Home Security FAQ & Glossary of Terms

Today’s home security camera systems, alarms and motion-detection kits are easier to use than ever before. But because they’re easy that doesn’t mean they’re simple to setup out of the box for the uninitiated. In other words, the instructions won’t mean anything to anyone who doesn’t understand the common terminology. This Glossary of Terms defines all those common expressions in non-technical language. Some things will register right away, but for anything you forget you can simply refer back to this page at any time. Better still, why not print it off and put it somewhere safe.

NOTE: You can jump to any part of this post by clicking the links in the table of contents

Glossary of Terms Index

  1. Glossary of Terms
  2. 24/7 Monitoring
  3. Access code
  4. Activation fee
  5. Alarm
  6. Alarm zone
  7. Arming and disarming
  8. Battery backup
  9. Burglary
  10. Cellular alarm system
  11. CCTV (Closed Circuit TV)
  12. Contacts
  13. Control panel
  14. DIY installation
  15. False alarms
  16. Glass break detector
  17. Home automation
  18. Infrared sensor
  19. Light sensor
  20. Local alarm
  21. Mobile home security
  22. Monitoring fees
  23. Monitoring service
  24. Motion sensor
  25. Outdoor surveillance
  26. Remote access
  27. Security camera
  28. Sensor
  29. Silent alarm
  30. Siren
  31. Spy camera
  32. Two way voice
  33. Two way audio
  34. Wired monitoring
  35. Wireless monitoring

Glossary of Terms

  • 24/7 Monitoring: This is a professional security service whereby someone monitors your home security setup day and night, around the clock. If there’s an event, the security professionals get an instant alert and take the necessary action.

  • Access code: As the name suggests, your “access code” is a type of password that gives you access to your home security systems. Typical things to do once you’ve entered your access code include arm (away), arm (stay) and disarm. Depending on your system there will be other things you can do once you have accessed your security network.

  • Activation fee: These are fees that you will pay upfront. They allow you to then install and configure your security system and connect it to a monitoring center.

  • AlarmAlarm: A loud warning signal to alert residents, neighbors and authorities of an event. A break in, motion-detection, or both, typically activates audible alarm signals.

  • Alarm zone: These break your home down into specific security areas (zones). It makes monitoring easier and keeps your system methodical.

  • Arming and disarming: Once armed (on), your security system is setup and ready to monitor security triggers. Disarming simply turns the system off. There are usually options for partial arming too. That means only certain systems become active based onyour settings. For example, when you’re home, but asleep in bed.

  • Battery backup: This is a valuable feature that kicks in if there’s a main’s power cut. It’s valuable because your security system remains active (armed) even without mains power.

  • Burglary: This is the illegal entry into a structure (business or home) or vehicle. The burglar has a definite plan to commit a crime. It’s a specific term that relates to theft.

  • Cellular alarm system: Your system sends security breaches (events) direct to your cell phone. Security alert notifications are standard now with most systems.

  • CCTV (Closed Circuit TV): This is an older TV technology. These systems monitor real time events rather than publicly distribute them. CCTV is still popular in commercial security.

  • Contacts: These are typically contacts for doors and windows. With an armed system, they detect a breach in the doors or windows based on user settings.

  • Control panel: Most Control Panels are user-friendly software programs. They give the user access to all their security systems settings from a graphical user interface (GUI).

  • DIY installation: The Do It Yourself (DIY) security kit shouldn’t need a skilled professional to set them up and configure the hardware/software systems.

  • False alarms: These happen when your system malfunctions or if you have set motion detection settings too sensitively. Examples might be plants blowing in the wind, pets moving around, or passing vehicles, etc.

  • Glass break detector: A sensor that records and notifies an event whereby glass in the target zone breaks. Typical use for these detectors is windows and glass doors or doors with glass.

  • Home automation: The home automation feature is popular with a lot of the newer home security systems. They allow you to check in and manage your home’s security from a remote location. This can be anywhere in the world where there’s a connection to the internet.

  • Infrared sensor: These are invisible light beams used in motion detectors. What they do is detect movement of an object that crosses their path in a defined zone.[3]

  • Light sensor: We use light sensors for both indoor and outdoor security solutions. They basically pick up heat or movement and then illuminate the target area.

  • Local alarm: Local alarms only notify the “owners” of the system, not the authorities.

  • Mobile home security: Typically these are home security systems that you can access and control via a smartphone or computer app. They offer ideal solutions for checking in on your home no matter where you happen to be. Aside from security, mobile home security apps have other uses. They allow you to check in on pets, see and chat with an elderly relative, or just make sure the kids are home from school.

  • Monitoring fees: These are monthly monitoring charges based on various packages.

  • Monitoring service: A home security outfit that monitors your home for a fee (see above). When your security system alerts them, they take the necessary action right away.

  • Motion sensor: These are sensors that pick up motion in the target area based on your “sensitivity” settings. They are easily customizable but can sometimes be a bit fiddly during the setting up stage.[1]

  • Outdoor cameraOutdoor surveillance: This is the outdoor security camera system that monitors the exterior of a structure and its surrounding grounds. Home owners place weatherproof security cameras in strategic locations such as doors—front and rear—first floor windows and outbuildings.

  • Remote access: The ability to access and control your home security system remotely.

  • Security camera: Any type of purpose-built camera or webcam to monitor and record outdoor and indoor intruder activity. There are many types of cameras available. There are the plug-and-play single units all the way up to the highly sophisticated, all-singing, all-dancing multi-camera systems. The vast majority of wireless indoor security cameras are designed for multiple uses, including checking in on the kids, pets and elderly relatives.

  • Sensor: Sensor technology is an integral part of all modern home security systems. They don’t only detect motion but also fire, smoke, carbon monoxide, flooding, freezing, and more.

  • Silent alarm: This is the opposite of the siren (audible) alarm. In this case, the home owner receives an email or SMS auto notification the moment the security system detects an event. The receiver then notifies the authorities who will hopefully apprehend the criminal before they’ve had chance to escape with their spoils.

  • Siren: This is just another term for alarm. They’re loud enough to attract the attention of anyone in the immediate area, and most importantly, startle the intruder to the point where they flee the scene as fast as possible.

  • Spy camera: Security cameras are usually visible and act as potential deterrents. A spy camera works in much the same way in that it records events but they are not visible. Sometimes, people use spy cameras for more sinister purposes. New develomnets mean spy cameras can see round corners.[2] 

  • Two way voice: This is an intercom system which allows “two-way” communication in the event of an emergency.

  • Two way audio: Like two-way voice above, two-way audio also lets you communicate (transmit and receive). You find this technology integrated into quality security cameras. You can just listen in or you can have a conversation. This is handy for startling burglars, checking in on kids or elderly relatives who are home alone.

  • Wired monitoring: This means there are physical cables that connect your home security equipment together. It also requires a landline. There are some benefits and also a few restrictions with wired devices.

  • Wireless monitoring: There is no landline or wires to worry about with wireless technology, but it also has its plus and minus points. In general, this is perhaps the most reliable and safe technology for monitoring a private home.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_detection
  2. https://www.scimex.org/newsfeed/spy-camera-uses-lasers-to-see-round-corners
  3. http://education.rec.ri.cmu.edu/content/electronics/boe/ir_sensor/1.html

About Mark Bickmore

Hi, my name is Mark Bickmore. I'm an Engineer, who has a keen interest in home security and keeping my family, property and valuables safe from burglars. This website was set up to help me explore the research, facts and myths about burglars and burglary. Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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