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DIY Alarm Systems / DIY Security Systems

Tennessee Alarm Store


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


As Answered Personally by Leonard Adrian (Owner)

1. What can I expect from your store?

2. Can I install a security system myself?

3. Do you have a guide to assist me in deciding on a security system?

4. What components or devices make up a home security system?

5. What is a control panel with battery backup and transformer?

6. What is a keypad and how does it interface with the control panel?

7. What are door and window contacts?

8. What are sounding devices? (sirens, bells, strobes and communication devices)

9. What are optional devices? (motion, glass break, photoelectric, smoke, CO2, flood)

10. What is the difference between hardwired and wireless?

11. What is the difference between perimeter protection and interior protection?

12. What is a zone, a partition, and why do I care?

13. Should I have my system monitored?

14. Are alarm permits required from my city or county?

15. What discounts are allowed by insurance companies for installation of an alarm?

What can I expect from your store?

When I was a young boy, my father felt it was important to instill in his children self-confidence and a knowledge of how things worked. This included the simplest things and worked its way into more advanced projects. When he felt I was ready, he purchased a kit from "Heathkit" (boy, that dates me) that could be built into a musical organ. When I looked out over all the pieces and parts and saw all these thousands of resistors, transistors and capacitors, I felt overwhelmed. When we broke them down in small manageable sections, however, it became much less overwhelming. When I mastered this, he had me work along side of him to install the air conditioning system in our home. My dad inspired me to help others, and that is why I want to offer you this type of help whenever possible. I want you to feel, as I did, the success of doing it yourself. I invite you to visit our Knowledge Base for more in depth information on the installation and operation of your DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system. You could even turn this into a family project. It isn't game night or a movie, but trust me, you will be making unforgettable life long memories.

My staff has the same goals in mind. We want to be your DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system store; and, in return for your business, we will make every effort to ensure that your experience with our Store is a positive one. This begins with your first visit to our website, your order, and it continues on through the installation, programming and operation of your DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system. Our success is dependent on YOUR success, and we will not forget that. We are as close as a phone call 1-423-562-1927 if you have any questions.

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Can I install a security system myself?

Sure, of course you can!

Worried about wiring the system and working with electricity? This just shows that you are smart. You should always be careful about working with electricity in any form, but alarm systems and all their components work on very low voltages. Can you get hurt installing low voltage wiring? Anything is possible, but as long as you use due caution while working with low voltage, you shouldn't experience any problems. A typical alarm system and all its components operates on about 12 volts DC. The only component that hooks to your house power is a transformer which plugs into a power outlet, the same as a radio or TV. This 120 volt house power is immediately reduced down to 16 volts AC and then rectified and smoothed out on the alarm control panel to produce 12 volt DC.

How easily you are able to install the DIY home alarm system / DIY home security system will depend on several things (your current expertise, knowledge of tools and key concepts, etc), but my staff and I are here to help. Together we will get your system up and running. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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Do you have a guide to assist me in deciding on a security system?

Deciding on a security system seems like an overwhelming task with all the different options and equipment available. We break this down into small bite size bits and then expand out from there. Our step-by-step, extensive guide will walk you through the process. This will help you decide on what type of a security system you need and which type of installation may be right for you. Also, we will look at some of the different types of options you might want to incorporate into the security system (Motion detectors, Smoke/Heat detectors, Flood detectors etc.) You will find this guide very helpful and full of ideas to help in the prevention of a burglary in the first place. In this guide, we will look at the mechanics of installing, testing, and maintaining your security system. You can link directly to our Decision Guide or link to our Knowledge Base where you will find more in-depth information on all aspects of security systems.

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What components or devices make up a home security system?

You will need, at a minimum, a alarm control panel with a battery back-up and an external power transformer; a keypad for programming, arming and disarming the system; door and window contacts or transmitters to monitor the status of all windows and doors; and a siren or strobe light as a notification device. You can add a variety of accessories from there. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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What is a Control panel with battery backup and transformer?

control panelThe control panel is the metal box that holds the printed circuit boards, the brain of the entire alarm system. This is where all the auxiliary equipment hooks up including the keypad, sensors and contacts, siren, strobe lights, etc. The control panel also houses the standby battery for backup in case of power outages. An external power transformer plugs into a house receptacle and supplies AC power to the panel and keeps the battery backup charged. See our knowledge base for more in depth information.

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What is a keypad and how does it interface with the control panel?

keypadThe keypad is where all functions of the alarm system are controlled and all programming is accomplished. This is also where you enter your personal code to arm or disarm the system. In addition, zone faults are displayed here such as open windows or doors. Zones can be bypassed using the keypad, and AC power can be monitored. The keypad is also equipped with a small buzzer. This will remind you when you enter the house to turn off the alarm so you do not set off the siren or other notification device. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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What are door and window contacts?

