Monthly Archives: May 2012

Do You Know What a PIR Sensor Is?

If you’ve spent any time perusing our product pages, it is likely that you’ve seen us mention PIR sensors a time or twenty before. You may have even loosely linked them with pet sensors, yet remain unsure about what they are and what types of home security devices they are best suited for. We thought we’d spend a little time today exploring this useful technology and, perhaps, even answering a few of your questions in the process.

Sensors, Contacts and Transmitters…What’s the Difference?

Before we go into detail about what a PIR sensor is, for clarity’s sake, allow us to take a moment to first explain the differences between a sensor, a contact and a transmitter. As words, sensors and contacts are sometimes used interchangeably, so it helps to define what these items are and how they work. Sensors are probably already clearly defined in the minds of most people. Simply put, they are tiny devices that are programmed to “sense” a disruption. The word contacts is often used in place of sensors, which is fine since they are one in the same. In home security systems, the technology used in most ordinary contacts or sensors consists of a switch, known as a reed switch, and a magnet. Together these items form a contact, and when the magnet and reed switch are separated, an alert is triggered.

A transmitter, on the other hand, is different from a contact or a sensor, but uses sensors for the process of identifying incoming information. When we use the word transmitter, we are almost always referring to a wireless device. A transmitter literally “transmits” signals and information garnered from a sensor to a main base.

What Is a PIR Sensor?

A passive infrared (PIR) sensor is a special type of sensor used to detect body heat generated by humans and animals. This heat energy is compared to the temperature in the area where the sensor, or the device containing a PIR sensor, is mounted. In home security devices, each time a PIR sensor detects a significant change in a nearby object’s infrared or heat energy in relation to the rest of the room or environment, an alarm is triggered. Sometimes referred to by other names, such as pyroelectric infrared sensors or even pet immune sensors, PIR sensors are commonly used home security devices such as motion detectors and security lights.

Who Should Consider Using a PIR Sensor?

Homeowners with pets should definitely consider home security devices with PIR sensors. After all, the ability to differentiate between animals and humans is the primary reason that these sensors are used in home security devices. Motion detectors utilizing this technology should be used in households with indoor pets, in particular, as such helps to eliminate instances of false alarms.

Individuals who wish to conserve energy without compromising security should also consider using PIR sensors. These sensors help to assure that devices, such as motion activated security lighting, are not triggered each time an animal (like a pesky rodent or a neighbor’s cat) passes in front of the sensor. In many such devices, the level of the sensitivity of a PIR sensor can be calibrated to only react when a being exceeding a certain weight is detected within the sensor’s range, which eliminates the problem of minor disturbances by insects or nearby shrubbery shifting in the wind.

Anyone currently relying on motion sensors for home security, but experiencing frequent false alarms, should consider whether a PIR sensor may help resolve the problem. There is a good likelihood that motion sensors are being triggered by a family pet or even flying insects. Many homeowners grow weary of false alarms and may even be reluctant to arm motion detectors for this reason. There is no need to choose between home security and a beloved pet, however, since motion detectors using PIR sensors can so easily serve to eliminate this frustrating inconvenience.

Devices Using PIR Sensors

PIR Sensors can be found in wireless as well as hardwired security devices. In fact, among our highest rated devices which are equipped with PIR sensors is the Visonic K940 40lb Pet Immune Hardwired Motion Sensor. Easy to install and able to distinguish between small pets and larger humans, this device can only be triggered by an object or being that exceeds a 40 pound weight limit.

The Dakota Alert MAT MURS Alert Transmitter also uses PIR sensors. From its mounted location, the Dakota Alert MAT MURS Alert Transmitter sends a signal each time an object, person or animal comes into its range. This transmitter is great for outdoor spaces, even in rural areas where animals roam freely.

For more information about PIR sensors and the products we carry that utilize this technology, you may employ a search from our main page. If you’ve recently purchased a device equipped with a PIR sensor and need our support in making sure that you are using it properly, please give us a call. Should you have further questions or comments about passive infrared sensors, we encourage you to let us know in the section below.

What Does Sony Super HAD Mean?

Hole accumulation diode (HAD), is a noise reduction technique patented and introduced to the world  by the Sony Corporation more than a decade ago. Applied to image sensors, this technology significantly improves a camera’s overall picture quality. Specifically, a hole accumulation diode is positioned just beneath an image sensor’s surface in order to greatly suppress the dark current or fixed-pattern noise that normally occurs in a sensor when light is absent.

What Makes This Technology So Special?

As a result of the hole accumulation diode positioning, cameras equipped with Sony Super HAD technology are capable of producing superior color and light filtering, and possess twice the sensitivity of other camera devices. Popular among closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, the Sony Super HAD also offers a better smear rejection than other surveillance cameras. This means that images captured aren’t nearly as grainy as those that are captured by cameras without a hole accumulation diode. As this pertains to home security, such enhanced features make it clear why cameras using HAD technology are far preferred over other surveillance camera systems.

