August 2006 Online Q and A

Q: I have a question for Mr. Dolph. What is the average life span of a residential alarm panel? Where could you go to find out when a customer should upgrade. It has been my experience that most end users think that their panels will last a lifetime. My customers tend to be reluctant to upgrade a control panel that is 10 or more years old or has not been manufactured for 5 or more years.

Some customers just will not upgrade. If there was or is a place where this information could be found it could be used by salesperson to educate the customer. It would even be a good idea to link your company’s web site to to show that this is not just an opinion of the security company.

Thank you.

Peter J. Bonargo IV
Installation Manager
Secure a home Inc
Reading PA



Good question. First let me try to answer your question from an engineering viewpoint. Even though it may not be public knowledge most electronic manufacturers calculate what is referred to as an Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time To Failure (MTTF). This is usually done for things like calculating warranty periods. If you have a particular manufacturer in question you could inquiry for these numbers. There is not a central source for this information that I know of.

Now to give you my personal, non-scientific, and conservative number I would estimate that electronic panels have a usable life of at least 20 years. As you know the parts that will go are the electro-mechanical devices such as the keypads. Some are made better than others and this is where your MTTF / MTBF numbers may come into play. That is assuming that they have not had any run-ins with lightning surges. As you know, this can place stress on equipment and shorten it’s lifespan. Hey, if it is still running, not creating false alarms, keep the batteries charged (that’s your real service money maker, do you have maintenance contracts?) then typically people are going to keep it.

To me, the real way to sell up people on alarm systems is by regularly (possible with their monitoring statement) sending updated features flyers on new models. There are many new opportunities today with new features that tie systems to the internet and cell phones. To me supervision on internet based monitoring is great. It is just like trying to sell someone a new car. However, I guess I am a bad example of this as I typically drive them until they die.

Thanks for your feedback. I hope I have helped give you some ideas on a way to answer your question.

Q: I am amazed at the myriad of installation styles used for hollow-edged metal/aluminum doors and recessed alarm contacts. Is there a manufacturer that has magnets designed for this purpose? I usually put silicone in the door channel and mount the magnet upside down. No problems yet, but is there a better way? Tech-Man
A: Dear Tech-Man,

Yes, there are magnet assemblies that snap right into hollow door edges and sliding metal patio doors. Check manufacturers like George Risk Inc. (GRI) with their model MC-25 Channel Magnet.

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