Are Wired or Wireless Home Security Systems Better?

There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but here's the gist: Wired security systems have more reliable signals, whereas wireless systems provide a more streamlined installation and can be used in places where wired systems can’t.

We'll clarify what wired and wireless really mean and help you find a system that matches your expectations.

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Defining wired vs. wireless systems

"Wired or wireless" can refer to three different things:

  1. How the sensors communicate with the control panel
  2. How the control panel communicates with the monitoring center
  3. How the equipment gets its power

1. How the sensors communicate with the control panel

  • A wireless security system uses sensors that communicate with the control panel using radio frequency technology.
  • A hardwired alarm system connects the sensors to the control panel with a network of wires concealed within the walls and floors of your home.

2. How the control panel communicates with the monitoring center

  • A wireless control panel communicates with the monitoring center using a cellular connection.
  • A wired control panel uses your home’s telephone line or Ethernet cable to connect to the monitoring center.

3. How the equipment gets its power

  • Wireless equipment is battery operated. 
  • Wired equipment plugs into a standard wall outlet or is hardwired into your home's electrical system.

A fully wired system is rare

Most modern security systems are fully wireless except for a plug-in control panel. Plug-in security cameras are also common.

Fully wired security systems are relatively rare. In fact, only two of our top ten home security picks offer a landline option: ADT and Blue by ADT.

Light Bulb
How can I tell what type of system a security company is advertising?

When a home security company advertises its "wireless" system, it's usually referring to that second definition: cellular vs. landline data transmissions to the monitoring center. 

If a security company requires pro installation, there may be hardwiring involved. 

Pros and cons of a wireless home security system

Pro Heading
Wireless pros
Pro Bullet No holes in the wall
Pro Bullet DIY installation
Pro Bullet Portable
Pro Bullet Immune to power outages
Con Heading
Wireless cons
Con Bullet Possible signal interference
Con Bullet Battery maintenance

With a wireless system, 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 move will also be able to take advantage of the portability of most wireless systems and take the equipment with them.

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.

Visit our wireless home security systems page to compare top brands and packages.

Pros and cons of a wired home security system

Pro Heading
Wired pros
Pro Bullet No signal interference
Pro Bullet No battery maintenance
Con Heading
Wired cons
Con Bullet Pro installation typically costs extra
Con Bullet Susceptible to power outages
Con Bullet Not portable
Con Bullet Must cut into walls to access wires

Wired security systems aren't susceptible to electromagnetic or structural interference, so the signals are more reliable. 

They require virtually no upkeep because there are no batteries to swap out or charge. You also won't end up with an unexpected power failure from poor battery life.

On the other hand, hardwired systems require professional installation, and that's usually an extra charge above and beyond what you pay for the equipment and monthly monitoring. The installer will need to cut into your walls to access wires, which may not be possible if you rent.

Finally, wired systems will shut down during a power failure. Most have backup batteries, but cellular backup often costs extra.


Compare the best home security systems

Brand
Best for
Lowest monitoring price
Starter equipment price
Contract required
Installation
Smart home compatibilityIcon Tooltip  Dark
Learn more
Read review
VivintVivint
Best overall$599.00
Icon Yes  LightNo *
ProAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
FrontpointFrontpoint
High-end DIY pick$99.00
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
SimpliSafeSimpliSafe
Reader favorite$229.00
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google
CoveCove
Best customer experienceQuote required
Icon Yes  LightNo *
DIYAmazon,
Google
ADTADT
Most experienced $0.00
Icon No  LightYes
ProAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
Full ADT disclaimer

Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over seven years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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