What Is A Security System Key Fob?

A security system key fob is a portable device used to control a security system from different parts of the home. The idea is that you don’t have to be standing at the control panel to use the system. A key fob offers convenience and also additional protection.

Imagine being able to activate your security system from your bedroom or handing your teenager a key fob they can press to deactivate the system when they get home without having to enter a passcode. Give one to a handyperson while they’re doing work at your home and then ask for them to return it at the end of the job. That way, you don’t have to give out your passcode and potentially compromise the security of your home. In an emergency, you can call for help with just the press of a button.

How the key fob works

A security system key fob looks a lot like a car key fob and acts pretty similarly too. It communicates with your security system within a certain distance of the control panel—typically around 30 to 50 feet. Usually, these key fobs are powered by lithium batteries, about the size and shape of a coin.

Simply press buttons on the key fob to activate or deactivate the system. No passcode is necessary. There might also be a panic button to use in case of emergency. The panic button sounds an alarm and alerts the security company that there’s been a breach.

Worried about false alarms? Recessed buttons are designed to prevent accidental pressing. Often, the panic button needs to be pressed for three to five seconds, or a code needs to be entered to sound it off.

For many wired and wireless systems, key fobs come as part of the standard package. Note, though, that some security systems don’t have key fobs and use a smartphone app instead.

How many key fobs you’ll get depends on the home security system—it’s common for them to come with one to three key fobs, and then additional ones can be purchased separately. Some systems can be used with up to eight or even 10 key fobs.

Advantages to having a key fob for your security system

There are many reasons to have a key fob for your security system. These include:

  • Accessibility: No need to wander through your home to get to your control panel when you need to operate your security system. Simply reach for your key fob and press a button.
  • Portability: Having your key fob on your keychain means it’s close at hand when you’re coming and going.
  • Convenience: Using a key fob means you don’t have to enter a passcode when you need to activate or deactivate the system. If you have several key fobs for your security system, you can keep them in different rooms of your home to use.
  • Speed: An app might seem like a good replacement for a key fob, but note that it takes time to unlock a phone and open an app. With a key fob, you simply have to press a button. Even just a few seconds can make a huge difference in the event of an emergency. It’s even quicker than using the control panel, which requires a code.
  • Versatility: You can choose a plan for using your security system key fobs that best suits your lifestyle. For example, you can choose to hand them out to houseguests or teenage children. You can keep them in areas of the house that are far from the control panel. Stash one at your nightstand for better peace of mind in case of a nighttime emergency.
  • Ease of use: There really isn’t much of a learning curve with using a security system key fob. Older kids, adults and elderly family members alike can easily use them. No app required.

Disadvantages to having a key fob

The security system key fob does come with a few minor inconveniences and limitations. These include:

  • Changing batteries: Your key fob needs a battery to stay powered, and those batteries will need to be replaced periodically. The good news is, some lithium batteries last as long as five years.
  • Distance limitations: Since the key fob only works within a certain distance from the home security system control panel, you can’t use it to control your security system or check to see if it’s activated when you’re away from home.
  • Interference: Just how long of a range your key fobs get is partially dependent on your walls. Some wall materials could affect the distance from the panel that your key fob will work.
  • Lack of bells and whistles: The key fob is very simple in design and use, which can be an advantage, but that also means it has limited capability. For example, a smartphone app may be able to tell you whether or not your alarm system is activated while you’re away from home. It may also send you an alert if the alarm gets triggered. The key fob can’t do that.

Getting a security alarm with a key fob is a great way to customize and increase the security in your home. Before you buy a security system, check to see if it offers key fobs and what other features it offers. Understanding exactly how each security system will work and what accessories you will use to operate it will help you make the perfect choice for you and your family

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The SimpliSafe system key fob makes flipping your security system on or off when coming or going as simple as it can be. Check out our SimpliSafe review, or view their pricing at the official site.


This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.

Officer James Banta

Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.