Why millions of home alarm systems are useless…


The image above summarizes, for me, everything that is wrong with the security industry (click on the image for a bigger version). The installation is absolutely criminal and how any company could charge a dime for monitoring a system like this is beyond my comprehension. In the race to offer the cheapest possible alarm in order to generate a monthly monitoring fee, far too many systems have been installed like this offering a false sense of security to literally millions of Canadians, Americans and other unsuspecting victims.

There are so many things wrong here that it is hard to know where to start. Here is a short list of the 3 most important issues:

1. The keypad is actually the control panel. This particular model is called a Lynx and is manufactured by Honeywell. However, most of the major manufacturers have their own version of an “all-in-one” control panel, siren & keypad (Here is a link to GE’s version). These all-in-one models were designed to simplify installation and are typically part of “free” or low-cost alarm systems. They are all equally useless.

The most important problem with systems like this is the fact that you need to have a delay time in order to open your door and get to the keypad each time you enter your home. So, when a crook breaks in, they also have the same amount of time. If the crook follows the sound of the beeping keypad they will be standing in front of not only the keypad, but the brains of the alarm system. So, rather than punching in a valid code, the crook could simply rip the entire unit off of the wall.

Provided that they rip the panel off of the wall before the alarm sends its first signal, it will never be able to send a signal.

2. If point #1 wasn’t bad enough (or maybe because the installer who put the ‘system’ in realized how useless it was going to be) the power supply for the system is located right beside the keypad/control panel. Unplug the transformer (which is just barely able to stay plugged in as it is) and the alarm loses power. This provides a really convenient way for someone to either accidentally or intentionally unplug the system and wait for the back-up battery to die.

3. Even worse, the phone jack has also been located beside the power supply. The phone jack is the alarm systems only connection to the outside world. If it gets unplugged, the system cannot communicate and a crook would not have to go through the hassle of ripping the panel off of the wall.

In this particular install, a crook need not even reach all of the way in after breaking the window to unplug the alarm system because the phone line is less than six inches from the window.

Even if there was a glassbreak sensor installed, the fact that the phone line is so easily accessible would render it useless because it could easily be unplugged before the alarm tripped.

Unfortunately, a system like this one offers absolutely zero security value. It’s only purpose is to allow an alarm company to collect a monthly monitoring fee and hope the client does not figure out how misplaced their trust in the company was.

Hundreds of thousands of systems (actually, probably a lot more) like this have been installed all over North America as part of “free” or low cost alarm systems. Rather than an alarm company having to spend several hours installing seperate keypads, siren and control panel, this set-up allows a company to send out ‘installers’ who literally require no experience whatsoever to simply mount these types of systems. Nice, quick and easy install : no security value.


1. Your control panel needs to be as far away from your keypads as possible. At a minimum, it should take longer to find your control panel than your entry delay time. If possible, the control panel should be hidden.

2. The siren needs to be located away from your control panel so that crooks cannot simply follow the noise of your siren to locate your control panel location.

3. The alarm phone jack, transformer and control panel should not be visible from the outside of your home.

4. If you are willing to spend a monthly monitoring fee, you might as well be willing to spend a little extra up front to ensure that your alarm is actually capable of justifying any monthly expense. Otherwise, forget paying for monitoring and spend that money on better locks, stronger glass and other physical security measures.

The good news?

This particular system is being pulled off the wall and replaced with a proper system by Provident on Monday.

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