Should I get a wired home security system or a wireless home security system?

wired or wireless

Should I get a wired home security system or a wireless home security system?

Should I get a wired home security system or a wireless home security system?

This is a popular question. There are usually three scenarios when people ask me this question. Their home is pre-wired or they have an existing system, they have no pre-wire or existing system, or they’re building their home or remodeling it extensively.

What does wireless mean?

Before I address the most common questions about this, I must clarify what wireless wired or wirelessmeans. A wireless security system usually refers to a system where no wires run from the control panel to the doors, windows, motion detectors, etc… It’s sometimes confused with cellular, which means there’s no landline phone connection.

The first scenario is when I get a call and someone tells me their home is already pre-wired or there is an old hardwired system that is already there. So what is better for them? Install a hardwired system and use what they have or ignore it and install a wireless system? I think it depends on how many wired doors and windows they have. If it is 10-15 or more, then I would use the wiring and put in a wired system. Here is our webpage that has the special for pre-wired homes. If there’s an existing hardwired system that has many wired zones, it would also be better to replace with the same hardwired type of system.

Keep in mind that all hardwired systems have wireless capability these days anyway. Many people only have 3 wired doors and a motion, so I would just recommend a wireless system in that case. The wireless systems are more advanced and have more features out of the box. They are also usually less expensive.

If someone doesn’t have any wiring and their home is finished, they should always go with a wireless system unless they are in love with a keypad or feature they can only get on the hardwired system. Even if they choose a hardwired system because they love the Tuxedo Touch keypad, we would still install wireless sensors on the doors and windows and only wire the keypad and siren.

Wired or wireless in a new home?

If someone is building a home and they are looking for a security system, they often ask me if they should get a wired or a wireless system.  Of course, the answer is, it depends. Consider the six points below to help make your decision. But almost every time wiring a house is going to be a more expensive option than installing wireless.-

  1. It requires two to three times the labor to pre-wire a home and then return to finish the installation. So it takes longer and multiple visits to install a hardwired system. Because it takes longer, it also will cost more because of the labor involved. The technician needs to run the wires for the security system before they install the drywall or sheet rock. (They should do it preferably before the insulation as well.)
  2. A hardwired system is more a la carte and custom then a wireless system. This means it will likely be a larger investment to do hardwired. But there are some really nice things you can add to a hardwired system, like the Tuxedo Touch keypad.  The wireless system comes with lots of features out of the box, like a talking keypad with an alpha display (has words on the screen).
  3. A hardwired system has the keypad separate from the control panel and it’s usually smaller. Does that matter to you? Most people don’t care about that, so they go with wireless.
  4. A wireless system will need batteries in the door and window sensors and the motion detectors. If you have a good quality system, the batteries will last you 5-10 years. So the batteries are not really an issue since you won’t be changing them very often, if at all.
  5. You can take a wireless system with you when you leave. You can’t take a hardwired door sensor with you (since it involves wiring in the walls).
  6. Most of the time if it is pre-wired, there are some wires that will get cut,pinched, or broken in between the pre-wire and the finishing installation. This is usually from the many other contractors in the home. This means the homeowner pays for the pre-wire and then has to pay for a wireless sensor for the windows and doors as well.
What’s the difference?

Despite what others may say, there’s really not much of a difference between the two, and most people wouldn’t even know if they had one or the other.  There are two over-exaggerated differences on the internet that people ask me about all the time. One is: is the wireless less secure? It could be. But since 90% of new installations have been wireless for the last 10 years, it’s unlikely. In 13 years, I have never had a customer with a wireless system have an experience which compromised their security because it was wireless.

The other over-exaggeration is battery life, which I already discussed above. They last around 7 years! Batteries are not a good reason to choose a hardwired system. Some have had bad experiences with previous wireless systems and I would say that is the equipment they chose or the installations that were bad. Most have no problems at all (or the entire alarm industry would be in trouble). One small difference I have noticed is that the wireless sensor takes one second longer for the alarm to react then the hardwired sensors. Again, it’s not a very significant difference.

In most cases, I would recommend wireless. And if someone really wants a hardwired system, they do need to consider the previous points so they know what they’re getting into. Using a wired approach is usually going to cost more.

  • Karl Zaininger
    Posted at 14:14h, 19 November Reply

    A great review – but I am still confused. I have an Ademco No. 342 Home Alarm System that I want to upgrade, but still use the existing wiring for the perimeter sensors, the wiring for the outside siren, as well as the wiring for the fire alarm sensors – while adding new (not hard-wired) flood-control, house-temperature, and one motion detector. Is this possible ? I need advice !

    • Jacob Menke
      Posted at 14:25h, 19 November Reply

      Yes you should replace the Ademco system with one the new Honeywell Vista Panels. You can also get a keypad with it with a built in wireless receiver. It will allow you to add the wireless zones.

  • Joe Duarte
    Posted at 16:29h, 19 February Reply

    Jacob, wireless systems are extremely insecure. SimpliSafe is one example of a system that any halfwit could crack with minimal gear. These companies didn’t seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to security, and I’m sure SimpliSafe customers have been robbed by criminals who exploited the known vulnerabilities.

    Broadcasting all the communication between security system components is an incredibly bad ideas. It’s a huge information leak. (SimpliSafe was even sending PINs unencrypted over radio.) There is no reason why a non-mobile system needs to be wireless. Wired is always better for both security and reliability. There will eventually be tons of stories about criminals exploiting wireless junk systems – I think right now a lot of victims don’t know that their system was hacked.

    • Jacob Menke
      Posted at 08:46h, 26 February Reply

      Joe it is true that there are some vulnerabilities with older or inexpensive wireless systems, the newer systems actually have encryption that prevents these hacks and is very reliable.

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