The Importance of Sony Super HAD Technology in Surveillance

Owning a camera with the capabilities and features afforded by Sony Super HAD technology means that details, such as colors, patterns, facial features, license plate numbers and other identifying details captured during surveillance recording appear more crisp and clear than they would otherwise be. The quality of nighttime images, and others taken in low light environments, are never compromised with HAD technology either. This is because cameras equipped with Sony Super HAD are able to record with amazing detail even in dark settings such as those which would ordinarily make seeing with the naked eye a challenge. In very bright settings, even in instances of direct sunlight, glare is also significantly reduced thus enabling a camera with a hole accumulation diode to function in even the most extreme lighting conditions, as well.

Reactions to Sony Super HAD Technology

When our tech support manager, Matt Apperson, was asked about the drawbacks associated with a camera using Sony Super HAD technology, he was unable to cite a single one. Customers who have purchased cameras with this advanced technology appear to be equally impressed by its performance. In fact, when referring to the Lorex Super Resolution IR Bullet Camera (which uses Sony Super HAD technology) one of our customers describes the imaging experience as “…a world of difference” in comparison to other cameras. Simply put, when it comes to the best quality in surveillance devices, cameras using Sony Super HAD technology cannot be more highly recommended.

Camera Brands Featuring Sony Super HAD Technology

Even though the hole accumulation diode technology originated with Sony, a consumer in the market for a new surveillance system needn’t feel limited to Sony cameras. Other surveillance camera brands such as Lorex, Atrix, Lasertech and others use Sony Super HAD technology in their camera systems, as well. In fact, in perusing our surveillance camera pages you will find several indoor and outdoor cameras utilizing this technology.

Our Take On CCD Vs. CMOS Technology

In addition to acquiring a basic understanding of Sony Super HAD and its significance in the home security camera sector, it helps to know a little about image sensors– specifically, CCD and CMOS types. We’ll just give it to you straight here by saying that the best surveillance cameras on the market use what is known as Charged Coupling Device (CCD) image sensors. This is because CCD image sensors offer unsurpassed clarity as they effectively convert analog data into digital pixels. And it just so happens that cameras featuring Sony Super HAD are also among the most recent technology in the CCD arena, as well. Purchasing a camera with CCD image sensors and Sony Super HAD technology is, in our opinion, a superior selection.

On the other hand, cameras that do not use a Charged Coupling Device, rely on Complimentary Metal Oxide Semiconductors (CMOS). While cameras using this technology can be useful for surveillance purposes, the image quality they produce is believed by some in the home security business to be somewhat inferior to CCD image sensors. CMOS sensors are cheaper to manufacturer, however, which leaves many to speculate that it will become a more popular and competitive technology in the near future.

What Does Sony Super HAD Mean to YOU?

The entire purpose and end result of positioning a hole accumulation diode beneath the surface of an image sensor is an enhanced image quality. Such ultimately translates into the finest imaging homeowners can rely upon for their surveillance needs. We firmly believe that when it comes to the best, clearest and most concise picture quality, there simply is no better way to achieve this than with a camera utilizing Sony Super HAD technology.

Do you have experience using a camera equipped with Sony Super HAD? If so, we welcome your thoughtful comments and opinions below.

Are Biometric Keyless Entry Door Locks Right for You?

An important consideration in any security scheme, whether for a home or business, is the dependability of doors and their particular security features, such as locks. Doors are often targeted by criminals interested in perpetrating crimes against a property because of the ease with which they can often be manipulated. This makes the use of quality doors and locks an essential goal for security-minded property owners, and while there are many traditional products on today’s security market oriented towards improving the strength of protection against door-based property damage and manipulation, some of the newer technologies available to property owners offer especially exciting answers. Of these, keyless entry door locks are becoming particularly popular. This type of product provides users with a variety of benefits over traditional locks that make use of keys, and can revolutionize the way that access is controlled at a home or business. By rethinking the operation and structure of the traditional lock and key design, homeowners and business directors may be able to quickly and easily heighten their security while also enjoying a greater degree of convenience throughout the course of everyday work and living.

Keyless Biometric Fingerprint door locks aren’t limited to a single method of action, but can actually be split into two major categories: those that are operated by entering a certain code, and those which do not feature a keypad, but which scan a body part in order to confirm the identity of the person seeking access. These so-called “biometric” keyless entry door locks may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but they are fast becoming a preferable form of access control, particularly in environments in which access breaches could be highly damaging. This type of keyless entry door lock is typically more expensive than both traditional locks and keyless models that make use of a code, but the expense may be worth it for properties with significant access concerns. Deciding whether this type of keyless entry door lock is right for your home or business can be greatly aided by considering the benefits it can deliver over other types of lock hardware.

