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Shop Alarm System Problems

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Susquatch

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My DSC Shop Alarm was posting errors when I opened up today. Turns out the battery bit the bullet. Prolly the recent storm and power outage.

But I used it as an excuse to check out my system. Discovered that every single window sensor was NFG. I could kick them loose by toggling them with a big magnet. But they were failed in the no-fault condition so they are no longer trustworthy. I never thought magnetic reed switches that have essentially zero usage would fail like that.

I'll replace them all, but it's time to upgrade my motion detection system too.

This post is just a reminder to others that alarm systems should be checked periodically. Don't assume it's all ok like I did.
 

Aliva

Super User
When buying the motion sensors be sure to purchase the units that are for outdoor use and not indoor.
 

slow-poke

Ultra Member
FWIW

At home we have a relatively new Honeywell wireless. Them claimed the battery in the sensors would last 5 years, we're at 4 and still working great, the control unit will warn us when the batteries are getting low. Very happy with the system and the low cost monthly fee (Monitoring Center)

At our cottage we have a wired system with Chubb Edwards, nothing but trouble terrible service and 4x price, we're changing monitoring companies tomorrow. YMMV
 

Susquatch

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At home we have a relatively new Honeywell wireless

I have honeywell too. Could not find technical info till I spotted the DSC on the circuit board. I'm not sure honeywell makes their own system anymore.
 

slow-poke

Ultra Member
I have honeywell too. Could not find technical info till I spotted the DSC on the circuit board. I'm not sure honeywell makes their own system anymore.
Pretty sure the one to be installed tomorrow is DSC IQ4. Need to get up to speed on adding Z-Wave modules. I can see this being quite useful. Have you added any Z-wave modules?

Not sure how much you have "played" with yours, if you have and have any words of wisdom, I'm all ears.
 

Susquatch

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Not sure how much you have "played" with yours, if you have and have any words of wisdom, I'm all ears.

I'd love to hear what you both installed (or will install) and what your experience is.

I feel like I could write a book on alarm systems. Alarms and I have a long history together.

Back in something like 1975 or so, we were burglarized in broad daylight while we were at work. The crooks kicked in the back door. The next door neighbour was a policeman and came home for lunch during the breakin but didn't even know they were there. Unknowingly, he scared them away.

When we got home, we called the police who said it was a standard breakin just like the ones they see all the time. The crooks came to the house pretending to ask for directions. When nobody answered the door, they knocked louder. When nobody answered, they kicked the door in. He also said that they were unsuccessful and therefore, they would be back in 6 weeks or 6 months. 6 months later they were back again and kicked the door in again! But this time I had an alarm and it scared them away right away.

The 70s and 80s were back in the height of my electronics career. So I designed and built my own system. Everything was custom. I even put fishing line in the curtains with pull trip sensors, and weight sensors on the floor joists and under the hall carpeting. IR and ultrasound were not very reliable back then but line of sight beams worked fine so I used them too like trip wires.

I have always believed that a custom (or highly customized) alarm is better than an off the shelf system because a crook cannot predict how the system works. Although I bought a radio shack self-installed alarm for my next two homes and a DSC for my current home, they are still highly customized.

I also believe in multiple layers of protection. Outdoor surveillance, signage, and obvious features discourage thieves from even trying. Thieves are lazy. The idea behind this level is to show them that there are lots of easier targets than me.

But if they do try despite the warnings, I have hidden cameras too. All my cameras alert me with notifications on my phone so I can assess the situation and act appropriately.

The outside perimeter of my house and barn are secured with hard wired sensors on all the doors. Only the barn windows are monitored. In the house I have motion sensors instead of window sensors. I want to replace or perhaps augment the barn window sensors with motion sensors.

My system is monitored by a monitoring service. The cost of the service is less than the insurance deduction so I am happy. But I also get my own notifications when anything goes wrong.

