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Wireless vs. Wired Security Systems

August 24, 2018

In this day and age, technology provides powerful protection for an affordable price. If you are serious about keeping your home safe, a fence, locks, and cameras aren’t going to cut it.

The Difference Between Wireless and Wired Security Systems

Wireless security systems are the next generation of security equipment, offering comprehensive protection, lower installation costs, and are easy to upgrade.

Essentially, a wireless security system is comprised of alarms, sensors, cameras and various detectors all connected to a main control panel via radio signals. 

Wired security systems use existing electric and telephone lines to connect their security system, making moving equipment and adding on additional elements a tedious process.

Security systems perform a whole host of critical functions, including:

  • Protecting against theft
  • Protecting against property damage or vandalism
  • Monitoring the traffic in and around your home
  • Guarding against intruders
  • Calling for help in the event of medical emergencies
  • Deterring criminals from breaking in
  • Keeping track of pets and young children

Home security can be approached in many different ways, using different types of sensors and equipment, which makes it a bit complicated to understand. To add to the confusion, many people have preconceived notions of what security methods are best based on anecdotal evidence or outdated information.

That’s why our focus is centered around the latest research and decades of security expertise.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  •      How wireless security systems work
  •      The pros and cons of a wireless security system
  •      Types of wireless security systems
  •      Essential features for your wireless security system
  •      Typical costs of a wireless security system

How do wireless security systems work?

Instead of wires, wireless systems -- including sensors, cameras, and alarms -- work using radio frequency technology to talk to one another.

There are countless models of these devices, all of which work similarly with minor variations. When a wireless device picks up anomalous activity, it tells the alarm that something isn’t right and that triggers the siren (and contacts the monitoring station).

Pros of Having a Wireless Home Security System

While people often assume wireless security is less safe compared to wired systems, industry veterans know that the opposite is true. They also offer other advantages over hardwired security systems including:

Quick Installation: Wireless systems can be installed within minutes. You don’t even have to be tech-savvy to do it. Because you don’t need to drill holes or tackle tricky wiring, self-installation is common. This eliminates installation fees from the total cost, saving you precious time and money.

Portable and Hassle-Free: Packing your security system and moving from one home to another is a piece of cake with wireless security systems.

Since everything is simply stuck onto the wall and not hardwired, removing it and putting them up in a new location takes minutes, not days. If you rent and move frequently, wireless systems are a great way to save money and stay protected.

Remote Smartphone Access: Wireless systems can be monitored on the go with a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Your key fob offers another way to arm and disarm the system if you’d rather not use a smartphone app.

Battery Operated: Although wireless systems work with electricity, most models can switch to a backup battery if the power goes out. If there’s a power outage in your neighborhood due to an event like a blizzard knocking out power lines, wired systems will lose power along with the rest of your house unless you have a backup generator. If you have a wireless security system with a backup battery, you stay protected.

Cons of Having a Wireless Home Security System

Some wireless systems can be hacked: Low-quality, outdated wireless systems do carry a risk that hackers can jam detector signals. You might remember the news surrounding SimpliSafe back in 2015 after some guys on YouTube figured out that their security system was vulnerable and publicized the fact. However, you can avoid this if your system has strong data encryption.

Some wireless systems are vulnerable to structural or electromagnetic interference: Radio frequencies go around solid objects; they cannot go through them. So placing sensors in the correct locations is key if you want them to work correctly. Your alarm company should inform you exactly where each part should be installed so that there is no confusion.

Limited range of sensors: Most radio frequencies are weak outside a range of 500 feet. This means that you have to structure your wireless system with this in mind, especially if your property is larger than 4,500 square feet.

For properties larger than 4,500 square feet, wireless sensors cannot communicate with each other reliably so we highly recommend using a wired system instead.

Types of Wireless Security Systems

Wireless security systems come in many shapes and forms. The main difference between them is the equipment. The simplest wireless home security systems have Wi-Fi alarm monitoring, sensors and an audible panel with a siren.

