How Is Secure Your Security System? Hardwired vs. Wireless Security Alarm Systems.


Many age-old questions continue to be discussed. Which is preferable, winter or summer, Chevy or Ford, Coors or Budweiser?

Ask a few preferable alarm professionals—hardwired or wireless—and you’ll likely hear some rather emotional arguments in favor of one another. Let’s attempt to resolve this bitterly divisive matter as the battle lines are established.

Although more challenging to install, hardwired alarm panels are less expensive than wireless ones. If you intend to perform the installation yourself, keep this in mind. Hard-wired system installations typically take 12 to 16 hours per home. Usually, a wireless installation only takes a few hours.

Another thing to remember is that some construction types are better suited to a hardwired installation than others, necessitating the use of wireless. All business alarms are typically hardwired, but a sizable portion of residential buildings use wireless.

Even if you purchase a wireless alarm panel, most installations call for hardwiring of some components. Examples are the power transformer, the electrical ground line, the phone connections, any keypads or arming stations, and any audio alarms. The newest all-in-one equipment that combines the base unit, arming station, and audible alarm into a single item that plugs into one of your existing phone jacks are an exception to this rule.

The way a hardwired alarm panel and a wireless alarm panel communicate with the system’s associated protection devices is the primary distinction between them. A wireless system uses radio frequency to communicate with the “zones” or devices linked to it, unlike a hardwired panel that needs a wire for each “zone” or connected device.

A typical hardwired alarm circuit is a 2-wire, usually closed loop with end-of-line supervision, whereas a regular electrical circuit is a parallel circuit. This is known as a series circuit.

A series circuit enables electrical current to travel from the alarm panel back to the alarm panel via one wire while passing via the alarm triggering device. The board will record a problem on the circuit or zone when the current is interrupted. For the alarm panel to monitor the condition of the site for ground faults, electrical shorts, and open or severed wires, End of Line (EOL), resistors are added to the circuit.

By wiring the devices in series and installing the EOL resistors on the last device in line, several usually closed devices can be connected to a single zone. In this manner, the entire circuit—from the panel to the last device in line—is thoroughly supervised.

Wireless alarm systems were not the most dependable when they entered the market. Most of them used unsupervised wireless transmitters to talk to all the field equipment. When engaged, an unsupervised wireless alarm transmitter would only broadcast a signal “one way” to the alarm panel receiver.

For instance, the transmitter would broadcast a wireless signal whenever a door or window was opened. The alarm panel would receive the call, activating the proper zone. The receiver/zone had to reset itself after a brief period because the transmitter would not provide a signal when the door or window was shut. Using a non-supervised wireless system, you can unknowingly arm the system with a door or window wide open.

Most modern alarm systems use a redundant bi-directional, fully supervised wireless link to provide two-way communication between the transmitters and the alarm panel receiver. The alarm panel can inform you of a door or window’s status in real time with fully managed wireless. A door that is ajar will keep the zone faulty until it is shut.

The majority of early wireless systems used extremely constrained addressing strategies. They used dip switches with binary addressing, which will be discussed later, to distinguish between different system points.

This was acceptable if your wireless system had been set up and configured correctly, but what would have occurred if your neighbor had done the same? If your garage door and the neighbor’s motion detector had the same address, your alarm would sound every time the neighbor walked around their home. As you may imagine, this might result in severe issues that were challenging to fix.

Modern wireless systems ensure that only transmitters registered with your panel will be picked up by your alarm system using serial numbers, binary house codes, or other proprietary technology. You shouldn’t ever worry about your neighbor’s wireless transmitter setting off your alarm system if you research and choose a solid, trustworthy, supervised alarm system.

The fact that you were unaware when the transmitter batteries ran low or needed to be changed was another issue with the older, unsupervised systems. Regular testing is the only method to confirm that they are functioning.

Monitoring wireless panels are designed to check in with each distant transmitter at least once every 24 hours because even the most advanced wireless alarm panels are useless if the transmitter batteries are dead. The keypad/arming station will promptly alert you to the problem state if your transmitter’s battery is low.

With any wireless security system, you should frequently evaluate the system’s functionality. Its installation’s environment and building can impact any wireless product’s range. Environmental factors, interference from electrical devices, and even the angle of the transmitter about the receiver can hurt capacity.

Who, then, has prevailed in this debate? According to Underwriters Laboratory (U.L. ), hardwired installations with End of Line (EOL) 1 or 2 resistor supervision are the most dependable and secure installation techniques. All protective zones must be hardwired with comprehensive 2-resistor line monitoring according to U.L.-approved installation regulations for the federal government and other high-security sites.

Not that wireless technology is a subpar item. For 90% of home installations, fully managed systems provide good protection.

Beware, unsupervised wireless alarm systems are still being offered and installed today if you’re considering getting one. Make sure the method you choose has full wireless supervision.

Make that the supervisory resistors are at the end of the line if you install a hard-wired alarm system. Some installers will put the resistors in the alarm panel rather than at the wire’s end to simplify installation.

Even while this approach supervises the zone for ground faults, it does not defend against direct shorts or, even worse, someone splicing into the wire and shorting them together, which would essentially block the loop so the panel cannot watch the zone open or close.

Roy Stephenson is a security consultant with over 21 years of experience designing and installing high-end integrated security systems. He is the Vice President of Marketing at Security-Kits.Com at the moment.

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