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Reliability has long been at the heart of the debate over wireless versus hardwired home security systems. It’s a debate that’s often skewed by factors such as skepticism over the susceptibility of wireless systems, including interference from radio signals and glitches that cause false alarms. While improvements in recent years have made the technology more robust and popular (some systems today have their own unique wireless technology, which can’t be interfered with by other signals), concerns persist over vulnerabilities that don’t affect hardwired systems.
With connectivity less of an issue, wired security systems have often been the first choice of industry experts and companies dependent on effective data security. The nature and composition of the two technologies continue to arouse strongly-held opinions as to their relative reliability — even though the question may ultimately boil down to personal preference and lifestyle.
Unless cut or otherwise damaged, hardwired security systems remain connected no matter what, because wires are connected to sensors that don’t require batteries to operate, eliminating the possibility that a wired system could fail due to an ill-timed battery outage. Maintenance is less of an issue, because most new components are compatible with installed systems.
Conversely, many existing wireless systems are outdated, which can make it difficult to find sensors and other replacement parts. For that reason, upgrading to newer sensors usually means having to replace an entire wireless system.
More expensive, but hard to hack
However, wired systems aren’t without their drawbacks. They tend to be more expensive to install, requiring the expertise of qualified professionals. As infrastructure, sensors and wiring need to be positioned inside the walls, which involves drilling and connecting sensors to low-voltage wires, so there’s contractor labor to consider. Uninstalling, moving and reinstalling a system is especially problematic and usually inadvisable, because it means putting old hardware in a new location.
On the other hand, it’s considerably more difficult to hack into a hardwired system. There’s also a definite convenience factor involved, since wired systems can offer control panels in multiple rooms as well as high-definition (HD) video surveillance. Plus, wired systems can handle more sensors, which can be extended among multiple buildings on a given property.
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Easy installation and removal
When portability and mobility are important to homeowners, wireless systems have a definite advantage, since they can be removed easily and reinstalled quickly. With no drilling or intricate electrical wiring to be done, wireless systems typically don’t require professional installation, and since they don’t require an extensive and labor-intensive removal of wires, they can be moved fairly easily, a definite benefit for renters and people on the go. It’s a flexible form of security technology, because sensors can be moved and added with relative ease. They are also highly integratable, because wireless systems can be synched up with other home automation features, such as smart locks and lights.
Battery life and limited reach
As a battery-operated technology, wireless security systems need to be checked periodically to prevent system outages. With a range generally limited to 500 feet, they’re often ineffective in larger homes. They’re also susceptible to interference and service disruptions, much like WiFi signals and cell phone connections, which can be interrupted and lost.
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The verdict: let your home and lifestyle guide your home security system choice
Both wired and wireless security systems provide robust, reliable protection, though they have markedly different strengths and differences. Ultimately, it depends on individual preference:
- If you’re a homeowner who prefers fully-integrated technology and doesn’t want to worry about battery life, a hardwired home security system is your best bet.
- If you tend to move homes often and like being able to uninstall your system quickly and easily, a wireless home security system is the better option.
Wireless security systems are generally considered more reliable than they were even just a few years ago. With enhanced performance and reliability, they offer lower installation costs and easier upgrades than wired systems.
A hardwired security system can be relied on to perform without fear of problems like unexpected sensor outages, signal interference or being hacked by cyber criminals. A wired system is also more difficult to disable, though a power outage will knock you offline unless you have a generator as backup. They’re easier to maintain and typically cover larger spaces than their wireless counterparts, which makes them popular with corporations, since they favor consistency and security. As long as the wiring remains intact, the system will work with any service provider, and there’s no need to purchase replacement switches, motion detectors and sensors to upgrade the master panel keypad.
When it comes to technology, reliability is a highly subjective matter, depending on which features and benefits an individual favors. Wireless security systems are more agile and integratable, but low signal strength and poor connectivity are still common complaints. Hardwired systems require minimal maintenance, and short of a general power outage, are more difficult to disrupt. Despite a general improvement in wireless technology, there appear to be fewer ways for hardwired systems to be disrupted and incapacitated.