The Disadvantages of a Wireless Alarm System

By Keith Evans

Wireless systems can become unresponsive when batteries die.
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Wireless alarm systems offer a number of benefits, and many homeowners and renters take advantage of these systems for their convenience. However, these systems often carry a higher price tag than their wired equivalents, and wireless security does have some drawbacks that can leave owners feeling frustrated and even vulnerable.


Wireless alarm systems typically provide all the features found in a standard, wired alarm system. These systems also include the same components as comparable wired systems: control panels, sensors, sirens and even remote key panels. To facilitate the wireless nature of these systems, though, each component must also include a radio transmitter. The additional component in each device carries a cost, and the combined cost of the entire alarm system can be considerably more than a similar wired system.


In a wireless alarm system, individual sensors and components communicate with the central control panel using radio waves. Because the system relies on radio frequencies, other devices using similar frequencies may interrupt communication between the components and cause the system to become temporarily non-operational. Frequency interference could, in some cases, also cause a false alarm. In addition, the security company Alarm Grid notes that metal objects placed near sensors or the control panel can cause radio interference, as can electronic devices and even electrical wiring.


Though the control panel in a wireless alarm system typically plugs into an electrical outlet, sensors, motion detectors and other components often operate on battery power. As the system ages, batteries can become weak or die and render the component useless. Wireless alarm control panels typically check in with individual components and report when one fails, but a failed sensor can leave a property unprotected until the owner has an opportunity to replace the batteries. Some systems may also begin to exhibit erratic behavior as batteries reach a point of exhaustion, and these systems may give false alarms or stop responding to commands.


Because wireless alarm systems integrate radio signals into their operation, they are somewhat more vulnerable to hackers and other malicious intruders than their wired counterparts. In addition, many inexpensive, Chinese-made systems operate within a narrow band of security codes, so other users with the same model of alarm system may be able to disarm the system with nothing more than a remote control.


Many homeowners purchase wireless alarm systems for their ease of installation. However, non-professional installation can leave the systems vulnerable to tampering, hijacking and unintentional damage. Well-intentioned homeowners who install the control panel near a door or window, for example, may not realize that accomplished criminals can quickly disable the system after entering the property.


Though wireless alarm systems do have a number of disadvantages, advances in technology have offset many of these issues. Many systems, for example, can last for years on their original batteries. In addition, professional installation can help avoid radio interference and even reduce the likelihood that a burglar will access and disarm the control panel.