Are wired or wireless home security systems better?

It depends on what you need from a security system. Hardwired alarm systems have an edge on reliability, while wireless systems provide a more streamlined installation and can be used in places where wired systems can't.

"Wireless vs. wired security" refers to two distinctly different parts of the security system. The network of sensors, plus the control panel, make up a self-contained system that may be wired or wireless. But there's also the way that this system connects to the outside world; for example, sending alerts to a remote monitoring center, or receiving commands from your mobile phone.

A fully wireless system uses individual sensors throughout the home which communicate wirelessly to the central control panel, typically using radio frequency technology.

The control panel will then communicate wirelessly to the outside world using a cellular "uplink." Essentially, your system will have a cell phone of its own. A fully hardwired alarm system connects the sensors to the control panel with a network of wires, concealed within the walls and floors of your home, and then to the outside world using your home's telephone line.

The two parts of the security system can be combined, either with a wireless sensor network and control panel but a hardwired landline connection, or with hardwired sensors and control panel connected to the outside world via cellular. The most common setup combines the two, with a hardwired telephone line as the primary connection and a cellular backup in case the phone lines go down (or are cut).

However, not all homes have an active landline. More people are choosing to use their mobile or Internet phones instead of a landline, which may make wireless the necessary choice for outside the home communication. Within the home, the advantages and disadvantages of wired versus wireless security systems come down to two issues: installation concerns and performance differences.

If your home does not have a security system pre-installed, wireless systems can solve several problems. You won't have to worry about drilling holes or other modifications, making wireless an extremely attractive option for renters, historic homes, or buildings with significant interior brick, stone or marble construction. Renters or homeowners who change residence will also be able to take advantage of the portability of most wireless systems-simply disconnect and reconnect at your new address.

The chief potential drawback of wireless is reliability. Just like Wi-Fi routers or cell phones, wireless security systems are subject to various types of interference which can cause your sensor to fail to respond, or to respond unpredictably (such as triggering a false alarm). While it is possible for these things to happen, these instances are rare. Electromagnetic interference can come from many other devices, including baby monitors, remote controls, power lines, microwave ovens and fluorescent lighting. Structural interference comes from walls, floors, ceilings, or things like metal filing cabinets. Plus, each wireless sensor contains its own battery, which work great, especially in a power outage. Just make sure you stay on top of changing out your batteries so you know they're always operating at peak performance.

If your home has been prewired for a security system, the question of wired vs. wireless security leans much more toward the hardwired choice. If you go with the same provider that installed the equipment, activating your system should be as easy as a phone call and maybe one tech visit to update the control panel. If you'd rather have another provider, it should be as simple as programming a new number into the control panel. In some cases, a converter or even a new control panel may be necessary, but as long as the wiring itself hasn't been damaged, all the existing sensors should work with any provider's equipment-all hardwired systems contain essentially the same technology.

Most major security system providers offers both wired and wireless options, so choosing the right provider will be a more important first step than deciding between wireless vs. wired security.

To get a better idea of whether wireless or wired systems are right for you, speak with one of our SafeWise security specialists by calling 1-855-577-1238.

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