Can I Control My Home Security from My Phone?
Many modern home security systems are controllable ty phone. Systems with app compatibility are known as smart home security systems. Just don’t confuse a system’s smart capabilities with the method of professional monitoring it uses—the two are different. You can, for instance, have a smart security system and still get professional cellular alarm monitoring.
There are several components in a security system that might be controllable with a smartphone or tablet. Here are some of the most popular smart security elements.
Smart lighting is becoming increasingly common, and it isn’t just convenient for everyday use—it also has major implications for home security. Gone are the days of having to worry about whether you forgot to leave a light on to make your home look occupied. With smart lighting, you can turn any light you choose on (or off) from your phone, no matter where you happen to be. You can also set and adjust timers for your lights remotely.
Two popular smart lighting systems are the Philips Hue and Belkin WeMo.
Smart Smoke Detectors
The humble smoke detector benefits quite a bit from smart technology. Not only can the individual alarms communicate with each other to notify you of fires faster, but many models also use voice alerts to let you know exactly which room the smoke is in. Depending on the model you get, you can also silence the alarm from your phone and receive alarm notifications while you’re away.
Check out our roundup of the best smoke alarms—look for options marked “smart.”
Smart cameras allow you to remotely activate and view your security camera feeds right on your phone. Some smart cameras can also detect movement and send alerts to your phone when a person enters a room.
Explore our picks for best home security cameras.
Smart Door Locks
Smart door locks let you lock your doors from anywhere, and certain models can unlock automatically when they detect you approaching. Some locks feature keypads and backup key slots just in case the electronic element isn’t working, while others are completely wireless and work exclusively via smartphone apps.
Look through our guide to the best smart locks.
Smart Burglar Alarms
Many home security systems allow you to arm or disarm the burglar alarm from your smartphone, so you never need to worry about forgetting to set the alarm when you leave. Most providers have their own home security apps, and some are also compatible with the universal apps from Alarm.com.
What Are Electric Door Locks and How Do They Work?
Traditional key locks use some variation of the “pin and tumbler” method, in which the lock cylinder is held in place with a line of small metal pins, each of which consists of an upper and lower half. When a key is inserted and turned, the uneven “serrated” edge ensures that each pin is moved a certain distance. The cylinder may be turned only when each pin is moved just enough to create a straight separation between the upper and lower halves of all pins.
Electronic door locks also involve parts called “actuators,” which connect the bolt or the cylinder to a small motor completely buried within the door or frame itself. The motor is controlled by an electrical impulse, which may be triggered in a number of ways: by an electronic card reader, by a keypad or by a wireless remote control sensor. Either way, the electronic door lock is configured to start the motor-driven actuator only once it has received the correct electronic input.
Each method of locking has pros and cons. Physical keys, such as metal keys, key cards or handheld remotes, can be lost or damaged, while numerical key codes can be forgotten (or learned and memorized by the wrong person). Key codes can be quickly and easily changed by the user when necessary, while changing physical locks and keys is much more involved, requiring specialized hardware and expertise. Power failures are problematic for purely electronic door locks, causing them to remain locked or unlocked until the electricity has been restored.
On most electronic door locks, you’ll find some combination of physical and electronic locking control on the same door. For example, you may have a physical key for setup and emergency backup, but use the remote or keypad to lock and unlock the door on a day-to-day basis. This provides an extra layer of convenience and safety for the user, but may also provide additional functionality as well.
With a sophisticated automated system, electronic door locks can be controlled and monitored remotely.
In the case of cars, this means that you can lock and unlock the doors (or pop the trunk, or start the engine) while still some distance away from the vehicle. With homes or businesses, this can mean even more. Automated systems can be programmed to lock the doors for you at set times during the day, just in case you forgot. Remote monitoring apps can allow you to use your smartphone to see if there are any unlocked doors, and lock them from anywhere in the world. In the worst case, you can unlock your door remotely for quick, non-destructive access to fire and police personnel if an emergency occurs when you’re away from home.
Not all home security packages include electronic door locks with remote monitoring; in general, only the bigger and more cutting-edge providers support this kind of automated functionality. ADT Monitoring and Vivint both offer home security packages that include electronic door locks, as well as other home automation features. If you want to know more about these locks, call 1-855-263-4148 and speak with one of our SafeWise security specialists.
