Traditional Security Panel Replacement - Kansas City


(Dave) #1

Hi. I can see that this topic has been peripherally covered many times in the past, but not necessarily recently or with an answer that meets my needs. So my apologies if I’m re-hashing already answered questions, but if so a link to already discussed solutions would be greatly appreciated!

Basically I moved into a home that was wired to the 9s in 1972. Built-in quadrophics, in-wall toasters, etc. - and discrete hard-wired magnetic sensors on every door and window. This makes is great if I wanted to go with a traditional security system such as ADT, but I really want to use ST and the Smart Monitor to monitor the house. Does anyone know of a good way to aggregate all these discrete sensors into SmartThings? I suppose I could take a dozen or so MiMoLite boxes, but that doesn’t seem elegant. Right now I just have ST Multipurpose sensors on each egress but they look pretty bad compared to the stealth hard-wired sensors (see pictures).


Does anyone know of a ‘traditional’ alarm panel that will play nicely with ST that can replace the ancient system I have? My main criteria is that I want to know “the kitchen door has been opened” and not just "some door or window has been opened’ when an event occurs. I’ve heard ADT Canopy might be providing a similar service but haven’t been able to find any information on what that actually is online and I fear it’s vaporware at this point - if anyone has any experience with that and whether it might meet my needs I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The other option I’m considering is running all the old security wires into an Arduino Thing Shield. This should be able to distinguish one open/close from another but might get kludgy. It’s also way above my technical skill level so, while I have the hardware I’d really need to find someone to help my program it (and I’d be willing to pay of course). I’m located in the Kansas City area i that helps. The other killer app would be a door chime whenever a sensor trips when the system isn’t armed. I don’t want to wake the neighborhood every time a door opens but I would like to know if my toddler has stumbled outside. The other (potentially) relevant piece of information is that I have an Arlo Pro unit (with siren) - but there doesn’t seem to be a way I’ve found to trigger that siren from SmartThings.

Thanks in advance! If you’re in Kansas City and want to get some hands-on experience helping me set this up I’d love to talk. Otherwise if you have any great suggestions on how to connect individual hard-wired sensors to a ST security system I’d love to learn from your wisdom.

Thanks!

David


#2

Scout is the official ST “alarm” monitoring company.

Take my advise for what it is, free: DO NOT DO IT.
ST is home automation, NOT an alarm.

As a bare minimum, answer this question: if you lose electricity and/or your internet, how are you going to deal with an alarm event? Proper alarm systems have backups of some kind to account for these eventualities…

J


(JP) #3

I am currently doing just what you are asking about. I did not want a monitoring company but wanted to reuse the reliable and invisible devices I already have in the house. The thought of white (or brown) blocks on all the doors and windows was just aesthetically unappealing to me. Even though the batteries last a long time, replacing 20 of these things all over the house is a PITA. Having them on one central location seemed better and it’s a fun project for a tech nerd like me.

I found a wireless panel conversion board at Honeywell. Easy upgrade in the existing panel but it still requires their monitored service. The alternative I went with is connecting wireless door/window sensors to the wired devices at the control panel location. The Echolink sensors have a dry contact to connect to the wired sensors. It’s a relatively straight forward conversion. The hardest part is identifying which wire goes to which sensor. Patience with an ohm or volt meter (depending if the system is off or on) and a helper to open and close windows, makes this fairly quick work. Then you wire the sensors to the old panel terminals. Here are some pictures of the panel work:

Setting up the sensors-One per door or window contact. You can group them by wiring multiple remote switches in series (bedroom, office, etc). This is done in the panel.

Here’s a close up of the inside of the Echolink wireless switch at the connection point:

This is the terminal block inside the legacy panel. The only thing reused is the spaghetti of wires in the bottom right. Everything will eventually be shut off and wiring cleaned up:

The network comes from the AT&T broadband switch over a powerline network converter. Plug and play device that the ST hub plugs into next to the old panel. The hub has it’s own battery backup. The AT&T switch is on a UPS (battery backup) upstairs in the office. With the powerline converter, I will lose network during a power outage. Not in the office but downstairs where the ST hub is located at the old panel. Eventually I want to move the ST hub next to the AT&T switch so during a power outage, I don’t lose network and can access the system remotely on the mobile app. As long as the outside phone line stays up, I will have connection to the system in a power outage. (In a monitored system, that phone line is your weakest link too):

The finished sensor board mounted outside the old panel. I was going to put it inside but the metal enclosure will block wireless signals. I will eventually make a clear plastic cover for this board.

