Choosing the Right System for Your Home

Let me start by saying all systems, no matter what brand, whether they be hardwired or wireless, essentially do the same thing:

You turn the alarm on when you leave your home. If someone enters your home and doesn’t turn the system off (an intruder, for example) the sirens will activate inside and outside your home .

If you have monitoring of any kind, someone (either you in the case of a self-monitored system or a monitoring centre if you have back-to-base monitoring) will be notified and the necessary action can be taken.

Most systems have the ability to be set up for ‘Night Mode’ so while you’re sleeping the sensors in the living areas can remain active while those in the sleeping areas are turned off.

That’s it!

Any security system you choose does that.

What you need to decide on are the following 3 things:

1 – Do you need a Hardwired or Wireless system?

2 – What style of codepad do you need?Seems like an odd question to have to consider, but the codepad is the component that determines the features and nice-to-haves of the system.

·         A Basic codepad?

·         Advanced codepad?

·         Remote controls?

·         An App?

3 – Monitoring type. What happens when the system detects an intruder in your home? Do you want to receive alarm notifications yourself using your mobile phone? Do you require a professional monitoring service to handle any alarm response for you? Perhaps you don’t need any sort of monitoring at all.

Lets look at the choices in a bit more detail to help you decide

Do I Need a Hardwired or Wireless System?

This will primarily be determined by the type of home you have

A Hardwired System is best suited to a single storey home with a pitched roof. That’s because the installer needs to get into the roof space to run all the wires for all the components that make up the system.
While doing your research you may have read that hardwired systems require the installer to ‘crawl all over your home drilling holes and making a mess”
Untrue.This sort of mis-information comes from companies who only sell a ‘one size fits all’ wireless system, so you don’t get a choice in choosing the best system for you. They may have good reasons for doing that (?) but its like going to a fruit shop and all they sell are oranges.
A professional, conscientious installer will make sure you dont see any wires at all, will use drop sheets and will sweep up when the job’s completed. I still recommend hardwired systems over wireless in situations where there is a choice simply because you don’t need to replace batteries in the sensors (although the batteries in the Bosch wireless sensors only need to be replaced every 5 years, and the system constantly monitors there performance and flashes up a warning on the codepad when it detects a low battery)

A wireless system should be used in homes where there is no roof space.

This includes 2 storey homes (because there’s no roof access on the ground floor), apartments, townhouses,some split-level homes, single storey homes with a flat (non-pitched) roof.

Of course if you’re building a home, the alarm system cabling can be installed during the frame stage of construction including those home types mentioned above

I also recommend wireless systems if you  have decorative cornices such as illustrated below.

A small hole needs to be drilled in the  lip of the cornice in order to install a hardwired sensor. Now, despite careful planning it is still possible that the cornice can be damaged during this process.
I have seen it happen and it can be very difficult to fix.
Modern wireless systems are extremely good, with performance equal to a hardwired system.

The problems that ‘old technology’ wireless systems suffered from(poor battery life, large ugly sensors, unreliable signalling to the control panel) have been  overcome.

The battery life in the Bosch sensors for example is 5 years and the system tests the battery and the communication to the panel several times a day.

And the wireless version of the Bosch Gen 2 PIRs looks identical to the hardwired version.
 This means you can MIX AND MATCH hardwired and wireless sensors in the same system if necessary.
 The term ‘Wireless System” is actually a bit misleading.
The alarm sensors (PIRs, reed switches, vibration sensors etc) are certainly wireless however cables still need to be installed for the codepad, internal and external sirens and power.
If you choose a monitoring options, a phone line or ethernet cable may also have to be installed, depending on the method you select

 This is not a problem in most homes and the installer will spend some time determining the best place for the control panel so that the cables can all be installed discretely.

These homes have no roof access so a wireless system is the right choice

Choose Your Codepad

So we know  that any system will detect intruders and activate the sirens and provide an off-site notification function. But to get some extra features or nice-to-haves we need to choose a system that has a codepad with the features we are looking for.