Most people are used to having a key with which to gain access to their homes or places of work, and while keys and corresponding locks may be conveniently familiar, they certainly have their drawbacks. Keys are fairly easy to lose and are also easy to steal, and the loss of a key, regardless of the method of misplacement, can cause a major security threat to a property. The need to coordinate a large number of keys for different entry points for multiple people can become expensive and cumbersome, as well. With a biometric keyless entry door lock, there’s no need to rely on the traditional requirements associated with the use of keys. Since there’s no item to introduce to the lock, there’s nothing to lose or have stolen, meaning that homes and businesses outfitted with this type of lock won’t have to face the uncertainty of wondering whether there are any stray keys floating around.

Biometric keyless entry locks take the benefit of other keyless lock devices to a new level by allowing people with appropriate access permissions to use doors without having to either carry a key or to memorize a code. Locks that work with a code require that users keep the appropriate sequence in their memory, a task which should be simple, but which isn’t always easy. Forgetting a code can cause problems for access, and the possibility that a family member or business employee might inadvertently or even directly divulge the code to someone else without a security administrator’s knowledge can be cause for concern. A biometric keyless entry door lock operates by scanning a particular part of a person, such as the pad of a thumb. As thumb prints are a unique indicator of identity, this means that homes and businesses can rely on granting access only to those people who should actually be allowed into a building or interior area. While the exact way in which a biometric keyless entry door lock works can vary from model to model, the basic idea is the same: by eliminating the use of keys and codes and relying instead on specific biological markers, locks can offer an incredible level of security.

The right security answers aren’t universal, but instead vary based on the particular attributes of the property in question. In some situations, a biometric keyless entry door lock may be a fantastic solution, while in others it may not be worth the extra expense. In most cases, however, this interesting type of lock is certainly worth the small amount of time and effort involved in investigating.

How to Know Which Power Supply is Right for Your Surveillance System

Taking the time to select the right power supply for your home surveillance system is a highly worthwhile endeavor. Without a strong power source cameras cannot function properly, which may present a very serious security threat to your home and to your family. With multiple brands and options to choose from, the following are a few basic tips on selecting the power supply that is right for your system.

Do Your Homework

A little homework is always in order prior to selecting the right power supply for your home surveillance system. For instance, you will need to determine ahead of time how many cameras your system will operate. You will also need to know the precise current that each camera will draw. Most likely, you’ll also have to perform a few conversions during this process. Remembering that half of an amp is actually only 500 milliamps will help you accurately do so. Also, some experts recommend adding slightly more to your final sum just to be sure that your power supply is adequate.

Choosing Between a Power Adapter and a Power Supply Box

Knowing how many cameras you will use from the onset is also important in determining whether you want to use a power adapter or an actual power supply box. If you will only be using a single camera, you’ll probably only need an adapter where you can use either a 12 volt DC or a 24 volt AC power supply. If you will be using multiple surveillance cameras, however, such will require a power supply box, which can be mounted on a nearby wall and plugged into a standard wall outlet. A power supply box is also generally more secure as metal boxes present a barrier to tampering with your camera’s wires and fuses. Boxes also tend to be more durable, overall.

When purchasing a new system, a little forethought about how your surveillance camera will use power can also prevent a headache later. For example, your surveillance camera will run non-stop during the day and night, which may mean that the power being used may fluctuate since LED lights are not necessary during the day, but will be consistently illuminated throughout the night. With this in mind, do note that choosing a dual-voltage camera might be a good idea.

Replacing a Power Supply

When purchasing a new surveillance system, the correct power supply will typically be included, so there is no need to fret too much over which one you should choose. Some surveillance systems even come with a backup power supply, which is a feature that you definitely want to look for when shopping for a new surveillance system. If you are replacing a broken or damaged power supply, however, pay close attention to what brand and model you are purchasing in order to determine whether or not it is compatible with your existing system. Also, make sure there is ample space in the power supply box for a backup battery if one is not already included. As always, look for UL certification to be sure that any power supply you are considering meets the highest safety standards.

Be Prepared With the Right Tools

In addition to selecting the right power supply for your home surveillance system, there are a few additional tools that you will need for its proper installation. Your primary tools will include a screwdriver and wire-strippers. Depending upon where you place your new power supply, you may also need a staple gun in order to secure any exposed wiring. If you can afford one that shoots rounded staples, such as the T-25 staple gun, we highly recommend investing in one. We understand that the T-25 is rather pricey in comparison to other staple guns, but our recommendation is rooted in the fact that rounded staples will help prevent the pinching of your wires, which may happen with standard square staples.

