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Home Security System for New Construction Home
December 4, 2013 at 3:43 pm #8608
We are considering having a new home built for us. It seems this ought to be the ideal time to plan out the home’s security design. Based on my reading of the article and (most of) the comments, I believe that the system itself should be hard-wired for cost and reliability reasons. For communication with the monitoring station: is a heartbeat-based radio (not cellular) ideal? Or should we have both a phone line and radio backup? Or radio and cellular?
What’s the best approach with regards to security system design and deployment with a new home build?
My current thought is to ask the builder to provide the wiring for: sensors on all doors and windows; glass-break sensors; motion detectors; and control panels next to all doors and also in the master bedroom; horns/sirens on all levels; fire and CO detectors. From there, I’ll either install the system myself, or hire a professional to do it (would prefer the latter, but I am cost sensitive, and feel I am technically capable).
I do not expect to take the alarm system out of the house; in fact, I want it to be a selling point when the time comes to move again.
What about motion sensors and pets? In our current home (a house we are renting), our alarm system has motion sensors. We have two cats, and as such, we always use the “stay” mode (i.e. motion sensors deactivated), otherwise the cats will trigger the alarm. We actually had a break-in via breaking a window. The alarm sounded, but only when the perp opened the back door. Since then, we paid to have glass-break sensors installed. Are newer motion sensors “smarter” with pets? Or are glass-break sensors still our best bet?
There’s a lot of discussion about the “smash and grab” prevention, and hiding the main panel. What device actually sends the signal to the monitoring company, the main panel or the central “box”? In the house we are renting, we have a DSC Power 832 unit. The only alarm panel is near the front door, and is definitely vulnerable to a “smash and grab” scenario. But I would like to think the central box (to which every device connects) is the actual “smarts” of the system—in particular, I would expect this to send the signal. This device is hidden in a basement closet, definitely less vulnerable than the keypad.
Are there particularly good brands and models of hard-wired systems? Going back to the new construction question: I realize no technology is 100% reliable, but my preference would be for something simple and with a lengthy, proven track-record. I’m a programmer/technology professional, and to me, the more complex something is (bells and whistles) the more likely it is to have bugs.
What about “old fashioned” security, like bars in windows? Houses in our neighborhood tend to have basement windows that are right at “shin” height: an open invitation for kicking. Bars would have (presumably) prevented the break-in in our case. Another option might be those mortared glass cubes used as “windows”. They are certainly not impenetrable, but I imagine much harder to break than traditional glass windows.
I understand how a wireless system is appealing, from an easy installation standpoint. But in our current home (rented house), the system is mostly hard-wired, except for the window open/close sensors (I suspect they were added as an afterthought). These sensors have proven to be a headache. They constantly require battery changes (three AAA batteries), with several false alarms per year. (And though probability would predict otherwise, the low battery alarm is always triggered in the middle of the night, same as the false alarms.) Furthermore, I believe wired is simpler, and therefore more reliable and less likely to fail.
We have a single alarm panel, which is by the front-door in a two-story house; the master bedroom is on the second floor. When the alarm sounds, the panel says which sensor tripped the alarm. This means I have to go downstairs to the front door to see what tripped the alarm. I feel this puts me at risk: what if there is an unsavory person in the house when I go downstairs? To me, it seems everyone should have a panel in their master bedroom for this reason: when the alarm sounds, they know immediately where it was tripped. From there, they can make a judgement call about the situation.
I also recommend having the alarm sound on all levels of the house in a multi-story building. Ours sounds on the ground level only, and I’ve actually slept through a false alarm (it awoke my wife, who in turn woke me).
December 4, 2013 at 3:50 pm #8609
You are absolutely correct in deciding to have your new home under construction pre-wired for a hard-wired security system.
~ FORGET about asking your builder to pass the alarm wiring for you. He will ask his handy-man or electrician to do the job since this will be the most cost effective way for him to get the work done (using men already on site). Believe me when I tell you that neither of these people knows how to properly pre-wire a home for an alarm system, despite what they will tell you.
~ Your builder will overcharge you for the pre-wire work while he will pay “peanuts” to have it done by one of his men.
~ Hire an alarm professional for your pre-wiring. He will make sure that your motion detectors are properly placed to avoid problems being caused by your pets. (Yes, we do have pet-proof motion detectors BUT they must be installed in a very specific way in your new home – which your electrician or handy-man have NO CLUE about).
~ Your handy man and electrician also have no clue how to properly pre-wire for door contacts so that the finished installation is clean and invisible. Since neither of these gentlemen has EVER installed an alarm door contact, how can they possibly know how to pre-wire for it? We have numerous models of door contacts available to choose from. Since alarm professionals always carry door contacts in their trucks, when they come out to pre-wire your home they can use the contacts to precisely line up where they want the alarm wires passed for a perfect installation when they come back. Or, they can actually install the contacts during the pre-wire.
~ The DSC PC1832 (upgrade of your Power 832 alarm system) is an excellent hard-wired alarm system that can also accept wireless devices if necessary. It also has the particular advantage of a zone defined as “Instant Stay/Away”, which I will describe later below.
~ Install the alarm control panel (which is the metal box which contains the communicator and back-up battery of your DSC PC1832 alarm system) upstairs in the master bedroom closet. Avoid placing the “brains” of your alarm system in the basement since this is the first place that burglars will look for it, especially since they will usually enter from the basement or ground floor.
~ Install a motion detector inside your master bedroom and preferably a motion detector outside your master bedroom on the upstairs hallway.
