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Community and Q&A

Recommendations for Reliable and Affordable Wired Security System

beedigs | Posted in General Questions on

Hi! New build project, needing input on what wired security system to use, that includes a way to know whether a window has been opened.  Not particularly keen on one with a subscription, but open to any system that has it as long as monthly subscription doesn’t exceed $10…Nest system looks sleek but $$$$. thanks for helping!

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  1. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #1

    I think almost all alarm systems these days are tied in with central station monitoring, which is where the monthly fee comes from. I use ADT myself, and the monthly fee is mostly offset by the savings on my homeowner's insurance policy which gives a discount when you have a monitored alarm system. Chances are good your insurance carrier also offers that discount, so be sure to check -- you might find it makes the effective cost of the monitoring only a few bucks a month. Monitoring is worth it.

    I prefer wired systems too, and made sure the ADT guys put in a wired system -- their normal systems are wireless. All the equipment is made by DSC, which is a Canadian security equipment manufacturer and pretty well known. I'd suggest you look at their stuff, which is readily available both new and used.


    1. woodguyatl | | #3

      The monitoring is optional for the Ring system at least.

  2. jberger | | #2

    Just an FYI, you need a certified alarm monitoring company to receive the insurance discounts and in some cases to secure the actual policy, so you will end up paying for monitoring in most of the time.

    Monitoring is where most of the security companies make their profits so even the *free systems, end up costing a lot over time.

    In the past, wired systems were the way to go, but the newer wireless units are a fraction of the cost to install and work incredibly well. Things like add on sensors are cheap and easy to add so you end up with more coverage in the areas you care about. I added several leak sensors since they were cheap ($35) and in 2 years those saved me from a overflowing condensate pan, leaking water heater and a leaking washing machine valve. It's not that I couldn't do that with another brand, but it was so cheap and easy to add the sensors I could afford more "cheap coverage" in those areas.

    I'm using Ring in our new house and the entire system works better than the wired system in our old house (GE Concord4). The only thing missing from Ring's device collection is a good heat rise detector, they've got everything else covered with low cost sensors that just work.

    It's $100 for monitoring and if you add cameras that annual fee includes the camera cloud recording too. So for $8 a month you get a certificate of coverage for your insurance company, 24/7 monitoring, camera recording, and extended hardware coverage and includes free Celluar backup for when the internet is out. The other systems just can't compete with that price.

    The entire Ring system cost less than my dealer cost for DSC/Honeywell equipment. As long as you are paying for monitoring, they will replace any dead or failing hardware as part of the service.

    What you won't get is heat rise detectors or partitioning for outbuildings, etc.
    If you have to have wired, they do offer a wired zone retrofit kit for the Ring Gen2 systems but I have no experience with it. I just put the ring on top of the old DSC panel and went all wireless instead, installation took less than 2 hours for everything and it's been rock solid.

    1. beedigs | | #4

      thanks for sharing..didn’t know there’s so mich more perks with the ring system. i like the thought of wired over wireless because a) no need to replace battery, b) emfs that come with wireless equipment. what did u mean when u said u put the ring on top of the old DSC?

      1. Expert Member
        BILL WICHERS | | #5

        Wireless systems only signal when needed, they don't transmit constantly -- if they did, their battery life would be exceedingly short. The power levels involved are also very, very low. Wireless systems don't pose any safety risk.

        My own preference for wired systems is due to lack of need to replace batteries, and also due to certain concerns with jamming.


        1. Expert Member
          NICK KEENAN | | #6

          Do they transmit a low battery alert? I'd think there's be a big risk of sensors going off-line and nobody noticing.

          1. Expert Member
            BILL WICHERS | | #7

            Usually they transmit alarm, trouble, and low-battery signals. There might be a periodic heatbeat too, that I don't know, but I suppose I could check. They do NOT continously transmit anything though -- everything transmitted is event driven.


    2. Expert Member
      NICK KEENAN | | #12

      Thanks for the review. I have the Ring doorbell and I think it's thoroughly mediocre, the software just isn't well tuned to the limitations of the hardware. And certainly it doesn't live up to the marketing hype. Interesting that the security seems to work better.

