Seattle Alarm FAQ

A security alarm system is an important part of your home security plan. Contact Absolute Security Alarms If you would like to add a question or suggestion, so that you can share it with our visitors in the future. Check back often as this list will grow rapidly with the great ideas & questions from security-conscious contributers from all over the world.

We just moved into a home that has ADT. We have not called to activate the system because we were happy with the beep that occurred when a door was opened, but the beeping just stopped and we have no idea why. Is there a way to bring that feature back without activating the entire alarm?

Yes the feature you are looking to re-activate is called the “Chime” feature. You can turn it on and off at will. Many people like to leave it on all the time. Most systems are set to toggle by simply pushing the “Chime” button and holding it for two seconds till you hear the beeps. If this works it would be the same to de-activate it.

If that doesn’t work than your system is not programmed for 1 touch commands. In this case you hit “chime” and then your code to activate. Again you would press “chime” and then your code to de-activate.

I implore you to read our articles and Q&A’s about monitoring your system. This feature is not to protect your property, as that’s what insurance is for. It is there to protect you and yours at the worst possible time of your lives and many people just like you regret waiting for an event to happen before activating monitoring, so they will be protected in the future. Experts feel that a system without monitoring is like a door without a lock.

Three questions to ask yourself to help you decide for the right reasons:

  1. Would you pay for monitoring and response after a home invasion that confronted you in the home?
  2. What does a safe neighborhood look like?
  3. Many confuse a nice neighborhood for a safe one but if you were a burglar which type of house would you break into?

I have lived in this house now for nearly four years, it was a new build. It has an alarm system installed but we haven't used it because we had a pet. It is a hard wired system with key pad and three passives and one entry contact with outside bell. Quite a simple system but then it's a small house. The only info on the control box is Ademco Microtec. Since we had a power failure some time ago there has been a X and a solid dot flashing on the keypad and if I turn main electrical supply off the sounder comes into operation which I can stop by entering my code. What I would like to do is reprogram the whole system. How do I do this?

Ademco equipment is an industry standard all over the world. A few years back the company merged with Honeywell and now all Ademco equipment is marketed under the Honeywell name. Microtec is Honeywell’s security division in the UK and Scotland.

Your system has two main components that would have markings on it. 1 is the keypad, this is the device that you put your code in to operate the control. 2 is the control, this is a metal cabinet with the motherboard, receivers and wiring terminals in it. Your system has a model number in it such as 4110, 4120, Vista 20 etc. These model numbers are often ended with a set of letters or version number that marks its time of manufacture and programming options. You will find this model number on the inside of the door of the metal cabinet, which is usually in a basement, closet, attic etc.

Once you locate the number you can download a free copy of the installation and user manuals from panelguides.com

I want to install 4 Garrison infrared perimeter beams on a IDS 800 panel. Are most of these systems the same, ie do you use the same wire to the main panel etc. Do you have a generic install manual of some kind for a similar system?

Nice set of beams you have, they are built to military specs and should serve you well. Yes your IDS 800 will handle them well. Homerun each beam to the control if you can spare the zones. The IDS 800 has 8 and this way you will know which has been violated and be able to bypass only one if a service issue should arise.

Wire your devices as NC (Normally Closed) I believe that’s terminal 3 and 4 of your beams. Remember to series devices if you decide to couple them together, to maintain a NC circuit. Paralleling them would throw the circuit open (NO).

I would really appreciate your reaction to two matters that came up in a recent consultation with a dealer about a wired alarm system for a house we are building. 1. He said that casement windows do not need contacts, because it is impossible to open them without breaking the glass, so that all we need is a glass break sensor - is it true we don't need contacts? 2. When I discussed wiring the screens so that the casement windows could be left open at night, he had never heard of them. I guess my second question is whether I should even keep talking to this dealer.

I don’t like to push contacts on windows unless you want to know if the kids are opening the windows. If any window is locked the burglar has to break them to get in and a contact does nothing if they clear the glass and climb in.

Glass breaks are a much better device however you will need one in each room with glass that is vulnerable. One device can listen to many windows if it is an open concept within 25 ft of the device. Often you will save money and have better protection if you have many windows. Make sure they are using the duel technology glassbreaks as opposed to single technology. The dual tech. devices listen for a thud and than a frequency hit from glass breaking in the correct order and time constraints.

Screens are the ultimate if you can afford them and you could back them up with door contacts and a motion detector or two.

The casements crank out and the screens are inside so ventilation is no problem. If you are going to wire for them it is a 22g. 2 conductor wire to each screen. I like to homerun such devices to the control so they can be moved from zone to another as you wish. Also they would be easy to isolate if a service issue should arise.

If you do go with contacts on casements they often need to use surface mounted contacts. This is because the recessed ones would get caught up in the cranking bars and mechanisms of the casements. If it were my house I would use screens strategically placed for ventilation preferences, glass breaks in the other areas, door contacts on all perimeter doors, a motion on the main floor and a keypad at my most used exit door and in the master. I would also contact an interior closet for a safe area.

I am trying to connect my alarm system to the phone to be monitored; we have Verizon DSL. I have tried 2 different computer boards, and 2 RJ blocks, but for some reason after the system is tested it knocks out the phones in the house. I thought it might be the signal generator for Verizon outside the house but it wasn't Verizon checked everything and said it was something I was doing any suggestions on what else I could try to get this thing to connect without interfering with the phones?

It sounds like you have two separate issues. 1st is the matter of the DSL (Digital Subscriber Line). You must put a DSL filter on this line in order for the receivers to get a clean signal. Do this first as the problem might be that you are not getting a clean handshake and kiss-off from the monitoring station on your unfiltered DSL line, so the system is stuck in the seized position.

2nd of all your system is programmed for line seizure. This is designed for the system to shut down any devices that are using the phone line and release the dial tone back to the house when it is done transmitting the signal. The way this is accomplished is you run the phone line from the source (the interface outside of your house) to the control and then from the control to the first phone line in the house).

If you were set up this way and then switched to DSL, your system is trying to seize the line but DSL is always on because it is broadband. You would have to rewire for non line seizure by running a direct line in to the control from any source and putting your DSL filter on the line. You should also reprogram the control not to attempt a seizure.

