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Hardwired vs. wireless

There are many types of alarm systems on the market today. As systems evolve, they are being used for a variety of purposes. However, the most basic system variance is hardwired vs. wireless. [...]

There are many types of alarm systems on the market today. As systems evolve, they are being used for a variety of purposes. However, the most basic system variance is hardwired vs. wireless.

In the past, when the industry used the terms “hardwired” and “wireless” it meant something different than what customers currently think these terms mean.

In the early days of alarm systems, everything was hardwired. Wireless technology simply didn’t exist. Hardwired meant that each device had a wire running from the device to a main alarm control cabinet. These devices included, but weren’t limited to, motion sensors, door sensors, glass breaks and smoke detectors.

Hardwired alarm systems have maintained a good position in the industry due to their reliability and lack of service needs. One could say they are almost maintenance-free because the only thing that needs servicing is the back-up battery. (Note: When I say maintenance free, an alarm system should still be tested regularly according to manufacturers’ specifications.)

Even though alarm systems started out being completely hardwired, it doesn’t mean that is the only available avenue any more. Hardwired systems are still a very good low maintenance, reliable option, but there are other options as well.

As technology progressed, the wireless alarm system started to come into play. When wireless technology first appeared on the market, it was designed to help with situations where wiring could not be run to a device. Alarm system installations had become more challenging with trying to get wires to their proper destinations. Hardwiring a device meant possibly spending hours running a wire somewhere.

To help solve this problem, a wireless option was developed. Battery-operated, or “wireless” sensors use radio frequency (RF) technology to communicate to the main control panel. The sensors are similar in that they communicate a trigger of an event to the main control center, just like hardwired sensors.

A concern that some customers have regarding wireless sensors is wondering how they’ll know if the battery goes dead. The system monitors the sensors’ battery condition and RF condition for issues and reports any problems associated with the device with a message on the system’s keypads, as well as a signal to the monitoring center.

Naturally, wireless sensors need maintenance when the battery gets weak. Many wireless sensors on the market can be serviced by the customer, but some may need provider assistance. Regardless of the level of service difficulty, when a sensor needs maintenance, call your provider and let them know you are going to be servicing the device. The provider can also service the entire system to ensure it is functioning properly.

Another wireless technology that is a buzz with customers and insurance agencies is a wireless communication path to the monitoring center. Cellular communication is becoming a very popular option for consumers. The cellular technology takes the place of a hardwired phone – or “land-line” phone technology – to communicate signals to the monitoring center.

Because consumers are canceling their traditional phone lines at an astonishing rate and using their personal cell phones as their primary line of communication, cellular communicators are growing in popularity. As a result of their popularity, cellular communicators’ signals are becoming increasingly more secure.

There are several manufacturers of cellular communicators that have the ability to send information as accurately as if the signal were coming from a traditional phone line. This addresses the concerns individuals have regarding transmitting a lack of information, which could cause improper dispatching. The cell communicator will send exactly what the panel is programmed to send.

Be sure to check with your alarm service provider to see if your system will accommodate this new technology, as not all alarm panels will communicate properly.