Do Home Security Systems Work With VoIP?
It depends on the security system and the VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) provider. The two most important considerations are the way that your VoIP security system communicates with the monitoring center, and how the VoIP service gets power.
Many security systems depend on standard telephone lines to connect to the monitoring center. Alarm system signals travel as a “sound” along copper wire, just like the buzzing noise of a fax machine or dial-up modem.
VOIP is more like a broadband connection; your voice is converted into digital data at your home and “streamed” over your Internet connection to the listener at the other end. Each VoIP provider uses slightly different technology to accomplish this, not all of which are compatible with every security system. The signal sent out by your VoIP service may not be recognized by the monitoring center as an alarm signal.
Compared to standard phone lines (often known as POTS, for Plain Old Telephone Service) VoIP has another critical consideration: backup power. When you lose electrical power to your home, by natural causes, or intentionally caused by intruders, any device without battery backup will be useless. Any professional security system will have its own dedicated battery backup for just such a situation, and standard phone lines work just fine without power, but most homes don’t have a similar backup for their digital phones or Internet connections.
VoIP phones depend on that Internet connection, and cutting off the electricity will cut off power to the modem or router that connects you to the Internet. This isn’t just a drawback of VoIP security systems; all digital telephones depend on your home’s electrical power. This includes any digital phone service that you get from your Internet, cable or telephone provider, as well as standard phones that offer wireless or answering machine features.
To ensure your safety, most security system providers keep an updated database of the telephone providers in your area. Fully compatible telephone providers are given the status of qualified Managed Facility Voice Network (MFVN). Other VoIP security systems may require additional equipment for battery or communication backup, such as a cellular option or dedicated powered network connection.
If you have a security system and are considering a switch to VoIP, SafeWise recommends contacting your security company to find out which VoIP providers are compatible.
What Is a Panic Pendant and How Does it Work?
A panic pendant is a small, portable, battery-operated device that ensures the user always has access to the help they need during an emergency situation, such as a break-in or debilitating fall. Available as part of a comprehensive home security system, the user simply pushes the button located on the pendant when they need help.
A signal is sent to the base unit, and a monitoring professional from the home security company will contact the user to determine if they need assistance and what kind. The monitoring professional will immediately notify the appropriate personnel, such as the fire department, emergency medical personnel or law enforcement. An LED flashes to assure the user that their request for help was successfully transmitted.
How Can I Avoid Setting False Alarms?
Despite advanced technology, false alarms do happen occasionally. This can be a result of faulty equipment, dead batteries, improper installation, user error, or any number of other issues. There can be fines of up to $200 associated with repeated false alarms, but proper system use and maintenance can help you avoid those hefty expenses.
- Use Pet-Immune Motion Sensors
Active pets are frequent causes of false alarms. Luckily, there are special motion sensors with sensitivity settings that allow the alarm to ignore movement from pets. By installing pet-immune sensors, you can stop worrying about false alarms and let your furry friends roam freely through the house.
- Practice Entering Your Code
Another very common cause of false alarms is homeowners entering the wrong code to deactivate the alarm. Make sure everyone who needs to be able to deactivate the alarm knows the code well enough to enter it before the alarm triggers.
- Keep the Batteries Fresh
Change the batteries in your home security equipment regularly. Low batteries can lead to false alarms. Typically, the equipment will notify you that the batteries are running low, but it’s not a bad idea to consult with your monitoring company to see if it recommends regular battery tests.
- Keep the Area around Motion Sensors Clear
It’s not just pets that can trigger motion detectors—stray objects like balls rolling past sensors can also set the alarm off. Balloons are notorious for causing false alarms when they float by. Keep the area free of clutter and tie down anything that could be blown around by the air conditioner.
- Close Windows and Doors Securely
It’s easy to leave the window open just enough to trigger the alarm. Get in the habit of closing all doors and windows tightly. This is a good tip to follow regardless of false alarms—you don’t want to give a potential intruder any help getting into your home.
- Keep Your Home Security Equipment in Good Shape
Although most false alarms can be blamed on human error, faulty equipment can also trigger an alert. If any of your home security gear requires regular maintenance, make sure you keep up with it. And if you think there is a defect in any of the components, get it taken care of right away. This could mean contacting the company for warranty support or calling your home security provider to have a tech come out and look at it. Either way, don’t wait.