Could you please tell me why, periodically, our security system goes off and the monitoring company says it is a fire code. This happened last night while we were out and we quickly came home in a panic and there was nothing we could find. This past summer there were several times when the alarm went off when we were having lightning storms and once a tree in our backyard was hit destroying our sprinkler system control panel in a deck room. Also, once when the alarm went off, it was a fire code and a holdup alarm both. This is becoming very frustrating and no one seems to know why it is doing this. Can you please advise?

There are many variables as to why you fire system may be falseing. Anyone that is telling you what is happening without inspecting the complete system is just guessing. Guessing causes frustration and is not a solid service technique, so I would have a company that is able to give you factual answers look at it.

If you have a smoke detector tied to your system it is designed to have a red light latch on and stay that way until reset from the keypad. This way if you have multiple detectors you can see which one violates. Check for a solid (Not Flashing) red light on your detectors before resetting your alarm. If you find one and it is on and there was no smoke or fast temperature change, that is your bad device and needs to be replaced.

If you had a lightning storm that caused a power surge this past summer and it sent a fire code and a panic code for no reason, I would suspect the possibility of damage to the brain of the alarm system. Since you have it monitored you can get the date and time of that alarm and report it to your homeowners insurance as damage. This type of damage often shows up intermittently as you explained and is hard to detect because everything looks normal when it is checked. One thing is for sure, the system should not be doing what it is doing and if it persists I would change the fire device 1st and the control second.

Also if your system is hardwired and not wireless have someone check the attic if available for critters chewing on the wires. I have seen this before and it is easily solved. Critters seem to love chewing on wires and will short the system when they are doing it at times. Your fire system is always on and a momentary short on the wires will cause this type of problem.

I am doing some research for my sister who lives in Oakland, CA. She would like to have a security system installed on her cottage, but doesn't have the funds to pay for the monthly monitoring that ADT requires. Is there a service where they will install the devices, have them run off of house power and have simply have big bad alarms go off for 20 minutes or so if there is a break in?

Although Experts Know! advises against not having monitoring, the answer is yes. Any installer would be happy to do it in return for a service call fee. You can ask any local company for a service call to hook up a “Local Only” alarm.

I know you say your sister can’t afford monitoring but I think she can’t afford not to have it. If anything happened to her you would wish you had reprioritized something else and got the needed help when needed. Many will spend whatever it takes after an incident! Remember alarms are not to protect property as much as they are to protect families.

My home alarm bell won't shut off. It started up a few days ago and I had to unhook power to shut down. I replaced the battery but still same problem. Since then I have unhooked all wires in the panel for both keypads and all zones. Soon as I apply power same problem. One keypad is also dead but other one will all light up soon as I connect to panel at the box once power is connected. Is there anything you could suggest for this unit? It is a DSC PC1000. Also I notice the newer systems like a 632 or 832 require a power transformer producing 16V. The current transformer I have is hooked on side of my house power panel and produces 18.5V when I tested it. Can I use the old one with the 632 or 832 or should I get a new 16V if I need to replace the board?

Sounds like you experienced a voltage spike to the control. If after powering down and back up again the bell circuit continues to be violated, that is most likely your problem.

All systems are susceptible to this type of damage. It is important that you gain the most out of the engineered multi stage transient lightning protection by properly grounding your system. In the past alarm companies would run a ground wire to a cold water pipe or use no ground at all. These days we know it is best to run your Alarm, Electrical, Phone and Plumbing grounds to the exact same point on the electricians grounding stake. This prevents the phone line and plumbing system from being a natural path for voltage spikes.

If you do replace your control with a higher end DSC system, I would recommend the 832. With this system you gain “Event Logging,” Multi language readout, Alpha readout capabilities with an alpha keypad, and system partitioning. With the 832 you can add an alpha keypad so that you have alpha readout and event logging and still use your existing keypads as additional keypads. It sounds like one of yours has been damaged and one may still be working.

You should always use the recommended voltage transformer with the control you choose as different controls draw more current than others. Most new controls come with a new transformer.

I am purchasing a used home that has an ADT system already installed. The home has been vacant for a few months, and the alarm system is no longer being monitored. Is it possible to have the alarm system set a local alarm (horn, siren, etc) off in lieu of having the system monitored by a service?

Yes, your ADT system can be set up by any local tech to be a local alarm only. You would have to pay a tech to reprogram the system so that it wouldn’t go into a trouble condition when it looks for a dial tone.

I would not recommend such a setup as it would be like having a house without a door in the doorframe. Instead I would get an ADT authorized dealer to add some additional equipment to the existing system and program your system all for no charge in return for the monitoring service. (You may have to pay a $99.00 activation fee!)

This way you will have a better system than you already have, lessons on how to use it, a warrantee on all of the equipment, a move policy, an insurance discount on your homeowners and most important the help you need when you need it.

Remember the system is not just to protect your property. Through ambush codes, police, fire and medical panic buttons along with an early warning if someone is in your home, you will protect yourself and your loved ones.

I was wondering if having call notes on the same phone that my ADT security system uses would affect any call that needed to be made to the command center by the system, if in fact there were messages on the phone causing the alert to beep and thereby depriving the system of a dial tone for a short period of time.

Your call notes mailbox should not affect your transmission line at all. Your ADT system should be set up for what is called “line seizure.” This would prevent any event with the phone line from interrupting a needed dial tone for the control panel. The main phone interface is run directly to the control and relayed back to the first phone in the home or business. When the alarm is violated the relay closes, seizes the line for its own use and then releases when finished.

A way to check this is to open the phone line and then set off your alarm. The phone should go dead within 15 seconds because it is seized. Let the alarm sound for about 30 seconds so that they don’t receive a restore signal, the monitoring station should call you and ask for your password. (Be sure to hang up the phone after it goes dead so they can call you)

If during this test the phone line stays open and you hear the alarm trying to dial out on it, you will need to have the phone line wired properly by your installing dealer in order to gain protection in this area. The only equipment needed is an RJ31x jack (about $5.00) and an installer that knows what he/she is doing. They may charge you a service charge depending on how long it’s been since it was installed, but charge or no charge it is worth having. In my opinion a quality dealer would have made sure this was in place on every installation.

