Wireless vs Hardwired Security

By Benjamin Curto ~ June 23rd, 2009. Filed under: Security.

If you’re looking at getting a security system in a new home or business then this question is sure to be broached. If you’re building is pre-existing then there’s a chance wireless is your only option, but don’t rule out hardwired or hybrid just yet!

As with all technology debates (think LCD vs Plasma, Blu Ray vs HD DVD….) even though this question has been asked for years, the answer changes as advancements are made. At one point in time wireless technology was unreliable, expensive, and unsightly, none of that is true anymore!

Hardwire systems are certainly not a thing of the past by any means though! Let’s take a quick look:

Price: We’ll start here because this is a limiting factor and THE deciding factor for many people. Price is typically dollar to dollar even. This is because a hardwired motion requires wire and cabling labor along with installation labor, whereas it’s expensive wireless counterpart requires ~5 minutes to install. This is true of all components, so a hardwired system has more invested in it’s infrastructure and less tied up in it’s detectors and parts whereas a wireless system is virtually no labor/infrastructure and all equipment cost.

Winner: Hardwired. If any device goes bad the equipment replacement cost is much lower… not a huge issues but the only deciding factor here. Oh and the battery cost is negligent… until that 2nd to 4th year when you have to replace 45 batteries some of them costing $9-14 apiece.

Reliability: Wireless security systems can be jammed (although most systems have preventative technoloy) , each sensore requires a battery which (if not maintained) can go dead, and even when supervised by the controller you can have fault issues in large homes or due to metal stud/material between the wireless recevier and sensors. Hardwired systems have none of these issues! Oh, but wiring can corrode, be chewn through by small rodents, be cut through during remodel or even initial construction, be sheared by wood construction shifting (especially in log homes) or even snap after prolonged winter/summer stress on the copper. Ultimately the likelyhood of issues with either technology is low if initially installed and programmed professionally.

Winner: Tie. (Hardwired) Hardwired wins only in the commercial segment. Commercially wireless system have to deal with much more abuse, large buildings, more metal/RF disturbance and other issues that just aren’t typically present in residential installations. Wireless is far from ‘unreliable’ but it will exhibity more pesky faults and incur more service calls than a typical hardwired system in the commercial environment.

Aesthetics: There are virtually no differences in aesthetics at this point. There are no visible differences in motion detectors, smoke detectors, CO2 detectors, water sensors, door contacts, Temperuature sensors…. etc. While some companies still use the large white boxes for doors and windows nearly all alarm vendors offer a recessed contact that can be installed in the door frame just like a wired contact. Depending on the location (concrete walls, log homes, crawlspace, attic space, entry location…. etc) some wireless systems can be installed without any exposed wiring at all, however a vast majority of wireless installation will require some exposed wires (keypads, sirens, power, and phone lines are traditionally stilll hardwired even on ‘wireless’ systems**)

Winner: Tie. Sure I could say that because some wireless installations require exposed wires then hardwired wins… but ultimately that all depends on the professional quality of the installer.

Expansion/Upgrading. This is trickier to judge due to the number of different models out there. There are almost no either/or models on the market though, virtually all of them support some hardwired and wireless functions depending upon which modues conenct to them. Virtually all hardwired systems can be expanded to include wireless components, whereas not all wireless systems can support hardwired components. If future expansion (either more zones/devices, or more locations such as a guest house) is important to you then just relay this to your installation company up front and they can be sure to use equipment that will meet your existing and future needs.

Winner: Tie. (some wireless systems don’t’ support hardwired zones…. but if you specify you want that capability up front then your installer can ensure to use a system that does)

We’ll continue this in tomorrow’s post!

**DSC’s (www.dsc.com) new Alexor system is one of the first to support 2-way wireless keypads/sirens and an IP cellular communication. This means the ONLY wire required is a power outlet! Amazing, but also pushed back twice and still not quite released as of this post.

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