Are Wired or Wireless Home Security Systems Better?

Whether a wired or wireless security system is better will depend 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.

So what makes a system wired or wireless? A home security system’s network of sensors, along with the control panel, connect and communicate with the outside world via either a cellular or landline connection.

More specifically, a fully wireless system uses individual sensors throughout the home that 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 cellphone of its own. On the other hand, 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.

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A security system can be both hardwired and wireless. That means the system can have either a wireless sensor network and control panel with a hardwired landline connection—or hardwired sensors with a control panel connected to the outside world via a cellular connection. 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). But these days, not all homes have an active landline.

Within the home, the advantages and disadvantages of wired versus wireless security systems come down to two issues: installation concerns and performance differences.

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Wireless

If your home doesn’t have a security system pre-installed, wireless systems can solve several problems. You won’t have to worry about drilling holes or making other modifications, so wireless is an 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. Frontpoint is a great option for those who are interested in a portable home security system. Frontpoint requires DIY installation, but if you’d rather have someone install the system for you, Vivint is another good wireless contender with professional installation.

The potential drawback of wireless is its reliability. Just like Wi-Fi routers or cellphones, wireless security systems are subject to various types of interference, that can cause your sensor to fail to respond or to respond unpredictably (for example, triggering a false alarm). 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. However, these issues are rare. To help counter potential issues, each wireless sensor contains its own battery, which works 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. Additionally, wireless security systems are quite safe—to learn more, visit our wireless home security systems page.

Wired

If your home has been prewired for a security system, a hardwired option may be a better choice since the system will be easy to install. If you already know which provider installed the equipment, activating your system is simple—all that’s required is a phone call and maybe a tech visit to update the control panel. If you’d rather go with a different provider, installing and updating the system ought to be as straightforward 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 offer both wired and wireless options, so choosing the right provider will be more important than deciding between wireless or wired security. To better understand what kind of system is best for your home, visit our Best Home Security Systems page, which offers detailed reviews of the industry’s leading home security providers.

Compare the best home security systems


Brand
Lowest monitoring price
Starter equipment price
Contract required
Installation
Smart home compatibilityIcon Tooltip  Dark
Learn more
Read review
Top pick
Vivint
Vivint
$599.00
Icon Yes  LightNo *
ProAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
Reader favorite
SimpliSafe
SimpliSafe
$229.00
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google
Whole-property pick
Frontpoint
Frontpoint
$99.00
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
Pro monitoring pick
ADT
ADT
$0.00
Icon No  LightYes
ProAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
No-contract DIY pick
Blue by ADT
Blue by ADT
$199.15
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave

Info current as of 05/14/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
*$0 due up-front with consumer financing.
†No-contract options available with outright equipment purchase.
^Or $9.49/mo. with consumer financing.
‡Landline monitoring only. Some restrictions apply. (Full disclaimer)
**With $99 installation charge and new monitoring agreement. Early termination fee applies. See full disclaimer for full offer details, terms, and conditions.

Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help people find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She continues to report on local news as a volunteer with the community paper. For the last six years, she’s led a Girl Scout troop, teaching girls about safety and preparing for whatever life throws their way.

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