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How to Design a Home Security System: An Equipment Guide

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April 18, 2014

How to Design a Home Security System: An Equipment Guide

Designing your very own home alarm system can be difficult, but taking a step back and analyzing your home makes the process much easier.

The next step is to analyze the security sensors that are going to protect your home. If you want to save time when you design your system, you should start with understanding how these sensors work. Who knows, you might save yourself money too!

Knowledge is key. Here’s a list explaining the basic functions and ideal locations for all of our equipment – we’re sorry, it’s a long one, but it’s worth your time!

The Basic Home Security Sensors

Door Window Sensor (DWS)

The most common sensor in any home security system, the DWS comes in two small pieces that are paired wirelessly. When the wireless connection is interrupted – like when a door or window opens – the sensor will trigger an alert.

  • Ideal Location: Doors that lead to the outdoors, doors to rooms containing valuables, large windows that could be climbed through.
  • Non-ideal Location: Rooms with multiple windows – we recommend a different sensor for that.

Motion Sensor (MS)

Using infrared detection, a MS will effectively monitor large rooms for any signs of movement.

  • Ideal Location: Large rooms and common areas, such as the living room or main hallways. The MS is perfect for protecting rooms with multiple windows.
  • Non-ideal Location: Large pets (over 40 pounds) can trigger the MS, so rooms where pets often roam are not recommended. The DWS is more suitable for smaller rooms with only one or two windows.

Glass Break Sensor (GB)

The GB detects the unique sound frequency of breaking glass up to 20 feet in any direction. The GB and MS make a powerful combo in protecting a large area with many windows.

  • Ideal Location: Protecting rooms with oversized windows, rooms with multiple windows (paired with the MS), and sliding glass doors.
  • Non-ideal Location: Rooms with a single window.

Smoke Heat Sensor (SH)

The SH uses photoelectronic technology to detect smoke particles in the air. It also detects when a room’s temperature rises too quickly.

  • Ideal Location: According to the National Fire Protection Association, each floor of a home should have fire protection. The SH is best placed near bedrooms.
  • Non-ideal Location: Avoid placing the SH in locations with heavy dust or humidity, and in locations where you might light a controlled fire, such as kitchens, bathrooms and rooms with fireplaces. Also not recommended for rooms that are not temperature controlled, like the garage.

Simon XT Control Panel

The Control Panel is the central unit of any security system. All security sensors communicate with the panel and when the sensors are triggered, the panel sends instant communication to the monitoring center. The Control Panel is a user’s tool for arming and disarming their system.

  • Ideal Use: The Control Panel should be strategically placed so it’s easy for users to access.
  • Non-ideal Location: We recommend against placing this next to the front door or in plain view of a window.

Keychain Remote (KR)

As the name implies, the Keychain Remote goes onto a key ring to provide the easiest way of arming and disarming. Also included is a button to turn on the lights, as well as a panic button.

  • Ideal Use: The KR is the easiest and most convenient way to arm and disarm a security system, so it’s ideal for everyone! Attach it to your keys for easy access.

Take Control of Your System

Mobile Apps

Mobile apps are included free with FrontPoint’s Interactive and Ultimate Monitoring. The feature allows a user to turn their smartphone or tablet into a digital Control Panel. Mobile apps allow users to control the system, view live feeds from cameras, receive instant notifications/alerts and more!

  • Ideal Use: Mobile apps can be used to monitor a home from any location, at any time. It’s an effective way for a user to monitor their vacation home, business or personal home.

Touch Screen (TS)

The TS is a mini Control Panel and has a colorful display, providing users a secondary form of access to their system. It does not provide all the functionality as a Control Panel, but users can still arm/disarm and control home automation features.

  • Ideal Use: Best used in large or multi-story homes where access to the Control Panel may not be as convenient.

Talking Remote Touchpad (TRT)

The TRT is similar to the TS, but does not have a display. Instead, it talks to you, confirming commands and alarm status verbally. The TRT allows users to arm, disarm and check system status without having to access the Control Panel.

  • Ideal Use: Best used in large or multi-story homes where access to the Control Panel may not be as convenient. 

Environmental Sensors

Water Flood Sensor (WFS)

The WFS gives instant warning when a leak or flooding occurs. The sensor comes in two pieces to ensure a reliable connection: the detector signals the alarm when it comes in contact with water and the separate transmitter unit sends the transmission.

  • Ideal Location: Anywhere that may be at risk of leaks or floods, such as the basement, or near a water heater or washing machine. The sensor needs to be placed near ground level for early detection.
  • Non-ideal Location: Do not place the WFS outdoors.