We recently signed up for a system and monitoring by APX ALARM - still don't know a lot about them but they seem to check out. My home was prewired and set up with a DSC system, APX replaced it with an ADEMCO/Honeywell VISTA-20P. They added a few wireless devices (fobs, fire and 2 Motions) - the question is whether I can replace the 20P's with ADEMCO's 6270's? I don't believe that APX carries them (although I don't know if they would install them for us?), but I can get them (eBay or elsewhere) and easily install the keypad myself. Do I have to do anything special with the monitoring people when I install it?

Your alarm company APX Alarm is a national company with 80,000 clients and memberships in all the appropriate professional organizations. They have been around since the late 90′s and promote free installs in return for monitoring agreements as do some of the largest security firms in the world. They certainly did right by you in their choice of installing the Vista 20P, as it is one of the controls recognized as on the highest end of the quality spectrum. It cost them more to put in than many of the other choices available to them.

The Vista 20P now supports up to (2) 6270 or 8132i Graphic Touchpads. You can find them on E-Bay, as you already know, or you can buy direct from sources such as: www.safe-mart.com or www.homesecuritystore.com

We had 5 windows replaced and a security repair company came and replaced the 5 switches and a glass breaker. I was charged 175.00 for parts, 10 dollars a switch and 125 dollars for the glass breaker. The repairman was in our home for 70 minutes and the bill was $272.25. The internet says a switch is 2 dollars and a glass breaker is 21 dollars. These are between 500 and 600 percent markups. How would you rate this company on their 70 minutes in our home?

The prices you paid are considered fair. The $10 per switch is low end as most charge $25.00 and up. The glass break is mid priced, as I have seen them go for $159.00. As per the cost of materials, the contacts are 2-4 dollars each and the glass break is dependant on the sophistication of the chosen model. Although I have seen the lowest end models sell for around $30 the better units cost about $65.

Since alarm companies are in business to make a profit, I think that you paid fair market value. As per the service charge for labor, You paid what is considered usual cost. $75.00 for the first hour with a 1 hour minimum and then billed in 1/2 hour increments for any portion of a half hour stay, seems to be the industry standard for quite some time now.

Although I don’t see what you paid as a great deal or discounted price, I would not feel that I was gouged. Today’s alarm company has to pay top dollar to keep a quality installer on payroll as there is a great shortage of trained personnel.

Our new house is almost finished and now is the time to install the system. Alarm Force has changed its tune, now they're telling me they don't have anyone to install the system since we're located outside of their service area and since the system is so easy to install, I can do it myself, plus they're charging me for everything, including the delivery of the system and a year service pre-paid, total cost $967. I like the two way communication system they have. Is there any one in the Jefferson area, NC that you can suggest for this type of system?

I would call Monitronics, an ADT authorized dealer and/or Brinks. All 3 offer 2 way voice promotional systems at little to no charge in return for your monitoring agreement. It is simply a matter of negotiating the most and best quality equipment and the best price for any additional equipment you need.

With ADT just fill out the internet offer on Experts referral offer. An authorized dealer will contact you with an Experts Quality estimate and of course without obligation or charge.

If you want to talk to a top quality independent who may be able to help you or refer you to someone in his network call Keith Grayer at ABC Alarm Solutions in Charlotte, NC he is tops in the area:
Keith Grayer
www.abc4solutions.com
P.O. Box 217219 Charlotte, NC 28217
Phone 704-200-3561
Nextel 150*135337*6

We had an individual come to our door from APX Honeywell who wanted to install an alarm system in our home for free. Is this a scam or is this a quality alarm system? If they're going to use the same wiring I currently have for my 14 year old system, is it really worth trying?

APX is a legit company who offers systems door to door. They are no different then companies like ADT and Monitronics in that they are willing to give you a system in return for the monitoring contract which is for 36 months.

Honeywell is the manufacturer of the controls and components that they install. The important thing is that the company APX is the mastership that buys the agreement, but the dealer that sells and installs it is an independent. You want to know about the installing company.

As for using the old wires, this is common practice but you want a written estimate of all that’s included and what it will cost to repair any additional wires and parts above the promised system. If you are careful, they will not be in a position to take advantage of you and you will be happy with your new system.

Proper research and asking for what you need could get you a pretty nice system for very little out of pocket.

My alarm company was out to do some updates to my system and they discovered that my alarm was not connected to my phone line. The alarm company tech said that the wrong filters were on the line. How is that possible when the last time the phone company was here was 2 years ago when I installed DSL? Wouldn't my alarm company be alerted if my phone line was disconnected? I've been paying a monthly charge and I feel that either the phone company or my alarm company should reimburse me since I was not getting what I have been paying for. Not sure which one is at fault here.

I can understand your frustration, however you have nobody to point fingers at in this situation. When you add DSL to your phone line it is important that you contact your alarm dealer to notify them, so that you can have a DSL filter installed. You would have known this much sooner if you have a regiment of testing your alarm system monthly. To test you call the monitoring station and tell them you are testing your system. They should ask you for your code word and how long you will be in test. After you set off the alarm, let the siren sound for at least 15 seconds. Shut your alarm down with the code, and call in to see if the test signals were received. Don’t forget to tell them you are done testing.

The phone companies are starting to tell people of the need for filters as a courtesy these days but are under no obligation to do so. If you read the agreement on your alarm monitoring, you should be able to find wording that states you will call if any work is done to your phone line and you will test your system monthly.

Remember, you would have paid for monitoring and not needed it even if it was working. Please test your system often!

Looking for some help regarding an Alarm Manufacturer or Alarm Company that offers the Windows Screens for sale. I live in the Chicagoland area, I had a rep out to my house late last year from Alarm Company ADT and he stated that they no longer offer Window Screens for Security due to problems with them. Can you point me to someone else that offers them and supports them?

Smart move looking into alarm screens. If you can afford them, they are my favorite perimeter device. It is important that you understand the difference between your local corporate dealerships and your local privately held alarm dealers. You mentioned that an ADT guy in your town said they don’t do screens anymore because they are too much trouble. We have no way of knowing but my guess is he was from a privately held ADT authorized dealer. His dealership makes money by keeping it simple and signing customers up for 3 years of monitoring in return for the basic equipment. Since they don’t do screens, he says they are too much trouble as a ploy to look ethical. Believe me that ADT corporate or one of its quality authorized dealers would very likely have the desire to sell you screens.

