Over the past several decades, alarm systems have boomed in popularity. The increased affordability of these systems has certainly helped create this rise in both residential and commercial alarm installations. Additionally, user-friendly technology has made operating alarms simpler and less intimidating than ever before. This increase in popularity has also led to an increase in customers calling us to upgrade existing alarm systems. Some of these customers purchased alarms several years ago for the first time and now desire an update. In other instances, families move into homes with an older security system and want to modernize the equipment. Completing these upgrades often requires creativity on our part. In this post, we share some unique security equipment for alarm upgrades that we can use to get you connected to the latest and greatest in security technology.

First, we’ll explain why people undertake alarm upgrades in the first place. From there, we’ll get into the specifics regarding how we make these upgrades happen. Most alarm upgrades require installing wireless equipment. Therefore, we’ll look at a couple ways we can add this capability to older alarm systems. Then, we’ll discuss how we can change the type of wireless communication an alarm uses when needed. Finally, we’ll look at an important piece of equipment we used when taking over existing hardwired alarm equipment. Now, let’s get started by focusing on why people call us to upgrade their security systems!

Why Do People Upgrade Their Alarms?

When we refer to an “alarm upgrade,” we refer to changing out the parts of an alarm needed to modernize your security experience. First, this usually involves changing out the “brains” of your alarm. Generally, replacing your alarm’s control panel and keypads can tremendously upgrade your experience. This rings especially true for customers with outdated keypads that display little or no information. Initially, alarm systems communicated with series of flashing lights and beeps. Eventually, technology evolved enough to allow for keypads that displayed cryptic status updates. Now, our keypads have the ability to spell out any system updates in complete, easy-to-understand messages.

An open Alarm.com app on a smartphone.

Alarm.com allows you to control your alarm system and smart home devices remotely using a convenient smartphone app, making it a popular reason people choose to upgrade their security system.

Additionally, we can provide the ability for customers to control their newer security systems remotely. We do so by installing our cellular dialer, powered by Alarm.com. Once installed, this dialer will allow you to arm and disarm your security system with your smartphone! Moreover, our Alarm.com customers receive instant, customizable alerts sent straight to their smartphones as well. Therefore, activity such as alarm activations, system arming and disarming events, and even low sensor batteries can all create these notifications. Finally, customers can even control smart home devices using their Alarm.com app for extra security and convenience! For more information, check out our post on How to Use Your Smart Phone to Add Security to Your Alarm. Next up, let’s see how we can add wireless technology to older alarm panels during an upgrade.

Adding Wireless Capability to Your Alarm

As we mentioned earlier, upgrading an alarm system frequently involves adding wireless devices. This often happens if customers build an addition to their home. However, sometimes customers simply want to install additional security contacts. Traditionally, installing an alarm required running wiring from the alarm’s control panel to each security contact. Of course, wireless security contacts have become the norm over the past few decades. Wireless security systems use a radio frequency to allow wireless contacts to communicate with the alarm panel. When upgrading an older alarm, we can provide this capability in a couple different ways.

Some alarm systems have an antenna built into the panel itself to allow for communication with wireless sensors. In these cases, completing the upgrade addresses the wireless issue right off the bat. Otherwise, we can install a keypad with an antenna to allow us to install wireless sensors. Sometimes, this allows us to complete an alarm upgrade without changing out the alarm panel! Simply installing a modernized keypad with an antenna can provide an updated user experience and the ability to install wireless sensors. Now, let’s see how we address trickier alarm upgrades that require some unique security equipment.

Translation Please?

Occasionally, we must upgrade alarm panels that another company installed, rather then our own company. When we install wireless sensors, they communicate with our alarm panel over a specific radio frequency. However, not all alarm devices operate on the same frequency. In fact, some older alarms have no wireless devices or wireless communication technology at all. Depending on what type of alarm we use for our upgrade, we often must install devices to allow the old alarm components to “talk” to our new system. We call these devices “translators.” Simply put, translators make an alarm’s devices operate on the same frequency as the new alarm system. In this section, we’ll discuss the two types of translators we use most. First, we’ll examine the need for translators that work with hardwired security sensors. Then, we’ll focus on taking over existing wireless equipment and putting it on our own frequency.