Installing Your New Power Supply

Installing a power supply for your home surveillance system should not take very long. In fact, if you are simply swapping parts to repair or replace a current power supply, it will likely only take you a few minutes to complete the task. If you’ve never done a job like this before, however, or if you aren’t very experienced with do-it-yourself projects, in general, then we recommend that you reserve a weekend so that you can take your time with a proper installation. You may finish it in far less time, of course, but should you run into any challenges, allowing yourself a couple of days should be more than enough time.

Got Questions?

We are always happy to help you with your home security needs. Should you have further questions about selecting a power supply or if you need assistance with installing one, feel free to give us a call.

Have you recently purchased a new power supply for your home surveillance system? How did you go about deciding upon the right one? We look forward to your comments below.

Beware of Door-to-Door Salespeople

Door-to-door salespeople seem to be everywhere these days. Whether they are selling meat products or magazines chances are you have come across someone trying to sell something at your door step. Due to the struggle for jobs, salesmen who live solely off commission can become pretty aggressive when it comes to the product they are trying to get you to buy. Sometimes having a “no soliciting” sign on your front door just isn’t enough to keep them away. There are many things to keep an eye out for if you decide to open your door to a salesperson. It can be hard trying to decipher whether the person outside your door is a true salesperson working for a real company, or if it’s just a person who is scamming you for your money.

When dealing with a door to door sales person there are many things to consider. This year alone the Better Business Bureau has received more than 300 complaints about door to door magazine sales nationwide as well as other complaints about other fraudulent forms of door to door sales. If you don’t like dealing with solicitors completely you can help keep them away by placing a “no soliciting” sign somewhere near your front or on your front door. If that still doesn’t stop them from knocking, do not answer the door unless you know who is knocking.

Even though there are a number of scams there are also door to door sales around that may have things that interest you. If you are intrigued to buy something there are a number of things to remember to reassure you that the salesperson you are dealing with is trustworthy. Never let the salesperson pressure you into buying something right then and there. Products that are sold door to door are usually sold at a price higher than retail stores. Do research and see if the price they are offering the product at is reasonable. Sometimes they will sell the product at a very high price due to the amount of commission they get for selling the item, so make sure that they are not up selling you too much just to benefit themselves. A good salesperson will be able to negotiate a price with you according to your personal budget. For the most part, there is usually no set price on the items sold door to door.

Always confirm that the business is registered and licensed. If you live in a city or county that requires solicitors to have a business license, ask the salesperson if they can provide this information from either them or their boss. You can also research the company with the better business bureau by going to bbb.org. On that website you will be able to see if there are any reviews and to learn more about the company. Another important thing to ask yourself and the salesperson is, is there an office location for this company? Along with an office, is there a business phone number that you could call if you had any questions about the products being sold?

Some salespeople will ask to come into your home to demonstrate the item that they are trying to sell. This is most common with the sales of vacuums and cleaning products. If you do not know the person or feel comfortable with them do not let them in your home. Giving them the opportunity to scope out the inside of your home can be a gateway to burglary as well as other crimes. Be aware that most salespeople are very good at what they do, and they know all of the right things to say to get into the home.

If you decide to go ahead and purchase something from a salesperson it is very important to remember these tips regarding the contract. All sellers’ contracts should be in writing, typically typed. Read over everything that is listed in the contract and ask as many questions as needed to make absolute sure of what you are agreeing to. If there are multiple sections that you have to sign make sure that you read each section thoroughly. Make sure that any promises the salesperson makes orally is also in writing just in case you need to refer back to it. Many contracts will have a sellers copy as well as the customer copy, make sure that when you are given the customers copy it is an exact duplicate of the one they are keeping. Look over the contract to make certain that there are no blank spaces that could be filled in later. The safest form of payment to use is a credit or debit card. This makes it easier to track and show the exact amount paid. Cash or checks can be easily lost or pocketed by the salesperson. If you choose to write a check, make sure that it is made out to the company, never the sales person. Cash can be a risk because if the salesperson decides to take some of it, it may be a pain proving that you paid the full amount. It is very important that you remember to never give your ATM card to anybody. Typically companies that offer payment plans are legitimate because they not only deal with the customer but an outside financing company as well. However, when it comes to financing that usually involves credit checks. Make sure that the salesperson is in no way able to record or remember your social security number or any personal information.

Every salesperson should inform you about the company’s cancellation and return policy. They must not only show you on the contract where it is written but also orally tell you what your cancellation rights are. You can cancel a contract for a purchase of $24 or more that was signed in your home within three days. You can cancel the purchase by giving the seller a written notice about your decision to cancel. You have until midnight of the third business day to cancel the contract. The three-day cancellation period was established so that you have time to think about the purchase you made as well as to compare prices. If you cancel the product within three days of purchasing you will receive your full refund and there will be no penalty. The salesperson should provide you with a Notice of Cancellation form to use if you decide to cancel.

