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Wired v Wireless Burglar Alarm Systems

Which type of burglar alarm system is best?

One of the most common questions that we are asked is ‘which is best; a wired or wireless burglar alarm system?’. We have therefore put together a guide to help you, looking at all the different aspects of an alarm system that are important; from cost to aesthetics to performance and drawing a comparison between the two types of system:

AspectWiredWirelessConclusion
Ease of installationA wired alarm requires more work to install it due to the effort required to run the wires and cables into the walls/floorsA wireless alarm is much easier to install because there’'s no need to wire it into the mains.For ease of installation, wireless has the advantage
Cost of installationA wired system is usually significantly more expensive to install, mainly due to the labour costs (see ease of installation)Cheaper to install due to ease of installationFor cost of installation, wireless has the advantage
Cost of maintenanceA wired system is cheaper for ongoing maintenance because there's not the same reliance on a battery and parts are usually cheaperBecause it's not hard wired into the mains electricity, a wireless system relies heavily on its battery. It therefore needs replacing regularly; usually around every 2 years. It’s also more important to service it every year and parts are usually more expensiveFor cost of maintenance, wired has the advantage
Total costWired is cheaper for ongoing maintenanceWireless is cheaper for installationThe cost of a wired system will usually break even with the cost of a wireless system after around 5 or 6 years. Therefore over the long term, a wired system is more cost effective but a wireless system allows you to spread the cost more evenly
FlexibilityA wired system can be added to but it's more difficult a job than with a wireless systemIt's quite a simple job to add extra sensors and other additions to a wireless system. It offers much more opportunity for upgrades and can therefore develop as your needs change.For flexibility, wireless has the advantage
AestheticsBy definition, a wired system has more cabling and wiring extending from it which can be difficult to disguiseBecause of the lack of wiring, a wireless system often looks much neaterFor aesthetics, wireless has the advantage
DisruptionIn order to connect a wired system to the mains electricity and run the cabling then it is usually necessary to drill into walls and/or pull up carpets. Installation will also take longer so wired is more disruptiveBecause a wireless system is a self-contained unit, it's very simple to install therefore much less disruptiveFor minimising disruption, wireless has the advantage
PerformanceWired systems have traditionally always been considered more reliable and generally recommended by the police however the technology of wireless systems has greatly improved so there's not too much differenceA wireless system's performance is as good as a wired one as long as it is maintained properly. Failure to keep up to servicing or battery replacement could, however, compromise this performanceFor performance, wired and wireless systems are equal as long as the wireless system is maintained well
ReliabilityA wired system is generally considered to be a more solid system and may possibly just have the edge but wireless systems have caught up in recent years so the difference is negligibleAs with performance, as long as a wireless system is maintained reliability should be just as good. There is a slight chance that other electronic devices could interfere with wireless systems but it's not common. False alarms tend to be associated with wireless systems more than wired ones but these tend to be on cheap, home-installed systems rather than professionally installed onesFor reliability, wired and wireless systems are fairly equal as long as the wireless system is maintained well
PortabilityA wired system is permanently installed and cannot be moved easily to another propertyA wireless system could quite easily be moved to another property if requiredFor portability, a wireless system has the advantage

All of the above comments are of course based on professionally installed systems. Issues with wireless systems tend to arise when it’s a cheap system that’s been installed by someone with general DIY skills and not a specialist security engineer.

So, which system is best overall?

On the important aspects of performance and reliability both wireless and wired burglar alarm systems are pretty equal. Over the long term a wired system is more cost effective but it does require a bigger initial investment and it can take several years to break even. On most other aspects though the wireless system comes out in front and we usually find that this is the most popular system when it comes to new installations.

However, if you already have a hard wired system that you just need to activate (perhaps because you haven’t used it for a while or inherit one from a previous owner of your property) then this is usually a fairly simple process and we’d advise you to stick with it.

The key to getting the best out of any alarm system is of course to look after it through proper maintenance and usage. If you would like to discuss your own burglar alarm options then please give us a call on 0800 612 9799 (from a landline) or 0345 833 5543 (from a mobile).

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