Vanguard Security Corporation -
Honeywell Security Products Dealer
Home Alarm System Design
Finding equipment for the DO-IT-YOURSELFer is a tough task.  Today the
majority of professional (licensed) home security dealers use Honeywell
(formerly Ademco) brand alarm panels and devices.  Unfortunately Ademco only
sells their equipment to security "dealers", not direct to homeowners because of
their lack of knowledge how to properly design a home security system, how to
install detection devices such as magnetic door/window contacts and motion
sensors and more importantly how to program the main alarm panel.  On the
other hand, SimpliSafe is targeted for serious DIY homeowners, but just need a
little home security design help.

Vanguard Security Corporation has spent the last 25 years in the residential and
commercial security installation business designing and implementing
hundreds of custom systems.  With the right up-front knowledge it's not difficult
regardless of what local dealers claim.  We become your "virtual" alarm dealer,
supplying the equipment, the DIY know-how, as well as manufacturer warranty

Self Exam
There are six primary questions in the alarm system design process that must
be answered before jumping ahead and ordering equipment:

  • What are you attempting to protect?  Are you protecting people or
    property or both?  Remember that insurance will replace most of your
    belongings with the obvious exception of family heirlooms and other
    personal keepsakes.  We generally recommend home security systems
    to protect the family (people) versus property.  As mentioned insurance
    will cover, for the most part, all personal property.

  • How much time and money is budgeted to this project?  Will this be a
    wired system, wireless or combination of both?  Wired systems are by far
    the least expensive equipment-wise but significantly more labor
    intensive.  Wireless on the other hand is fairly quick to install but the
    equipment cost is higher.  Since "time is money" make sure you weigh
    both options carefully.  Regardless of which direction you go doing it
    yourself (DIY) will save you hundreds of dollars upfront and annually if
    you choose our UL Central Station Monitoring!

  • When will you be arming (activating) the alarm system?  Will you or
    your family be setting the alarm just when you go to bed, when everyone
    leaves for work/school, or at anytime of the day or night while the home is
    still occupied?  This answer is important since it drives how many and
    type of detection sensors that are necessary.   Focus on protecting
    people.  At night you need to know if a stranger is roaming your home
    and bedrooms while you sleep.  In the daytime what happens if your wife
    or child comes home unexpectedly and "surprises" someone who is
    already in the home?

  • Do you have pets in the home and what type?  Cats, dogs, birds?  
    Where do they sleep at night and do they have free roam of the house
    night and day?  This will determine what type of interior alarm sensors
    you will use.  Standard PIR motion sensors can only be used in areas
    that will not contain cats or dogs.  However Ademco now offers special
    motion sensors that are "pet immune" to 80 lbs.  As an alternative to
    motion sensors interior "Acoustic" Glassbreak sensors are available and
    many times used in conjunction with PIRs.

  • Who will be using (arming and disarming) the system normally?  
    Yourself, wife, kids, house keeper, a baby sitter?  All of the panels offered
    contain multiple "passcodes" allowing every family member to have their
    own unique arm/disarm code.  While we believe that just one primary
    passcode is necessary we do however recommend programming a
    babysitter code.  This special passcode can arm the system but the
    system can only be disarmed with this code if that code was used to
    arm.  For example you have a babysitter watch your kids while you’re out
    on the town with your wife.  The babysitter can arm and disarm the
    system while you’re gone but once you arm the system with your
    passcode the babysitter code can not be used to disarm the system.  
    You may want to consider using wireless keyfobs for their convenience
    and simplicity (no passcodes to enter).

  • Will this be a "local" alarm or Central Station monitored alarm?  A local
    alarm means you will have an outside siren and will be depending upon
    your neighbors to call the police.  How many times have you heard a
    siren in your neighbor hood (home or car alarm)?  Did you call the
    police?  An outside siren is still a good deterrent since anyone inside
    now knows an intruder is around, and neighbors may at least look out
    their window to see what's going on.  Unfortunately your back door may
    remain "open" all day until you return if the intruder took off running which
    is just an invitation to another.  A Central Station Monitored alarm system
    will notify your local police and/or fire department of alarms in addition to
    calling your cell phone, pager, etc. to let you know something important is
    happening at home.  As far as fire protection is concerned (smoke
    detectors and/or heat sensors) Central Station Monitoring is a must!   
    Don’t forget the safety of pets while the home is unoccupied but filling
    with smoke.  Also consider whether you we be using a hardline
    telephone line or cellular (GSM) to contact the central station.  Cellular
    provides additional security since the line cannot be "cut" by an intruder.

