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Hardwired Security Systems vs. Wireless Security Systems

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Hardwired Security Systems vs. Wireless Security Systems
April 13, 2020
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Hardwired Security Systems vs. Wireless Security Systems

Wireless

security systems are the modern standard in home security

Whether you’re talking about wired vs. wireless security cameras or wired vs. wireless motions sensors, door and window sensors, or glass break sensors, there’s no question that a home security system of any kind offers incredible safety benefits. According to the FBI, a property crime occurred every 4.4 seconds in 2018. And studies show that approximately 60% of burglars will avoid a residence with an alarm system.

With the right residential security system in place, you can monitor your home remotely and control your alarm system, security cameras, locks, lights, and more from anywhere. Smart security systems provide real-time mobile notifications of events and allow you to access live video footage of your property.

But there are a lot of options available in today’s home security market. If you want to protect your home from intruders, monitor your vacation property, or keep an eye on loved ones when you’re away from home, which is the best type of system? Let’s take a close look at hardwired security systems vs. wireless security systems and see how they stack up.

What’s

the difference between wireless security systems and hardwired security

systems?

As the name implies, hardwired security systems rely on physical wires that are run throughout your home to relay information from the system’s components to its central control panel. Motion sensors, glass break sensors, door and window sensors, and video surveillance cameras are all connected to the central processing unit—the control panel or “hub”—via copper wires. Hardwired systems that are professionally monitored may also utilize a home’s landline telephone or cable connection to communicate with the security company’s monitoring center.

Wireless security systems, on the other hand, employ a variety of wireless communication types. System components can speak to one another using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or low-energy wireless protocols like Z-Wave, Z-Wave Plus, or ZigBee. Furthermore, wireless security systems employ either internet-based or cellular monitoring services, rather than relying on a home’s landline.

The best wireless security systems are those that utilize cellular monitoring and low-energy wireless protocols for communication. Internet-based monitoring relies on the availability of your home’s internet connection rather than a cellular network. With this method, if your router loses power or your internet service goes out, your security system can no longer communicate with the monitoring center, and devices may not be able to communicate with each other. If a power or internet outage coincides with a home invasion, fire, or another emergency, the consequences could be disastrous.  

Cellular networks are considerably more reliable than internet service providers. In addition, wireless security devices that communicate using cellular radios are battery-powered or have built-in battery backups and can continue to operate in the event of a power outage. Cellular monitoring is the safest and most reliable solution for home security monitoring.

Wireless security components that use low-energy radio wave protocols like Z-Wave to talk to one another also communicate efficiently, maximizing battery life. Z-Wave devices not only use significantly less power than Wi-Fi equipment, but they also have a longer range than Bluetooth components and offer AES encryption—a protocol used by banks and the U.S. military for the protection of sensitive information.

Wireless

security system installation is simple enough to DIY

With a traditional hardwired security system, all of the system’s components must be physically interconnected. This could mean lifting sections of carpet, moving baseboards, or drilling holes to run the wires from each device to the centrally located “brains” of the system. Installation is inconvenient and labor-intensive, and it may require a certain level of craftsmanship.

Picture of removing baseboards and carpetPicture of removing baseboards and carpet
Removing baseboards and carpet to install wired home security systems is often a job best left to professionals. Source: Flickr

For this reason, hardwired systems are typically installed by professionals, and this service commands a premium price. The difficulties of installation also make hardwired security systems more challenging to move or change once they’re installed, and they’re harder to troubleshoot.

Unfortunately, the individuals who complete these types of installs may not be as professional as customers might wish. Often, security companies subcontract technicians to perform their labor. In some cases, this may result in prolonged or botched installations, property damage, and even theft. One customer complaint featured in Forbes describes installers who spoke little to no English and arrived with no company identification. The customer waited weeks for the work to be completed while being charged additional fees. And a valuable artifact was broken, and passports went missing while the technicians were in his home.

“The people you allow into your home may be able to inventory your belongings and will forever know the details of your security system. They may share their knowledge of your home with unsavory friends. If they are not trustworthy, trust me (based upon my personal experience), you’ll pay the price,” wrote Edward Siedle, a Forbes contributor, attorney, and forensic investigator.

Wireless systems, on the other hand, are typically installed by the homeowners themselves. There’s no need to schedule installation, take time off from work to supervise technicians, or invite strangers (who may or may not be adequately vetted) onto your property. Wireless security hubs can be placed on a counter or shelf and plugged into an outlet, while wireless sensors are typically mounted with adhesive. Instructions for system setup will be included with the system components or provided via a mobile app or website.

Frontpoint’s wireless systems stand out even more when it comes to convenience. While many wireless security system companies require users to “learn” each device into the system, Frontpoint components arrive pre-programmed. Because the devices already recognize each other and connect immediately to the control panel, a system setup typically only takes about 30 minutes.

Wireless

security systems don’t rely on an increasingly unstable power grid

Power outages in the U.S. are increasing, and many hardwired security systems are vulnerable to failure in these instances. Without battery backups in place, security systems can’t do their job when a storm takes out a power line or overloaded power stations are unable to handle the increased demand.