There are likely several ADT authorized dealers in your town. The ones that have the training and talent to build, install and monitor your screens are the ones that also do custom systems. No matter if it’s a well recognized name or a company you never heard of, you don’t know the abilities of the alarm dealer till you ask them some questions.

I would check your local yellow pages and call some of the dealers that do CCTV, intercoms, access control, gates etc. because they are more likely to do more than the most basic systems. Even if these companies have a recognizable name attached to them, they could be a name brand dealership program and a custom alarm dealer at the same time.

You can also have the screens made and shipped direct, thus cutting out the middle man as alarm companies rarely make screens themselves and use these companies also. Any alarm company worth earning your business would be more than happy to run wires to or put a transmitter on your existing screens.

Once you pick a company, check for membership with a recognized industry association like NBFAA (National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association), State regulatory commissions (Most states require licensing for alarm companies), and the BBB (Better Business Bureau). Here’s a good resource: www.securityscreens.com

Should we home run a 22/2 to each door of a French door set? Or, should we home run to one door and jump a wire to the second door so they are in series?

I would series the the second side of each french door as you would want it on the same zone as the other side anyway.

I recently bought a new home. The house is pre-wired for an alarm system. The company drilled 3/4 inch holes in the door jams and sills of my house and I can see the wires in the holes. I would like to install 3/8 inch magnetic contacts. Is there some sort of plug that I can use to insert the 3/8 inch reed switch into and then insert this 'plug' into the 3/4 inch hole? Where could I get them?

You can buy the 3/8 inch press to fit contacts, retail from places like Radio Shack or wholesale from The Security Store. They are about $3.00 each. (Contact & Magnet are a set)

Twist and tape the individual wires of the contact with the 2 conductor wires at each of your pre-wired points. Continuity does not matter as this is a circuit wire and has no voltage. Use quality electrical tape to wrap individually and than as a whole (keep it tight so it fits down in the hole).

These contacts come in white and brown. Save the magnets, as they will have to be glued with silicone in the window frames or placed in the doors of your home to close the contacts.

Since your pre-drilled contact holes are 3/4″ they do sell the 3/4″ plastic plugs with a 3/8″ hole in them. They are called “Steel Door contact Spacers.” If you already have the 3/8″ contacts that would be the way to go. If you don’t already have the 3/8″ press to fit contacts, then you should be advised that they sell a 3/4″ press to fit contact.

Here is Security Stores information on the press to fits that fit your pre drilled holes: SD70 – Steel Door Contact and Magnet; 3/4″ Diameter Contact and Magnet for Steel Doors. Rugged one piece construction; 1″ Gap; Price: $4.75 Qty

I have a wireless alarm system. I live near the ocean on a hill in Nassau Bahamas, so the salt content in the air is very high. The frames for my alarmed windows are constantly corroding. What can I do to stop this? It seems I'll be replacing the screens every year at this pace.

I spoke with Steve at National Security Screens. They manufacture a fiberglass and Teflon screen that is weather resistant in salt conditions. His screens average 15 years in your conditions. Go to the website for more info about them: www.securityscreens.com

If you did not want to replace your screens, I would recommend a periodic cleaning and spray with a corrosion protection product. Here is one I like: www.greatlakescorrosion.com

Here is a manufacturer of metallic but non-corrosive screens in the UK: GriffinGuard. The chrome stainless steel mesh, a strong but relatively thin material, means it is less likely to rust than similar competitive products. Salt spray corrosion tests on ordinary galvanized products show they fail due to the exposed steel created by the punching process. With Griffin Guard punching has no effect on the integrity of the chromium product. www.access-security.co.uk

I am interested in activating an existing alarm system. I have had three estimates from ADT, Guardian, and Brink's. Two questions, first, should I get an estimate from anyone else? Second, which company has the best response time? Guardian expressed that theirs was 14 sec compared to ADT's 2-3 minutes. Can you elaborate?

Usually 3 bids will give you the direction you are looking for. If you wanted to get a few more I would consider Alarm.com & Monitronics.

ADT is the largest of all alarm companies in the world. If you take the next 14 companies and put them in one basket, they are 40% the size of ADT. ADT has 5.5 million subscribers and 22.500 full time employees. They have a 60 second guaranteed response average, and accomplish that by having 5 major monitoring facilities spread all over the USA. They have the employee power to handle the volume.

Brink’s is the second largest, with 1 station near Dallas, Texas. They have 3000 full time employees and 921,000 subscribers. Brink’s is a household name as well, and are known for providing a quality service.

Guardian is #12 and has 1 station in Pittsburgh, PA. They have 376 full time employees and 140,000 subscribers. The industry average for dispatch is 13 minutes. I find it hard pressed to believe that Guardian could boast a dispatch time so much better then the dealers who have the manpower and facilities to stand behind such a claim.

I'm considering getting a cat but have concerns that it will set off the motion alarm even if I purchase pet immune detectors. I have heard that if they jump on furniture or countertops that they can set them off. From what I understand cats like to do this. How can I have a cat and a working motion detector system? Please explain if this is going to be possible. Sadly, if I have to make a choice, it is going to be my alarm system.

Pet immune motion detectors work just fine with one cat. The detectors are pet immune on the middle and lower levels of beams. The only beams that the cat can get into, that will set off the alarm, are the highest beams. These beams are about 6ft high. Your alarm company will be restricted as to what area these high beams hit, so that your cat can’t enter a beam when it gets up on ledges or high furniture. This will still allow a nice trap on the interior of your home, while you are out. If your alarm dealer is not talented enough to mask certain high beams from obvious cat hot spots, find one that is. I can assure you that I have placed hundreds of pet immune motion detectors in homes with one pet. I have always had success with these properly installed applications. If you have or plan more than one pet, you will have to use the alternative, “Glass Break” detectors in your home.

I am installing wires in new construction for a future alarm system. Do I need a separate wire from each window/door to the master alarm location, or can I wire multiple locations in series then back to the box? If it is one wire for each opening, I will have about 15 leads going to the central alarm location.

I would home-run each door, creating the ability to have different time delays and chimes. You can run windows in series, but remember to break them by room, so you can define openings, violations and bypass zones.