Security System Configurations

There are three main home security system (alarm) configurations to consider:
  • Perimeter Only
  • Perimeter with Backup (motion and/or Glassbreak)
  • Interior Only

A  Perimeter Only system is just that - only the perimeter entry points to your
home are protected.  Every door and window is protected by magnetic contact
intrusion sensors and can be wired, wireless or a combination of both.  
Generally all openings within easy reach would be protected.  This certainly
means the ground floor(s) plus any basement windows or doors as well as
selected windows on the second floor.  A good rule of thumb for second floor
openings is that if there is a roof overhang, etc. that a person can be boosted by
a helper to reach a second floor window then that opening should also be

Perimeter with Backup is doing all of the perimeter openings as above but also
including some backup intrusion detection devices.  Normally this would be
Passive Infrared (PIR) motion sensors but could also include audio glassbreak
sensors. The issue that is being addressed is "what if someone breaks the
glass at one of my windows and crawls through without actually opening the
window?".  This is a valid concern.  While statistics show that the vast majority of
break-ins occur at doors it is still possible to bypass your magnetic contacts by
simply not opening the window.  Of course this means that the intruder now
needs to crawl over jagged glass and creates a more visible sign that
something is wrong at your home.  The reason burglars come through doors is
that it is relatively easy and fast entry - and more importantly a fast exit.  Many
homeowners have invested in expensive keyed (two-sided) deadbolts which
unfortunately are installed in wood frame doors.  A simple crowbar held under a
coat and then just a little pressure right at your front door splinters the door right
open - and it’s extremely hard for neighbors to see that anything is wrong.  One
other thought I'll mention here that you need to consider.  I hate deadbolts for two
  • They create a dangerous safety hazard at night in the event of fire (do you
    keep a key in your pajamas?)
  • If you or your wife come home unexpectedly and "surprise" an
    unwelcome visitor you trap them inside with you.  Better for all to allow
    them a ready escape.

An interior motion sensor is used to “backup” the magnetic contacts on the
doors and windows.  PIR motion sensors sense a moving heat source (such as
a human body) with a room.  The range of these sensors vary but most are rated
to detect intruders 40 – 50 feet from the sensor.  It must be line of site with no
blockage such as glass in between the protection area and the motion sensor
(PIRs do not detect objects moving beyond your windows nor through walls).  
Ademco has two Pet Immune models that also accommodate pets such as
dogs or cats.  While they do work pretty well they do accomplish this by reducing
the detection sensitivity of the unit somewhat.  Our professional
recommendation over the years has been to only use motion sensors in areas
without pets.  For instance if you lock your dog in your bedroom at night then
motion sensors on the first floor are fine.  With the introduction of the Pet
Immune models we are starting to rethink that advice.  An alternative to motion
sensors (especially with pets) is to use audio Glassbreak sensors.  These
devices “listen” for the sound of breaking glass.  Simply just jingling your car
keys will not trick these microprocessor driven devices – they look for specific
frequencies and impulse signature before tripping an alarm.  One Glassbreak
sensor can in most cases cover an entire room of windows such as a Family
Room even with the drapes closed (this is actually part of the pre-installation
testing for proper positioning of the device).

Interior Only system is the most inexpensive of the three configurations by far
yet still provides a reasonable level of protection.  In this case you protect ALL
doors on the ground floor(s) and use PIR motion sensors to cover all window
entry.  If you are only going to set (arm) the security system when you go to bed
or when no one is home then this system may be adequate.  However if you will
setting the alarm system at any time of the day or night (such as 7:30pm) then
obviously you can not arm the motion sensors in areas you will also be visiting
(watching TV in the Family Room).  This creates a “hole” in your defenses – no
protection at all from entry by a window.  Glassbreak sensors on the other hand
can be activated while in the area unless you plan to break some glass panes
within earshot of the sensors!  One other point that is important to consider:  You
may be detecting an intruder that is now “inside” your home.  Better to detect a
burglar with his feet on your grass (opening a protected window) than on your
Living Room rug via a motion sensor. Whether an Interior Only system is
adequate is a personal use question as well as project budget.

Wired versus Wireless Protection
Wired protection devices such as magnetic contacts, motion sensors,
glassbreak sensors, smoke detectors come in both Wired and Wireless
models.  There are two distinguishing factors to help judge which is best for your
  • Wired devices are the least expensive (cheaper by far)
  • Wireless devices are easier to install (faster by far)

Here is an easy rule of thumb for windows and doors.  For a wired installation
figure a window/door will cost $10 for a magnetic contact and wire plus about an
hour of labor.  This labor includes drilling the window sill and sash, fishing the
wire to the basement, and pulling a line back to the control panel.  It’s not really
hard once you do a couple but it is time consuming.  

For wireless installation figure about $50 (Ademco) per opening or $15
(SimpliSafe) plus ten minutes of labor.  The labor consists of pressing an
adhesive backed transmitter on the window/door plus pressing the magnetic to
the window of door frame.  There is programming time involved too but it’s about
the same for wired and wireless.  If you are not comfortable fishing wire then
wireless is certainly for you.  Remember that time is money so this needs to be
factored in to your cost budget.

You may also want to consider a hybrid system – both wired and wireless
devices.  Doors and windows in an unfinished basement for instance can easily
be wired.  The same goes for garage openings.  On the other hand second floor
windows or windows in a room over a concrete slab are excellent candidates for
wireless transmitters.  The
Lynx controller is pretty much a fully wireless unit
(does have one hardwired zone) while the Vista series (
Vista-10P, Vista-15P,
Vista-20P, Vista-50P) have six or more hardwired zones plus can accommodate
wireless expansion via a wireless receiver.  Don't forget to check out our low cost
SimpliSafe full wireless section too!

