Are WIRELESS Systems Better Than WIRED Ones? Part 3
So far in this blog series we have looked at the “brain” of
your alarm system (the CPU), and the “mouth” of the alarm system (the
Communicator), and seen how the right combination of wired and wireless in
these can make for a good, secure system. Today we will be looking at the “eyes
and fingers” of the alarm system – the actual sensors and zones. Without these
“senses” reporting back to the brain, your system will just sit there idly
whilst someone breaks into the property.
There are MANY different sorts of sensors which can work on
an alarm system: door sensors, motion detectors, low temperate alarms, smoke
detectors, pressure sensors, flood detectors…the possibilities are almost
endless. These come from many different
brands, and have been designed with varying degrees of innovation and quality. I’m not going to get into specific sensors
and/or brands today, but what I do want to touch on is whether WIRELESS sensors
can or should be used as opposed to WIRED ones.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that should inform
Obviously, a wired sensor requires a wire run from the CPU
to each individual zone in the building. Whether it’s a house or a business,
finished or new build, this will involve drilling holes. A professional
installation company will do their best to ensure that these holes are never
visible, but if you ever decide to remove your alarm system ten years down the
road, behind each sensor and in every door will be a hole.
In addition to that, in a finished building, it can
impossible to run wires to certain areas, or at least to hide them. You may end
up with visible wires, or with an area that simply cannot be secured by wired
This is where wireless devices really shine. Not only can
they be mounted almost anywhere with minimal effort, they can often be mounted
using double-sided tape, meaning that there are no screw holes beneath the
device. These sensors can also be easily moved or re-purposed, eliminating the
need to call your service company when you replace a door, for example.
Wired devices are invariably much cheaper than wireless
ones, but require quite a bit of extra time to run cable and install, so it often
evens out. For example, a wired motion sensor costs around $50, but might take
30 minutes of labour to install. A wireless motion sensor may be double the
price, but takes 5 minutes to install.
In addition to the cost of individual wireless sensors, many
systems require a wireless receiver to be installed first. This is a one-time
cost, however, and once its there, you can add wireless devices at will.
Winner: It’s a tie
A wireless device is essentially just a wired device with a
battery and a wireless transmitter added to it; as such, there are simply more
things that can potentially go wrong with a wireless device. Not only that, but
wireless devices can potentially pick up interference from other strong RF
sources in your house, such as Wi-Fi routers or cordless telephones. Although
this is rare, I have had a number of cases where a device just won’t work
properly, then we move it 2 feet over and it works like a charm; sort of like a
dead spot for your cell phone.
Wired devices are renowned for being highly reliable. I have
seen wired sensors 25 years old that still work day in and day out. Obviously, it’s electronics, so literally
anything can happen; but wired tends to be more stable.
Wired devices should not require much in the way of
maintenance, with the exception of life safety devices, such as smoke detectors
or carbon monoxide detectors, which by design must be replaced every few years.
Most wired devices are universally compatible, so if you upgrade your system in
ten years’ time, you don’t necessarily have to upgrade every device.
Wireless, on the other hand, has the obvious limitation of
being battery powered. Every year or two
you will have to do the rounds and replace all the batteries; although, to be
fair, some newer devices are boasting 5 to 7 years’ battery life nowadays. Some
manufacturers also have a tendency to bring out entire new product lines every
10 years, rendering the old wireless incompatible with the new systems.
Many systems nowadays are hybrids of theses two schools,
having a wired base and utilizing wireless for those hard-to-reach areas. As always, do your research (or find an Alarm
Company you can trust to have done it for you), and avoid cheap wireless – you
always get what you pay for. A good
wireless manufacturer will have two-way communication between the CPU and
devices, as well as frequency-hopping for extra security (NOTE: It’s very rare,
but I have seen cases where smart criminals have used a Frequency Jammer to
immobilize a wireless device, so this feature is a must!).
My recommendation for Calgary Alarm system designs: use wired devices whenever possible, but
don’t be afraid of wireless. It can save you some serious headaches (and money)
when used correctly!
Owner, Calgary Security Expert
Oxford Security Systems
Reed Security Authorized Dealer
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