Window ContactDoor ContactDoor and window contacts are nothing more than switches. They may be surface mounted or concealed in the door or window frame. They can be mechanically operated, but the vast majority are magnetic in nature. Magnetic contacts consist of a magnet and a switch. The magnet is placed on the moveable portion of the window or door and the switch is mounted on the fixed portion. When the magnet is in close proximity to the switch, the switch is closed. When a thief starts to open the door or window, the switch opens, an alert is sent, and the alarm sounds. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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What are sounding devices (Sirens, Bells, Strobes Lights and Communication devices)

sirensStrobeThese are external devices generally located on the outside of the premises, except for the communication device. Sirens, bells and strobe lights can be used in various combinations to draw your neighbor's attention to your house as well as the police by emitting an ear piercing sound to tell the thief or thieves that they have been detected. The strobe light, which should face the street, helps identify which home is being burglarized. The sirens are normally equipped with two different outputs, a yelp sound for burglary and a steady tone for fire or carbon monoxide alerts. Through programming, this siren can be set to "time out" after a set amount of time. Because the alarm will stop sounding after a predetermined amount of time, your neighbors will be able to hear it, but won't be bothered by it for an extended period of time. In the meantime, you or someone you trust can return to the home to disarm the system. If used, the communications device is also activated and notifies the central station (aka your alarm monitoring company). Depending on the instructions you have provided to the monitoring company, notifications will be issued. The first call is generally to your residence to see if you are home or in danger. You and the monitoring company will have a predetermined, security procedure in place for identifying the individual, if any, who answers your phone. This may be a code, account number or other such password. Thereafter, you can have it set up for them to call the police, alert a neighbor or call you. Most monitoring companies will allow for multiple notification options. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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What are optional devices (Motion, Glass Break, Photoelectric, Smoke, CO2, & Flood detectors?)

Motion DetectorMotion Detectors -- Whether on a door or window, no lock is 100% effective. Moreover, thieves have been known to use non-traditional points as access to a home's interior. Skylights, crawl spaces, etc, can provide alternative access to your home. An interior motion detector creates an internal boundary. When triggered, the motion detector sounds the alarm the same as the window/door contacts/transmitters. The motion detectors can be placed to reduce the possibility of accidental triggers by pets. There are also more sophisticated, pet-immune motion detectors. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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Glass Break DetectorGlass-Break Detectors -- Intruders will often break glass rather than attempt to violate a lock or dead bolt. A door with glass panels, for example, offers easy access. Once broken, they just have to reach in and unlock the door. There are different types, but the goal is to sound an alarm when glass is disturbed or broken. Some are installed directly on the glass and are more or less motion (vibration) sensitive. Others operate on the sound waves made by breaking glass and can protect several windows in a room. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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Photoelectric SensorPhotoelectric Detectors -- Whenever I think of these I am tempted to dig out my old spy movies. Photo electric devices use a beam of light that is transmitted between an output device and a receiver. Break the beam and an alarm sounds. They can, for example, provide a relatively easy-to-install-and-maintain field of protection for outside equipment or to establish a form of perimeter protection. Oh, if you happen to have a display in the center of one of your rooms, you know, for a huge diamond, old-master painting or other valuable, you can use a photoelectric detector for that too. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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Smoke DetectorSmoke & Heat Detectors -- EVERY house should have smoke detectors installed, and you should be familiar with the wall or ceiling mount smoke detectors that are sold in various retail stores. Smoke detectors, however, can also be purchased and integrated into your alarm system. Although listed as an optional feature, in my mind, these, are a MUST, whether purchased here (as part of your alarm system package) or separately. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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Carbon Dixoide DetectorCarbon Monoxide Detectors -- Carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous. Often, before it steals the lives of its victims, it causes them to fall asleep. Although they can be purchased and installed separately, like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors can also be integrated into your alarm system. If you have ever been awakened by your neighbor's alarm system, imagine sleeping through the scream of your own if it senses the presence of carbon monoxide. The goal is to wake you and get you out of the house. Like smoke detectors, I do not see these as being optional equipment. Get them from me, or get them from someone else, but get them! See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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Flood DetectorFlood Detectors -- One of the best ways to protect your home from expensive water damage is to utilize a water detection device in certain areas of your home. At a minimum you should seriously consider a flood detector if you have a basement with a sump pump, which can malfunction and allow the water level to rise. You should also consider a flood sensor near your water heater and in your laundry room near your washer. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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What is the difference between Hardwired and Wireless?