Basic Codepad: The early codepads were pretty awful. They were sort of chunky boxy things with too many lights and buttons and just didnt look good in a home.Thankfully things have changed tremendously and even the basic codepads are discreet, stylish and very easy to use.

As well as using the codepad to arm and disarm the system you’ll also use it when you want to add or delete a user code, check on fault conditions and change the telephone number that the system uses to alert you of an alarm. This is where you’ll notice the main difference in codepads. The basic codepad doesnt give you any visual feedback when you want to do these other functions such as change codes, read the event history or change the phone numbers for self-monitoring – it uses beeps to indicate a succesful operation such as a code change.

Information regarding the current status of the system (armed, disarmed, low battery etc) is displayed on the screen using icons or numbers. The information is quite clear easy to understand.

But remember 99 percent of the time you’ll just be using the codepad to arm and disarm the system and even the most basic modern codepad does this very well. The Bosch 880 codepad, for example has a back-lit LCD displayand buttons making it easy to use in lowlight conditions and has a built in panic button.

The Bosch 880 has a Basic codepad but a brand new Touchscreen has just been released which I am testing – more on this soon.

The next step up from the Basic Codepad is what I will call the Intermediate codepad. These codepads generally display more detailed information about the status of the system.You don’t need to interpret what a flashing icon means – all the information is displayed using plain English which definitely makes the system more usable and allows you to operate the system with confidence. Adding and deleting codes, checking on the alarm history and changing the phone numbers for mobile phone monitoring are all straight forward and can be done quickly.

The third type are the latest Advanced codepads This type of codepad will display a greeting on the display when you enter your code and provide prompts for any of the operations your code has permissions for – not essential but it’s a nice touch. It provides step-by-step instructions on the display to make things like changing codes, telephone numbers (for self-monitoring) and reading the event history very easy – you really never need to refer to the manual. The Bosch Solution 6000 uses an Advanced codepad and has an option to use a contactless swipe tag to arm and disarm the system so you never even need to enter a code.The Bosch 6000 also displays the room temperature.

Mobile Phone Apps: We receive a lot of inquires from customers wanting to control their security system using an app on their smartphone.Several systems now offer this option so you can easily arm and disarm your system from anywhere in the world. If the alarm is triggered, the information is sent to your phone telling you exactly which sensor(s) caused the alarm. The system also sends ‘system messages’ such as mains fail, low battery and panic alarm.

There are lots of other great features available too. Depending on the system you choose the app can:

 send you an alert if you leave your home but the garage door is still open

 receive an alert if the temperature goes above or below a preset temperature that you set. We have several customers that monitor the temperature in their wine cellar

 receive an alert if a particular code is used to arm or disarm the alarm. This is useful for knowing that children have arrived home from school or to know what time the cleaner arrived and left.

 basic home automation features

NOTE: The App communicates to your smartphone using your  home internet router which operates from your 240 volt power. If someone opens your meter box and turns off the mains power to your home the router will lose power and you won’t receive any alarm notifications. This shortcoming (and it’s a fairly major one) can be overcome by fitting an Uninterrupted Power Supply to run the router for a few hours during a mains fail. I have used this one from Jaycar Electronics. At the time of writing it cost $149.00.

Interactive Voice Module:

This is still my first choice for self monitoring, however you must have an analogue phone line. It won’t work on the new NBN so that this method will be obsolete by 2020 when we’re all in high speed internet heaven(!).
If your alarm is triggered, the system will call up to 5 phone numbers and will tell you the nature of the problem, in your own voice.If an intruder enters your home through the laundry window, then goes into the family room, then the Master Bedroom, you’ll receive all those messages so you can track his movement through the home. You also get notified about power fails, low batteries and panic alarms.

As well as that, you can dial in to your system and check weather its on or off.

You can even arm and disarm the system from your phone.

Its a very simple,low cost but very effective way of monitoring and controlling your alarm system remotely – no SIM cards, no Apps no problems with internet coverage.

See our range of systems that use an Interactive Voice Module