Anything you home-run can be put in series at the control, giving you flexibility as you expand your system. The average system comes with 8 zones out of the box and can be expanded to 32.

Windows & Doors 22G. two conductor
Motions & Glass-breaks & Keypads 22G. four conductor
Smokes 18 G fire wire
Sirens 18 G two conductor

Mark location of each wire on light color electrical tape at a place on the wire, that you will not cut off when tying into control; Run an 8 or 12 conductor up to the attic for future upstairs expansion; Ground to the electricians ground stake 18G.solid; Run a four conductor stranded out to the telephone interface; A 2nd keypad in the master is always desirable.

We have an existing log home. We were not advised to have our logs pre-drilled for an alarm system and we could not afford a system when our home was constructed. We would like to have one installed, but the entire downstairs is solid log. The upstairs is framed and sided with log siding. We need a creative approach to an affordable alarm system: possibly part wired, part wireless. I have contacted many alarm companies that have no idea what to suggest.

I trenched for the wires with the chinking and re-chinked over the wires. The logs can be carved flat in the places you want to mount the keypad, motion detectors etc. You can mix in a receiver and wireless components in the places you just can’t get to, but you want to use the best equipment money can buy when it comes to wireless. Other companies will not know what to do for you, because they don’t run many wires. The custom independents in your area that have creative wire technicians will have no problem helping you get it done properly.

My business phone lines are easily accessible by a potential burglar. How will a break-in message get to me or my monitoring service if there is no phone service?

You will be notified if you are on the premise when the phone line is cut if you have a line fault monitor on your system. This will sound the siren so that you and the potential burglar will be warned.

As far as having it monitored, You can add a cellular backup communicator. (This is what most jewelry stores, banks etc. do) When the phone line gets cut the signal goes out over cellular networks. Many cities also have long range radio communications available. (This signal goes out over a digital radio transmitter). Another way and the most expensive of the three is a McCullough Loop. (This is a line that is monitored at the central station at all times.) When the power goes down on the phone line a dispatch is made.

Check out long range radio at the following link: Radio Alarms.

After having my van broken in to I would like to know if there is a detector that would work outside, wired in to my house alarm. Something like a beam that could be set up between my two fences.

There are driveway alert motions you can put outside, that will let you know someone has entered your area inside the house. These are never tied to your home alarm system as they would cause many false alarms if a child or animal crossed the beams.

If you would like to put a wireless dual technology motion or glass break detector inside your van, it can be tied to your home system and work within 500 feet of your home.

If your home alarm is hardwired you will need a wireless receiver to capture the signal from your motion or glass break detector. If it is wireless it already has a receiver, but you have to use the same brand wireless device. Here is a link for driveway alarms: Driveway Alarms.

I have an existing intruder alarm system. After an electrical storm, one of the passive movement sensors still picks up movement (and its light comes on) but does not show this on the key-pad. However, its tamper switch lights up that zone on the key-pad when activated by removing the sensor cover. There is a resistor connected where the sensor cable connects (like all the others). Can you say: is the sensor or the resistor or that zone on the key-pad faulty?

Check to see if the damage was done to the detector relay, detector power, control panel, and then the resister, in that order.

1st get a meter and see if the relay on the detector is working. Place it on the green and white NO or NC (depending on which way it was wired) circuit at the detector and see if it changes when you move your hand in front of the detector.

If that does not work check to see if there is power (VAC) at the detectors black and red wire terminals (If no power, check power supply fuse in control).

2nd check the Circuit in the control by removing the motion circuit wires and placing a jumper between the zone circuit that the motion was tied to the control. Does placing the jumper on and removing it, change the status light on your keypad? If this works, replace your resister (take note of the color bands on it for replacement). If not, series the motion onto a zone that is working and bypass the bad zone on the control.

I have a detached garage (about 10' away from my home), the garage has only 1 entrance (door) and no windows. I would like to put an alarm in that would sound a loud siren if someone were to get in through the door (don't need police to be called as they are 20 min away anyway) and by that time the neighbors or me will be there with guns drawn! I have heard that motion detectors don't work well if it gets cold and my garage is not insulated. Also, I don't mind a hardwired system as my garage is unfinished and wiring would be easy. The only thing that worries me is that if they were to break in, my box is right next to the door. I'm not sure if cutting the wires would stop the alarm from working. Also, I really want to avoid any falsies, as waking the neighborhood and family up at 3 AM needlessly wouldn't make me any friends! Any help would be great!

The range on quality wireless equipment is approx. 250′ I would put the control and siren inside the house with you, and place the wireless detectors out in the garage. If motion is your device of choice a dual technology detector works on Passive Infrared and Doppler technology. During very cold and hot periods the PIR will go to sleep but the Doppler will still look for air movement. You can also use door contacts alone since you have no windows. Cutting an alarm wire would violate the control as if the break in had occurred. Consider using a strobe light outside to let the burglar know that they have violated a system and not disturb your neighbors. I like the DSC 1555 or 832 and the Ademco Vista 10 or P20 systems. These parts are very inexpensive and available from the Security Store. Home Security Store Hardwired equipment is less costly, but why not have the system in your house and add devices to protect it from uninvited quests as well.

Travel alarms are an important thing to pack. The hotel rooms have no policy of changing the locks after the last occupant vacated the room. Most rooms are easily entered as a result. Do you have any recommendations for security in hotels?

I travel often, I always lock my valuables in the office safe when I’m out of the room. I use the manual door latch when I’m inside the room. I purchased a travel air volume alarm at the link below, it works great! It detects an opening of any door or window and sounds off when there is a change. I can set it to just flash a light also. safetyenforcement.com.

Do you know how to change the alarm code on a Astec alarm? I recently bought an apartment and I dont know the code for the alarm. The guy who had it before me has forgotten the code.

All control panels have a way to boot the memory to factory conditions by following the instructions in the book. This will allow you to enter new codes. Every system is different so you need to locate the installers book from your alarms manufacturer. AlarmsBC.com has a great site with all the manuals they have been able to collect posted for download.

I was wondering what the best wireless home alarm is out there, Maybe GE? I would rather buy my own system, so that I will not be locked into a monitoring contract. Then I could use it just when I go on trips or just use it for a month or two. If not what system could I use that would maybe call my neighbor or my cellphone. I really only need an alarm a few weeks out of the year.