I understand that one of the common ways that thieves break into monitored homes is to cut the phone wire before entering, then make a mad dash for the panel and pull the power there to 110 and battery. This kills the siren. Therefore, I have 3 levels of calling the monitoring service. Call by phone, call by internet, and call by a cellular modem. It's virtually impossible to reach the panel without notifying the monitoring service and myself.

The next level is interior video surveillance in the house and shop. These are not monitored and most of them are hidden, but I do get notifications and I can check the footage remotely. The footage is stored on the cloud and on hidden network storage drives.

I also have smoke, CO, electrical outage, and flooding sensors that are both monitored and send me notifications.

I can arm, disarm, and check absolutely everything remotely even though they are often separate systems that don't know about each other.

I like the redundancy. I also like the fact that I couldn't break in myself even though I know how everything works. I believe this must be a goal in any alarm design. If you can defeat it yourself, it isn't good enough.

I sleep better as a result, and I can enjoy myself when we are away.

I confess that I am a bit of a freak in terms of the extent and complexity of my system. I don't think most people need that.

In my eyes, the minimum system cannot be defeated from outside the house and is immune from power failures. It also includes exterior warnings and alerts as well as a fail-safe perimeter and interior intrusion system.

Although WiFi systems exist and are convenient to install, I don't trust them. At a minimum, I believe that a hardwired door circuit is required. Even if a crook comes in through a window, they will still carry their loot out through a door. Motion sensors are not reliable enough to be trusted on their own but are reasonable devices to augment a wired sensor system.

Affordable indoor/outdoor video systems exist and provide great peace of mind. I have battery powered Arlo & Toucan indoor outdoor wireless cameras that can literally be put anywhere. Even camouflaged in a tree. Spiders and birds are a nuisance but I set mine to recognize people. In my opinion, they are both excellent once they are tuned up.

@Dabbler - I am not changing or replacing my system. Just repairing/replacing the window sensors and installing a few motion sensors.

Edit - might be changing my mind on that, see posts below.

@slow-poke - Sorry, I standardized on Google Compatible smart home devices several years ago because of the size of the user base and the rather staggering number of compatible devices. I don't have any Zwave devices in the house or the shop. So I can't speak to how well they work or don't. Google devices all seem to work fantastic and I have a VERY LARGE network of installed devices that all like each other. YMMV.
 
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slow-poke

Ultra Member
Dabbler,

New system is DSC IQ4, I think everyone puts their name on it Honeywell, Johnson Controls etc......

Took the guy about 30 minutes to install.

My understanding is that I can buy whatever Z-Wave modules I want and then integrate them into the system via the keypad. I plan to add for example a power fail and temperature sensor in the basement. Then use an app to monitor. It should take some of the guess work out of power outages and do we need to worry about the plumbing freezing up when power is off during ice storms.

Communicates both cell and wi-fi.

Something else to play with.

I hope it's trouble free, its similar to what we have at home, and that one is working well.
 
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Susquatch

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Pretty sure system inside is DSC IQ4, I think everyone puts their name on it Honeywell, Johnson Controls etc......

Took the guy about 30 minutes to install.

My understanding is that I can buy whatever Z-Wave modules I want and then integrate them into the system via the keypad.

DSC advertises an IQ Pro but I didn't see an IQ4. When I search on IQ4 I get entertainment stuff.

The manual is excellent and promotes a DIY approach.

One thing I found to be a total pain in the butt is that installers will give you a master code which allows you to add users and change certain things but they will NOT give you the Installer code which is required to add or modify the setup and function and install more circuits. I had to watch the guy who installed the cellular modem and literally swiped it from them. I did NOT feel guilty. It's MY SYSTEM after all. If you didn't get the installer code, you might be able to bribe the service tech to get it.

