Wireless security systems have been around for a long time, and I have installed thousands of them in the past 27 years working as a security system technician in New York. To understand what makes them so reliable, I’ll start with the basics of how they work, and I’ll explain why they might not work in your home.
Are wireless security systems reliable? Wireless security systems are reliable, and security companies have used them for over 30 years. Wireless technology continues to be the preferred choice for new installations because they are easy to install and do not require the drilling of any holes in your doors and windows like traditional wired systems do.
What makes a wireless security system reliable?
When we purchase a security system to protect our homes and our families, we want to be confident that it will work when we need it.
This applies to both wired and wireless security systems because if either one is not installed correctly, it will not work as intended.
Millions of wireless security systems have been installed by professional security companies in the past 40 years. Wireless security systems are reliable because
Wireless security systems use radio frequency (RF) to send signals through the air the same way as your FM radio and
- The wireless sensors
- The wireless receiver
- The control panel
- The Keypads or touch screens
Since we are just talking about wireless systems for now, here is why they are reliable. I will also tell you why a wireless or any other security system is unreliable.
- Wireless security systems operate on their own frequency, so they are not affected or interfered by any other wireless device in your home, such as WIFI or cellular signals.
- All the wireless sensors programmed into the system send a check-in signal every few hours to let the system know its battery status.
- Each wireless sensor has a battery that lasts up to five years, so there is no need to replace batteries every year.
- All sensors have a unique serial number that is programmed into the control panel that is used to identify each sensor. Wireless sensors can transmit a signal up to 2000 feet away, so this unique serial number prevents any interference from nearby sensors installed in your neighbor’s home for example.
Can wireless security systems get hacked?
Based on my experience installing and servicing thousands of security systems over the past two decades, I would say that you can not hack wireless security systems because most wireless security systems are not connected to the internet.
Some wireless systems connect to your home’s WiFi as a backup, but most wireless security systems connect to the central monitoring center through cellular communication. I have never heard of any hacking issues within the security community, and I have not received any security alerts from the security manufacturers regarding hacking.
Are all wireless security systems reliable?
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. All wireless security systems are not the same.
All wireless systems work the same way. A sensor detects an event, whether a door sensor detects a burglary or a smoke detector detects a fire.
These sensors transmit a signal over the air to a wireless receiver located somewhere in the house. The wireless receiver then relays this message to the alarm systems control panel for processing.
But all wireless sensors and receivers are not the same. Some wireless sensors have a weaker signal strength than others, mainly because of the size and quality of the sensors.
Wireless receivers are also made with varying reception capabilities. Wireless receivers have antennas. The smaller the antennas on a receiver, the shorter its range is to detect the wireless sensors.
Because of this, the distance between the sensor and the receiver has to be taken into consideration. If you are installing a wireless security system in a large house, you cannot position the weaker sensors too far away from the receiver; otherwise, they will be out of range from one another.
So, when you combine the weaker transmission range of the smaller sensors and the weaker reception of the receiver, you are left with a wireless system that is not very flexible.
If any of the sensors are installed too far away from the receiver, they will not work correctly because the sensor signal will not reach the receiver
Is wireless communication with the central monitoring center r
When we talk about wireless security systems, we are not always talking about the wireless devices used inside your home.
The connection from your home to the central monitoring center can also be wireless using a cellular or radio frequency (RF) signal.
To have a reliable connection to the monitoring center, we must have strong cellular reception if we use a cellular communicator or be within the range of the network of radio towers used for radio transmission.
I would not recommend relying solely on wireless communication in areas with poor reception. An alternative is a wired connection as a backup
The best thing about wireless communication is that it cannot be tampered with from the outside of your home. Before wireless communication, alarm systems were connected to the monitoring center via telephone lines.
Now we can use telephone lines and internet connection as well. The downside to using a telephone or internet connection is that someone can cut your wires from outside your home before breaking in.
I use a cellular communicator as my primary connection for my home and an internet connection as a backup. This setup is common in most security systems installed today.
Are wireless security systems safe?
Wireless security systems are safe because they work on a radio frequency (RF). They operate the same way as cordless phones and FM radios in your house.