If you have decided that you are interested in protecting your things and less interested in protecting yourself and your loved ones, I would advise you to reconsider your security plan. However here are my thoughts for your consideration.

GE is a relatively new player in the wireless alarm scene, however there are many alarm dealers putting their trust in it due to the companies solid reputation in the electronics industry. Ademco has been in the business the longest and DSC has some great user features and longer distances on the transmitters. Whichever system you decide to go with I would advise you to look for a few “must have features.”

  1. Separate components such as control, keypad, siren etc. will avoid loosing all, if the keypad is smashed off the wall.
  2. Licensed frequency on the transmitters and receiver, as to avoid common frequencies like 900mg. This will avoid interference from other household devices.
  3. Polling capability will enable the control to check if the devices such as contacts and motion detectors, etc. are working. The less expensive units are operating on blind faith and may give you a false sense of security.

With wireless equipment there is a large range of quality out there. I can simplify your search by assuring you that when it comes to wireless security equipment, you usually get what you pay for! Check out this company’s product: Alarm.Com. It seems to be just what you say you are looking for. I have no personal experience with it other than being intrigued by the research I have done on the offer, and a feeling that they are going to do well filling a niche, that you seem to be leaning towards.

I have a vista 20-se system that was put in about 5 years ago. My township did an inspection and found that the system was not grounded. I see the ground terminal is empty and was curious if you know how this system can be grounded safely.

Alarms are best grounded to the exact spot and clamp that the electricians ground to on the grounding stake outside the house (often by the phone interface). You should use 18 G. or lower solid wire.

Many alarm companies run the ground to a grounding clamp on the closest cold water pipe. Although this is a qualified ground it is improper in my opinion and does not offer the best transient lightning protection.

I have a Brink's security system model BHS-2000F and I hate the touchpad. You can't push a button without a beep. If your code is four numbers you have to listen to four beeps and then there is the very loud, long, annoying beep that happens when you hit the set button to alarm the house. Is there any way to bypass this beeping sound so we can push the keypad buttons silently?

Brink’s has their systems built for them exclusively. This assures that they are proprietary systems and nobody else can get their hands on the programmers needed to make any changes. Some of their models can be programmed to not allow the keypads to beep during pre-selected hours. Others don’t have this option.

If you call Brink’s then they can make this adjustment for you if your system allows it. Nobody else but Brink’s should have the programmer needed to do it for you. If you want to disable the beep permanently, you can take the keypad off the wall and snip one of the wires that goes to the piezo speaker just under the little sound hole on the keypad cover.

Remember that if you do this it will not count down your exit time audibly or remind you to disarm when you come in. You will also not be able to tell if there was a violation audibly from that keypad before entering the premise and looking at the keypad.

You could also put a piece of electric or duct tape over the sound hole reducing the volume of the beep to an acceptable level.

I live in Sunny California and it can get pretty hot in my attic. However, that would be the best place for me to put my control unit. I was told that the components might stop working if it gets too hot. Is this true? Do I need to worry about this?

I have installed hundreds of controls in the attics of Houston early in my career, without any problems. The only other components I would consider putting up there is the transformer and a 190 degree or hotter rate of rise heat sensor.

I will admit I hated servicing alarm systems that were in such places as that is where you have to go to troubleshoot the devices that are down in the house. and would prefer dropping the wires into a closet whenever possible.

Add a contact to the closet door to add a safe zone that also protects the control if you like. You can create a secret bypass switch out of a normal light switch, so you can enter the safe closet at will.

Just curious on what you know about CPI Security. They are based here in North Carolina and are in a lot of the new home Builds in the area. They seem to be on the up and up but any information is appreciated.

CPI (Crime Prevention Inc.) is a large alarm company based in Charlotte, NC with large offices in 3 additional locations around the state. My research shows that they own their own UL listed monitoring station and have active memberships in all the proper industry organizations such as the National & State Alarm Associations, National Central Station Association and the BBB.

They are proud enough of their installations to guarantee that you will never have a false alarm fine or they will pay it! Their BBB report shows a satisfactory rating which is it’s best recommendation. More important is the fact that any complaint that was listed was resolved promptly, which shows concern over customer care.

They have been in business for 31 years and registered with the BBB since 91. They have many charitable community associations which show them actively returning to the community. They have 315 employees and have each registered with the State Private Protective Services. This means that their employees go through extensive background searches.

CPI is very active in the Builders Association and this is why builders use them in new construction. Although I have no direct knowledge of this company other than the research I have done, I would consider doing business with them based on the information I have gathered. They seem like they are capable and have a large enough presence to be worthy of the business they do in NC.

I am considering three different security companies. They are Brinks, ADT, & Slomins Shield. I wanted to know, from your professional opinion, which company is the best to go with and the reason why you think this. I have just heard mixed reviews from a lot of the neighbors, so your input would help a lot.

There are too many variables involved in order for us to pick one of the three out of a hat. Here are some facts that will tell you why it is important to review the best offer from each and make an educated decision.

Both Brinks and ADT work off Corporate Sales and Authorized Dealership Programs. These “Authorized Dealers” are independently owned and operated alarm companies who sell the monitoring contracts they sign up to ADT or Brinks Corporate. Out of these two choices Brinks are mostly corporate owned offices around the country with a smaller number of authorized private dealerships. ADT is mostly authorized dealers with corporate presence in the larger cities (In the residential market).

ADT has 5 monitoring stations around the country and so has always had a built in redundancy system due to the multiple stations and that is considered a good thing. Brinks have always had two monitoring stations in Texas and has just opened a third in a different state.

Both ADT #1 in the Nation and Brinks #2 in the Nation, are only as good as the independent dealer that installs you if using an authorized dealer. I know of some that are the finest and only deal in top quality equipment and service and some dealerships with both that frankly are disgraces to the industry. In either case you get quality monitoring, so the work to be done is finding out what quality equipment and install your local dealership is willing to supply you with. The more you know the more you get. When you deal with the corporate offices of both, you get consistency in the proprietary equipment you get, as opposed to the authorized dealers who choose which equipment they like to work with. However with the best authorized dealers you might even get better equipment.

