Are Wireless Home Security Systems Reliable?
When you’re ready to purchase a home security system, one of the biggest choices you’ll have to make is deciding between a wired and wireless system. Despite the fact that wireless systems are easier to install and are less susceptible to wiring issues, some people worry that a wireless system may be less reliable than a hardwired system. In reality, wireless systems aren’t necessarily less reliable than wired systems; they just experience a different set of issues.
There are risks to any technology, and no home security system can absolutely guarantee against break-ins or glitches. For that reason, some people have concerns about both wired and wireless systems. With a wired home security setup, there may be a fear that a burglar could cut the wires and disable the system. But with a wireless system, there are a few key concerns.
Understanding What “Wireless” Means
There are two different segments that can be wireless in a home security system: the line between devices and the main control panel, and the line between the control panel and the monitoring station. If you opt for a security system that is wireless in either one or both regards, you’ll get a lot of benefits like flexibility and easier integration. But these systems also come with a few potential security concerns. Here’s a closer look at just how concerning those issues are.
1. Network Outages
Some may worry about having their home’s security dependent on a wireless connection that’s not 100% reliable. What happens if there’s an outage? What if your network experiences interferences from inclement weather or weak signals? As such, it’s important to pick systems that use technologies that are optimal for your home. A broadband wireless system may not be the best choice for you if your Wi-Fi network is regularly disrupted or lags, for instance—a system that uses Z-Wave or another technology between the sensors and panel would be safer, as would cellular monitoring.
If you rarely have problems with your internet connection, a broadband wireless home security system will likely run reliably. You can also ask home security companies if their systems feature any technology to keep the system running if there’s a momentary disruption in the connection.
Any technology that relies on a wireless network—especially a broadband connection—could be susceptible to malicious attacks. A tech-savvy burglar could potentially disable your home security system by hacking into your network or jamming the frequency.
Many wireless security companies are advancing their technologies to combat such threats by regularly updating device firmware and implementing new features like push notifications. Furthermore, the odds of such an attack are relatively low.
3. Limited Battery Life
As 100% wireless systems aren’t hardwired to electrical lines, they rely on batteries to stay running. Depending on how many devices you have connected, such as surveillance cameras and multiple sensors, you may run through batteries quickly. If your system’s batteries die when you’re not home, the system could shut down.
Fortunately, many systems notify you when the battery is running low so you have time to install replacements. Additionally, as the system relies on batteries, you won’t have to worry about losing coverage if you have an electrical outage.
It’s natural to worry about the safety of your home’s security system. While there are vulnerabilities to both wired and wireless systems, home security providers are continually improving technology and addressing these concerns. Before signing a contract, make sure to ask the company how it aims to keep its wireless systems reliable.
How Do Wireless Security Cameras Work?
Gone are the days of long, obtrusive wires running across floorboards or walls. Many of today’s security cameras are wireless, using broadband or short-range technologies like Z-Wave to communicate with a control panel or connected smart device.
Wireless security cameras are easier to install, and they give you greater flexibility for placement.
Wired vs. Wireless Home Security Cameras
When security cameras first came out on the market, they had to be connected to an electrical source to work. Some cameras still work this way. These wired cameras rely on video cables to transmit video signals to a viewing device, like a computer or television.
With a wireless security camera, the video signal—and, with some, the audio signal as well—is transmitted over the internet or other wireless network to a receiver that connects to your viewing and recording device. Many people use computers or Cloud storage accounts to save the video footage for later viewing.
Wireless Security Camera Benefits
As mentioned above, wireless security cameras are easier to install than the wired alternative. Wired cameras must connect to your home’s electrical system, so you’ll need to hire a professional for the installation. Wireless cameras rely on Wi-Fi or other networks. Follow the instructions, and you can set up and connect most cameras in less than thirty minutes.
Wireless security cameras are often more ideal for renters, people new to home security, or those on a budget. Not only are wireless security cameras less expensive than wired systems, but they’re also easier to move and transport. Just unplug them, and you’re ready to go!
Wireless Security Camera Limitations
It’s important to note that there are limitations to a wireless security camera’s capabilities. A wireless camera must maintain a signal and connection to your network to record and capture footage. If your connection is disrupted, your wireless security camera can’t send the feed to your viewing device.