In conclusion, when dealing with door to door salespeople remember to first off use your common sense on sensing whether or not the person or company is legitimate. All of these tips listed above will help you in your future encounters with people selling items at your door step. Do not let yourself be a victim to door to door sales fraud.

How to Wire a Standard Phone Jack to a Simon XT Control Panel

Home Security Store Tech Manager and Knowledgebase Host Matt Apperson shows you how to wire a Standard Phone Jack to a Simon XT Control Panel.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

So when wiring phones up to a Simon XT, it’s going to be typical for someone to, you know, take the panel and just plug it into any standard phone jack.  Unfortunately with the Simon XT, you won’t really be able to get results out of that.  so there’s a way to actually get this wired up to your house phone so that we can get the system to call out properly and it’ll work every time.

I’m going to show you the first method.  There is a secondary method but most times it’s just, you know, an average homeowner won’t end up running, you know, a four conductor wire from wherever the control panel is out to the phone box.  So I’m going to show you a quick, easy way to get this attached to your phone lines.

So what we’ll do is we’re going to open up the main control panel and we’ll just take the back plate off for this demo here.  And on the back of the control panel, there are two phone jacks.  There’s the smaller one and then the RJ45 bigger jack.  The smaller jack is for actually having a phone hooked up to it out of the panel.  So you could make a call from it but the panel doesn’t dial using this jack.  It actually dials using this jack.

So what we’re going to do is your control panel was supplied with RJ45 cable and then a beige phone block and we’re going to go ahead and use these two items and I’m going to show you how to hook these up to your phones using a standard phone cord.

So what we’ll do is we’ll open up the RJ45.  Now this cord’s a little bit long so you can actually tuck this in the wall if you need to but what you’re going to do is simply just plug this in to the back of your control panel.  Probably going to want to wind this through one of the openings in the back either here or here or it has knock outs on the bottom of the control panel.  You can actually take this plastic piece out and feed it in through the bottom.

So what you do is you’re going to go ahead and just plug this in here and then we’re going to take the beige phone jack that came with it and we’ll open this up here.  I’ll just put that down there for right now and then we’re going to open this up.  Inside there’s eight screws in there and what we need to do is we need to find just the two which are the two bottom ones here away from the jack which are the red and the green.

And for the next demonstration I brought out a phone cord, just a simple standard phone cord and we’re going to actually take this and what we’re going to do is we’re going to cut the end of this off because we need to wire it into this jack.  Chances are this is not going to fit in your home phone jack.  So we’re going to use this one here.  Now in some cases, your phone cord may have four wires in it.  In this demonstration, this one here has two wires in it.  so if your cable has four wires in it, you’re going to take the middle two and you can check that out by inspecting from the inside here and you’ll see the middle two are usually going to be red and green.  So we’re going to take that off and then we’re going to strip this back a little bit to expose the wire and this is going to give us a red and a green.

So at this point what we’re going to do is we’re going to strip these two back and this wire’s kind of thin and I don’t know that, you know, you can strip it all the way off.  I’ll strip it back just a little bit so I have a little tab here to kind of help me get it wrapped around there and just kind of twist that like that and then what we’ll do is just loosen up these screws here and real simple.  You’re just going to go with the red to the red and then the green to the green.  That’s all you got to do and then just tighten them up and we’ll do the red one here.

Okay.  now that that’s done, you can actually just bend this up and tuck it right inside the jack like that and then go ahead and reinstall your cap back onto it.  So after that’s been done, you’ll just take this cord here, plug it into here and then with the end of the – other end of the cable, you’ll be free to plug this into any phone jack.  If you have DSL, the DSL company will provide you with little filters.  Just plug it into the filter and plug it into the phone jack.  That’s all you’ll need to do and then the system will then be ready to program to call your own personal phone number, should you desire.

What Is a Vari-focal Camera?

A vari-focal camera is one that has been specifically designed to operate at various focal distances. These types of cameras differ from fixed lens cameras, which simply feature a lens that cannot be adjusted. We often recommend vari-focal cameras to our customers, particularly those who are uncertain of the distance and viewing angles that they wish to capture in surveillance footage.

Vari-Focal Camera Viewing Lengths

Vari-focal cameras can typically be adjusted to accommodate viewing lengths from between 2.5 mm to 10 mm, which offers a lot more range than cameras with a fixed lens. A vari-focal camera can best be compared to a zoom camera feature which can be manually adjusted. When using a vari-focal surveillance camera, homeowners have the option of selecting a high millimeter setting for narrow viewing fields or a low millimeter setting for wider viewing fields.

