10 Tips to Reliable Wireless Systems

Short-range wireless has received wide acceptance within the electronic security market. One reason is that radio-based systems help installing dealers and integrators control their labor costs. And yet a good number continue to install wires whenever possible.  More and more end users have also come to see wireless as an accepted method of transmitting signals from doors, windows, motion detectors and keypads to a control panel. This is largely due to the wide acceptance of cellular telephones and other wireless gear in common use throughout society. In addition, many end users see wireless as a way to minimize the intrusiveness of the installation process.

For the security dealer, it means a shorter installation time, which translates into dollars. A two-man installation crew can pretty much install two or three wireless alarms for every hardwired system. At the end of the day that means two or three monitored accounts for every wired system — you do the math!

However, short-range wireless installations can be challenging for all but the most seasoned security contractors. The objective is to perform a flawless installation each and every time, which is possible when installers know what to look for. When wireless is done right, no return trips are necessary, thus saving time that can be used making money.  The following 10 tips are designed to help security dealers do the best job they can upfront — during the installation of their wireless systems. Some of the material can also be applied after the fact when service becomes necessary. 

1. Use a supervised wireless line of security products

One way to ensure operational reliability is to use a line of wireless security equipment that employs some means of supervision. Yes, there are still unsupervised short-range wireless security systems on the market. However, most of them are imported, consumer-grade systems.

Supervised wireless gear is designed to “check in” with the control panel on a regular basis. When a transmitter/sensor checks in with the control panel through a wireless connection, it sends data about the sensor with which it is associated.

For example, a door transmitter will send information on the position of the door, such as open or closed. It will also send information on the condition of the battery so that if battery voltage is beginning to wane, the transmitter will convey this to the control panel.  Supervision simply increases the odds if something should happen that could adversely affect the operational stability of the system, the control panel will be notified, if not before then when the problem occurs. 

2. Pick a dry, centralized location for the wireless panel or receiver

Another important aspect of wireless system installation is where to locate the radio receiver. In some cases the receiver is built into the alarm panel, while other times it’s separate. Be sure to know which method your system uses before you begin.

Be prepared to forego your favorite spot next to the electrical panel in the basement. This is because of the need for a dry area free of moisture, which can adversely affect how the radio receiver operates in regard to both the electrical circuits and reception.

The receiver should also be installed as close to the middle of the transmission field as possible — which is essentially marked by outlying transmitters/sensors. The shorter the distance the signal has to travel, the more radio frequency (RF) energy that will reach the receiver’s antenna. 

3. Locate sources of RF before mounting the receiver/panel

There are sources of RF interference lurking inside and outside buildings that can interfere with your wireless system. Before committing to a mounting location for the wireless panel or receiver, look for these sources. It’s far better to find such a problem before the panel/receiver is physically installed than to discover it after the fact.

More than 80 percent of all system troubles can be found by simply looking around, so do a visual analysis of the area. Look for sources of RF, such as computers, ham radio equipment and electric motors. The receiver can miss a transmission when the panel is positioned too close to any one of them.

4. Avoid power problems in wireless panels and receivers

One of the most overlooked issues that has a direct effect on system longevity and general performance is the omission of a quality surge protector. A surge protector will often insulate the wireless control panel/receiver from sources of voltage spikes, as well as filter the power the system uses to minimize the effects of general power line noise.

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