Slomins is a family owned business out of Hicksville New York that works the Eastern Seaboard. They are actually a Heating and Air Conditioning company that had the forethought to offer alarms to their very large customer base. Since then they have grown tremendously and are #6 in the Nation as per SDM’s Annual top 100 alarm companies report. That is outstanding for a company that started out as a heating fuel company in Long Island NY and must be due to their mom and pop mentality, driving their growth. They are installing aprox 30,000 new customers per year. They have 2 monitoring facilities in Connecticut and Manhattan.

ADT & Brinks ask for a 36 month contract for monitoring (24 in California) with a move clause that will give you a like system if you move after 6 months in return for a new agreement. At that time you are no longer responsible for the old agreement. They cover the whole country and many other places as well. Slomins asks for a 5 year agreement and has a fee for moving within that time period if you will be moving in their service area.

After considering these differences, you should simply negotiate the best quality equipment you can with each. I would also check the BBB for the performance of the installing authorized dealership you are considering.

After all that is sorted out, all three can provide you and your loved ones with quality UL listed monitoring at anywhere from $25.00 to $39.00 per month. All 3 would be willing to give you free equipment and install in return for your monitoring contract and a $99.00 activation fee in some cases.

How long have Alarm Systems been around? Do you have any information on the earliest Systems? Any information you can share with me would be helpful.

Security alarms have been around for centuries in one form or another. The earliest ones were simple strings ran across doorways with cans or a bell to advise the resident of a violation.

Many persons built steps leading to the home with a burglar step of a different and unexpected measurement every so often in the sequence, this would cause anyone who was not use to going up and down the steps to trip and hopefully make noise.

Farmers and ranchers incorporated certain animals into their security plans. Geese are famous for making noise when someone comes around.I guess that’s a big reason that many cultures employ dogs as house pets these days.

The earliest modern system to the best of my knowledge began simultaneously with the invention of the telegraph system over 120 years ago. American District Telegraph would expect a signal to be sent from banks and other guarded facilities on the 1/2 hour. If the OK signal was not sent on time the Sheriff would be dispatched (also via telegraph) to the site. This early company is still in business and goes by the acronym ADT.

In more recent years, simple relays were used to design systems that would cause a closing of an electronic circuit if a device opened or closed. The invention of the microchip and the processors they control have changed the industry in ways we could have never imagined just a few years ago.

I am replacing the storm and screen windows in my house and just heard about window screen alarm systems. Where can I find out more about this type of system?

Window Screens are one of my favorite alarm devices. I posted an article about them, and you can read it on our alarm articles page. (7th article down) Alarm Screens. After you read it I will be happy to answer any additional questions you might have.

I have 5.8ghz cordless phone with answering machine. The phone works fine but when you try to leave a message the caller only gets squeaking high pitch noise instead of greeting message before they can leave a message. I have a home security system and I was suspecting that may be the reason for the trouble, is this possible?

Yes it is possible. The way to check is to go to the alarm control (Main Box) and unplug the phone cord from the jack that was installed next to it or in it. Make a call to your answering machine from a cell phone or other line, if the problem still exists, it is your phone and not the alarm. If it goes away I would suspect that you added DSL to your phone service after the alarm was installed. You will need a DSL filter installed at the alarm control if this is the case.

Are there any alarms on the market that will not only set off an alarm but also take still or video pictures when activated. To me this would make sense, so that the Police have a better chance of ID'ing.

This technology has been around for quite some time and is very affordable. You can now purchase a combo video camera / motion detector and transfer the picture over your PC to the monitoring station and or police. Here is a link to a nice example of some of the great products that are available for you: Video Motion Detectors. I like the units that look like a clock or an air purifier. These units are even wireless.

What is your suggestion for home alarm system that will work best with VoIP? I am using ADT now and I just change my phone to VoIP and realized that my ADT system doesn't work with VoIP.

The best system I have found to use when using VoIP does not depend on phone lines of any type. Check out their site at Alarm.Com to see if service is offered where you live. If you are not in an area that they serve, look into one of the alternative sources such as cellular communicators or separate phone lines with minimum usage, for whatever system you choose. VoIP is not a dependable service for alarm communication yet. I suspect that this will change as new technologies are discovered in the near future. Another company that is taking the lead on the Alarms & VoIP battlefield is NextAlarm.

I have an existing Ademco 4140xmp wired system that came with the house I bought. I am tired of running to the keypad to disarm/arm the system and wanted to use a wireless key fob. Can this be done and is it a DIY job?

If your Ademco 4140 xmp system is already wireless, you will simply need an Ademco brand wireless remote. If your system is hardwired you will need both a wireless receiver and remote. Note: If there are wireless transmitters on your doors, it would be probable it is already wireless. Either way there are programming sequences that are necessary to get your system to recognize the desired functions of the remote, such as on, off, on in the stay mode and panic. If your alarm is being monitored, there are also programming entries needed for reporting of the panic modes. All the programming manuals are available if you are savvy when it comes to reading and understanding technical manuals. If not, you would be better off having an alarm dealer do it. Approx cost of DIY: Remote- $30.00 Receiver- $75.00 Approx cost of alarm dealer install should be: $275.00 Place where you can purchase online: Home Security Store

I've got a defective 3/8 door contact, do you got a trick to remove it?

Pry up with a tiny flat head screwdriver just enough to get a pair if 5″ diagonal cutters around the cylinder. If it will not budge, screw a small sheet metal screw into the top of the contact, enough to use it as a leverage point to pull up on. Careful not to cut wires low enough so that you will have a hard time putting the new contact on.

I am interested in installing security window film (4-6 mil) on my home that will provide a few more minutes of delay should an intruder attempt to break through a window. I am also considering having glass break sensors added to the current system. My question is: How will the sensors capability be affected by the security window film, which holds broken glass together. Will the sensors still be able to detect the glass breaking?

It is my experience that the window blast film needs to be hit very hard several times to break through and is a great deterrent. Glass breaks come in several forms. If you are using audio sound discriminators that listen to the frequency of breaking glass milliseconds after a thud, you would most likely loose effectiveness by applying the film. It is not the glass hitting the floor that makes a frequency hit as much as it happens at the point of shatter. The film would likely muffle the cracking enough to prevent a proper frequency hit.

