Home Touch

A Secure Setup

Especially during the holiday season, homeowners welcome guests, but want to protect their household from unwanted intruders.

Today's security systems are both high tech and high touch, with systems that can be integrated with a house's HVAC system and remotely accessed, says Dave Pedigo, vice president of emerging technologies with Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA), based in Indianapolis. The nearly 30-year-old association has 3,700 worldwide members that deliver technology solutions -- including security systems -- into homes.

"When it comes to a house's security system, we are often talking about it in terms of a 'smart' home, or one in which the electronic systems -- such as heating, cooling, sound and security -- reliably connect to the Internet and can be controlled by a touchscreen or remotely by a mobile device," Pedigo says. "Some of the most effective security systems have cameras that are hidden in plain view."

When it comes to electronically securing a home, homeowners shouldn't be alarmed by all the component choices available. An electronic security system should be customized to your home, and can include sensors on doors and windows, alarms, cameras and fire and flood detection.

"The technology for security systems is becoming more reliable, such as a motion detector that isn't set off by a pet in the house," Pedigo says. "Also, security systems are quickly moving toward being voice controlled through the development of Amazon's Alexa, Google Home and Apple's HomePod."

Considering an electronic security system for your home shouldn't set off a panic button, but neither should it lull you into a false sense of safety. It's important to also invest in the physical security of a home, by reinforcing doors and windows and adding additional lights around a house.

Installing a residential security system is only as effective as law enforcement's response to a home's tripped alarm. Homeowners can choose to pay an additional monthly fee to have the system monitored by a third-party security company. An unmonitored security system relies on watchful neighbors or cameras that are accessed through mobile devices.

Pedigo says many new-construction homes are pre-wired for "smart" home applications, in which a house's systems are all interconnected. "If a fire is detected, the heating and cooling systems will shut down, so the chance of being affected by smoke inhalation is reduced," he says. "In the same way, if an alarm is tripped inside the home, the lights outside can flash off and on, so law enforcement can find a home with ease."

When it comes to securing a home, some homeowners think outside the box and buy a prepackaged electronic security system and install it themselves. Security components manufactured by companies such as Nest, Ring and Kuna have popular applications that record video of people approaching the front door.

Maxime Veron, director of product marketing at Nest Labs, based in Palo Alto, California, says their product is modular, so a homeowner can add different components and services based on specific security needs. "The Nest Secure alarm system and security cameras are simple to set up and help you keep an eye on your home, inside and out, from anywhere," Veron says. "We've made a security system that is easy to live with for everyone that needs it, but tough on the intruders."

Fewer wires may be needed as more electronic components become compatible with wireless equipment and controllers. But despite dreams to be wire-free, the power for wireless systems still has to be hardwired into a home. And a wireless way of life isn't without its drawbacks, Pedigo says.

"Hardwiring a home is still the most reliable and secure way to implement an electronic system," he says. "While technology is moving toward creating more wireless systems, you can experience interference or a disruption of service based on other wireless devices operating on the same frequency in your home or your neighborhood."

Pedigo says professional installers of wire-free security systems can create a wireless, secure network that has seamless coverage within a home. Professionals can then use a spectrum analyzer to set the proper channel for the wireless devices so there is no interruption of security services.

One of the most popular security devices is video that can be captured from a doorbell or light fixture outside a home or apartment. "Especially during this time of year, when packages can be left on the stoop, a homeowner can have documentation of people who come to the door," Pedigo says. "Security starts outside the home, so people inside can feel safe and comfortable."

Now, monitoring a home can be as easy as pulling up the security system app on a mobile device. And while having a security system doesn't prevent crime, it's meant to give a homeowner peace of mind, knowing the property is being monitored, Pedigo says.

"The goal is to install a security system that never sees an intruder," he says. "Also, one of the best additions to a security system is also a wireless, age-old one: having a dog."

Security Clearance

Consult a local Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association professional to install security and "smart home" technologies by visiting www.cedia.org and clicking on the "Find a CEDIA Professional" box.

Do-it-yourself modular home security devices can be purchased at Nest.com.

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