Upgrading and/or Reactivating Your Existing Security System

UPGRADING / MODERNIZING YOURSELF

Upgrading an existing security system doesn’t have to necessarily mean replacing everything – which your local alarm dealer usually recommends.  Modern devices and services  not available when your system was installed can many times be added to older systems. This includes both wired and wireless systems.  

Why would you want to upgrade?

  • Remote control of your security via smartphones/tablets
  • Remote management of lights, door locks, thermostats via smartphones/tablets
  • Better manage your energy costs by managing temperature and lighting by utilizing “scenes”
  • Eliminate landline connection to a central station saving telecom expense while increasing security with cellular connectivity
  • Take advantage of discounted UL central station monitoring saving money
  • Add video surveillance of your home knowing when kids arrive home, what pets are doing while home alone, watching over elder parents
  • Expand your security coverage adding wired or wireless sensors
  • Use wireless keyfobs making home entry even easier, especially when adding Z-Wave locks and lighting

If you have a professionally installed system (or previously DIY installed using professional equipment) you may be in luck and upgrade could be the best bet.  Going with a new shiny graphic touchscreen keypad/system is great but not always necessary.  Existing wired or wireless sensors should be able to be reused even if replacing the control panel.  This is where the greatest cost savings comes in when modernizing – reuse as much as possible!  Door, window, motion, glassbreak, and fire sensors have not changed “greatly” the last 30 years and still provide good security.  In-wall wiring does not go bad unless of course chewed by a mouse for example.

THE PROFESSIONAL HOME SECURITY LANDSCAPE

The vast majority of older security systems are “wired” and probably manufactured by Honeywell.  If your keypad says Ademco then you have Honeywell (Ademco was acquired by Honeywell in 2000).  If your keypad says ADT then you likely have a private labeled Honeywell system which ADT standardized on for years.  We’ll give some examples of how to upgrade older systems but in some cases it will depend on the manufacturer.

Convert from landline to IP Broadband and/or cellular connectivity with central station for alarm notification

If using a hardwired security system (regardless of brand) adding an external communicator is possible, and not necessarily difficult to install.  If staying with your existing alarm company and central station then they must make the change.  However if you are looking for less expense, but just as reliable (maybe even more so) monitoring then changing the communicator may be necessary.  Also if you want to add interactive services to remotely arm/disarm your security as well as manage home automation (Z-Wave) devices such as lights, locks, and thermostats then cellular or IP broadband communication is essential.  Consider external communicators such as IPD-BAT-CDMA Dual IP and Cellular Communicator.  See our full selection under “Communicators“.

If using a wireless “all-in-one” panel such as the Honeywell Lynx there may still be expansion cards available that can be popped in the side of the unit adding cellular or WIFI communication with a central station.  In some cases unfortunately older wireless panels only had 2G cellular cards which have been phased out by the US carriers and no replace cards for 3G or LTE were offered.  This would be one reason for needing a replacement control.  Remember that existing wireless sensors should be able to be reused with the newer control!

Control home automation devices

Adding Z-Wave capability to your wired or wireless system may be possible, depending on manufacturer.  For Honeywell hardwired panels (Vista series) for example adding the Vista Automation Module (VAM) will allow control of the broad selection of Z-Wave compatible devices. It’s an external module that easily wires to the panel.  As with any hardwire addition there is some programming configuration necessary, but its not difficult and we can talk you through it or remote program for you if you order our interactive service (which is needed anyway to take full advantage of remote management).

Expanding your security protection

Adding devices, regardless of wired or wireless is usually possible.  Of course adding wireless devices is much easier, but costs a little more.  Time is money however 

Moving to a “hybrid” configuration (both wired and wireless devices) is many times the easiest, and least expensive upgrade path.  Again using the Honeywell Vista series as an example, adding a 5800 series wireless receiver allows use of the wide range of Honeywell wireless security devices.  This includes door and window sensors, motion detectors, glassbreak detectors, smoke and/or heat detectors, as well as wireless keyfobs.  An example wireless receiver is the Honeywell 5881ENM which can add 16 wireless zones to the Vista series hardwired panels. Another option is adding a keypad with an RF wireless receiver built-in such as the 6160RF.  Keep in mind the wireless receiver you choose must be compatible with the panel you are upgrading.  For example a 5800 series wireless receiver add-on will only work with Honeywell Vista hardwire panels. 