Fortunately, wireless security systems continue to protect your home even when the lights, phone, and internet go out. And while you do need to change the batteries from time to time, several features remove the risk that battery-operated devices will fail due to a lack of power. These include long battery lives (measured in years rather than months), the use of energy-efficient communication protocols like Z-Wave, and low-battery mobile notifications.

Picture of Frontpoint Door and Window SensorPicture of Frontpoint Door and Window Sensor
Frontpoint’s Door/Window Sensors have an average battery life of 6+ years!

Frontpoint offers supervised wireless home security. What that means is that if any Frontpoint sensor has a low battery level, it communicates that information to the control panel, which then sends a message to the homeowner. And if any device’s battery is not replaced in time or something else causes the device to go to sleep, the system’s command center will also recognize that it is no longer reporting and notify the user.

Wireless security

systems don’t require the use of a landline phone or cable connection

Proponents of hardwired security systems sometimes say that wireless networks are less reliable. This may be a valid concern in the case of internet-based wireless systems, but it doesn’t really apply to systems that rely on cellular monitoring. These security systems don’t depend on an aging power infrastructure. And unlike wired systems, they can’t be incapacitated with a pair of wire cutters and the simple snip of a phone line or another connection.

Another issue that crops up with a hardwired security system is how some utilize a home’s landline. If one of these alarm systems is triggered, the control panel will seize the phone line and dial out to the monitoring center. But what happens if you’re already on the phone? In some systems, the signal may not be able to get through.

Because wireless security systems don’t utilize a home’s landline to communicate with the monitoring center, there is no interference in the process. If your Frontpoint security system is triggered while armed, the control panel notifies the monitoring center and triggers mobile alerts using its cellular radio. And it also features a Wi-Fi backup for extra reliability.

With a Frontpoint smart security system, you choose which sensors trigger alerts based on location, time of day, and other parameters. And you select the two phone numbers the monitoring system will call if they receive an emergency alert from your security system.

Wired vs.

wireless security cameras

Video surveillance components offer unique advantages when they’re included in residential security systems. Not only do visible home security cameras strongly deter burglars, but they also provide valuable evidence that police can use to identify and convict criminals. If your home is robbed, you can even use video footage to substantiate insurance claims.

However, security cameras also have unique requirements for data storage and transmission, as well as power consumption. At first glance, hardwired camera systems would seem to have the advantage here. Typically, a hardwired security camera will have multiple cables. One will connect the camera to the home’s power grid while another may send data from the camera to a digital video recorder (DVR), where the video footage will be stored.  The DVR will then need to be connected to a T.V. or computer for viewing purposes.

DVRs can store large quantities of data, enabling homeowners to potentially save and view more than a month’s worth of high-quality, continuous video footage. However, this is a lot to sift through and usually much more than the average homeowner needs. Additionally, most people find it particularly useful to be able to view their video camera footage remotely and in real-time as needed—a function that DVRs generally don’t provide.

Most wireless cameras, while not requiring a wired connection to a control panel or DVR, do need to be plugged into a power outlet. Video footage from wireless cameras is also transmitted via Wi-Fi and stored online, so they do require an internet connection to function. To reduce data storage and transmission demands, most wireless cameras only activate when motion is detected, or when a user accesses the camera’s real-time view.

Although these wireless video cameras are vulnerable to power and internet outages in the same way that wired cameras are, they still offer several distinct advantages. While they must be physically connected to a power outlet, they transmit data wirelessly to both the system and cloud-based (online) storage. This eliminates the need to run multiple cables for installation and offers convenient access to video footage.

Because video from wireless cameras is available online in a real-time feed and recordings, users can easily review their footage anytime from anywhere. You receive alerts if an intruder triggers your camera to start recording, and you can keep an eye on kids, pets, nannies, house cleaners, contractors, and more—no matter where you are. And because your data is stored online rather than in a physical device inside your home, it won't be lost in the case of a fire, flood, or another disaster, nor can it be physically stolen by a home intruder.

Smart

wireless systems have advantages that go well beyond basic home security

Systems that utilize wireless communication protocols like Z-Wave allow you to create and control a vast network of smart home components. With this technology, you can easily add home automation devices like smart locks, lightbulbs, and thermostats to your wireless security system.

Receive alerts via email, text, or mobile app when your security sensors are triggered, your surveillance cameras sense movement, or your environmental sensors go off. Arm or disarm your system using a smartphone app, view camera feeds remotely, control lights and thermostats from work, and lock or unlock your front door from anywhere. You can even control your wireless security system components and any added smart home devices with voice commands to Alexa, Siri, and Google Home equipment.

Wireless security

systems can grow and move with you

Because of the difficulties inherent in their installation, hardwired security systems are more complex to change or upgrade. And taking them with you when you move may not be an option. With a wireless system, you can add, remove, or rearrange components as needed. And these systems are easy to pack up and move when you transition from one home to another.

Wireless security systems are a particularly good solution for renters since landlords are unlikely to permit installers to uproot carpets and baseboards or drill holes to run wires. Whether you own or rent your home or live in a house or an apartment, a wireless security system is the best home security solution—in terms of convenience and effectiveness.


Frontpoint keeps homes safe whether families are there or not. We've been revolutionizing the home security industry for over a decade. And we're just getting started. To shop DIY home security systems, check out our Security Packages. If you have questions or would like to discuss a quote, contact us at 1-877-602-5276.

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