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Finding the Best Wireless Home Alarm System

for Homeowners

If you’re looking for the best wireless home alarm system for a house you own, you have many options. If your home was pre-wired for security, you can choose a hardwired system. If it wasn’t prewired, a wireless system may be a better choice. There’s a third choice that I actually think is the best: A hybrid system.

Hybrid systems combine hardwired and wireless operation in one panel. They are a good choice even if your home is prewired for a few reasons:

  • You can add wireless keyfobs for more convenient control of the system
  • You may want to add devices (like a keypad or motion sensor) in an area where wiring was not originally installed
  • You may want to protect items that weren’t prewired (like a fixed window or door panel)
  • If you remodel, you can easily protect any new openings without additional wiring

Not a homeowner? Find the best wireless home alarm for renters.

Also for renters, read about the fast and easy installation of Apartment Security System Plug-n-Play Solutions.

The best wireless home alarm system for homeowners needs to meet some key requirements:

Hybrid System – Combination Wireless with Hardwired Capability

Hardwired security systems have always been my first choice in any home where it’s possible to run wiring. Wires will always be the most reliable connection between any main alarm panel and its sensors.

That said, it’s not always possible or convenient to run wiring. Wireless technology is getting better all the time, to the point that I’m willing to modify my original rule of thumb. In many cases, a hybrid system is the best wireless home alarm system.

Hybrid panels using both hardwired and wireless technology can give us the best of both worlds:

  • Hardwired connections for door, window, and motion sensors
  • Wireless communication for portable devices and for areas where wiring is either not possible or difficult to install

As a side benefit, wireless devices are much easier to install than wiring. This makes a hybrid system a good choice for a DIY alarm system project.

Long-Standing Manufacturer

As a homeowner, you probably plan to stay in your home at least several years. This makes it smart to pick one of the major alarm brands for your security system. These are companies that have been around for years, and are likely to stay in business well into the future.

Choosing an established brand like Honeywell/Ademco, DSC, GE, or Visonic allows you to be reasonably sure you’ll have a source for additional parts if you choose to expand your system. You’ll also have a source for replacement alarm system parts. You may need these when an existing part fails, or if you ever need to add protective devices due to a remodel.

Keypads and wireless transmitters are especially critical. These items are often only compatible with specific models of main panel. If one of these fails and no replacements are available, you’ll either have to live without it or replace the entire system.

You never know how long you might be living in your current home, so it makes sense to “future-proof” your security equipment investment by picking one of the major alarm brands.

Expandability to Add More Zones

Hybrid alarm systems allow for easy future expansion if you ever need to add devices or sensors. This gives you several advantages:

  • You can build your system in stages to save money. Start with a basic system, then add additional devices as your budget allows
  • If you remodel your home, you can easily add a door, window, or motion sensor
  • You can easily upgrade your protection by adding a motion detector or glassbreak sensor
  • You can add a wireless keyfob to allow portable arming/disarming or portable panic functions

In any case, a hybrid system gives you the most flexibility in choosing what protection to add and when to add it.

Low Cost

If you’re buying a new (or “new-to-you”) house, you’re likely on a very tight budget. And, your alarm system is probably just one item on a very long to-do list. Because of this, it’s smart to start with a basic wireless home security alarm kit that can grow with your needs (and budget).

For example, you could initially buy the main panel and a keypad or two for your “starter” system. Connect door and window contacts to cover the perimeter, and a motion detector or two for the interior. If you plan on a monitored system, add at least one smoke detector, to earn an insurance discount. These steps would complete a good, basic security system at minimal cost.

Later, as funds allow, you could add another keypad or two for more convenient arming and disarming. Additional motion or glassbreak sensors, and maybe a wireless keyfob or two would round-out a more comprehensive security system.

The idea of including low-voltage smoke detectors is worth repeating. Adding these to your system will increase your fire protection, especially if you have your system monitored.

As a bonus, a monitored fire system will typically earn you a 10%-20% discount on your homeowners’ annual insurance premiums, which will help offset the cost of the equipment and monitoring.

That rounds out the main things to consider when looking for the best wireless home alarm system for a homeowner. Next, we’ll look at some example systems that would be good choices.

Before you review some of the best home security systems below, why not get a few free alarm quotes via email? This will give you an idea of the cost, and help you find out how much you could save by doing it yourself.

