It is all too easy to fall victim to the idea that your home security system is running properly since you have not received any alerts or been notified that there’s a problem. When the truth is, there are several things that can cause disruptions and interference with your home security system that may not be detected on a mobile app or even by a monitoring service. Therefore, it is extremely important to test your home security system on a regular basis.
But HOW do you test your own home security system? Home security systems come in a wide variety of simple and complex configurations. Manufacturers of home security devices do not make all the components the same, therefore testing them may be complicated. The simple answer to how to test your system is to do whatever it is that the system is supposed to detect. Here are a few examples.
- For motion sensors – have someone walk through the area
- Cameras – check their recording, view, and sensitivity
- Door and Window sensors – open them
Doing whatever the system should be able to detect is a simple way to test the core components. Unfortunately, testing the more advanced features may be a bit more complex.
When Should You Test Your Home Security System?
Generally, it is recommended that you test your entire home security system at least once a month. This is particularly true for sensors, such as smoke detectors. You do not want to be caught with a non-working sensor if, or when, something happens. There are other times when you should test your systems as well. Here are a few to consider:
- Always test after any service or technician has been in your home.
This is for any kind of maintenance or service tech, even a friend that stops by to help with something. You never know when something has been accidentally interrupted, bumped, or even disarmed intentionally. Better safe than sorry, double-check and test your system.
- Test your system after any changes or disruptions to your phone or internet, including any power outages or even local power surges.
While most modern home security components are wireless, most still have a plugged-in main control. Your router could also be damaged in these instances which could shut down your entire system if you only use Wi-Fi.
- Anytime you make any changes or renovations to your home you are going to want to test your system. You may think that you were nowhere near any of your security components, however, when doing home repairs is all too easy to damage a component or cause interference; definitely not something you want to find out when it is too late.
- Always run a full testing diagnostic of your entire home security system anytime you’ve added an additional device or component. This includes adding monitoring devices such as a tablet or another smartphone. Monitoring devices can often make modifications to the system; running regular tests can help to ensure that no settings have been changed accidentally.
Why You Should Test Your Home Security System
It may be obvious that you should test your home security system to ensure that everything is in proper working order. However, there are a few other reasons why you should test your system.
- Changes in conditions – Things change in our homes all the time, and you never know when you might unintentionally disrupt part of your system. This is especially important with motion sensors; simply rearranging your furniture can disrupt or limit the sensors range.
- Meets Your Needs – You may not always remember to change a camera angle or replace a sensor after you have moved it for some reason. Even changes in the seasons can affect the efficiency of a home security system. Testing makes sure you are monitoring everything you want or need.
- Communication Issues – Most home security systems use communication protocols that are regularly being updated, modified, or even eliminated. Depending on the type of system you have, your software may update automatically, or require manual updating.
Anyone with a smartphone knows software updates do not always work seamlessly. Checking your system after an update can help detect any issues, most likely communication connected, that may have occurred.
How to Test Your Home Security System
We would love to give you a simple step by step guide on how to test your exact home security system. Unfortunately, with the huge range of possible systems, there is not enough bandwidth for that size of the guide. However, we can give you a few guidelines that will work to test the most common components. We’ll also give some specifics for the most popular systems.
You should always consult your manufacturer’s guidelines for how to test your specific equipment. If you no longer have the documentation, most offer pdf versions of their manuals on the manufacturer’s website.
When testing your security cameras, you want to consider a couple of things.
- Field of View – you want to test the field of view to avoid missing what you want to view
- Motion sensitivity – Cameras equipped with motion sensors may not always detect the movement you want them to. One example is pet movement, though some sensors are designed to detect the difference between pets and people.
- Recording – Cameras that record should record quality footage otherwise they are a waste of money.
- Any additional features – such as two-way communication if applicable
The simplest way the test most cameras is to walk through the field of view. Does the motion sensor pick up your movement? Is the camera capturing quality video? Finally, are there any blind spots the camera is not able to see?
Sensors come in a wide range of types and each use slightly different technology to detect changes. Most larger sensors have simple to use built-in testing features, so you do not have to worry about testing them with fire for example. There may be a simple test button that when pressed can tell you, usually by light, not speech, that the sensor is working. Here are the most common types of sensors and how you can test each type.
Motion sensors detect movement… shocking right? Motion sensor technology is all around us, from the automatic door at the grocery store to automatic bathroom faucets and paper towel dispensers. We have become so accustomed to them we may not always recognize they are there.
The simplest way to test a motion sensor is to arm it and walk through the range. You may want to test the sensitivity by doing this at various distances as well. The one thing to remember is to allow the sensor to reset before testing a different range.
Most door and window sensors consist of two pieces with magnets that create a current when aligned, one on the frame, one on the moving part. Testing these is usually as simple as opening the door or window.
However, there are more advanced sensors that are designed to detect even more such as glass breaking or even impact, such as a knock on the door. These more advanced sensors may require special testing to ensure they are in proper working order.
Environmental Alarms (Fire, smoke, etc.)
These types of alarms are built with the knowledge that you do not want to start a fire to test a fire alarm. Lucky for us, most of these come with simple push-button testing as mentioned above. In the rare instance that a testing button is not an option, you will have to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for how to test that device.
