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Vista Security System Troubleshooting Tips

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A couple months back, we completed the acquisition of Dynamark Security Centers out of Tolland, Connecticut. This continues a long history of our company acquiring and successfully continuing operations of companies within the industry. Most notably, 2007 saw the acquisition of Atwood Fire and Security. We followed this by purchasing Landry Lock and Alarm in 2015. In turn, each of these acquisitions have led to us growing our knowledge of available security equipment. Specifically, our most recent company growth has us working with more Honeywell Vista equipment than ever. As a service to our customers, we have created a series of posts to help troubleshoot issues on our most popular alarm panels. For example, this series of posts has included troubleshooting tips on the Concord 4 and NX-8 panels by Interlogix, as well as the QOLSYS IQ Panel 2. In this post, we share our Vista security system troubleshooting tips.

We will start by discussing the types of keypads that Vista customers encounter. The type of keypad that you have will determine what a trouble signal will look like. Therefore, we will explain the differences between the keypad types up front. Next, we will look at how to check up on your Vista system’s status. Identifying the issue goes a long way towards solving it. Finally, we will look at a few different “categories” of issues. During your Vista security system troubleshooting, you will run into a few types of trouble messages. For example, you can easily clear or address some of these issues by taking a few quick steps. Additionally, we will also look at issues requiring action from your alarm company. Now, let’s get started by looking at the two main types of Vista keypads!

A Honeywell Vista Keypad

The Vista keypad has an LCD display that can be used to check on your alarm system’s status.

An Introduction to the Vista Keypads

When completing Vista security system troubleshooting, you must know what type of keypad you are working with in order to know the type of message to expect to see. In general, Honeywell offers two types of keypads for Vista panels: “alpha” display and “fixed” display. While the two options look largely the same, they offer a different set of features. Of the two, alpha display keypads include more features for both alarm companies and end users. In the words of the Vista User’s Manual, the alpha keypad displays system messages in “friendly English” using 2 lines and up to 32 characters. Alarm installers can easily navigate menus with this type of keypad and type in custom names for alarm zones if desired. Additionally, any panel issues create a fairly clear and easy-to-follow line of text on the keypad.

In contrast, fixed-display keypads do not allow installers to customize zone names. Instead, technicians must type in numbers that correspond with pre-determined words to program the panel. Furthermore, these keypads display messages in a cryptic fashion, generally providing a number and a one-or-two word system status explanation. During programming, this makes menus very hard to navigate. For end users, it also makes navigating different trouble signals more difficult. Users must attempt to draw a useful conclusion from the minimal information on their fixed display keypads. In this post, we will share the types of messages that both keypads provide to help you troubleshoot. We will give the longer alpha keypad messages up front, followed by the shorter fixed-display messages in parentheses. Now, let’s look at how you can identify trouble signals on your Vista security panel!

Identifying and Addressing Trouble Conditions

The first step towards successful alarm troubleshooting lies in figuring out the nature of the trouble itself. Often, users have an easy time identifying and fixing the issue at hand. On the other hand, some trouble conditions take a little more work to clear out. In this section, we look at a few different troubleshooting scenarios. We will start with the types of status messages that take the least amount of time to clear. From there, we will examine some scenarios that may take a little bit of digging to fix. Finally, we’ll share some issues that require your alarm company’s attention. Let’s begin by seeing how to check your system’s status and “clear out” the old status after addressing the issue.

Checking System Status and Clearing Zone Faults

Occasionally, Vista customers mistake a message indicating an open alarm zone for a trouble signal. This rings especially true for those with fixed-word keypads. On an alpha keypad, a the display will read “DISARMED. HIT * FOR FAULTS.” The fixed-display keypad will show a slightly more ominous message beginning with a number and followed by the words “NOT READY.” As confusing as people find this the first time they encounter it, this generally simply means that a door or window is open and must be closed before arming the system.

As a first step, press the key with an asterisk (*) on it to read through any open zones. This key also has the word “READY” written on it. If you have more than one open zone, the keypad will scroll through all open zones. As usual, you will find the alpha display keypad more useful during this process. This keypad will display the open zone name descriptions as well as zone numbers. The fixed-display keypad will simply display open zone numbers. If you do not have a zone list that matches numbers to descriptions, you may just want to scour the house for open doors and windows if you have a fixed-display keypad.