Choose From a Variety of Vari-Focal Camera Options

Cameras featuring a vari-focal lens are suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Among the many security cameras that we offer, the Lasertech IR Vari-Focal Bullet Camera with 2.8-10mm Lens is one of the most popular in this category. This camera is useful for daytime and nighttime recording, and has a viewing field that can be adjusted to record up to 98 feet away from its placement.

Vari-focal cameras come in a variety of styles including bullet cameras, dome cameras and tamper-resistant or vandal-proof types, such as the Digital Hi-Res Vandal Proof IR Dome Camera. Depending upon which vari-focal camera purchased, other features may also include motion detection, weather-proof operation and infrared technology. Cameras that come with an auto-iris feature are also highly recommended, since such technology also allows a lens to be adjusted to accommodate multiple lighting environments for even better clarity and focus.

Vari-Focal Cameras Offer the Best Recording Flexibility

When selecting a security camera to monitor a home or a business, it is important to have an idea of the field of view that a camera will need to have in order to be the most effective. The clarity and the focus of the images that the camera captures are also very important considerations. Cameras with a vari-focal lense allow owners to adjust settings in order to arrive at one best suited for the area being surveilled, as well as to capture the clarity needed to clearly identify the fine details of what has been recorded. A vari-focal feature further comes in handy if a homeowner ever has cause to relocate a camera or simply feels the need to adjust a camera’s focus for whatever reason. In short, these cameras offer the most in terms of all-around surveillance flexibility.

Technical Help With Vari-Focal Settings

Even with the flexibility afforded by a vari-focal camera, some people may need help determining how to properly set a camera for a desired field of view. A simple Internet search for a vari-focal lens calculator can help with this matter. Such a tool will allow an owner to enter values relating to an area’s width, height and distance in order to determine the best camera positioning and focal length needed to achieve these viewpoints. Of course, our technical support team is also available to help with this calculation and answer other questions about surveillance cameras or home security, in general.

Understanding Lens Basics

In addition to using a vari-focal lens calculator, a basic understanding of how a lens relates to a field of view helps when installing a new camera system. For example, a wide lens will have a smaller field of view, but images within that field will actually appear enlarged. Conversely, smaller lenses produce a wider field of view, but the images captured in that view appear on a smaller scale. Wide lenses are, therefore, popular when users wish to monitor compact areas, such as a doorway, a window or a mailbox. A small lens, on the other hand, is useful for those who wish to survey an entire front or back yard space.

Who Should Use a Vari-Focal Camera?

Those who are unsure about the exact field of view needed, those who may need to occasionally change a field of view or homeowners who plan to someday relocate a camera are advised to purchase a camera with a vari-focal lens. While this type of camera can cost a bit more than a fixed lens camera, most customers find value in the variety and flexibility of a vari-focal surveillance camera lens over the permanence inherent in a fixed-lens camera. As with other surveillance and security tools, vari-focal cameras can be self-installed and can be used with other home protection devices to increase the overall security of a home or business.

What are your questions or experiences with camera lenses? Which lens type do you prefer? We always look forward to hearing from you in the comments section below.

Have You Purchased a Home With an Alarm System?

So you’ve recently moved into a new home with an existing alarm system, but you don’t quite know what to do with it. Assuming that it works, our advice is to keep it and begin using it immediately. You may, however, want to consider the following tips, as well:

Change the Code

Immediately change the code. Even if you’ve been told that the previous occupants have relocated to the other side of the world, do not take chances on your security by using a code left behind with a real estate agent. There is a pretty good chance that additional people, such as other agents, a property manager, a workman or two, a previous housekeeper, or even friends and family members of the home’s previous occupant know the old code, which could place your home and family at risk.

Read the User’s Manual

Unless a user’s manual was left behind, you may not be able to immediately determine how to operate the system or change the code. This brings us to our next tip for using a previously installed alarm system– download a manual from the web. Many manufacturers allow customers to view and download digital manuals from their website. Check the system’s control panel or keypad for information on the alarm system’s manufacturer, make and model, and use that information to search for the appropriate guide for your system. If you cannot find this information, contact the alarm’s manufacturer directly and ask for help. (Note that the alarm’s manufacturer and the company who sold the alarm to the previous owners may not be the same, so do not merely assume that the logo appearing on the front of the keypad is the manufacturer.)

Choose a New Monitoring Company

It is not enough to merely have a system that sounds an audible alarm. Since you’ve already saved a few dollars by inheriting a working alarm system, it’s time to invest in alarm monitoring. Doing so will help secure your home even more by maintaining communication between your alarm and a central monitoring station. In short, if your alarm is triggered and is not silenced by inputting your code within a few seconds, the monitoring station will be alerted. A live person from the station will then attempt to contact you to determine whether there is an actual emergency and, if unable to reach you, will summon the authorities to your home. Read our post about choosing a monitoring company for more information.