Often overlooked is the communication used by your home security system. this is how each individual device connects or talks to, the central control or hub. Testing communication can often be done directly from your system’s mobile app. Voice-enabled systems can be commanded to run a diagnostic test, or update. And finally, communication can be tested or examined while testing each individual device component.
Testing Your Security Monitoring
You pay a monthly fee for monitoring; it should be working correctly. While some systems may be slightly unique, most monitored systems are designed to initiate some verification when any sensor or alarm is triggered. If that is the case, you can test the speed and accuracy of your monitoring by arming your system and tripping a sensor. Many monitoring companies prefer that you alert them if you are going to perform a test, but that may defeat the purpose a bit.
However, if your system is set up to alert emergency dispatch or another contact, you will want to let them know you are testing your system. This will eliminate false alarms. If you are ever unsure how to test your specific system, remember to check your manual.
Testing the Most Popular Home Security Systems
We’ve provided you with a quick rundown of how to test some of the most popular home security systems, including their specific process when accessible. However, not all companies have testing options that do not include at least some level of contact with them; especially professionally monitored and installed systems. You will find they like a bit of control.
Obviously, this does not include every possible home security system, or even all the most common. If you have a security system that is not listed, you have a couple of options. You can contact your monitoring service if you have one. Contact the manufacturer’s customer support or test your components yourself like mentioned above.
You may also want to check for any testing requirements that your security company requires. Though rare these days, in the past, some (now gone) companies were known to use a lack of adequate testing as an excuse for system failure; supposedly relieving them, and their system not at fault.
Abode home security systems have an integrated test mode, to perform a test follow these steps:
- Press the function button on the Abode hub (iota or Gateway)
- Wait 1 minute
- Walk-in front of the hub’s camera
- If you see a red LED light up your hub is working.
ADT home security systems may be tested online or by calling ADT to put your system in test mode. Test mode allows you to trigger each individual component without a response. Here are the steps to perform a test on any ADT home security system:
- Log in to MyADT.com
- Select Alarm System
- Select System Test
- Click on Start Test Mode
- Arm your system
- Trigger an alarm (allow the alarm to sound for at least 60 seconds)
- After 60 seconds, disarm alarm at your keypad.
- Check your Alarm History in your MyADT portal, if recorded, you are set (may take up to 5 minutes to show in Alarm History)
- Click End Test mode
ADT’s testing mode is designed to automatically stop after one hour by default, but an extended time can be select in the portal.
Brinks Home Security
Brinks’ systems can be tests through their online portal. You will log into your account and enter the testing mode by providing your unique code word and then follow these steps:
- Arm your system
- Trigger an alarm (let the alarm sound for 60 seconds)
- Disarm your system
- Click Test Results to see the analysis of your test and end testing mode.
In order to test a Frontpoint home security system, you must contact customer support directly and request a test, they will then walk you through the process.
Protect America home security systems take a bit more time than other testing procedures. Here is a quick rundown:
- Call the monitoring center
- Request testing mode
- Hang up and ensure all locks are engaged and access points closed.
- Test the panel panic buttons – hold each for 2 or 3 seconds, wait for “disarm” to display
- Test your hostage code – enter your hostage code, wait for “disarm” to display
- Arm your system
- When the system is fully armed trigger each sensor one at a time, record the sensor and time for verification. Wait for a minimum of 5 minutes for motion detectors to fully arm before testing.
- Allow each alarm to sound for 45 seconds to 1 minute
- Disarm the system
- Clear your panel’s alarm history
- Call your monitoring center and request your results.
Ring Alarms can be easily tested by following the directions in the Ring app. You select each individual component to test. You can test some components when you are not at home.
SimpliSafe customers that have no monitoring should test each sensor and component individuals by triggering the component with the system armed. For testing monitoring services, contact the monitoring company and request a test.
Most wireless security systems are powered by batteries that need to be recharged from time to time. Each battery will have its own unique battery life and charging requirements. We suggest keeping a log of when batteries are installed, how long they are expected to last under normal conditions, and when they are recharged.
Often batteries may need to charge for much longer than you would like your system to be down, so it may be worth it to purchase additional batteries for primary security devices, such as the Ring 2 Video Doorbell. This will allow you to simply swap out the battery without any downtime.
For smaller components, you may be using traditional batteries. We suggest investing in rechargeable batteries when possible, with a backup supply. Another option is to use regular batteries, but the cost can add up for devices that are constantly monitoring or triggered regularly. If you choose to use regular batteries, invest in a battery tester, it will save you a ton of time by allowing you to quickly check each battery for the remaining power.
Testing your home security system may take some time, especially if you have a large number of sensors. Consider it time well spent to ensure the safety of your property and your family. The hardest part is going to be remembering to perform the test. Making testing part of your monthly routine, like changing your air filter, eventually, it may become a habit.
BONUS FUN TIP: If you have children, especially between 5 and 12, make a game out of testing your system. Imagine playing an old-fashioned game of cops and robbers. Not only will you be thoroughly testing your system, but it can also be a ton of fun. Make it extra challenging by seeing if they can avoid triggering a motion sensor or being caught on camera. Just don’t have so much fun that you forget to test your system.