Devices that monitor potential household dangers -- such as fires and carbon monoxide leaks -- can be incorporated into a wireless alarm system.

Advanced systems, on the other hand, offer users a wide range of possibilities. They incorporate features such as remote smartphone access, text and email notifications, and web access giving the user more control to monitor and adjust the system from anywhere. This is why advanced systems that leverage the latest technology have become so popular.

Top tier systems offer additional valuable security features such as motion-activated night-vision cameras, smart lighting, and touchscreen deadbolts. At this level, you can employ some of the most powerful hardware available to the consumer market.

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Another differentiating factor of wireless systems is the way it communicates with third parties. Wireless systems fall into two key categories: monitored and self-monitored systems.

Monitored Systems: Monitored systems enable security personnel to immediately contact the authorities in case of an emergency. Monitored systems give you added peace-of-mind because trained emergency professionals are watching over your home around the clock .

Self-monitored Systems: Self-monitored security systems are generally cheaper and have lower monthly costs, if any. The only drawback is that the job of calling local authorities falls to you.

Self-monitored systems make use of loud alarms and bright lights to warn you of an intruder or breach. You can also receive alerts of your smartphone if your device is connected to your security system.

Features To Look Out For When Purchasing A Wireless Security System

The main reason why you want a wireless security system is to make sure that your home is fully secured at all times. To ensure this, there are a few key questions you should ask:

What happens in the event of a power outage?: As discussed earlier, the primary source of power for most wireless security systems is electricity from the wiring within your home. However, you should make sure that your wireless home security system has a fail-safe in place in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

A good wireless system should have an alternative source of power such as solar energy or batteries in the event of a power outage, especially in an area like New England where snowstorms and falling trees are a common occurrence.

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What is the range of its detectors?: Wireless systems use radio frequencies that are only effective up to a certain radius. If you have a large home, you will need a system that has a long reception range and can handle a more substantial amount of information and signals. Remember: a home larger than 4,500 sq ft needs a wired system.

What additional features does it have?: Depending on your budget, you can opt for a system that includes fire alarms, flood sensors, and carbon monoxide sensors. It all boils down to personal needs.

There are wireless home systems that are only for detecting burglars and trigger a siren to scare off the intruders. Others go as far as notifying security companies of a break-in/emergency

Can it work as part of a smart home? Today, most homes make use of smart devices that can be controlled via smartphone. If you already own a smart home, it is essential to know if your wireless security system can be incorporated into it so that you can control every device from as few apps as possible.

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This takes your system beyond basic security and makes your home more efficient and smarter. Smart home features for wireless security includes HD video viewing via wireless security cameras, energy use tracking with programmable thermostats, and other kinds of residential access control including smart locks.

Having all of this functionality at your fingertips makes you realize how much easier life can be when there are fewer things to worry about.

How Much Do Wireless Security Systems Cost?

The cost of a home security system is a function of three factors namely:

The total average cost of a typical wireless home security system ranges from $300 to $1,500 depending on the capabilities  of the system. Monthly monitoring for a wireless alarm system ranges from $30 to $75 per month, which includes 24/7 monitoring.

If you want to save some money and have some basic home improvement skills, we encourage you to try a self-installation process. If that sounds like too much, get a professional alarm technician to install your system. They will also make sure that you know how to operate it properly and everything functions as it should.

Professional installation ranges from $350 to $1,200 depending on how comprehensive you'd like your system to be. Many companies offer package deals that include installation with a primary wireless system if you also sign up for their monitoring services.

To compare the costs of different home security companies and their monthly monitoring fees, check our these resources:

Download the Ultimate Guide to Home Security and learn:

  • Top 5 misconceptions about home security
  • How to assess vulnerabilities in your home
  • Why home security is about more than preventing burglaries
  • Cutting-edge security equipment: how home security has changed
  • Monitored vs. Self-Monitored Systems
  • Local vs. National Security Companies

... and more!

Download Ultimate Security Guide
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