupboard or wardrobe – somewhere out of the way and difficult for a burglar to find. All the wires from the motion sensors, sirens and codepad all run back to the control panel. You don’t normally need to touch it or do anything to it. The alarm serviceman will need to get to the panel if your system need the battery replaced or for any other repair or service.


Ideally located next to your entry and exit door, the codepad is used to turn the alarm on and off. It is also used to arm the system in Home Mode before you go to bed.
All codepads offer indicators that show the state of the system (on, off or home mode) as well as other general information about the system. If an alarm occurs while you’re not home, the codepad will indicate the nature and location of the alarm when you disarm the system.


The most common motion sensor used for home security systems is the Passive Infra Red detector (PIR). These sensors monitor changes in the infra-red energy radiated by all the objects in a room. Changes occur when a person moves between an object in the room and the infra-red sensor.
The modern PIR sensors use sophisticated signal-processing techniques that virtually eliminate false alarms, provided the installer follows some basic guidelines.
A variation on the standard PIR is the Pet-Tolerant PIR which, when installed correctly, allows animals to remain in the home while the alarm is turned on.
Other types of motion sensors that can be used for home security are microwave sensors and ultrasonic sensors. Both work on the Doppler shift principle and require regular maintenance and adjustment to prevent false alarms. Consequently they are rarely used today.


A reed switch detects the opening of a door or window.
It has two parts – (1) the magnet, usually mounted on the door or window, and (2) the reed switch, which is usually mounted on the door frame. When the magnet is very close to the reed switch – such as when the door is closed, the magnet holds the reed switch closed. This lets the alarm panel know that the door is closed.
When the door is opened and the magnet is moved away, the reed switch opens and an alarm is triggered.
These are a simple but extremely reliable way to protect a door or window. They can be difficult to install (correctly anyway – meaning all cabling is concealed) and therefore be expensive when compared to a motion sensor.
A reed switch will not detect the breaking of a window or door.


Designed to detect the vibration caused by forced entry through a window, door or wall.
I have had great success using these on the walls of bank vaults, pharmaceutical storage rooms, jewellry shop walls and windows and children’s bedroom windows.. Very effective first line of defense when installed correctly


An electronic detector that responds to the sound of breaking glass – allegedly! I have never found these sensors to be particularly effective and have seldom seen them installed correctly. It relies on the microphone inside the sensor being able to ‘hear’ the glass breaking. The sensor’s ‘hearing’ can be affected by curtains and soft furnishings in the protected room that can muffle, absorb or otherwise alter the sound of breaking glass.
I have been to more than one break-in where a window has been broken but the glass-break detector has failed to trigger.
I have also broken a large plate glass shop window in Lygon Street while testing one of these devices, attempting to trigger an alarm! (And no, it still didn’t go into alarm, in case you’re wondering!)


The name commonly given to piezo internal sirens due to the annoying racket they create.
Every system should have at least two of these located at either end of the home.


This is, in my opinion, one of the most important components of a good home security system yet are seldom installed to take full advantage of their role. The strobe is a high-intensity blue light that is mounted on the external siren cover. If your alarm is triggered, the following sequence of events occur:
1 – All the sirens in your system start (internal screamers and external siren)
2 – The blue strobe light starts to flash
3 – The automatic dialler in the control panel alerts the monitoring station (if the alarm is monitored) or it sends an alert to your mobile phone.
After 2 minutes, the sirens stop, however the strobe light continues to flash until you arrive home and disarm the system with your code or remote control.
Hopefully you can see what an important job the strobe does – if it’s NOT flashing when you arrive home, it let’s you know that the system hasn’t been triggered while you were away, and everything will be exactly as you left it.
If, however, the light is flashing, it’s warning that the alarm has been triggered and extra care should be taken before going inside.


A white box made from tough, weather-resistant polycarbonate that is mounted in a prominent position on the outside of the premises. It houses a loud siren and has the strobe light fitted to the front.
A powerful visual deterrent.


A standard,built-in feature on most modern systems. It provides a means for the control panel to connect to your telephone line and dial one or more phone numbers to advise of a break-in or other alarm condition. Usually programmed to dial a 24 hour monitoring service, such as Chubb. Alternatively it can dial up to 3 mobile phone numbers and indicate an alarm condition by playing a siren tone when you answer.
***Just Released – Our new Lifestyle Elite wireless system can dial up to 5 phone numbers of your choice and uses voice messages to indicate the exact nature of the alarm. Click for more info.


Offers an alternative communications path to a standard phone line and thus a higher level of security for back-to-base monitored alarms. This unit continuously monitors the telephone line. If the line is cut, it sends a “Line Fail” message to the control room via the GSM mobile phone network. Any alarms that may be activated during the line fail condition are also sent to the control room through the GSM network. Can also be used as the sole communication path if you don’t have a standard telephone line.


A simple switch located in most motion sensors, external sirens and control panels that reports an alarm if an unauthorized person attempt to open or otherwise tamper with any component of the security system.

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