Additionally, if the camera is completely wireless, it’ll need to be powered by a battery. In this kind of arrangement, you’ll need to make sure to replace the battery before it dies.
Lastly, a wireless camera generally can’t be too far away from the main hub. If there’s a direct line of sight, a wireless camera’s range may reach up to 500 feet or more. Within a house, the range is usually lower—around 150 feet—though not always.
The signal range depends on a few factors, including your home’s building materials, other wireless devices in the area, and any walls or objects through which the signal has to pass. Standard drywall and glass windows may not impact the strength of the camera’s wireless signal, but brick and concrete will. If there are brick walls, concrete floors, and large trees in between the camera and receiver, your signal strength will likely weaken.
Wireless security cameras are a great addition to your home security system, as they offer you 24/7 viewing access to your home, no matter where in the world you are.
Now, explore the best home security cameras on the market and see which ones can integrate with your home security system.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Wired and Wireless Home Security Systems?
There are two different types of equipment and monitoring for home security systems: wired and wireless. Security systems that use wired equipment have been around the longest—they are hardwired into a home’s electrical system and sometimes its landline. However, security systems that use wireless equipment and monitoring are becoming more popular because of their flexibility to install, use, upgrade, and move.
Here are the pros and cons of each type of home security system.
Pros of Wired Security Systems
- Reliable Monitoring. Because wired systems don’t rely on sensors that communicate through radio frequency, they are extremely reliable. As long as the wiring isn’t damaged, or the phone line isn’t snipped, wired monitoring systems are less likely to fail than wireless models.
- Easy-to-Maintain Equipment. After a professional does the initial setup of a wired system, homeowners don’t need to worry about the added maintenance of regular battery changes.
- Ideal for Large Spaces. Systems that use wired equipment can handle more sensors than wireless systems. They can also span between multiple buildings on one property.
- Less Vulnerable to Hacking. Wired equipment is much harder to hack than wireless equipment—someone would have to physically connect to a wired system to access it.
- Favored by Professionals. Hardwired alarm system connections are generally preferred by corporations because of their reliability, security, and consistency.
- Rich in Features. Only wired systems offer control panels in multiple rooms and top-of-the-line units with high-definition video surveillance.
Cons of Wired Security Systems
- More Expensive to Install. Professionals generally install wired security equipment, which can result in expensive installation fees. Installing wired systems is difficult and involves connecting sensors with low-voltage wires that are inside walls, so holes must be drilled.
- More Vulnerable. Burglars know that if they want to disable a wired security system, they can simply cut the phone lines outside the house.
- Permanent. Wired security system equipment is a pain to uninstall. Some security companies don’t recommend moving wired systems and may refuse to install old equipment in a new location.
- Controlled from Only One Location. The security system control panel is the heart of your unit, and wired systems are armed and disarmed from only the main control panel—unlike wireless systems that can be remotely operated. Homes with more than one story may need separate control panels on each floor.
Pros of Wireless Security Systems
- Installed Quickly. Equipment installation is easy with a wireless system because there is no drilling or tricky wiring. In most cases, wireless systems are DIY, which eliminates costly installation fees.
- Easily Removed. Because there are no wires to rip out of walls or professionals to call for installation, wireless system equipment is incredibly easy to remove. This is especially beneficial for renters who can move their alarm systems to new living areas without fear of damaging their rental units.
- Wireless. This may seem like a given, but wireless systems offer extra protection because they don’t have phone lines to cut that would quickly disable the alarm system.
- Simply Modified. Wireless system equipment is easily upgradable and modifiable because it isn’t hardwired. These systems allow you to move and add additional sensors. Techies who like to tinker with their electronics will crave the flexibility of wireless systems.
- Remotely Accessible. A wireless system’s equipment includes a remote key fob that arms and disarms the system and can trigger the panic button. These systems communicate wirelessly using cellular technology, so you can activate these functions from a mobile device. This is incredibly convenient: with remote access, you won’t have to continually go to the security system’s control panel to set basic functions.
- Capable of Home Automation. A wireless alarm system easily syncs to other home automation features, and tech-lovers especially desire the flexibility of wireless systems because modifications and upgrades are easy projects to tackle. A wireless home security package could also include automation highlights, like smart lights, smart locks, and a smart thermostat.