Simply put, just as the name implies, hardwired systems are physically linked by wire. Wireless systems work not unlike your television remote by sending signals to, between and from, the components of your system. Both can be installed in new and existing construction, and both offer good protection. Worried about looking at wires, but do not want to spend more for a wireless system? Wires can be hidden behind crown moldings, tucked under baseboards, run through the attic or in the basement etc. Want my opinion? Go wired whenever possible. Generally speaking, hardwired systems are the most reliable and can be less costly. Yes, the installation is a bit trickier, but once installed and working properly, wired systems are less difficult to maintain and operate over the lifetime of the system, and you will not have to worry about batteries for your system sensors. The hardwired system will also likely provide a return on your investment if you were to ever sell your home.

You might decide to have a hybrid system where certain components are hard wired and others are operated wirelessly. This is an excellent choice and gives you the most latitude in designing your system. If you live in an apartment, you will likely choose to go completely wireless. Wireless systems can easily be removed and taken with you when you move. The choice is up to you. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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What is the difference between perimeter protection and interior protection?

Perimeter protection wraps around your home and includes those devices that guard the exterior of your home and keep the bad guys such as burglars out. They are your first and most important line of defense from break-ins and robberies. They include door and window contacts, glass-break detectors, panic zones, etc. Perimeter protection can be further broken down by designating certain doors as "entry/exit delay zones." These designated door(s) are the only door(s) that you can enter or exit with a programmable time delay that allows you to disarm the system.

Interior protection measures include motion detectors, interior door contacts, etc. For the record, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are also considered interior protection measures, but these are operational 24/7 as are any panic zones.

Door contacts and transmitters can also be used to form a simple type of interior perimeter protection. By installing these items on interior doors (those leading into and out of other rooms such as bathrooms, bedrooms, family rooms, dens, etc) you will be adding another dimension of protection. By arming all interior doors and then shutting them when you leave your home, a would-be thief will be surprised with a lovely, piercing alarm when he moves from your living room to bedroom in search of valuables.

Think of it this way. When it comes to keeping the bad guys at bay, you have to ask yourself which "bad guys" we are talking about. There are "bad guys" such as burglars who want to gain access to your valuables or do harm to your family INSIDE the home. There are also "bad guys" such as fire or carbon monoxide that can be let loose from events within the home. Different bad guys require different protection measures. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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What is a Zone, a Partition, and why do I care?

The number of zones and partitions you desire will be important in picking out which control panel you will purchase, but before you even place a control panel in our cart, consider the following:

Some items like smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors are on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You do not disarm them as you do doors and windows. Because of this, they are set on separate zones that function whether or not your other alarm components are armed.

So, when would you want a partition? This is the process of splitting your alarm system in two or more "partitions", arming and disarming each area separately, while using only one control panel and paying only one monitoring fee. Many commercial establishments use a system with this option. For example, if a machine shop has an office area that is open during business hours, and a shop that is open 24 hours because of the midnight shift, they can protect the office area while allowing the employees to move freely in the shop area. Sometimes this option can be used in a residential setting, as well. For example, a homeowner who rents a portion of his/her home to tenants can arm/disarm his/her portion of the house separately from the tenant's portion. Or, a homeowner has a garage or work area that is not attached to his house, but wants to arm that area separately while he is at home. Each partition can have its own keypad, or one keypad can be used to access each partition. The monitoring company will know which partition is sending the alarm, and will send the authorities to the appropriate area of the house/business. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information.

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Should I have my system monitored?

This is entirely your call. If you live in a remote location or you just want the peace of mind of 24 hour monitoring, it might be a good idea. If, on the other hand you live in a heavily populated area with good, reliable neighbors, you might not want to pay the fees to have your system monitored. Only you know who is generally home, which neighbors would call when needed, and so on. We can set you up with a monitoring company, no problem. See our Knowledge Base for more in depth information. The Tennessee Alarm Store offers 24/7 monitoring for a low, monthly rate of $12.95.

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Are alarm permits required from my city or county?

Permitting requirements vary from area to area, so you must check with your local law enforcement authority. Some law enforcement agencies require that residential alarms be registered with them so that contacts are available if an alarm sounds and no one is home to disarm or turn off the system. Given that we sell alarm components nation-wide, there is no way for us to know for certain what, if any, permits, registration processes, etc, may be required where you live. Generally speaking, the governing body for building permits for your area should be able to advise you. See our Knowledge Base for more information.

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What discounts are allowed by insurance companies for installation of an alarm?

Some insurance companies offer discounts on homeowner's insurance when an alarm system is installed. The discount, if any, is set by the insurance company and may vary according to the type of system. Discounts have been known to range from 5-20%. Some insurance companies require the system be monitored by an alarm company in order to obtain the discounts. Others will offer a reduced discount if you don't have your system monitored. You should check with your insurance company to find out what discounts might apply to your premiums.

Now you know a little bit more than you did when you started reading this page. If you have other questions, see our Knowledge Base or call me at 1-423-562-1927.

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