~ Install a keypad inside the master bedroom for your convenience, in addition to any other keypads required at the front door or inside the garage.
~ Ensure that spare alarm wiring is left in the attic for any future additions that may be needed.
~ Your alarm professional will be able to provide you with the information to make the appropriate choice for your wireless communication means to the monitoring station (radio or cellular communicator and possibly supervised heartbeats).
~ Motion detectors on the main floor and in the basement can be programmed as “Instant Stay/Away” on DSC alarm panels. This means that if a burglar breaks down one of your entry doors and tries to run through your home during the keypad entry delay, the motion detectors that are programmed as “Instant Stay/Away” will sound an IMMEDIATE alarm, BEFORE the burglar is able to find the alarm communicator. This installation set-up and programming that Iâve described above will provide “Crash-and-Smash” protection of the alarm control panel. The burglar will NOT be able to “Crash” into your home and “Smash” the alarm panel without an alarm being activated. (Other alarm panels without “Instant Stay/Away” zones means that motion detectors will follow the entry delay after the burglar breaks down the front door, providing the criminal with the time he needs to locate the control panel BEFORE an alarm is sent).
~ When you are home sleeping with the alarm system armed in STAY mode (meaning the motion detectors do not work), a burglar cannot break in and disable your alarm system without FIRST getting past YOU, since the alarm panel is inside your master bedroom closet. If the alarm panel is in the basement without active motion detectors supervising it, the burglar can destroy and disable your alarm system.
~ Avoid installing steel bars on basement windows, especially bedroom windows. If there is a fire, you are cooked with steel bars on the windows that you cannot easily remove or open in total darkness, such as a room completely filled with smoke.
~ There are alarm products called “Bandit Bars” which can be installed on basement windows. These bars are installed on the inside of windows and they are contacted to the alarm system. “Bandit Bars” are not designed to keep burglars out since they are very easily knocked off to escape during a fire, BUT this will create an instant alarm, 24/7. This product (unlike window contacts or glass breakage detectors) allows you to sleep with the windows open while still providing detection of someone trying to enter by the window since an instant alarm is created as soon as any “Bandit Bar” is dislodged from its support.
Your choice of alarm equipment sounds very sound. You may be able to install the hard-wired equipment yourself after the pre-wire, and then just leave the programming and monitoring for your alarm professional. If you do use some wireless devices, we now have longer lasting batteries than those used in older systems.
Also, do not forget that with new interactive internet features that your cell phones will become additional alarm keypads.
I hope this helps and good luck with your new hard-wired security system!
December 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm #8615
I am not aware of any newer technology with motion sensors in regards to ignoring pet movements. I’m sure this is something that the security companies are working on. Right now glass break sensors are your best bet, other than keeping your pets out of rooms with motion detectors activated.
The ‘box’ (that is hidden in your basement) is the unit that actually sends out the signal to the monitoring station, not the control panel.
My neighborhood has some very nice houses with the basement windows at ‘kicking’ level as you say. A few of the homes have really nice bars on the windows and they actually look great. They look like the bars from a very nice iron fence. So yes, if this is a concern for you, the bars are a great option and if done right will not take away from the look of the property.
I understand your wireless concerns. I wonder how old the sensors are in your apartment that are always having problems? My house is completely wireless and I haven’t had to change batteries yet (ever sensor is less than a year old). You are in a good spot because you are building a home, so you can chose whatever option you are comfortable with, but just know that the new wireless technology is really impressive.
Great call on the panel in the bedroom. If you are looking at an alarm.com provider, you can actually go without a panel in your bedroom as long as you have a smartphone or tablet in the bedroom with you. This is what I use and it takes two seconds to pull up the app and it will tell you exactly what tripped the alarm and the location.
December 4, 2013 at 6:27 pm #8617
Pet-proof motion detectors do exist, and in fact, they are the standard product now (meaning it is becoming more difficult to find motion detectors which are NOT pet-proof). Pet-proof models are available according to the weight of the animal. They must be installed according to directions in order to work effectively.
“Control panel” refers to the main board of the alarm which has the communicator that sends the signals to the monitoring station. Therefore, the “box that is hidden in your basement” is, in fact, the control panel.
You referred to a “panel in the bedroom” when you should be saying “keypad”.
The exception to this terminology rule is an over-sized keypad which ALSO contains the alarm system’s communicator, such as the self-contained alarm system being offered by FrontPoint. This type of keypad can be referred to as the “control panel”, but ONLY because the communicator is inside of it.
December 4, 2013 at 6:28 pm #8618
The box in your basement is the control panel. It is usually located by the electric panel (both are panels). What you have upstairs is called a keypad, touchpad, command center, etc. If you are building your new home it is still best to pre-wire your home and use wired sensors. It is hard to beat the reliability of a piece of copper wire vs a bunch of semiconductors in a transmitter and receiver.
Keep in mind when one of your transmitters goes bad ten years later it may no longer be available due to newer technologies or FCC mandated frequency changes. If you go wireless, I highly recommend a supervised wireless system. The sensors regularly “check in” every so often to show they are still functional. If your system does not continuously check itself in this manner it is susceptible to undetected failure or someone simply stealing your stick-on sensors and coming through that unprotected area later after you set your alarm.
Battery cost for some wireless systems can add up when you may have 10 sensors some with two batteries at $5 each. Pet friendly motion detectors have been out for at least 10 years and work well when properly installed.
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