Smart Home Monitor with status of each device:

Now I’m doing the programming to add an Iris keypad, sirens, etc. which is much more involved.

BTW, here are my thoughts on “proper alarm systems having backups for these eventualities”…Unless you have a monitoring company that can control your system, all the monitoring company will do is call you when an activation occurs and ask you what the next steps are. Send out a guard or police? “Yep, the alarm is going off and nothing is open”. (bill for $200 coming soon from the local PD) Now what? If you have battery backup on all components, the system should operate stand alone during a power outage. You just can’t see or control it remotely. When power comes back, you are back online. You can program the sirens to shut off after so many minutes. At that point, the burglar has gotten what they wanted and left anyway.

The chances of a burglary happening during a power outage is slim. I’ve had IT people tell me, “Z-Wave can be hacked and your system disabled from outside” which I get. My reply is, “if someone has that kind of expertise, they are not bothering to break into my home for a tv or laptop computer. They are breaking into banks for a bigger payoff” Just my perspective.


(Chris) #4

Here’s a couple options. I’d do the second one if I were replacing my own panel.


(Chris) #5

14 ecolink sensors at $25 EA = $350, at that point what’s the benefit of your solution vs something like a Vista 20P board with an Envisalink module for less money and less work?


(JP) #6

As I remember, that was the system I looked at initially. It still requires a monthly fee to self monitor it. I don’t know if it allows me to operate the system either. Just get notifications?

FWIW, I contacted the distributor and got a good deal on open box switches. $10 off.

Anyway, it’s a fun project for me.


(JP) #7

I should have checked with you guys first!


(Dave) #8

J,

That’s a really good point. Honestly, I’m really not worried about a traditional monitoring company like Scout or ADT that dispatches the police. Instead of Scout noticing an alarm, notifying their command center, then calling me I’d much rather receive notification myself and decide what to do - if I’m at home and a door alarm trips I’d rather investigate it myself before calling the police. If there’s something amiss or potentially amiss I’ll call the PD myself. But a “chirp” every time a sensor trips would be really nice.

As far as backup goes, my connection is buried fiber and is unlikely to go out. The ST Hub has a battery backup and any security panel worth its salt also has an option for a battery, so I’m not worried about lowing connectivity. I use a UniFi USG that has a second WAN port as my router so I suppose if I was all that worried about it it I could add a cellular connection on that port in the event of a network outage - but that’s really overkill for my purposes.

Honestly I’d be totally fine with a traditional security system if it interfaced with SmartThings. If an alarm goes off in the night I really want to know whether it’s a basement window, my front door, or really any level of detail that isn’t just a ‘ding’! I also had a ‘classic’ security system at an old house once where we’d here an alarm/chime, but by the time I could reach the panel the alarm had cleared and we had no way of knowing what triggered the event.

So, short story - I’m happy with ST security (even without monitoring) but I’d really like to find a way to integrate the ton of wires that have already been run to contacts in my doors and windows. A standard (wired) security panel that talked to SmartThings would probably do the trick. An Arduino board with ~10 sensors determining the open/closed state of a bunch of relays would also seem to solve the problem.

Cheers!

David


(Chris) #9

I researched this as well a few months ago and I believe the monthly fee service is optional. The idea is that the Envisalink module just gives the Vista panel network access, which can then be controlled/monitored through SmartThings using the smartapp in the second link I posted above. No subscriptions required.

Either way, yours is still a cool project. I thought about doing something similar to replace my old Ademco panel from the mid 90s, but found a way to arm/disarm using a zwave relay and monitor state and get notifications if the siren goes off using two of the ecolink sensors you have. Doesn’t have full zone control capability but it’s enough for my needs.


(JP) #10

Eventually I’m hoping the soon to be released Mixtile hub will enable me to bridge Apple’s Homekit with the Z-Wave system. Not sure if ST will be in the picture at that point. I love the app as it is today.

The smart home concept will keep tinkerers like us busy for a long time!