Do not, however, contact a vendor that installs alarms to inquire about monitoring since there is a great likelihood that the price they’ll offer you will be significantly greater than if you were to approach a monitoring company directly. In addition to high monitoring prices, such a company will probably also try to convince you that you need an entirely new alarm system. Depending upon the age and condition of the system you inherited, there is a chance that you may want to consider an upgrade, but there are a number of do-it-yourself options that will cost you a lot less in the long run so there is no need for you to enter a contract with one of these companies. Instead, consider a monitoring company like Alarm Relay, which offers monitoring for less than $9 per month.

Make Your Alarm’s Presence Known

If the previous owner didn’t display a yard sign, window decals or some other pronouncement of an alarm system protecting property, invest in a few of these deterrents right away. As we’ve mentioned several times before, burglars are lazy opportunists. They prefer unguarded homes occupied by people who, besides a front door lock, haven’t given much thought to home security. Placards, stickers and signs tell burglars that you have taken special measures to keep them out. Simply put, a burglar would rather bypass a home with these deterrents clearly displayed in favor of a home where these warning signs are absent.

Beef Up Your Security

Since you are already fortunate in that you do not have to purchase a new alarm system, consider adding additional layers of security to your home by investing in security lighting and surveillance cameras. At one time, people believed that security measures like these were out of reach due to their costs. The truth, however, is that security lighting and surveillance cameras are quite affordable, particularly since they can also be self-installed. A monitored alarm system is great for alerting you and the authorities about a break-in, but the mere sight of security lighting and cameras tends to stop burglars in their thieving tracks before an attempted break-in even takes place.

We Are Here to Help

Congratulations on inheriting a working alarm system. Remember that it is up to you to learn how to operate it and to optimize the security it provides by adding professional monitoring. Should you need help executing any of the tips we’ve offered here or if you’d just like more information on using your system, leave a comment below or give us a call– we’ll do our best to help you figure things out.

Did you move into a home with a working alarm system? If so, how did you begin using it?

Is Your False Alarm Trying to Tell You Something?

A common complaint among the new owners of a home security system is the triggering of false alarms. This can be quite frustrating especially since some cities and towns charge homeowners when police officers are frequently dispatched to a home only to discover that there is no actual emergency. Not knowing what else to do, desperate homeowners have been known to stop arming a security system because of frequent false alarms, which is something that we do not advise. Others may continue to use a system while ignoring false triggers, which we also strongly oppose doing.

If you find yourself classified as one of these exasperated individuals, we’d like to share with you a few very important problems that your system’s false alarms may a symptom of. A solution exists, but you must be willing to wage a little investigation to find out the cause first. Here are a few suggestions:

Low Batteries

Wireless home security systems contain batteries that need to be changed ever so often. Most systems give several audible warnings when batteries are low and some emit false alarms until batteries are replaced. If your home security system is experiencing false alarms, a new battery may very well be in order. Be sure to check your user’s manual or contact the tech support desk where you purchased the alarm to determine the exact battery needed.

Improper Installation

False alarms are often caused by sensors being poorly aligned or a system that was never properly installed. If experiencing frequent false alarms, users are encouraged to first check all sensors to make sure that they are in their proper places and securely attached to doors and windows. If a system was recently installed, false alarms may also be resolved by retracing installation steps to ensure that each one was properly completed.

Loose Windows

Windows that are easily shaken by wind or other disturbances can often trigger false alarms. This occurs when the connection between sensors attached to the windows are disrupted. Replacing or repairing loose windows will often solve the problem of false alarms in these cases.

Other Sensor Disturbances

Pets, the movement of curtains or blinds and other items can sometimes interfere with or slightly jar alarm sensors. When this happens false alarms are triggered and, unless an owner sees the interference occur, alarms may seem entirely random. False alarms stemming from these causes may be easily fixed by making certain that sensors are placed high enough so as to not be accidentally jarred by regular household activity. As well, homeowners should make sure that nearby objects are not causing sensor interference. If pets triggering motion detector sensors are believed to be the cause of false alarms, consider replacing an old detector with the DSC Wireless Pet-Immune Infrared motion detector or something similar to it.

Improper Use

Among the most common reasons for false alarms is human error. Often, these are simple mistakes such as opening a window after a system has been armed or keying in the wrong passcode. Making certain that everyone in the household understands how to properly use a home security system, including passwords needed to arm and disarm a system, may eliminate the disturbance of false alarms.

Faulty Equipment

While most home security systems are put through rigorous inspection and sold in excellent working order, every now and then faulty equipment may be to blame for false alarms. After researching all other possibilities, it may be necessary to exchange an alarm system for a new one. Note that it is important to only purchase a home security system with a warranty from a reputable company with a strong commitment to customer service in order to make this process as easy as possible.