  3. jberger | | #8

    Yes, the ring app shows the battery status of each sensor and you get a low battery notice well before they are drained. The App will notify you when the battery is getting low, and I think it will email you before it's completely discharged mine haven't gotten that low so I'm not certain how that works. I do know that the camera batteries will email you when they need to be changed, I've gotten those messages. Ring says up to 3 year battery life, so I will probably be swapping out some batteries late this year.

    The sensors send Tamper, battery status, sensor status, etc and each is logged for 60 days in the app, so you can look back and see the actions and messages.
    They do send heartbeats, but I don't remember what the interval is. I tested it when I put it in and never needed to try it again.
    You can change the notification settings per sensor, for open/close, motion, etc. so won't be swamped by notifications.

    The house we purchased had an existing alarm panel, but since we don't have POTS phone service, it wasn't able to connect for monitoring. I wasn't sure the Ring system would work well, so I decided to test things by locating the ring alarm panel directly above the existing alarm panel, that way I check things like the door sensor status from both panels at the same time to see how long it took the ring to display changes compared to the hardwired sensors.

    Hope that helps

  4. Mark_Nagel | | #9

    I have my own system that's based on cameras. I don't have anyone monitoring it (sorry, but people [managing the cloud servers] snoop on your cloud cameras). I get alerts on my phone. I'm a recovering tech geek, in which case I couldn't resist doing my own system!

    I would recommend some kind of motion sensor rather than something that's just based on a contact switch. People break windows to get in; if the switch is based on window frame position then the window frame hasn't been moved. I have motion sensor lights that work great at night; when the lights trigger my cameras will alarm: infrared lights on cameras attract bugs, which then trigger alarms (hence why I don't recommend infrared- I disabled on my cameras).

    My first line of security is my critters, geese and such. Second is my dog: she's keyed off the outside critters. Absolutely NO wires or cloud-based services required! :-) Layered on all this is my camera system. Security is about layers: nearly any single layer can be defeated.

    I'd advise to have some sort of power backup, especially if your mains power has a history of being less than 100% reliable. I have my Internet modem/router on a UPS (as well as my security cam server). If someone were to cut my power I'd know about it (and they'd be recorded!).

    Rule number one: Don't look like a target.

    I understand that people's situations and needs differ. Just wish to point out as much info so that folks have a wide plate to draw from.

    1. beedigs | | #13

      tnx so much!

  5. Expert Member
    BILL WICHERS | | #10

    >"Layered on all this is my camera system. Security is about layers: nearly any single layer can be defeated."

    That is exactly what I tell my customers professionally, along with the line "you can only make it difficult enough to get in that most people won't bother, someone really determined will find a way". I then tell them that "real" security is the "use of deadly force authorized" signs on many federal/military facilities, but most people can't use that. I did have one customer comment "we could use the SIGN though" :-) I thought that was funny, but advised them against it...

    For camera systems, I would advise some type of system that replicates it's data offsite. This prevents an intruder from covering their tracks by stealing your DVR system. I know the Ring system has this as part of the basic service. Many other DVR-based systems offer it as a feature too.


  6. woobagoobaa | | #11

    Here are the low voltage decisions I recently made for a gut reno underway just West of Boston. Driving requirements are the smoke/co alarms required by the town/insurance and the datacom network for the premises.

    Fire/smoke/CO/security (non-video). I went into this wanting a wired system. Resideo (Honeywell), DSC, DMP are often quoted kit. My reno will require 12+ smoke/CO sensors. Local providers wanted $7k-$9k installed (mind you the walls are open) + $50-$60/month for central station monitoring. Gasp. And the panels are a pain to program.

    So I started looking at the alternatives. Wireless sensor tech has gotten better in the last few years. I decided to go with DSC's Power G wireless kit. I did this as the Power G tech has similar capabilities as that used in many large scale electric utility metering systems. Sensor operating life of 3-ish years on a charge, much better range than WiFi, adjusts radio power to preserve charge, channel hops to avoid local RF interference, and the link is secured. To stay in the Johnson Controls/DSC/Qolsys family, I am using a Qolsys panel. The system is easily programmed and adding contact, motion etc. sensors is easy peasy.

    This equivalent "lick and stick" wireless kit can be purchased and self installed for a little more than $2K with no, self monitoring for $25/month, or central station monitoring for $35/month. $5K minimum savings on the install? I can deal with the batteries every three years.