Cons of Wireless Security Systems
- Vulnerable to Interference. Though very uncommon, wireless security systems are susceptible to interference—just like Wi-Fi randomly disconnects or cellphones can’t find signals. Whether the interference is electromagnetic through remote controls or power lines, or structural through walls or metal filing cabinets, there are several things can cause a sensor’s radio frequency communication to fail.
- Battery Operated. Wireless systems often run on batteries, so you must periodically check the battery life of the sensors and devices.
- Limited in Distance. Wireless system devices have sensor limitations, so they’re best for small- to medium-sized homes. Their open-air range is generally up to 500 feet.
- At Risk of Hacking. Burglars can hack into wireless security systems, jamming the signals so the alarm won’t set off. Carefully review the security of the wireless system you want to purchase. Some wireless systems fail to encrypt or authenticate signals sent from the access point sensors—like on windows—to the main control panel. If you use a wireless system, enable encryption on your router and protect your Wi-Fi with a strong password.
There are a lot of features to review before committing to a wired or wireless security system. Check out the top home security providers to see which system best suits your needs.
Can I Take My Security System With Me When I Move?
If you chose to install a do-it-yourself (DIY) home security system, then you will most likely own the equipment outright. Taking it with you for use in your new home is usually a relatively easy process and requires nothing more than uninstalling it in one location and reinstalling it in the other. If your DIY system is professionally monitored, you’ll need to notify customer service of your pending move and provide them with the address of your new location.
Contracted Monitoring Services
If you received a home security system and professional installation services in exchange for entering into a monitoring contract, moving your equipment and/or services often requires meeting certain stipulations spelled out in the contract.
Some companies will not move the installed equipment as they see value in leaving it behind for the new homeowner to activate and use. Rather, they may offer to install new home security equipment in the new residence and typically include generous discounts toward the purchase of additional security components like door and window sensors, motion sensors, and smoke detectors.
There are also companies which offer homeowners alternant options when moving.
A standard offer includes free movement of the home security equipment in exchange for a new full-term monitoring contract.
Homeowners not wanting to extend their contract may instead be required to pay a fee to have the equipment moved.
It is important to know what security providers policies are about moving security equipment to a new home. Be certain you are made aware of these policies before entering into any agreement. A great way to get started is to use our system finder tool to find the perfect home security system for your situation or call a SafeWise security specialist at 1-855-263-4148 to get answers to any additional questions you might have.
Are Wired or Wireless Home Security Systems Better?
It depends 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.
“Wireless vs. wired security” refers to two distinctly different parts of the security system. The network of sensors, plus the control panel, make up a self-contained system that may be wired or wireless. But there’s also the way that this system connects to the outside world; for example, sending alerts to a remote monitoring center, or receiving commands from your mobile phone.
A fully wireless system uses individual sensors throughout the home which 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 cell phone of its own. 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.
The two parts of the security system can be combined, either with a wireless sensor network and control panel but a hardwired landline connection, or with hardwired sensors and control panel connected to the outside world via cellular. 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).
However, not all homes have an active landline. More people are choosing to use their mobile or Internet phones instead of a landline, which may make wireless the necessary choice for outside the home communication. Within the home, the advantages and disadvantages of wired versus wireless security systems come down to two issues: installation concerns and performance differences.
If your home does not have a security system pre-installed, wireless systems can solve several problems. You won’t have to worry about drilling holes or other modifications, making wireless an extremely 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.
The chief potential drawback of wireless is reliability. Just like Wi-Fi routers or cell phones, wireless security systems are subject to various types of interference which can cause your sensor to fail to respond, or to respond unpredictably (such as triggering a false alarm). While it is possible for these things to happen, these instances are rare. 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. Plus, each wireless sensor contains its own battery, which work 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.
If your home has been prewired for a security system, the question of wired vs. wireless security leans much more toward the hardwired choice. If you go with the same provider that installed the equipment, activating your system should be as easy as a phone call and maybe one tech visit to update the control panel. If you’d rather have another provider, it should be as simple 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 offers both wired and wireless options, so choosing the right provider will be a more important first step than deciding between wireless vs. wired security.