Also if you do add a wireless receiver you also now have the capability to use key
fobs which make arming and disarming the system a snap.

Security Devices
With the answers to these questions you can begin a proper home security
design.  But exactly how does an alarm system work?

    Control Panel
    A security system starts with a control panel. Usually located in a
    closet or a basement, the control panel contains the "brains" of
    the security system, and essentially operates as a central
    computer. Various sensors connect to the control panel from
    locations throughout your home. If your security system is armed
    and the sensors detect a problem, they send signals to the
    control panel. The control panel automatically dials the central
    monitoring station, where the proper authorities (police, fire,
    ambulance) are notified.

    You operate your security system by entering your security code at
    the keypad. Generally located at entry doors, keypads can arm
    and disarm with push-button ease, and literally put security at
    your family’s fingertips! Good features to look for include
    illuminated keys to provide you with greater visibility at nighttime,
    easy-to-read English displays that spell out your system’s status
    at a glance, and one-touch function keys that provide single-
    button operation for arming, disarming or emergencies. Most
    keypads even offer convenient additional user codes to give
    friends, neighbors or service people access to your home.

    Magnetic Contacts
    Magnetic contacts are two-part devices used to safeguard
    windows and doors. One part of the contact is a switch installed
    in the window or door jam; the other contains a magnet and is
    placed in the window or door itself. Any noticeable shift in contact
    with the switch results in an alarm.  These can be home-run
    wired back to the main control panel, daisy-chained with other
    door/window contacts or part of a wireless transmitter combo.

    PIR Motion Sensors
    A passive infrared motion detector (PIR) is an electronic security
    device that detects intruders by "sensing" motion or body heat in
    the area being protected. Most PIRs are designed to be used
    when your family is away from home or when no one will be
    passing through the area "covered" by the PIR.

    Recent innovations in security technology have resulted in the
    creation of "pet immune" motion detectors-allowing dog and cat
    lovers to enjoy the same level of protection they would receive with
    a standard PIR. These state-of-the-art sensors provide "pet
    immunity" for animals weighing up to 80 lbs. Pet immune PIRs
    allow your pet to move about freely but can still detect an intruder’
    s movement.  

    Glassbreak Sensors
    Acoustic Glassbreak sensors, usually mounted on ceilings or
    walls, work by "listening" for the sound of breaking glass in a
    window. "Shock" glassbreak detectors are mounted on the
    window and "feel" the shock of breaking glass. This kind of
    advanced wireless technology can provide shatter and shock
    protection for your windows, for often intruders are "sensed" and
    an alarm sounded while they are still outdoors. This is often
    enough to send a burglar running!

    Smoke Detectors
    You probably already have a battery-operated smoke detector. Do
    you need one installed as part of my security system?  Smoke
    detectors are highly effective in preventing loss of life and
    property. However, there are differences between the "stand
    alone" or battery-operated smoke detector you would buy at your
    local hardware store and one installed as part of your home
    security system.  “Stand alone” detectors are not connected to
    other detectors or warning devices. A smoke detector connected
    to your security system offers more protection when it is
    monitored by a central station. If fire strikes, the detector sets off
    an alarm and sends a signal to the control panel. The control
    panel dials the central station, where the operator notifies the fire
    department. Only central station monitored smoke detectors
    provide automatic notification of authorities when you or your
    family are asleep, not at home or unable to get to the phone.  
    Protect your pets too from fire while you’re at work!

    Wireless Devices
    Technological breakthroughs have led to the development of
    wireless electronic security products, and their effectiveness has
    been proven time and again over the years in millions of
    installations. Their rock-solid stability and long battery life make
    them a popular choice among homeowners and dealers alike.
    They give installers the flexibility they need to overcome obstacles
    like brick walls, cement floors and cathedral ceilings; and no
    drilling holes preserves the beauty of your home and results in
    cleaner, faster installations.

    Folks today enjoy the convenience of remote control devices, and
    the security industry has responded! User-friendly wireless
    products provide the dual benefits of superior performance and
    ease of operation. Wireless keypads allow you to activate and de-
    activate your security system with the touch of a button, and can
    even be programmed so that a young child can operate it with
    ease. Homeowners especially love wireless keys! Similar in size
    to a remote car alarm key, they fit right on your keychain, and the
    press of a single button lets you control your system, lights and
    appliances-eliminating the need for codes. This is especially
    great if you and your family enjoy spending time outdoors. Relax
    by the pool, garden, barbecue and entertain, or play with your kids
    in the backyard-enjoy extra mobility without compromising your

    Remote Control
    Another hot item gaining popularity is the interactive phone
    module. By adding the phone module to your home security
    system, you’ll have remote control access from any touch-tone or
    cellular phone-from your office, on the road, or anywhere in the
    world! Conveniently arm, disarm or check the status of your
    system, turn your lights on or off-you can even control your
    thermostat and air conditioner!

Design Examples

Single Family Home

Condo / Apartment
  • Interior Only
  • Full Perimeter with Backup

Copyright 2012
Vanguard Security Corporation
DIY Ademco Wireless Home Security Systems

Your Wireless Home Security System Experts