FAQ

Q: How does my Alpha alarm system work?

A: The alarm system may be armed in the “Away” or “Stay” mode. Once the system is activated, each monitored zone has the ability to recognize a violation. Once a zone has been violated, the alarm system then dials Alpha and transmits the message through a telephone line. Once the signal is received, the alarm system will wait to send another message if another zone is tripped. Entering the code and turning off the system will end this process.

Q: Why is my motion sensor providing false detections?

A: A motion detector may activate falsely due to improper installation of the device above a heater or furnace. Movement of objects such as balloons, blinds, and curtains within the range of a motion detector may also trigger alarm activation. The motion detector may require relocation or adjustment by an Alpha technician.

Q: Why does my keypad display “not ready”?

A: Your keypad is informing you that the alarm system is not ready to turn on (arm). Common reasons for this are that a door or window is not completely closed, a motion detector may be sensing movement, or a previous alarm has not been cleared out of the memory. Correct the condition and the alarm system will be ready to arm.

Q: Can I extend my warranty?

A: Yes. Alpha offers a special Extended Limited Warranty/Quality Service Plan (QSP) which will cover the repair or replacement costs of the equipment for just a few dollars each month. To get the Quality Service Plan for your Alpha system, call (707) 452-8334 .

Q: My alarm went off accidentally, but I quickly put in the code and shut it off. I expected a call from Alpha Alarm, but no one called. Why not?

A: The system allows a brief period for you to turn off your system before an alarm signal is sent to the Customer Monitoring Center. This gives you enough time to cancel the signal and prevent a false alarm.

Q: If I lose electric power, will my alarm system still work?

A: Yes. In case of a power loss, the back-up battery will activate to maintain your alarm protection for several hours. In the event your battery is low, a low-battery signal will be sent to your Customer Monitoring Center so you can be notified.

Q. How can I help to prevent false alarms from my alarm system?

A. False alarms can be reduced by becoming familiar with proper arming and operation of your alarm system. Train everyone who uses your system. Testing your system on a regular basis; monthly or weekly is suggested. Be sure all devices are properly mounted and are clear of dust and cob-webs. In instances where a door or window contact is going into alarm it could be caused by the door not closing properly or by a weak door magnet that needs to be serviced.

Q. Will my pet set off my alarm?

A. Most of the motion detectors installed today discriminate between pets and people. The standard motion detector will discriminate up to a 40lb pet. Depending on the size and number of animals you have a 100lb version is also available.

Q. What are your response procedures for my alarm?

A. Once a signal is transmitted to the Central Monitoring Station it is verified to the premise, if appropriate verification is not received, the police or fire are dispatched and the customer’s contact list is called. In the event of a Panic alarm or Duress Alarm we dispatch the police department first then call the customer’s contact list.

Q. Will the alarm report to the central station if the phone line is cut?

A. No. The alarm system cannot communicate with the Central Monitoring station if the phone line is not available. A backup long range radio or cell back up can be installed for this purpose.

Q. Will the system reset itself after the alarm goes off?

A. The siren is programmed to stop after 12 minutes or at whatever time the installer has set. During Fire Alarms the siren does not silence until the panel is reset. Once the siren does silence the system is still armed and able to activate if another event happens.

Q. How long will the battery last when the power goes out?

A. Battery life depends on the size of your system. In most cases a system will stay active for 2 to 4 hours. On smaller systems the battery may stay active for 4 to 8 hours. Additional batteries can be added if longer time is needed.

Home Theater FAQ

What do I need for a home theater? 

What are the basic home theater components?

Newcomers to the home theater scene often wonder what exactly are the basic home theater components they need to bring the cinema experience home. The most basic system consists of three components. Somewhat in order of importance those three components are a good, preferably LARGE video display — you’ll want to complement that with a digital surround sound system — and you will need a DVD player for a video source.

Video Display

Your video display can be as basic as a regular TV (again preferably BIG — 32″ TVs are relatively cheap nowadays). You may want to opt for an LCD or plasma TV of 42″ or larger — prices for such units have dropped considerably in price in recent years — of course the larger the screen the larger the price tag.

Another option is the DLP, SXRD, LCD or CRT rear-projection TV. Of those, I recommend the DLP models. DLP and SXRD RPTVs offer the best combination of image quality and longevity of that image quality. Both LCD and CRT sets are susceptible to image degradation through either tube age or image burn-in. The DLP optical engine has a life cycle of 100,000 hours with no degradation of image quality which is quite impressive. SXRD offers the most film-like image with no visible pixels.

For the biggest home theater picture I highly recommend you invest in a video projector. Video projectors offer the largest image for the dollar and help achieve the total cinema effect in your home. A good, basic projector and screen can be found for way less than the price of a small LCD or plasma and you will have a LARGE image that you will love.

Digital Surround Sound System

As with all home theater gear — there are also multitudes of available surround sound systems. The basic home theater components will include a 5.1 surround sound system with good quality speakers and as full-featured of a receiver as your budget will allow. There are many “bells and whistles” available on A/V receivers such as video switching, 6.1 and 7.1 formats and HD up-conversion — even XM radio and iPod ready models are available — however such superfluous frills are not among the basic home theater components necessary for a starter home cinema.

How many speakers do I need for my home theater?

Most home theaters are in the 5.1 format and consist of six speakers. Those speakers are a center speaker, one each of a left and right speaker, one each for left and right rear surround speakers and a sub-woofer. So you will need five main speakers and a powered sub-woofer which accounts for the “.1” of the 5.1 format designation.

