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Types of Home Security Systems: Hard-wired, Hybrid, Wireless and DIY Web-based

Hard-wired Systems

Since the 1990s, more and more houses are being built with security systems already hard-wired into place. Security systems tend to increase the assessed value of a home.  In some communities, homeowners associations often cover the monitoring costs.  These hard-wired systems can usually be upgraded or customized to more modern, integrated and/ or automated systems.  Conventional, hard-wired systems use electrical wiring to connect the sensors to the control panel; the alarm sirens are connected using low-voltage electrical wires that strategically placed throughout the walls and floorboards.  Any keypads or video surveillance equipment is also “hard-wired “ to the control panel.  Hard-wired security systems are tamper-resistant, if wired properly, meaning that because they form a closed-circuit, any damage to any part of the wiring, will trip the alarm. Hard-wired systems are typically designed to function with landlines, as opposed to digital cell phone or VoIP technology, although the latter, too, is possible. Newer homes are usually constructed with an alarm system in mind, since it can be quite costly to install a hard-wired system after a home has already been built.

Hybrid Systems

In the 21st Century, the security industry, along with just about every other industry, has gravitated from hard-wired (analog) toward wireless (digital) technologies, such as radio waves, infrared light and microwaves.   Today, over 27% of homes no longer have landlines, and this number is growing rapidly.  More than half of new security system installations use wireless technology.  “Hybrid” systems also have a strong niche in the market since they are compatible with both digital (wireless) and analog (hard-wired) sensors; while they do accept wireless sensors, the keypads and sirens are typically hard-wired to the control panel.  They, like hard-wired security systems, must be installed by a licensed security professional or electrician.  Some hybrid control panels, like the CellAlarm-IP can track up to 8 hard-wire zones as well as 32 wireless zones and take any type of sensor.

Wireless & Web-based Systems

Over 27% of households in the United States no longer have landlines - and this number is growing each year.  Wireless security systems are becoming more mainstream.  These are often more flexible (compatible with a variety of brands and transmission signals, which allows for greater freedom and leverage when choosing a monitoring provider); in addition, they boast more features than ever before, including remote (Broadband/ IP) monitoring, personal alarm and tracking devices and advanced video surveillance controls.  Wireless systems are easier to install and are portable, so they are ideal for people who are renting or not ready to invest in more permanent solutions.

The trend is for wireless systems to also be web-enabled, which in some systems means that the control panel is “virtual” and accessible using software on your home computer (and sometimes your cell phone).  The benefit to this is that security systems can be programmed remotely and customers can “co-monitor” or even “self-monitor” rather than hiring a central station to do it for them.  Not all customers who buy wireless systems choose this route. As wireless technology improves, more central stations are accepting UL certified wireless security systems while subsequently upgrading their own stations to be able to successfully handle digital technology.

Wireless networks are not invulnerable. Should they care to, hackers can bypass wireless communications safety protocols, like firewall protections, and gain access to private information.  Most secure protocols are currently proprietary, yet an attempt is being made to standardize the safety and efficacy of wireless transmissions. On the positive side, wireless security systems are much easier to install and often do not require a licensed professional (although connecting the system to a central station will).

Integrated Solutions

In addition to the selection of compatible accessories, wireless security systems are being designed to integrate with other home devices, like entertainment centers. In 2009 Alpha Networks debuted a home security and entertainment solution, which consists of home entertainment, monitoring and storage elements “for those who want a smarter and more convenient way of realizing a digital lifestyle.” Their software, called “Borg” provides an easy way for customers to integrate and control all their home appliances, including their security systems, stereo, TV and internet. 

There are so many different types of security systems on the market today that locating the right one can be a bit of a challenge. We are here to help you find a home security system that does what you want it to do without doing what you don’t need it to do, limits your exposure and liabilities and increases your general feeling of well-being.