Control Panels

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DIY Alarm Systems / DIY Security Systems

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Alarm Control Panels / Keypads / Sirens / Strobes

Alarm Control Panels

Alarm Control PanelThe terms "control panel", "panel", "control" and "alarm board" all refer to the printed circuit board that is contained inside a metal box or enclosure. This is often referred to in slang as the "can" by alarm installers. This metal box is sometimes ordered with a key lock on the cover or door. The door is also capable of being screwed shut with self tapping metal screws to prevent someone from tampering with it. The control panel that is housed inside the metal box is the central processing unit or "brains" of the DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system. There may be additional printed circuits boards inside this box for such things as zone expanders, additional power supplies, external telephone dialers, etc. In addition, the standby battery(s), for alarm operation when the house power is out, reside here. This is also where all wiring ends up being terminated to the DIY home alarm system / Diy home security system. (Don't worry. In this case, "terminated" just means "connected.") This includes magnetic switches / contacts, motion detectors, smoke detectors, zones, sirens or bells, keypads and telephone lines.

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Location of Control Panel

First, take a walk around your premises and ask yourself where could I install this box where it would not be easily located by thieves. Several suggestions might be: inside a clothes closet (behind the clothes), on the back wall or above on the shelf behind storage boxes, maybe the front of the closet above your head in the header section. Another place might be a furnace or Air Conditioning closet, but remember to look out for the heat or humidity that this might generate. Heat and humidity are not friends of your DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system. Other places might be basements or utility/mechanical rooms, attics, inside cupboards, behind books (on permanent book shelves), etc. Remember, if you can think of it, a thief can too, so be creative.

Now, with all this information in mind, remember that all the wires from zones, fire sensors, internal sirens and external sirens must end up terminating to this panel. An Alternating Current (A.C.) power transformer, which supplies house power to the panel, must also connect to this panel to supply operational power to the control panel. This transformer also supplies power to the charging circuit on the control panel to keep the standby battery(s) charged in the event of a power failure. Some of these transformers have a small Light Emitting Diode (L.E.D.) pilot light built in to monitor or signal the presence of power at the transformer.

Also, some of these have a small screw to secure the transformer to the outlet and prevent it from being inadvertently unplugged from the power source. The power receptacle should be close to the panel, but if it isn't you have some choices. You could hire a licensed electrician to tap into your household wiring and install a new receptacle. A less expensive approach would involve running 12 volt wire from an existing plug-in to the panel. Remember the wires that lead from the transformer to the control panel might be a road map for the thieves, so you want to be careful to conceal them. One technique involves tucking them under baseboards. You can also run them along the top in the groove created by the area where the baseboard or molding meets the wall. Once secured, you can caulk over the wire using relatively inexpensive latex caulk. Touch up the paint, and no one will be the wiser about your power line. Even if you have to cross a small section of wall, there is a way to do it without hiring an electrician. Remember, this is relatively small wire (about 3/16th of an inch), so you can cut a channel for it in the drywall using a utility knife. Once placed in the channel, you can mud over it and paint. Yet again, I am reminded of the carpenter's motto, "Caulk and paint will make it what it aint." I suggest that you use an 18 gauge wire for wiring the transformer to the control panel because during all normal operations this supplies all the power for the DIY home alarm system / DIY home security systems and to charge the backup battery(s). Ease of maintenance must also be kept in mind. While most DIY alarm components are highly reliable, you must maintain the standby rechargeable battery(s). Nothing lasts forever and the standby battery(s) should be periodically checked and tested. Three to five years is the typical life span for rechargeable standby battery(s).

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KeypadIf control panels are the brains of the system, the keypads are the eyes and ears. The keypads monitor all functions of the system and allow you to arm and disarm the control panel. These may have alpha/numeric displays, indicator lights or a combination of these. All programming of the DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system takes place through the keypads. The keypads are constantly monitoring the status of all zones whether the alarm is armed or not. This allows the user to know immediately the status of all sensors and zones prior to arming. The keypads tell you so much more though, such as the status of AC power, whether or not any circuits or zones have been tampered with, the current date and time of day, panic buttons, and reset keys. Some key pads even tell you the temperature inside.

The normal procedure for arming and disarming your alarm system is a 4 - 6 digit code, which is completely programmable by you. You may have from 15 - 92 or more individual codes you can program. Most keypads offer a shortcut for arming by providing one touch function keys for arming the system in the "Away" or "Stay" mode. The "Away" mode is when everyone will exit the premises and all zones should be armed. The "Stay" mode is used when you want to arm the system, but you will be staying inside and the interior zone should be bypassed so you can have freedom of movement throughout the premises. You may bypass zones from the keypad whenever you want whether or not they are part of the interior protection zone. This can be done in the case of a bad sensor that you have not yet had a chance to replace or maybe you want to leave a second story window open for ventilation. I will show you a way to leave your windows partially open and still have the windows protected without bypassing zones in the section on magnetic switches / contacts.

In addition, these keypads offer you round-the-clock monitoring of your fire, carbon monoxide, flood, and freeze protection or your 24-hour panic/duress modes for your safety. They also offer a pre-alarm buzzer that sounds to remind you to disarm the system when you enter the premises through a normal entry door. They also offer you complete details of any alarms that may have occurred while you were away from your premises. These include the time of day that the alarm occurred and which sensors or zones were violated. This is invaluable information when troubleshooting your system if a false alarm has occurred. Most keypads are wired to the control panels using a 22-gauge 4-conductor cable.