An open window in a home.

If desired, you can arm your Vista security system while leaving some windows open by bypassing the open zones.

Closing any open doors and windows should quickly clear this status for you. However, you can arm the system with some doors or windows open if desired. Simply enter your alarm code, then hit the “6/BYPASS” key followed by the zone number you wish to bypass. Now that we have looked at the simplest Vista security system troubleshooting you encounter, let’s look at some issues that call for further action.

System Status Messages Calling for Troubleshooting

Some system status messages require you to take action to clear them. For example, a loss of system power creates an “AC LOSS” (or, on fixed-display keypads, “NO AC”) message. If some or all of your home’s power is out, you do not need to take action. However, check on all of your lights and appliances’ power status. You may need to reset or replace circuit breakers and fuses if necessary. If your home has full power and the alarm still carries this display, then it’s time to call your alarm service provider.

You can also troubleshoot low system battery and sensor battery messages as well. The former issue creates a “SYSTEM LO BAT” display (or “BAT” on fixed-display keypads). Low sensor batteries will create a “LOW BAT” + zone number and descriptor (or “LO BAT” + zone number). Changing the batteries on these sensors will fix this issue. If you have a dead sensor battery in the field, the alarm will no longer be able to find this sensor. This will create a message that reads “CHECK” followed by the zone number and description (or “CHECK” + zone number only for fixed-display keypads). We recommend starting the troubleshooting for this status by changing the sensor battery. If doing so and clearing the status doesn’t fix the issue, contact your security company. Let’s take a quick look at this “status clearing” process before moving any further!

Clearing Your Alarm’s Status

When we mention clearing your alarm status, we refer to the process of “resetting” your alarm after addressing the issue at hand. Sometimes, the system will recognize a new battery or restoral of power right away. In these cases, the trouble message will clear out without you having to take further action. If, however, an old trouble message remains after you’ve fixed the issue, enter your alarm code followed by the followed by the “1/OFF” key. You will occasionally need to repeat this process a second time before the trouble status clears. In essence, following these steps indicates to the alarm that you’ve both seen the trouble message and addressed the cause behind it. Let’s finish up our Vista security system troubleshooting discussion with a look at issues that should immediately trigger a call to your security company.

Messages Requiring Service

Over the course of your alarm’s lifespan, you will likely run into issues that require a service call to fix. We’ll share some of the more common ones here in order to save you from diving too far down a rabbit hole trying to decipher and/or fix them on your own! If your panel loses the ability to communicate with our central station, it will let you know. Your keypad will display “COMM. FAILURE” (or “FC” on a fixed-display keypad) when this happens. If your alarm communicates over the phone lines, check your phones to see if you get a dial tone. At that point, you should call your security provider if your phones work but your alarm does not. Furthermore, if you have an alarm that communicates via a cellular dialer rather than traditional phone lines, you should immediately call your alarm company if your panel stops communicating with the central station.

A hand picking up a phone

Some system status messages warrant an immediate call to your alarm service provider. Photo Credit: Dave Dugdale on flickr. Used under the CC BY-SA 2.0 License.

A couple messages that warrant calling your alarm provider are especially cryptic with a fixed-message keypad. For example, a “BELL FAILURE ” message on an alpha display keypad means that the system will no longer be able to activate the alarm siren. A fixed-display keypad will communicate this issue with a message reading “CHECK 70.” Similarly, an “RF JAM” message means that the alarm can no longer communicate with its wireless sensors due to radio frequency interference. This fairly serious condition is reported on a fixed-display keypad with a message reading “CHECK 70.” While we have covered most of the common trouble message in this post, feel free to check out the user’s manual linked earlier for a complete list. Generally speaking, we encourage you to call your alarm company any time you see an alarm status message that you do not know how to address.

Putting it All Together

We hope that this post will help your Vista security system troubleshooting attempts. We encourage you to contact us with any questions you may have about the material in this post. As our own company grows and takes on the product lines of our acquired companies, we always look to share our knowledge with our growing customer base. Additionally, we also provide free site surveys for both new and existing customers. While on site, we can address any security or troubleshooting-related concerns you may have. Furthermore, we can recommend additional security measures based on our own observations. Together, we can create a complete security plan to keep you as safe and secure as possible!