Home Security System Glossary & Definitions of System Features

As you talk with representatives of home security companies, and as you read the home security reviews and articles on this site, you’ll come across terms and phrases you might not be familiar with.

Since making uninformed choices is never a good decision, we developed this section of our site to help you learn more about the terms and phrases associated with Home Security Systems. The glossary and definitions found below is something you can refer to in order to have these terms clarified. If you don’t find the meaning of a specific phrase, please contact us and let us know, we’ll get it added as quickly as possible.

Home Security Glossary | FAQ

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24-Hour Monitoring: This term means that home alarm monitoring is non-stop. There are no lapses in the monitoring done by the security company’s response center. No matter when the security system on your home sends an alert or an alarm, it will be received and acted up by the trained personnel at the monitoring center.

24/7 Monitoring: Same as 24-hour monitoring and sometimes referred to as 24/7/365 to mean that home alarm monitoring occurs every hour of the day, every day of the year.

2-Way Voice or 2-Way Intercom: This means that when an alert is triggered by your system, personnel at the alarm monitoring center can push a button and talk directly to you through your control panel. They don’t have to contact you by phone. 2-way voice is the easiest way to determine if a signal they receive is real or a false alarm.

Activation Fee: This is an upfront fee that is paid to connect your home security system to the home alarm monitoring center.

Carbon Monoxide Detector: These units function the same as CO detectors you might currently have in your home, but they are connected to the alarm system. This is part of the Environmental monitoring (see definition below) that many home security systems now include.

Cellular Monitoring or Cellular Backup: A cellular connection is more reliable than internet and will work in the absence of a landline. A cellular connection is very reliable. It might be used as the primary means of connecting your home security system to the monitoring center or it might be used as a backup method if a landline fails or has been tampered with.

Contract: Most home security companies require a contract for service, though a few work month to month. The standard contract is 36 months, but 12-60 month contracts can also be found.

DIY or Do-It-Yourself: These home security systems are installed by the homeowner. They are almost always digital and quite easy to install and test. The systems are ideal for renters and are portable when you move. Most companies offer portable contracts that go with you if you change homes and take the equipment with you.

Door and Window Sensors: Sometimes called monitors, they signal the control panel if the door or window is opened. The panel then sends an alarm to your company’s home alarm monitoring center.

Environmental Monitoring: This is a catch-phrase that refers to monitoring issues in the home environment such as temperature, flooding and carbon monoxide.

Equipment Manufacturer: Some security companies use proprietary equipment in their home security systems. Monitronics, GE Security Pro and AlarmForce are three examples. Most use third-party equipment. The two most popular brands of home security system components are GE and Honeywell.

Equipment Warranty: The security company you choose may back the installed equipment with a warranty lasting from 1 year to the life of the equipment. The company will fix or replace the equipment if it is under warranty. Warranty coverage is usually free for the extent of it, or it is included in the monthly fee. A few companies charge an additional small monthly fee for warranty.

Fob: This is a small, personal device, much like many vehicle owners have, to electronically unlock their doors. The fob can be carried on you personally and can be used to turn on or turn off the system. Most also have so-called “panic buttons” which will immediately signal the monitoring service to call police. Fobs are often carried in a vehicle, so that if you get home and find a dangerous situation, help can be contacted without leaving the car.

Flood Sensor or Flood Monitor: A flood sensor is place near the floor, usually in a basement. If standing water is present from a backed-up sump pump, burst pipes or other trouble, the sensor will send an alert to the monitoring service.

Freeze Sensors or Freeze Prevention Sensors: These sensors or monitors track temperature in the home. If it gets near freezing, and pipes might freeze and burst, they will send an alert.

Garage Door Sensors: Installed alongside the garage door, if the door is raised, the alert will be sent to the home alarm monitoring center.

Glass Break or Glassbreak Sensors: Sometimes called Smash and Grab sensors, they are placed on vulnerable windows, usually on ground level. They are also installed on entry doors with glass windows. If the window is broken, the sensor will send an alert.

Heat Sensors: These sensors detect rises in temperature above normal levels, possibly indicating a fire has started or that conditions for a fire are present. Heat sensors and smoke detectors are not the same thing.

Home Alarm Monitoring: Also simply known as alarm monitoring or home monitoring, it is done by a security center established by the home security company. Alerts and alarms from your home security system are sent directly to the monitoring center.

Home Alarm Monitoring Center: The central hub or station where alarms are sent from a home security system. Personnel at the center receive the alarm and assess the situation. While procedures vary, the personnel may attempt to contact the homeowner to assess whether the alarm is real or false, or may contact police or emergency services immediately.

Home Automation: Many security companies use the type of technology that home automation companies use. Therefore, home security companies like FrontPoint, Pinnacle, Guardian, XFinity, GE, Vivint and more have added automation as an option. Automation can control lighting, heating and cooling systems, appliances and home theater. It can be seamlessly integrated into most home security systems and controlled remotely from a cellphone or other smart device.

Key Fob: See Fob

Medical Emergency Monitoring: Since the same technologies are being used in home security as by the medical emergency monitoring companies like Lifeline, many home security companies are offering the service.

Medical Emergency Bracelet or Pendant: These are worn by those vulnerable to a medical emergency. With the touch of a button, emergency medical help can be on the way.

Monitoring Fees: Usually paid on a monthly basis, these charges cover the cost of having the home security company monitor the alarm system and respond to alerts and alarms.

Redundancy: This term refers to monitoring of a home security system by more than one home alarm monitoring center. The value of choosing a security company that offers redundancy is that bad weather and other events can limit communications. When a signal goes out from a home security system with redundant monitoring and is not immediately responded to by the nearest monitoring center, the next center will be alerted and will take action.

Relocation: Some companies have home security systems that are portable. They are easy to take down and set up in the new home or apartment. Most are wireless.

Two-Way Voice or Two-Way Intercom: See 2-Way Voice or 2-Way Intercom above.

Upfront Costs: These are the activation fees or equipment costs paid at the start of service. They are separate from any monthly home monitoring fees.

Wireless: This term refers to components of a system or an entire system that uses wire-free connections as opposed to being hardwired. Wireless sensors and components are easy to install, typically without drilling holes for wire or mounting, and are very portable.