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Location of keypads

Locating your keypads is pretty straight forward process. You first determine how many keypads you wish to install and where you want them to be placed. Most DIY home alarm systems / DIY home security systems allow for at least 8 supervised keypads. Supervised keypads are keypads or other wiring, connected to a DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system, which is monitored for integrity or damage to the wiring by the alarm control panel. These keypads are mounted with tamper switches, which will alert you to damage.

The keypads are normally located close to the doors you would typically use for entering or leaving the premises. This is not absolutely necessary because the entry/exit delay is completely programmable by you. However, if you locate the keypad in a central location, then you have to be careful that none of the interior sensors or motion detectors will trip on your way out. If they will, you will also have to program those on an entry/exit zone. These will have to be on an interior delay zone so that it can be bypassed when you arm the system in the "Stay" mode. That is why most people prefer to have keypads located near the entry/exit door. This may sound confusing, but just remember: Anytime you arm the system, the zones that are programmed "Instant" will sound immediately if they are violated. The zones programmed "Delay" will only arm once the delay time has expired.

Most users will have from 1 to 4 keypads. The placement of the keypads are as follows:

1. Near or adjacent to the front door.

2. Near or adjacent to the back door.

3. The master bedroom for arming at night.

4. The door leading from the garage to the interior of the premises.

You may want more or you may want less. It is entirely up to you and whatever you feel most comfortable with. Let me add one more thing, most of the keypads today also have a button on them for panic mode which you may find useful. However, if you are in the kitchen and the keypad is next to the front door, how will you reach it in an emergency? I will leave that up to you to answer!!!

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All about Sirens and Strobe Lights

Sirens and Strobe lightsSirens and strobe lights are one of your primary notification devices in the DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system. The sirens will sound and the strobe lights will flash to draw attention to your premises if any zones are violated or tampered with. Thieves are inherently stealthy criminals and hate anything that draws attention to their criminal activity. Can you imagine yourself as a burglar, silently moving about and rummaging through someone's residence? Suddenly, there is the blaring sound of a siren and strobe lights begin flashing. The first instinct is to drop whatever you have picked up, run away and desperately try and get out of the area. In the meanwhile, the neighbors have been alerted and are looking outside. The strobe lights narrow down the search to the exact house where the criminal activity is occurring. The neighbors may be able to give the police a good description of the burglar(s), obtain a license plate and description of the vehicle and direction of travel leaving the crime scene. The fact that a siren sounds so much like the police responding reinforces the consequences of their actions. No one looks forward to being caught, and the prospects of going to jail or prison. I do not advocate or suggest that the neighbors approach the criminals who may or may not be armed, but instead immediately call the police. They should tell them the burglary is "In Progress" and pay close attention to the details of the crime.

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Locating the Sirens and Strobe Lights and how they work

Sirens and speakers are basically the same thing with one big difference. The sirens have what they call a driver inside the siren itself. The job of this driver is to generate the "Yelp" signal (sound) that we are all so familiar with on police, fire and ambulance vehicles. Think of it as an internal, continuously playing tape recorder that is activated whenever power is applied. These drivers can be self contained or they can be external. If it is self contained the unit is known as a siren. If it is external to the unit it is known as a speaker. Both of these options are available in modern DIY home alarm systems / DIY home security systems. The output of the control panel has two different signals to differentiate between Burglary and Fire alarms. This can be a steady output, which, when coupled with the siren driver, gives you the "Yelp" or "Warble" sound and a pulsed output to signal fire activation. The leads are marked with a "+" and a "-" on the siren and are polarity conscious. Hook the leads to the alarm panel "+" to "+" and "-" to "-."

Strobe lightA strobe light is a special high output lamp consisting of a power supply and glass flash tube filled with xenon or a similar gas, which, when an electrical discharge takes place, generates an extremely bright flash of light. These come with different colored lens (clear, blue, red and green). These strobe lights should be weather resistant and may be part of the siren or an external unit. Because the unit has a built in power supply, it is also polarity conscious and should be hooked up "+" to "+" and "-" to "-". These units should not be taken apart because of the high voltage present on some of the internal components.

Take a walk around your home and decide where to locate the siren and strobe light. Quite often they will be located in the same place, but there can be instances when they need to be separated. Locate these items at a high point of your residence and project the sound out toward the street. A good point is close to the attic or gable vent, but where it cannot be easily tampered with. Be sure to place it under the overhang to keep it out of the direct weather. Think about snow in the winter, fog and rain or hail. If the siren is to be mounted outside it should be in an enclosure and equipped with tamper switches which will signal the homeowner if the cover has been removed or pried off. If the wires are cut this will also show up on the output circuit as a tamper to alert you to the trouble. If you decide to put the siren inside the attic be sure to direct the sound outward through the vent. I would recommend you wire all sirens with 18 gauge wire because you will also be driving the strobe light on this same circuit. The strobe light can be mounted in any configuration even upside down, under the overhang. Just be sure that wires are sealed so that no water gets inside.

An inside siren is a great addition to any DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system. These can mount on a wall or in the corner of a room. They can even be equipped with a small strobe light built into the unit. An external strobe light can also alert you that a violation has occurred while you were away-Enter with caution.

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