There are pros and cons between a hardwired alarm system and a wireless alarm system; and a home owner needs to understand the pros and cons of each.
A wired home security system is just that – sensors, which are placed on doors and windows and are wired to the alarm’s main panel with the wires generally installed within the walls. These sensors protect entry from the outside. Motion detectors sense movement within the house should the exterior sensors be breached. This type of system is referred to as hardwired and comes with a keypad to arm the system.
A wireless home security system obviously is not hardwired. With wireless technology, sensors placed on the doors and windows send signals to the main panel via a wireless transmitter. Since wires do not have to be run through walls, installation is easier. As with a wired system, a wireless home security system features a keypad to set or disarm the system.
Nearby wireless devices, such as baby monitors, do not interfere with a hardwired system; and the system will sound an alarm should the wires be cut. Whereas, a wireless home security system is relatively easy to install, and relocate should the owner move.
There are negatives to each system. A hardwired home security system takes more time and labor to install; and should the owner move to a new location, the wiring will have to be done all over again. A wireless home security system can pick up interference from other nearby wireless devices and, thus, trigger false alarms. The strategic placement of sensors, however, can significantly reduce the likelihood of this happening.
The prime negative to a wireless home security system is that it can be disabled easier than a hardwired approach can. Most burglars do not want to spend a lot of time breaking into a house, which could leave them at risk of being caught. So, although a wireless system is easier to disable, most thieves won’t take the time to do so.
Owners of older homes might not want to drill holes in the walls because of the historical value or period look of the house. If a house is being rented, the property owner might not want holes drilled for the installation of wires thereby making a wireless system the best choice.
Wireless home security systems are becoming popular, but there are considerations that must be taken into account. Depending on the size of the house, the system must be able to communicate with the main panel. Most single family homes should do fine with a 1-GHz receiver. For larger homes or should an external building be connected to the system, a 2-GHz system or stronger receiver should be employed. A stronger signal is essential to maintain constant contact with all of the sensor components.
Wireless home security systems have progressed to the point where they can integrate all of the features of a hardwired system, such as closed circuit cameras, carbon monoxide detectors, flood and gas detectors, lighting controllers, passive infrared motion detectors, seal/trip sensors and smoke detectors. Likewise, choose a system that includes panic and personal emergency buttons.
In high value areas of the house, such as the master bedroom and home office, motion detectors are an important element of any security plan. Make sure that the system selected can be monitored by a central monitoring station, as not all wireless systems will support such monitoring. It would be foolish to install a system that is not monitored. There is a small monthly fee, but peace of mind makes the fee worth it.
There are self-monitoring systems that call your smart phone if the system sets off an alarm.
There is a new smart alarm system called Canary that is coming that can actually tell the difference between a normal day at your house and an event like a fire or burglary. You can monitor the system on your smart phone using an app, and if the system senses a problem it sends you a text. The app allows the security system to be armed and particular sensors to be activated while on the go. The longer the system is used, the more it adapts to understand how the home operates, potentially learning the difference between a normal rise in temperature and a possible fire.
Since all security systems require battery backup in case of a power outage or an attempt to circumvent the system by an intruder, a good battery backup is essential. Less you find a dead security system, look for a system that alerts when the batteries are low.
When the battery voltage drops below normal, a low-battery signal is displayed on the keypad.
Each window, door and device integrated into the system is considered a zone. Be sure to select a plan that can monitor the entire house. The number of zones that can be monitored will vary from one manufacturer to another.
Pet owners have special needs to avoid false alarms caused by the movement of their pets. One such sensor is the GE 60-511-02-95, which comes with an ITI transmitter motion sensor that detects infrared energy given off by persons within a protected area.
An alarm is activated only when the viewed energy has the correct motion, temperature, and timing matching a human intruder's, thus making sure that the number of false alarms is reduced.
A wireless smoke detector can be placed on a wall or ceiling and sends a unique signal to the control panel enabling a fire response request to be sent to the central monitoring station, which will automatically dispatch fire equipment to the house.
Many homes are broken into through the garage door. There are monitors for anything that tilts, rolls up, or moves.
For video surveillance, there are a variety of cameras that are much simpler than the older CCTV systems. These allow for live and recorded video through web-enabled computers, cell phone web browsers and via downloadable apps.
They can be placed anywhere throughout the house with easy installation. They have long range capability and can capture images in high definition with 720P full color. Most are adjustable with high, medium and low compression options for live viewing and high and medium compression options for recording.
A burglar might attempt to break a window that does not open, such as a picture window, but can be foiled by a glass-break sensor. There are several types of glass-break detectors. One responds to the sound of breaking glass and another is triggered by a slight vibration, which will send an alarm signal to the panel.
Flooding could be a problem if the house has a basement. Even water heaters and washing machines could cause a problem. When water is detected, the system sends an alert to the home owner.
The WaterCop System is designed to detect leaks in a plumbing system at predetermined locations, and automatically shut off the water supply to help reduce the chances of major water damage.
In the future, alarm systems will be tied into home control systems so that household appliances, such as coffee makers, lamps, fans, and lighting, could be controlled from a cellular phone, on the way home from work.
Using artificial intelligence, future systems will automatically learn a family's behavior patterns and adjust itself accordingly, without the requirement for programming. Security components integrated into this system will benefit as they are armed and disarmed automatically, while making accommodations for those still in the house. Wireless security systems will make it easier to add the new innovations that we will be seeing to keep a home secure.
Len Calderone – Contributing Editor
Len has contributed articles to several publications. He also writes opinion editorials for a local newspaper. He is now retired.