If you are using the shock sensors that detect vibration of the hit glass, the vibration would be enhanced by the need to hit harder to break the film. This would allow a technician to tune the shock sensors low, so that false alarms could be avoided during storms, etc. I would choose audio, without film 1st and shock, with film second.

As far as the technical side of things why is it that an alarm system cannot communicate over a VoIP system? And what is the filter that some alarm companies require? What does it do? I have been working with our Comcast Digital Voice product and have had many questions about alarm systems and why they need this filter. It is a true VoIP network from the embedded multimedia terminal adapter to our system then if needed goes to the telephone switched network. It never touches the open internet it stays on our own private network. I have been encountering more and more issues with security systems and have no one to go to for technical info that knows these systems and how they work.

On the Comcast digital voice product, the cable system works just fine with a DSL filter. This filter simply reduces any static on the line that may interfere with a digital signal being communicated to the receivers that decipher them. This is true of all DSL lines. On the true VoIP product that does take a digital signal and repackages the signal for broadband and then re-opens the digital packet on the receiving end there is liability in a few areas.

1st of all the signal comes through most of the time, but when there is a lot of activity the signal slows down just enough to distort the signal every so often. Since there is a possibility of the signal not being received when it may be a true emergency, no responsible alarm company would be willing to accept the signal.

2nd problem is in the use of line seizure. The phone lines are set up to be seized when the alarm needs a dedicated dial tone. This assures a clean line with nothing else attempting to use it, and distorting the signal. As cable is always active, there are many things between the alarm and receiving station that can place chatter on the line. Also the ability to shut down the line is destroyed by the fact that it is always on and no relay exists that would allow the alarm to shut it down, for its own use and nobody else’s.

I would like to get a home alarm system. However, I do not have a phone line. We have cell phones and high speed internet (through the cable company). What are my options for a home security monitoring system?

If your cable company provides a DSL service and not VoIP, your alarm can be monitored with just a DSL filter on the line. If it is VoIP (Voice over internet protocol) it can’t be monitored properly over the internet. You can add a cellular communicator to your system, however you will have to purchase the additional equipment and pay an additional monitoring cost. You can also order a minimum use phone line from your local Bell Co. and use it only for the alarm. If you are in or near a major city, some alarm companies monitor with long range radios. These are all of your options!

I am a fire investigator in Houston Texas. It has been asked of me many times in building fire that have no heat and smoke detector if the infrared motion detector should have detected smoke, flames or falling objects during the fire. If you have any insight on this I would certainly appreciate your input.

Over the years I have been asked this question many times by homeowners looking for ways to save money by not investing in a system monitored smoke detector. First I will give you a basic rundown on PIR technology.

Passive Infrared Motion Detectors — These detectors are also known as PIR detectors. The technology they utilize is “passive infrared.” The device is mounted on a wall or in the corner of a room. It sends invisible fingers out into the covered area in several layers.

The top layer goes the furthest and averages about 60 feet straight ahead and 35 feet on the sides. The center layer of beams spreads the area about mid way and the bottom layer sweeps the room closest to the detector.

These beams individually measure the infrared temperature of what ever they land on and look for a clash of temperature against that point. For example if a beam lands on your couch and knows what temperature it is, when you walk in front of the couch your temperature is different and causes a violation. You would be hard pressed to match the temperature of everything in your home as you walk about and that makes motion detectors hard to compromise.

Now pertaining to fire: It is possible that in the earliest stages of the fires development that the scenario you outlined in your question would trigger a violation. It is more likely however not to violate due to the fact that the operating range of the average PIR Motion detector is 30F to 110F. If the motion detector finds itself in conditions outside of this temp. range, it will go to sleep, as it can no longer recognize the defining temperatures of each beams landing point. As you and I know the extreme temps. that occur in a house fire, it is likely that the temps are way outside the working range of the device by the time things start falling in that room. If the fire started in the room that the device is protecting and the alarm is armed, you would have a high probability but no guarantee of violation.

As an investigator you should keep in mind that 60% of alarm owners don’t arm their systems all the time, due to poor training by the installing alarm company. As opposed to fire devices such as smoke/heat detectors which are armed 24/7 a motion is only on while the system is on.

Motion detectors are wired NC which means “Normally Closed.” The device is a closed or shorted circuit and the relay opens the loop upon violation. This makes it highly improbable that the relay will open if the device melts. A smoke/heat on the other hand is wired NO “Normally Open” and will most likely short in the event of a fire melting the device. A fire device will detect rising heat and smoke long before getting to the melting point. A motion device detecting heat signature clashes is a crap shoot due to the rapidly declining range of normal operating conditions in the average fire.

I am building a new house and want to know if I can wire my garage doors for security contacts. There are a total of three of them. Also I have French doors in the master leading out to the patio. I was told I can wire one home run to the door and wire them in series…if this true…how do I wire in series?

Yes you can wire you Overhead Doors (OHD) and regular garage doors alike. If you are talking about the OHD’s I like the contacts to be about two ft. up on the right side track (looking out). Run an 18 or 22 G. two conductor wire to the first one. Leave about two feet of extra wire to work with. Run an additional wire to the next one. ( It will be seriesed before putting the contact on.) Repeat process to each door from the last. The contacts on the OHD are metal cased and have large magnets (so that the steel track will not keep them from working properly). They are called Overhead Door Contacts.

Remember: Your garage door when opened, will be activating your entry delay of the system. In order to eliminate a too long delay time, you will need a way of turning your system off sooner. Key chains and a wireless receiver or a keypad run into the garage will solve the problem.
If you are running a keypad it will be a 22 g. 4 conductor run to the control panel. To wire in series to an existing contact circuit, cut only one side of the existing 2 conductor and tap onto each side of the cut side with the new wire.

To do it with new runs, let’s assume our wires are black and red. Tie red of one wire to black of the next, tie black of that wire to red of the next etc. When you are done you have a daisy chain and you will tape each tie individually leaving only the ends to be tied to the wire that goes back to the control. This is a series circuit and will leave your devices NC (normally closed) which means that the circuit will be closed until something violates it (like opening the door) and then it will open. The alternative is a parallel circuit. All reds tied to reds and all blacks tied to blacks. This circuit is NO (Normally Open) and will be sitting open in normal conditions and close or short when it is violated. Most burglary devices are wired NC and most fire circuits are wired NO.