Hardwired to Wireless Translators

Some of our newest alarm panels communicate exclusively with wireless alarm components. In fact, our preferred panel, the QOLSYS IQ Panel 4, fits this description. Therefore, we cannot hook existing hardwired sensors into these wireless panels. However, we can still take over your old hardwired equipment using a hardwired-to-wireless translator. We install these unique devices in the place of your old alarm panel. At that point, we wire the existing alarm zones to the translator. Then, the translator “speaks” to the new panel over the proper radio frequency. This process allows us to efficiently upgrade your hardwired alarm to a wireless alarm, without replacing all of your old sensors! In this manner, these devices create significiant savings to our upgrading customers. Next, let’s look at another type of translator that we use when completing security upgrades.

Devices for Wireless Security Takeovers

As we mentioned earlier, wireless security devices use a specific radio frequency to communicate with the alarm’s control panel. Often, we run into a situation where a customer’s existing sensors will not operate on the same frequency as the new panel we install for them. Several years ago, this meant that we had to replace every wireless system component. Obviously, this made taking over large wireless security systems a costly endeavor. However, we now have the use of wireless signal translators to make these takeovers more efficient.

An Alula wireless signal translator

Wireless signal translators, such as this model by Alula, allow us to take over existing wireless contacts when completing a burglar alarm upgrade.

These devices have the ability to communicate over multiple radio frequencies that alarms typically use. We install them next to the new alarm’s control panel. Then, we simply select the frequencies used by the existing sensors, as well as that of the new panel. Doing so allows the translator to communicate with the existing sensors and convert the signal to the operating frequency of the new panel. In turn, this creates an indirect yet still instantaneous communication path between your old sensors and the upgraded panel. This device saves customers quite a bit of money, and saves us quite a bit of time and effort! For these reasons, wireless signal translators were a prized example of unique security equipment from the minute they hit the market. Below, we’ll look at an important device for completing an alarm upgrade using hardwired security sensors.

Hardwired Zone Expanders

Sometimes we run into situations that call for a piece of important but little-known alarm equipment. Occasionally, we must upgrade an alarm with a sizable number of hardwired sensors. During installation, security companies connect these devices back to the panel in one of two ways. Doors are often wired individually to the panel. This allows users to know what doors has been breached upon an alarm activation. On the other hand, alarm installers often run one wire from the alarm panel to multiple windows or motion detectors. This can create a security “zone” with many actual devices on it. For example, we might label one zone as “dining room windows.” At that point, you’ll have a rough idea of where your alarm got breached even if you don’t know which specific window activated your alarm.

Hardwired alarm panels have a set amount of zones they can hold out of the box. For example, we commonly find 4, 8, and 16-zone panels in the field. Sometimes, we take over a large hardwired system with a panel that cannot hold all of the existing zones. In these cases, we install a “zone expander” to create more hardwired capacity. Zone expanders create additional hardwired connections for existing alarm equipment in the field. We generally install these expanders inside the new alarm panel. From there, we take all of the old sensors wiring and connect it to our panel and zone expander(s). Following these steps allows us to complete alarm upgrades even when the old alarm system has more hardwired zones than our newer panels can usually handle.

Using Unique Security Equipment to Upgrade Your Alarm

We hope that this post has educated you about the unique security equipment that we use when completing alarm upgrades. We also encourage you to contact us with any questions you may have about the material presented here. Over the past 33 years, we’ve completed hundreds of alarm installations and upgrades. In fact, we even offer free site surveys to create a security plan that works for you. While on site, we can address any security concerns you may have. Furthermore, we can make recommendations based on our own observations of your property. Whether you’re seeking a brand new alarm installation or upgrading an older, existing system, together we can create a security plan to keep you, your most valued possessions, and your loved ones as safe and secure as possible!