I am unsure about how a Zwave device works during a power outage. Something to look into. You might find your system is better off with hardwired sensors and that things like power monitoring (which my alarm does without zwave) and temperature monitoring are better off done outside the alarm system. I get power alerts from my alarm system and temperature from my nest. But it would be easy to do temp through the alarm which has a battery backed cellular connection for when WiFi doesn't work. My shop is an outbuilding on the farm so communication isn't an issue. My entire network is battery backed (UPS) so WiFi and Ethernet works regardless of off site conditions. My shop is connected to the house by an Engenious wireless bridge, and the two alarms are hardwired together as independent zones with an underground cable.

I love your control panel. Mine has an LCD Display but it's pretty basic. I cannot program my alarm as easily as I'd like. I have to use archaic sequences of codes.
 

slow-poke

Ultra Member
DSC advertises an IQ Pro but I didn't see an IQ4. When I search on IQ4 I get entertainment stuff.

The manual is excellent and promotes a DIY approach.

One thing I found to be a total pain in the butt is that installers will give you a master code which allows you to add users and change certain things but they will NOT give you the Installer code which is required to add or modify the setup and function and install more circuits. I had to watch the guy who installed the cellular modem and literally swiped it from them. I did NOT feel guilty. It's MY SYSTEM after all. If you didn't get the installer code, you might be able to bribe the service tech to get it.

I am unsure about how a Zwave device works during a power outage. Something to look into. You might find your system is better off with hardwired sensors and that things like power monitoring (which my alarm does without zwave) and temperature monitoring are better off done outside the alarm system. I get power alerts from my alarm system and temperature from my nest. But it would be easy to do temp through the alarm which has a battery backed cellular connection for when WiFi doesn't work. My shop is an outbuilding on the farm so communication isn't an issue. My entire network is battery backed (UPS) so WiFi and Ethernet works regardless of off site conditions. My shop is connected to the house by an Engenious wireless bridge, and the two alarms are hardwired together as independent zones with an underground cable.

I love your control panel. Mine has an LCD Display but it's pretty basic. I cannot program my alarm as easily as I'd like. I have to use archaic sequences of codes.

I have the installer code;-). That was on my must get during the install list!

Any chance your starts with 2?

The hub has a lithium battery, all the sensors also have replaceable batteries however they last 5 years, and they actually do because the ones at home are now 4 years old and going strong. That's somewhat impressive from my perspective. So system continues to operate during power outage but can only communicate with cell network as wifi will be down because wifi router has no power.

I'm quite curious how you get messages from your auxiliary system to your cell?
Hardware/Software and how do you generate the SMS messages? Is this a pay for monthly monitoring system or something else?
 

trlvn

Ultra Member
I'm quite curious how you get messages from your auxiliary system to your cell?
I have and Envislink module for my DSC alarm panel that provides alerts to my phone:


I replaced the DSC alarm panel about 4 years ago (DIY). Pretty straightforward stuff since I was reusing most of the installed hard-wired sensors. Of course, Covid happened and we haven't left the house since... ;)

Craig
 

Susquatch

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I have the installer code;-). That was on my must get during the install list!

Any chance your starts with 2?

Nope it's a 4. I'll swap codes with you by PM if you want. As I understand it, there are a half dozen codes they all use. It's sort of like a master key. But they all gaurd them with their lives lest they get out into the wild.....

The hub has a lithium battery, all the sensors also have replaceable batteries however they last 5 years, and they actually do because the ones at home are now 4 years old and going strong. That's somewhat impressive from my perspective.

I agree. My camera batteries last a month while using IR in the dark and talking to my network. Amazing.

So system continues to operate during power outage but can only communicate with cell network as wifi will be down because wifi router has no power.

My home network including routers, switches, and primary NAS, as well as my internet connection (rural line of sight radio) are all in a locked IP closet on a big UPS. I also have a Battery backed NAS that spools security video, and camera oem has cloud storage.

I'm quite curious how you get messages from your auxiliary system to your cell?

