Wireless vs Hardwired Security: Part Two

By Benjamin Curto ~ June 24th, 2009. Filed under: Security.

Picking up where we left off….

Service Calls. So you’ve got a problem and have to call your installation company to come fix it, what can you expect? Well with a wireless system troubleshooting trouble and fault issues can be a wild goose chase that doesn’t have an answer… although trying to find a short in a wire that goes through walls and attic spaces isn’t fast or easy either. Ultimately labor costs will depend more on your installers original quality of work and the skill of the technician performing the labor than the type of system. However, if anything needs to be replaced the cost is certain to be higher with wireless system as each individual component costs more (for instance a replacement hardwired motion may only cost $25 while a wireless motion may be $125).

Winner: Hardwired.

Convenience/Maintenance. This is the primary difference between the two outside of possibly cost. The lifespan of replaceable detectors (mainly smoke and CO2 detectors) is identical, so is the cleaning cycle (ideally 6 months, 12 month as a minimum); the lifespan of other detectors is also identicle (motions, heats, door/window contacts…. etc). However, the batteries on a wireless system can be a pain to deal with! If you only have a few wireless sensors you can just replace them once every 1-2 years and not worry about it. If you have a wireless system with 15-64 wireless zones though…. it can be a hassle having to deal with replacing the batteries because after the first year or two you’ll see them start to fail 1-2 a month for the next 3 years. While not cost efficient you can just replace all of them when the first one needs to replaced but as previously mentioned some sensors take proprietary batteries that can cost $9-14 apiece!

Winner: Hardwired. This isn’t even close… nobody wants to deal with the cost or the pain of replacing batteries.

Futureproof: This is perhaps a facet of expansion but I felt it deserved it’s own section. Wireless systems are always 100% proprietary. This means that a DSC wireles receiver will only work with a DSC control panel, and only with DSC wireless sensors/detectors. The same is true of Ademco, GE, HAI, and Napco (ADT and Brinks don’t manufacture equipment, they just silkscreen their name ontop of DSC, Ademco, and other manufacturers… so yes, the same is true of their systems). If that company changes RF frequencies or model numbers you may not be able to get parts for your system anymore.

Hardwired systems are futureproof in that they rely on a wire to carry electrical signals that simply say ‘open’ or ‘closed’.This means a DSC motion detecor works flawlessly with an Ademco control panel (or an Admeco door contact with a GE control panel… etc). If your system only supports up to 8 zones and you want to add 4 more, all you have to do is replace the main panel and keypads (your motions, doors, smokes, CO2… etc should all be compatible with the new system).

Winner: Hardwired by a longshot!

So lets recap:
Price: Tie
Reliability: Tie
Aesthetics: Tie
Expansion/Upgrading: Tie
Service Calls: Hardwired

Futureproof: Hardwired

If you have the option there is no doubt that you should use a hardwired system over a wireless system.  So why are wireless systems so prevalent? Two reasons:

1) Sometimes hardwired isn’t possible. Examples would be apartments where any wall drilling is forbidden, homes with no attics/crawlspaces, log construction, multiple story dwellings…etc. If wireless is the only option than there isn’t any reason to compare. Wireless products work every bit as good as hardwired for security your property and your life.

2) Profitability of the installation company. It’s simple math really, if the two systems are comparable in cost and overhead yet one of them (wireless) requires perhaps 25-50% less labor then they can install 2-4 times the amount of systems! I don’t think I’d go as far as to say it’s a dishonest practice but it’s certainly a disservice to the customer.

Bottom Line: If you have an option choose hardwired. If wireless is your only option you can rest assured your system is still equally capable of protecting both your assets and yourself!

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