The five main speakers can be identical however many better speaker systems will have a better/bigger speaker for the center channel because it handles the main portion of the dialog in a movie. Some systems also have larger speakers for the left and right channels to help balance the front sound-field.

Your powered sub-woofer handles the bass/low-frequency effects such as explosions and other rumble type effects. Your sub-woofer should be at least twice as powerful as your other speakers due to the fact that low frequency sound waves take more power to reproduce with clarity and punch.

A 6.1 systems adds a center rear surround speaker to help fill in the gap in the rear between the right and left rear surround speakers. If you want a 6.1 system you will need another speaker which will bring your total speaker count to seven.

Likewise a 7.1 system will have eight speakers with the addition of yet another rear surround channel speaker. Actually the additional speakers are used as more of a right and left “side-fill”. Those channels are decoded by the receiver from the original 5.1 mix. Frankly such systems are usually unnecessary unless you have a really large room.

In conclusion — the basic answer to “how many speakers will I need” is six. However you have a choice of six, seven or eight speaker configurations if your particular situation warrants the addition of more speakers.

Best Subwoofer Placement

You’re wondering what is the best subwoofer placement to get the most and cleanest low frequency output for your home theater. Locating your subwoofer within your listening area is critical in order to get the best response from your sub.

There is no absolute best location. Subwoofers work very well in a variety of locations — however, the physical placement of a sub in your listening room will affect its overall performance. Since the wavelengths of sound reproduced by your subwoofer are large and long compared to the physical size of the enclosure, those low frequencies are omni-directional in nature. This means that locating your subwoofer in relation to your left and right main speakers should not affect the directional cues which they provide. If you can close your eyes and point to where you are hearing the low frequency effects coming from then you need to re-locate your sub.

The audio you hear is a combination of direct sound from the speaker and reflections from the walls, ceiling, and floor of your room. Placement of your subwoofer in relation to your theater room walls affects the balance of what you hear at low frequencies. In low frequency ranges, the dimensions of most home theater rooms are comparable to the wavelengths (or frequencies) of those sounds. As sound waves reflect and bounce within the room, “standing waves” are created at frequencies where the wavelength of sound or multiples of the wavelength are equal to one of the room measurements. At the main seating area, these standing wave patterns of reflected sound are added together — in and out of phase — causing variations in the frequency responses that you hear.

As a general rule, locating your subwoofer near the corner of a room will increase its overall perceived output, but will induce more standing waves within the room and may result in more uneven low frequency effects response. Locating your subwoofer along a wall will usually mean less perceived output but with a somewhat smoother response. A middle of the room location will produce the smoothest overall response but with the least acoustic output capability.

One technique for finding your best subwoofer placement is to “trade places” with it. Place your sub in your normal listening position — on your chair or couch at ear level — with it playing bass intensive media and then search for the spot(s) in your room (on your knees with your head at just above floor level) where the bass sounds more pronounced. This unconventional technique is best performed alone so as not to draw strange looks and comments regarding your level of sanity from family and friends. 😉

Of course, any location will be a compromise and a trade-off between the acoustic performance and the aesthetic looks of the sub enclosure while blended with the decor of your room. You should experiment with the location of your subwoofer in your theater room for the best results at your main seating area. Move your subwoofer around a few times until you find the best subwoofer placement that satisfies your ears and blends well with your room decor.

HDTV Formats Explained

There are a few varieties of HDTV formats currently in use today. All are considerably better in image quality that conventional Standard Definition television or SDTV — therefore the High Definition moniker. However not all HDTV formats are created equal. In this section of the Home Theater Systems FAQ the differences in standard definition and high definition formats are explained in progressive order of image quality. 525/480i

The standard NTSC television broadcast format which has been in use since the early days of television broadcasting. It is an archaic format compared to modern standards but still serves the viewing public quite well out of necessity. In 525i there are actually only 480 lines of usable picture information available. The remaining lines are used for synchronization pulses. The “i” designation refers to “interlaced” scan format wherein alternating lines of the image are created from top to bottom of the screen. First the odd numbered lines are drawn and then the even numbered lines are created. The 525i format is prone to “jaggies” on straight line images which is an undesirable artifact of NTSC. 480p

Most standard DVD players currently on the market are capable of 480p playback through the RGB video connections. 480p is considered EDTV or “extended definition” television. The “p” designation refers to progressive scan wherein the image is drawn progressively from top to bottom of the screen. The image quality is superior to 525/480i and is much more smooth and film-like in quality. 480p is only usable on TVs with RGB inputs which include EDTV and HDTV sets. 720p

Much better image quality is offered by the 720p HDTV format. This is due to almost twice the lines of resolution over 480p. Again the image is drawn from top to bottom progressively. 720p is utilized by many “up scaling” DVD players to increase the image quality of standard DVD players and is also utilized by FOX and ABC on their HD broadcasts. 1080i

Again by greatly increasing the available lines of resolution – 1080i is an improvement over 480p but is marginal over 720p due to the interlaced image production. In fact many videophiles prefer 720p over 1080i. 1080i is utilized by NBC and CBS for their HD programming.1080p

The best HDTV format, 1080p offers the most lines of resolution drawn progressively on the screen. Unfortunately the only 1080p sources are currently available via HD-DVD and Blu-ray discs. Some scalers and up-converting devices modify 480 standard DVDs to 1080p but are quite pricey. Also not a lot of currently available display devices are capable of 1080p playback. There are more 1080p HDTV units being released with each passing month and prices are dipping into the affordable range for a wider range of budgets. If your budget can handle it there is no better image available than an HD-DVD or Blu-ray disc on a 1080p HD video display.

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