Freeze Sensor (FS)

The FS detects low temperature conditions and will provide early warning before a freeze occurs. If the temperature drops below 41 F, the sensors will signal an alarm.

  • Ideal Location: Near pipes that may be at risk of freezing or the furnace.
  • Non-ideal Location: Should not be used as a thermometer.

Carbon Monoxide Sensor (CMS)

The CMO detects carbon monoxide, a deadly and odorless gas. Upon detection, the sensor will send an immediate alarm to the Control Panel and monitoring center.

  • Ideal Location: The CMS should be placed near sleeping areas, or even directly in bedrooms. The sensor can be mounted on either the ceiling or wall.
  • Non-ideal Location: Similar to the SH, avoid placing the CMS near sources of heat, vents or anything that burns fuel.


Wireless Indoor Camera (WCAM)

The WCAM allows users to keep an active eye on their home from anywhere. It has a viewing range up to 50 feet and can view activity in the dark. A broadband network is required to allow the WCAM to connect wirelessly.

  • Ideal Location: Large rooms or hallways can make excellent use of the WCAM’s range.
  • Non-ideal Location: Should not be used outdoors.

Wireless Pan and Tilt Camera (PTCAM)

The PTCAM is an indoor camera with a greater range of view than the WCAM. Users can control it to maximize their field of view by panning and tilting.

  • Ideal Location: Larger rooms that require a greater field of view to see them in their entirety.
  • Non-ideal Location: Should not be used outdoors.

Wireless Outdoor Camera (ODCAM)

The ODCAM is weatherproof and withstands below-freezing temperatures, or up to 122 F, to provide video surveillance of the exterior areas of a user’s property. It can also see in the dark up to 40 feet.

  • Ideal Location: The backyard, driveway or pathway leading to the front door.
  • Non-ideal Location: Not recommended for indoor use.

Specific-Use Sensors

Garage Door Sensor (GDS)

The GDS uses weight and angle to monitor garage doors that roll and swing up. The sensor is placed at the top of the garage door and as the door opens, the GDS will change angles. When it passes 35 degrees, the sensor will trigger an alert.

  • Ideal Location: At the highest point on the top inside panel of a garage door that rolls or swings up.
  • Non-ideal Location: The GDS will not be able to detect a change in angle in doors that do not roll or swing up. It will not work on doors that slide or swing out.

Recessed Door Sensor (RDS)

The RDS has the same functionality as a standard DWS, but is concealed within the door frame for aesthetic or security reasons. It is the only FrontPoint sensor that requires tools for setup.

  • Ideal Location: Same as the DWS, but will require wooden door/window frames that are large enough accommodate the sensor.
  • Non-ideal Location: Rooms with multiple windows and the RDS will not work with non-wooden frames.

Long Range Door Window Sensor (LRDWS)

The LRDWS has the same functionality as a standard DWS, but is slightly bulkier in size and has a longer range of communication with the Control Panel. The LRDWS should only be used in instances when the standard DWS is too far from the Control Panel to have a consistent connection.

  • Ideal Location: The LRDWS is ideally used in the same locations as the standard DWS, but in larger homes with a greater area to cover. It might also be used in secondary locations, such as a guest home, barn and shed on the same property.
  • Non-ideal Location: Should not be used in locations where a standard DWS will work.

Packages starting at $99* + 30% Off Sitewide

Make Home more secure with Frontpoint
August 29, 2015
I'm having trouble with my z-wave lock. The problem seems to be that there is too much interference even though its only about 30 feet away (and one floor beneath the control panel). One of your technicians said that z-wave products "lily-pad" off each other and that adding more z-wave devices could help. I could also change the placement of the panel too. Can you tell me which of your products are z-wave or which non-Frontpoint z-wave devices I could use to help fix this problem? Thank you!
Valerie Saponara
September 1, 2015
Andrew, we would answer this question but it already looks like our Support Team has you covered! Let us know if you have any other questions.
November 22, 2015
What is the communication range of the standard Door/Window Sensor, standard Motion Sensor and the Long Range Door/Window Sensor? Also what are the prices for each of these sensors? I want to add one or more sensors to my system in order to monitor a storage shed in my back yard which is located about 50 feet from the control panel location inside my house.
Valerie Saponara
November 23, 2015
Darrell, the regular Door and Window Sensors/Motion Sensors communicate within 100ft of the main control panel. That Long-Range Door and Window Sensor will communicate up to 250ft away from that control panel. The price for the Door and Window Sensor/Long-Rage Door and Window Sensor is $32.99, and a Motion Sensor is $64.99. Let us know if you have any other questions!
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