    Data network. Pulling CAT6 liberally with the expectation that often there will be a PoE device at the end of the run (WiFi APs, IP cameras, etc.). I am using Ubiquiti Unifi kit for all of that as it is relatively affordable and does not require cloud services for management. Added benefit ... Unifi Protect video security completely on-prem with no subscription fees. Variety of reasonably priced and capable cameras. "DVR' component is PoE powered and the size of a small paperback ... easily hidden.

    1. beedigs | | #14

      tnx so much for sharing..could u pls share links to these products you’re using? i duno how to proceed from here...would probably hire someone for install but trying to self-educate so i know what system and products are best for our needs (and we won’t be jipped as much LOL

      1. woobagoobaa | | #16

        Yup solid copper all the way! As most of the money is in the labor, I would not today recommend pulling cat5e. Cat6 is the sweet spot price/performance/future. For ultimate future proofing, pull smurf tube (but more $$$).

      2. woobagoobaa | | #17

        Where are you located beedigs?

        1. beedigs | | #18

          houston area

    2. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #15

      You can save some money using cat5E. If you are thinking about future 10G service, run cat6A. Whichever you choose, BE SURE you are NOT using "CCA" (copper clad aluminum) wire, which doesn't meet ANY spec. The category specifications for network cabling specifically state that only solid copper wire is to be used, CCA is disallowed.

      I would also recommend running two cables to everywhere except access points and possibly cameras. I tell my customers "always put in at least one more cable than you think you need to each location". Most of the money is in the labor to install things, so it's not a big deal to add extras and they might be really handy in the future.


  7. user-5946022 | | #19

    Go over to reddit home security board and read up there.
    From my own limited research an Quyls (sp?) system. That will let you control it without a subscription, offer you the option for a subscription from multiple vendors (some as low as $12/m) and will connect to potential smart home systems. It will also let you combine wired and wireless sensors.

    Be careful with recessing wired alarm contact sensors in your windows and doors. Voids the window warranty. Some not so smart installers even drill the sill. If you insist on recessing wired sensors, at least put them on the jamb. Wireless have the thin strip sensor you can use in windows without voiding the warranty, without adding holes, and without seeing them.

    1. Expert Member
      BILL WICHERS | | #20

      Andersen, and probably others, offer wireless alarm sensors pre-installed and integrated into many of their windows. If you're getting new windows, this is a good option to have. You can still use wired sensors where needed on most systems, but use the wireless sensors to alarm all the windows.


    2. woobagoobaa | | #21

      The system I described was indeed the Qolsys IQ Panel 2 Plus using DSC Power G sensors. Working with which is based on The Qolsys requires cellular for either self or central monitoring, so monthly fee will be either $25 or $35. Billed monthly, no contract.

      1. Expert Member
        NICK KEENAN | | #22

        So I went to the Qolsys website, and it says "locate a dealer and call for pricing." I know why companies do that, but I hate it when they do. I wish they would give an indication of how much it's going to cost so I can decide if it's what I want before potentially wasting my time and the dealer's time.

      2. user-5946022 | | #23

        You are correct - I got the systems mixed up. I think you do have to pay something to even to self monitor. The Reddit people recommend which will let you self monitor for $14/m. There is another one you can do for $12/m but I did not bookmark it; for some reason I ruled it out.

        I guess the advantage of that is you have a "professional" system. You can install this system yourself. The Reddit people will point you to many websites that sell the equipment.

        If you really want to self monitor, you can set up your own wireless "open source" zwave system with a Hubitat, or similar. There are also alot of proprietary systems that allow self monitoring, such as goAbode. However they have limited functionality unless you start paying them a subscription.

        1. Mark_Nagel | | #24

          Another opensource package is Zoneminder (only available on Linux platforms). These solutions, of course, require that you're a participant (system administrator and such).

  8. garrybort | | #25

    I used to use a wired protection system. But recently, I liked the Vivint system. This includes wireless security cameras, alarms and SmartHome features. It's convenient for closing the door remotely. Also, each device is encrypted, so it's unlikely that any of their attackers will be able to crack the complex Vivint encryption system. No one can control this but me. My phone is the main control centre. And it's suitable for people of any age. Even an old lady can figure out how it works. I know that my neighbor installed this in his mother's house so that the automatic windows there would close themselves at night.

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