The systems all communicate over my home network which includes a battery backed wireless bridge to the barn for regular network traffic like using Google home to convert mm to inches for me by voice or find my phone or whatever. Find my phone is a cool new feature I found quite by accident. My wife got a smart watch and uses it to find her phone. But I lose mine much more often in the shop. I was pouting over it but didn't want to buy a smart watch. I said to my bride that it's too bad Google Home can't do that. On a hunch, I just tried it. "Google, find my phone". It started ringing at the other end of the house. It even works when the phone isn't on the home network. It just needs to be on the cellular network. I haven't tried it with Samsung's find my phone feature yet. It beats the crap out of asking my wife to keep calling me till I answer.

Hardware/Software and how do you generate the SMS messages?

No SMS. It uses the native android notification process.

Is this a pay for monthly monitoring system or something else?

Costs me nothing after I purchase the devices. However you can pay extra for more storage or more devices.

I also don't pay for the Honeywell Total Connect Service that let's me arm/disarm and monitor my alarm system. Total Connect is an Android App (or web portal) service that is included with my monitoring service. It works..... Meah..... Ok..... But nothing to get excited about. What it does do is give you the status of all your sensors, their time stamped history, and arm/disarm history, as well as an onscreen keypad emulator that can arm or disarm the alarm and individually disable sensors
 

Susquatch

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The hub has a lithium battery,

Ah yes. A hub. I guess that's somewhat analogous to Google home but not on WiFi because it uses Zwave instead. I didn't want that anymore. I don't know what frequency zwave uses, but I bet it competes with WiFi for bandwidth. I do mix the two WiFi bands but I have slowly but surely eliminated everything else. If it doesn't use WiFi, it's gone. No more proprietary wireless stuff like baby monitors, lighting controllers, etc. If it isn't standard WiFi, it's gone.
 

Susquatch

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@slow-poke - I guess a few more thoughts are appropriate. Maybe 4 years ago or so, I noticed that my home network was slowing down more than I thought it should. Certainly it should always be faster than my internet connection.

So I started poking around and found that far too many devices were competing for bandwidth. My base channels were too close to each other, I wasn't sharing my 2.4 and 5 bands very efficiently, and there was way too much noise on the frequencies (not enough SNR). So I set the channels up with no overlap at all, and then went looking for reasons for the low signal to noise ratio. I live on a farm so it shouldn't be a problem with neighbours so far away. The main culprits were other 2.4GHz devices like baby monitors, household controllers, and wireless devices. They all got a death sentence. I also upgraded to a mesh system to use my devices to help each other rather than compete. My home network is now lightning fast.
 

Bandit

Ultra Member
Wow, this is a whole bunch of what I don't know, I don't know. My wife put a/the Telus system in the house and shop, cameras, set up with the cable for the tv. I am not real happy with it, but I don't have a very good idea of what it can do or not do, seems like up dates in the system cause some problems and a lot of money per month, no power backups. No multi level sensors. A whole bunch to learn and try to figure out.
Not to sure about all kinds of things wanting to backup to "the cloud", seems like away to tie you into a system to access it. Yes you don't need as much memory in devices, but you are tied to a system to get to it.
I don't know if I even got all this rite.
It appears as I get older,I don't need as much memory either, just a place I can put it that I can find when I need it.
 

StevSmar

(Steven)
Premium Member
As I understand it, there are a half dozen codes they all use. It's sort of like a master key. But they all gaurd them with their lives lest they get out into the wild.....
I’d be interested in knowing if each of your master codes work in your system. That would seem like a major vulnerability since they likely would all be available somewhere on the internet.

Side story, when I did some work in our medium security prison, they had a sign in system for the keys, the huge jail type keys you see in the movies. The fellow who gave me the key said that it was hugely expensive to replace them since if they were lost all the locks that used that key were rekeyed (IIRC he implied on a lock company basis, though that seems excessive).

but line of sight beams worked fine so I used them too like trip wires.
The first thing that popped into my head when I read this was Catherine Zeta-Jones visiting your workshop… (Can’t remember what movie that was…)
 
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