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How to Run Burglar Alarm Wire

for Protecting Windows

Burglar alarm wire connects all of the parts in hardwired home security systems. The main control panel is wired to keypads, burglar alarm contacts, motion detectors, sirens, etc.





Whether you’re comparing burglar alarm companies or DIY security systems, windows are key points of protection. They are secured most often using hardwire contacts.

For tips on running wire for magnetic door switches, see Burglar Alarm Wiring for Securing Doors.

For interior protection, see:

How to Run Motion Detector Wiring

Alarm Wiring for Glassbreak Sensors

For an overview of wire needed for a complete security system, see this page on home alarm wiring.


Perimeter Windows

Each movable (opening) window needs a 2- or 4-conductor alarm wire. Ideally, every window should be home run, and have its own wire back to the panel.


Fixed glass can be protected in one of two ways:


  • Surface-mount shock sensors stick directly on the glass panes, and detect  breakage through direct vibration.


  • Audio Discriminators “listen” to the sounds in an area, and trigger when they detect the specific frequencies made by shattering glass.

I’ll cover these interior burglar alarm sensors on a separate page.



Burglar alarm wire diagram top
Burglar alarm wiring diagram btm
Burglar alarm sensors legend





Sliding windows should have burglar wire run to the top or bottom of the moving panel, approximately in the middle. This allows you to create a vent zone if needed.



Magnetic reed switch on sliding window


If running burglar alarm wire to these locations isn’t convenient, route the wire to the side of the opening. There, a surface-mount or recessed magnetic alarm switch can be installed along the vertical part of the window frame.

Details on magnetic reed switch installation.






Double hung windows by Anderson





Vertical hung windows should have burglar alarm wire run through the side of the framing, if possible. If there’s not enough room on the side, bring the wire out at the bottom of the frame.






Casement or crank-out windows come in many varieties. They swing out horizontally by a crank, and can be single or in pairs.



Steel Casement Windows


Steel casement windows are found in many older homes, and need to be considered carefully. The frames are built with heavy steel and cross-members, into which the glass panes fit. This framework is very strong, making it nearly as tough to break into as a set of security bars.

Although steel casement windows are generally tough to break into, a visitor to this site shared his experience with me. As a result, I've updated the information in this section.

His casement window was forceably pried out of its framing by a burglar, who then gained entry to the house.

Even though the room was equipped with a glassbreak detector, no glass was broken, so no alarm was triggered.

Because magnetic contacts are so problematic, I would use a motion detector is the best way to protect areas with steel casement windows.


Trying to install burglar alarm wire and switches on steel casement windows is, to put it simply, a nightmare.

Why?

There are several reasons:

  • The steel is hard to drill, making it tedious to route a burglar alarm wire to the switch;


  • Steel sucks away the strength of magnets, reducing the gap distance and making the switch prone to false alarms in the future;

  • Metal frames often sag with time, and receive several coats of paint over time. This can make them hard to open and close, and can lead to misalignments between switches and magnetic contacts.


The solution? Don’t run burglar alarm wire to these windows at all. Instead, wire for a motion detector (and possibly a glassbreak sensor) to protect each room. If a burglar does get in through the casement window, his movement should trigger the motion detector.






Wood Casement Windows by Anderson


Wood casement windows are a dream to work with, compared to steel casements.

Wooden frames don’t sap the strength from alarm magnets, so you can easily get a good gap distance with typical magnetic switches.


Wooden casements usually have a generous gap below the sill area which contains the cranking mechanism. This is a good spot to run alarm wire for a surface mount switch. The magnet can then be attached to the swinging portion of the window, in line with the switch location.

For wood crank-outs that don’t have much space at the bottom, a wire for a recessed burglar alarm switch can be drilled into the bottom of the frame. A surface-mount magnet attached to the bottom of the swinging portion will trigger the switch.






Awning Windows by Anderson


Awning windows are hinged at the top, and swing out at the bottom. Run alarm wire to the bottom or side of the frame, whichever has the most room for a switch and magnet. Watch out for the metal guide rails along the sides of many awning panels, since they will often interfere with a surface mount magnet.



CAUTION!!

Drilling holes for burglar alarm wire in any newer window or door may void your warantee.

If you have any questions, ask your window/door supplier, and consult an alarm dealer in your area on recommended ways of protecting these openings.

Drilling for recessed magnets in wood frames is tricky, since you run the risk of drilling into the glass area of the frame!

The better solution is to use surface-mount cylindrical magnets instead. They’re available in 1/8” and ¼” diameters, and fit quite well into the grooves milled along the edges of most wood window frames.

For vinyl or composite frames, flat rectangular magnets work just as well.

For either type, use double-sided tape to fasten each magnet in place.

Test that each one triggers the switch correctly by opening and closing the window several times with the “chime” function on. Then, run a bead of latex caulking along each side to secure the magnet permanently.



Surface mount magnets


Looping Burglar Alarm Wire to Windows

For convenience, openings that are grouped closely together, such as a set of bay windows, can be looped on the same run of alarm wire. I recommend looping no more than two or three windows on one wire, to make service easier in case of a failing switch or other problem.

2-conductor and 4-conductor burglar alarm wire


Shop for Cat-5 cable, alarm wire, and fire wire at Amazon.com.


Related Articles:


Alarm System Wiring for the Main Panel

Fire Alarm Wiring for Complete Home Security

DIY Home Security Systems


If you haven't done so already, get a few Free Home Security Systems Quotes from companies in your area.

This will give you a good idea of what it would cost to have a system installed, as well as how much you could save by doing it yourself.

There is no obligation to buy, and no credit card information is requested.




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