Are the Alarms Really False?

Of course, there’s always a question of whether or not alarms are truly false to begin with. Sometimes this answer is an obvious yes. In certain cases, however, what one assumes to be a false alarm may actually mean someone has been tampering with a system or even attempting a break-in. Homeowners should routinely check for randomly unlocked windows or other suspicious signs in or around a home and immediately report findings to local police departments.

Never Ignore False Alarms

Whatever the cause of false alarms are, they should never be ignored. People install home security systems to protect valuables and family members, as well as to deter crime. This can only happen, however, if humans operating the alarm system use it as it is intended and pay close attention to the reasons behind any malfunctions. Far too often, people feel frustrated by false alarms and permanently disarm a system instead. Few things make a burglar happier than to happen upon a household that has abandoned the use of a home security system. If an alarm fails to function properly it is of little use and every effort should be made to rectify the problem even if it means replacing the system.

Building a New Home? Start Securing it Now!

In our current economy, copper wiring, aluminum fencing, expensive metal pipes and various tools net a nice profit for thieves. Countless construction sites have been stripped of these items, which have not only been costly in terms of money, but have also interrupted building schedules. These events prove, however, that it is never too early to begin thinking about securing your home, even if your future abode amounts to little more than wood and dust at this very moment.

Surveillance Cameras

Windows, tiling, front doors and garage doors are among the most unexpected things one would expect to disappear from a construction site, yet each of these items have been known to walk away from unprotected locations. Short of hiring a security guard to monitor your premises, wireless surveillance cameras are the best way to increase security and reduce these types of thefts. An outdoor weather-proof camera with night vision capabilities is highly recommended since a good deal of construction site thefts occur during the pm hours. Remember that cameras should be placed high enough so that work crews do not have accidental contact with them and so that they cannot be tampered with. If you do not have a secure structure to house your DVR, consider placing it in a locked portable container or trailer. (Note that surveillance cameras are also a good way to monitor the progress of your home’s construction when you are unable to visit the site in-person.)

Security Fencing

You may be inclined to cut costs by avoiding the installation of a security fence around your property. However, imagine the cost of replacing walls that were destroyed in order to remove pipes and wiring– not to mention the time lost in having to repair and reinstall these items. Check your local laws before adding barbed wire to your fencing if you believe that such is warranted. Remember to also add security decals and placards, as well as clear signage about trespassing, since these items can serve as deterrents to thieves.

Monitored Alarm System

There is no need to wait until you move into a home in order to protect it with a monitored alarm system. In fact, the construction phase is the best time to install a hardwired system since you can simply integrate the necessary wiring into your building plans instead of having to drill into your walls to install the wiring later. While the jarring noise of an alarm by itself can cause a thief to flee, a monitored system is better since the home is unoccupied and a good monitoring company will contact you as well as send the authorities within minutes of an alarm being triggered.

Security Lighting

Bearing in mind that thieves prefer to work under the cloak of darkness, adding security lighting to your new home construction site may help reduce the risk of theft and vandalism. If you are concerned about energy costs, remember that security lighting can be triggered by motion detection and can be set to turn on or off automatically according to a timer.

Communicate With Your Contractors

Worksite theft and vandalism is common in the construction industry. Yet, laborers are often quite neglectful in securing tools and other items that attract thieves when left in the open. The overall cost of lost tools and equipment is sometimes even factored into future building costs. For some contractors this is simply the cost of doing business, but for you, the homeowner, this cost can be a great burden, not to mention time consuming since these thefts often interrupt completion schedules.

Have a serious talk with contractors about properly securing equipment and taking measures to prevent theft. Designate locked containers for equipment storage and ask that individuals be assigned to assure that all items are stored away at the end of the day. While you cannot guarantee that your contractors will heed your wishes, it helps to send a strong message about your expectations concerning their accountability when it comes to security.

Install Appliances Last

While you may not be able to wait to install your new high-tech refrigerator or built-in appliances, security experts recommend that you do exactly that– at least until you actually move into your home. Thieves are not only interested in small tools and wiring, but larger appliances like dishwashers and washing machines can also be targeted for theft. Such is particularly true if your home is being built in an area where few neighbors live nearby or where there is insufficient security to patrol a new home subdivision.

It’s Never Too Early to Begin Securing Your Home

Proper lighting, security cameras and a monitored alarm system are your best defense against theft and vandalism at your new home worksite. While not terribly expensive, especially in comparison to the potential price of not having them, a budget for these items can and should be factored into your overall building costs. Because it is such a lucrative business for thieves, construction site theft is a major problem worldwide. With these tips in mind, however, you can help reduce the risk of your building site becoming a new source of revenue for criminals.