Best Wireless Home Alarm Systems for Homeowners

Honeywell / Ademco Vista 20P

Type: Hybrid Hardwired/Wireless
Hardwired Zones: 8 On-board, expandable to 48 total
Wireless Zones: 40
User codes: 48
Partitions: 2 separate plus 1 common
Reporting Modes: Reports via telco; optional modules for GSM, IP
Reports to: Central Station, pager, mobile phone
Additional Features: Programmable zone types, latchkey function, supports 4-wire and 2-wire smoke detectors, keypad macros, programmable outputs via relay expansion and X-10 devices

The Vista 20P has long been a go-to Ademco wireless alarm system for many security companies, and for good reason. Its hybrid design makes it a good choice for average-size homes that might require a mix of wireless and hardwired sensors.

Best Wireless Home Alarm Systems - Ademco Vista 20P

The basic Vista 20P panel in this kit is paired with a 6160RF Alpha Keypad. This keypad has a built-in 5881ENH unlimited zone wireless receiver, which allows the ability to add up to 40 wireless door/window transmitters and other wireless alarm sensors.

Note: The Vista 20P is being replaced by the Vista 21IP. This enhanced version adds IP connectivity and other features, while still retaining the standard functions of the original 20P.

Learn more about the Ademco Vista 20P.

DSC Power 1832

Type: Hybrid Hardwired/Wireless
Wireless Zones: 32, plus 16 dedicated to keyfobs
Hardwired Zones: 8 On-board, expandable to 32
User codes: 32 + Master codes
Partitions: 4
Reporting Modes: Reports via telco; optional modules for GSM, IP
Reports to: Central Station, pager, mobile phone
Additional Features: Programmable zone types, telephone line monitor, supports 4-wire and 2-wire smoke detectors, programmable outputs, auto-arm timers

This is an enhanced version of the reliable DSC Power 832, which I chose to protect my own home years ago. The kit shown here includes the RFK5501 keypad, which has a built-in wireless receiver to support the wireless points.

DSC Power 1832

The DSC Power 1832 handles a few less zones and user codes than the other two panels on this page, so if you own a larger home it may not be your best choice. Otherwise, it’s just as feature-packed as the others.

With similar systems to choose from, the decision may come down to price. For the money, the DSC 1832 kit shown here is a very good starter system. In fact, it could be used as a complete system for an apartment or condo.

Learn more about the DSC Power 1832.

GE Caddx NX-8

Type: Hybrid Hardwired/Wireless
Wireless Zones: 48*
Hardwired Zones: 8 On-board, expandable to 48*
User codes: 99
Reporting Modes: Reports via telco; optional modules for GSM, IP
Reports to: Central Station, pager, mobile phone
Additional Features: 4 programmable outputs, 2-wire and 4-wire smoke detector loops

* Supports up to 48 zones total, hardwired and/or wireless.

Like the previous two systems on this page, the Caddx NX-8 communicates wirelessly using a keypad with a built-in receiver. The NX-148E-RF is an LCD keypad that can display text descriptions of all 48 zones the panel can handle.

GE Caddx System

The GE wireless alarm kit shown here is what the company refers to as a “Fastpack”. It contains the NX-8 control panel, an NX-148E-RF keypad with wireless receiver, a Sentrol PI-6000 motion detector, a siren speaker, telephone connector with cord, transformer and battery.

This fastpack forms the basic system, to which you can add wireless door/window sensors and other wireless accessories. Or, if you’re replacing an existing hardwired system, you could connect your existing hardwired contacts and devices to the NX-8 using NX216E 8-16 zone expander modules.

Learn more about GE Caddx systems.

These systems all meet the requirements I listed originally for the best wireless home alarm system for a homeowner:

1    Hybrid System, Combining Wireless with Hardwired Capability

2    Expandability to Add More Zones

3    Long-Standing Manufacturer

4    Low Cost

These are all great things to consider, but you may have other needs that I haven’t covered here. Before you buy any system, always check the list of features and specifications from your supplier/dealer.

To learn more about what goes into the cost of an alarm system, see this page on home security prices.

Related Articles:

The Best Wireless Home Alarm for Renters

Ademco Vista 20P

DSC Power 1832

GE Caddx System

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