Wireless VS Hard-wired Intruder Alarm Systems

We have been installing wireless intruder alarm systems for over 20 years, even since the first systems became certified for Police response. Have they generally been stable? Yes. Are there any pitfalls? Of course, yes. If we could choose between hard-wired or wireless what would we opt for? Hard wired…usually. Let us explain.

Clients often ask what is better, or is wireless good enough. The answer to the former is not so simple, and the answer to the latter is generally yes.

A hard wired system takes longer to install, requires the running of cables, and can still have the occasional random false alarm.

A wireless system is quicker to install, has much fewer cables to be run, if any, and yes, can still have the occasional false alarm. However, in addition to a random false alarm, every now and then, even though intruder alarms have their own dedicated frequency, something transmitting nearby (if powerful enough) can cause the system to think it is being jammed.

Also, the radio detection devices (PIR’s, magnetic contacts etc) need to report back to the control panel at regular intervals. For an apparently unknown reason, the signal may not be received, and a device can become “lost”. This is quite rare, and will usually re-instate itself.

Zones lost and jamming all create alerts so that you know about them. Most systems don’t suffer these problems, but it should be expected now and again.

The only other issue with wireless systems is that depending on the system, the batteries in every wireless device need to be routinely replaced every 2-3 years which is an additional cost that needs to be considered.

Of course, hard-wired systems can also have problems. Although very rare, cables can become damaged and cause false alarms or tampers that may take time (and therefore cost) to find and resolve.

Unlike in the early days of wireless systems whereby the control panels were not very advanced, wireless systems now benefit from the same software and programming as hard-wired panels. Also, most hard-wired systems offer wireless expanders so you can have a mixture of hard-wired and wireless devices; wireless devices usually for areas that are hard to cable.

On a cost perspective, although wireless is quicker to install, the equipment is a lot more expensive and so wireless systems are generally 20-30% more expensive. However that is not always the case because some properties may take much longer to cable due to size, décor, thickness of walls and floors and therefore the labour cost will be higher.

Generally speaking, most homes nowadays are finished to a high standard and of course no one remembered to run cables for the alarm system prior! So with hard-wood and tiled floors and perfectly finished walls, running cables is going to be difficult and wireless is going to be the solution. Wireless systems are therefore incredibly popular for residences.

For commercial properties, it is rare to have wireless systems because cabling is easier. Also, wireless systems will not cope well in locations where there is a lot of concrete, metal, machinery etc as it will disrupt the signals.

Note: when we talk about wireless systems, we are talking about professional systems that are manufactured, designed and installed to operate in accordance with European Standards, not off-the-shelf plug and play systems from a DIY store.