Home Security Alarm System Panels

REPLACING YOUR EXISTING CONTROL / PANEL

In some cases you may want to replace the primary control with something such as a 2GIG GC3 wireless control (all-in-one unit).  The nice thing about 2GIG is you can use their wireless devices as well as Honeywell’s 5800 series wireless.  The only exceptions are the limited devices using a house code which are two way wireless devices such as a 5828 wireless keypad.  Door and window sensors, motions, glassbreak, smoke/heat, etc. are one-way wireless devices and fully compatible with 2GIG. 

Of course staying with Honeywell and upgrading to their Lynx Touch such as the L7000 or L5210 may be desirable.  Again your existing hardwired or wireless devices may be reused.  For hardwired zones use the 5800C2W wired to wireless converter.  Existing 5800 series wireless will work with any Lynx Touch control.

Another option is changing the control with something like the Resolution Helix panel.  Its wireless and can use your smartphone rather wall mounted keypads, but they are available too.  For remote connectivity you’ll need to add their cellular expansion card.  Its a no tool snap-in.  If you want to minimize programming then Helix is the way to go.  Its the most DIY friendly panel on the professional-grade market.  We also have hardwire and wireless “translator” cards that plug-in to the Helix to reuse your existing protection devices.  Resolution is the king of translator equipment making transition easy.  See our Helix Wireless System page for more details.

REACTIVATING YOUR EXISTING SECURITY SYSTEM

If you recently bought a home that already has a home security system, you may be able to save a significant amount of money and reactivate it yourself.  You could use it as a “local” alarm meaning no central station monitoring and just rely on its interior and/or exterior siren.  Of course you could also sign-up for UL central station monitoring to better protect your family and take advantage of the 10%-20% annual premium discount many homeowner’s insurance carriers offer. Reactivating an existing system as a DIY homeowner is not as difficult as you might think.

WHAT ARE THE STEPS INVOLVED DOING THIS MYSELF?

First you need to re-power the alarm (if its not already) to see what works and what does not. 

More than likely it was installed by a local professional security installation company so the coverage may be adequate for your needs.  In some cases it could have been set-up as “interior only”  meaning just the doors were protected and one or more interior motion detectors were used to cover the windows.  When no one is home (or possibly when asleep) this may be enough.  The alternative is full perimeter coverage backed up by interior sensors.  This allows you to arm the system and protect your family while people are in the house moving about since now all of the windows are protected and the motions off until you will be out of view (away).  Expanding the system is possible but not necessary day 1 (see the section above regarding upgrading your system).

Know the Master Code as well as Installer Code for your system. 

Usually the homeowner does not know the Installer Code (the installing company would only know this code unless the system was installed as a DIY by the last homeowner.  It’s also possible the previous owner did not share the Master Code with you.  This happens frequently since they assume their former alarm company will set you up with monitoring and change all of the existing passcodes.

Fear not – there is a back door into ALL security systems.  For example on Honeywell Vista panels (which may be an ADT alarm) all you do is power down the panel by unplugging the AC power to the control panel and disconnect the backup battery inside the enclosure.  For wired security systems there will be a metal enclosure located somewhere out of sight such as in the basement, closet, garage – but always in a protected space.  Alarm panels are low-voltage devices and use plug-in transformers rather than direct 110VAC wiring.  The transformer will be close to this panel enclosure and usually screwed to the outlet cover plate so no one unplugs the transformer accidentally disabling the alarm.  The backup battery is inside this enclosure and can easily be disconnected rendering the system completely dead.  All configuration/programming is stored on nonvolatile memory so there is no danger of losing anything when power is lost.

When powering the alarm backup just go to any keypad and press * & # simultaneously (within 50 seconds of power up) which will put you into “program mode”. Hit *20 and the keypad will show the Installer Code (one digit at a time).  Type *99 and you’re back into normal mode. 

You can now arm and disarm using the installer code and better yet reset the Master Code which is the normal code to be used (or additional secondary codes).  Each brand security system has its own key sequence to get the Code Code but the steps are very similar, and that simple.  Look for the user manual on our site or others for your particular manufacturer and model.  Hint:  the model and brand is shown on the inside door of the alarm enclosure – not the keypad!

Add monitoring

If adding self or central station monitoring just give us a call to figure out what type of communicator you may have as part of your existing system (landline, IP broadband, WIFI broadband, cellular) and select what level of monitoring you need.  See our Monitoring page for more details regarding service levels – Click Here. Going DIY instead of through your local alarm company will generally be half the cost and without any long-term commitment!