The sensors used for security systems have a very weak output, meaning that their signal only travels a couple of hundred feet. When you compare that with a radio signal from your favorite radio station that travels hundreds of miles, that’s nothing.
When a sensor is activated, it sends a short message over the air using radio frequency (RF) to the security system’s wireless receiver.
How does a wireless security system work?
I’ll start with how a simple wireless security system works. The purpose of a security system is to detect intruders from entering your house. To do this, we have to install sensors on the doors and windows; we call these sensors perimeter zones.
For example, when someone opens a door, the sensor sends a signal through the air to the alarm systems control panel and tells it that a door has been opened. If the alarm system is armed, the control panel activates a siren and sends a burglary signal to the central monitoring center.
The monitoring center then calls the house to ensure that it was not the homeowner who set off the alarm system by accident. The monitoring center calls the police if no one answers the phone or if the person that answers doesn’t know the password.
So that is a simple example of a wireless security system, and in theory, this will work perfectly every time.
How do you know if you are getting a reliable alarm system?
If you’re reading this article, then you are most likely shopping around for a security system for your home or business. You will come across dozens of alarm companies offering you the same thing, either a free alarm system or an affordable system.
Alarm companies do not make a lot of money on the installation of security systems anymore; we make money on the monitoring.
So if we want to compete with all the other companies and get more monitoring accounts, we must lower our price because of two reasons:
- Most people think that alarm systems should be free because of the advertising from the big alarm companies.
- Alarm companies cannot find good salespeople, so if they can’t sell the customer on the quality and benefits of their services, then they have to sell them the lowest price to get the sale.
So, the cheaper the system is sold, the cheaper the equipment needs to be for the alarm company to get a new account without losing too much money.
Some of these alarm systems that are being sold are so cheaply made that the sensors that are only a few feet from the wireless receiver are still out of range, and the sensors are stuck on the doors and windows with double-sided tape, so the sensors fall off every time you slam the door.
When the sensors are out of range, they stop communicating with the control panel, the system goes into trouble, and the keypads start beeping to let you know there is a problem.
As a service technician for a large alarm company with about 10,000 accounts, I perform about 3-4 service calls a week, where the sensors fell off the doors.
Alarm companies have two types of systems that they offer to their customers, cheap free alarm packages and systems that are not free.
If you are getting a free alarm system, there is a 99.9% chance that you are not getting premium parts, and you should get an estimate for the better line of equipment that they offer.
The sales rep should show up with samples of the equipment they are going to install in your home, and a good salesperson will always give you a good, better, best option for you to choose from.
Unfortunately, here is the problem with what I just said: a good salesperson will not always show up at your house. Most salespeople in the alarm industry only last a few months before they move on to another sales job because they don’t make that much money.
Security system sales is very competitive, and most people give up after a few months, if not a few weeks or days.
So, the alarm company only trains them on one system. The free or basic packages were designed to be sold and installed by people with little experience. Alarm companies cannot invest too much time in their salespeople because they know they will not be around for too long before they move on.
Sometimes I’m asked to do sales calls for my company (because they don’t have many salespeople). Since I’m a service technician and I have all the parts in my truck, I can show the homeowner all the available equipment and let them know exactly what to expect with each one.
The homeowners that appreciate quality work choose the better, slightly more expensive equipment. They end up with a reliable wireless system that lasts for many years without any problems.
But many people still go with the free/basic system anyway and end up seeing me at their house for the next few months for service calls.
Can wireless security systems be jammed?
Yes, even though wireless systems operate on their own frequencies, they can be jammed by a wireless device that is very close to it and overpowering it with a much stronger signal.
Most of the better systems have what’s called RF jam detection. When this feature is enabled, the security system sends a signal to the monitoring center that the system is jammed, and a trouble signal is displayed on the keypad.
Can I install a wireless system myself or do I need to hire a security company?
Wireless security systems have become so easy to install that most homeowners can install them in a few hours. Some systems like Simply Safe come pre-programmed out of the box, so all you have to do is mount the sensors and screw in the keypad to the wall.
Ring also makes a DIY security system that is very easy to program and install.