Home Security Blog

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Unfortunately, the President of Alarm Grid, Sterling Donnelly, has decided that tonight is the night to test out his new herd of flying reindeer. As you can imagine, flying reindeer through the air is a bit hazardous in this age of aviation. Because we don't want him getting hurt, all of us have decided to go and watch (supervise) President Donnelly as he performs his very unsafe antics. That said, as a result of Sterling's insistence on flying his reindeer around tonight, we are going to have to close the offices tomorrow, which means no tech support on Christmas day.

Tech support will also not be available on January 1st, but that's just because it's New Years day.

You can still reach the central station (as is always the case) and if there are problems, they will still be able to reach you.

That said, our hope is that all of you who are celebrating this very merry holiday are at home surrounded by those you love. And don't worry too much about us. Sterling is an experienced flying reindeer handler. He does this about once a year in a big red furry coat and hat, and he always insists on doing it Christmas Eve. We just like to watch to make sure that he's doing it as safely as possible.

We promise that we'll be back on December 26th, and we will be just as jolly the day after Christmas as we were the day before.

Oh, and before 2014 rolls on in, we just want to take a moment to thank you all for making Alarm Grid's first full year in service a successful one. We love serving you, and hope that 2014 brings with it many more opportunities to exceed your expectations.

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For many of us New Years is when we promise to start trying to lose weight, eat better, stop procrastinating or whatever else you might have resolved for the coming days. Honeywell, on the other hand, has announced its release of two new security systems, the Honeywell L5200 and the L7000.

While we're a bit fuzzy on the details, their announcement in Security Systems News gives us some delicious details about what we can expect from the new systems. According to Honeywell's senior director of marketing, Alan Stoddard:

the soon-to-be-released Honeywell LYNX Touch 7000/L5200: You can view video on display and connect 84 zones. It has a 7-inch display; two-way voice over wifi, and a number of other newer features.

Does this mean you should hold off on getting the L5100 or VISTA system? We wouldn't recommend it. there is no indication from Honeywell when these systems will be out, though we are hoping to see them in the first half of this year. And since the L5100 just saw a new update back in September, chances are, the release of the L5200 will simply be a slightly updated L5100.

New features? Maybe some. More zones? Definitely. But since the L5100 already handles 64 zones, there are very few for whom the L5100's zone count is limiting. So if you're looking for a great system, the L5100 is still the best wireless security system that any security company has to offer. But that will, very soon, no longer be the case. The other advantage of the L5100, for the moment, is that the ecosystem of products is highly developed. Honeywell's L5100 Connect app, was released years after the L5100 was created. The app, which allows for local control of the L5100 from any iOS or Android tablet device, is robust, beautiful, and elegant. Will the L5200 have anything like it when it's released? While we're working to confirm with Honeywell whether it will or not, if I were to bet money on it, I think the best assumption is to expect no added features. The L5200s features will in all probability be very weak at first, like any security system that is newly released. The L5100 is likely to be the better system for at least a year after the L5200s release. So I wouldn't be too reticent to purchase the current system. But chances are that once the L5200 is released, it won't be long before the L5100 is no longer available which means that you'll have to upgrade, like it or not.

This has been an eventful year for Honeywell, as they just released their 6162 and 6152 keypads for the VISTA series panels. Again, making programming and changing settings easier for the end user, Honeywell is proving their commitment to the newly emerging community of DIY home security enthusiasts.

The L7000 sounds vaguely familiar, as Honeywell retired their 7-inch tablet mid-last year recognizing its poor reputation and slowness. The mid-7h (as it was called), while not well loved, had a beautiful giant screen, but being it was nothing more than a glorified Android tablet, its reception was fairly lukewarm. Presuming Honeywell can take the beautiful, much-loved 7-inch display and marry it to the wonderful functionality of their other AUI mounted security systems and keypads (such as the L5100 or the Tuxedo Touch) the L7000 sounds like it will be a welcome addition to their line of products.

The new system may require new communicators, though we aren't sure about that either. All we really sort-of know is that the L7000 and the L5200 are going to be basically the same system. The L7000 may have a few more features than the L5200 (like maybe it will handle more total connect cameras, since we presume that this will allow for cameras to run through it like the Tuxedo currently does), but like I said, we don't have much information yet either. But it is an exciting bit of news since it shows that Honeywell is committed to continuing its excellent updates to already state-of-the-art hardware.

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We are asked pretty regularly by owners of other home security companies what we do. When I'm asked I explain, Alarm Grid sells state-of-the-art home security equipment to end-users.

"Who installs the system," I'm invariably asked.

And when I explain that we walk end-users through the install so that they can do it themselves in their own home either the blood rushes out of their face as they realize their days are numbered or they start laughing and give me a sarcastic, "good luck."

The truth is, old timers in this industry think that these systems are too complicated for just anyone to put in their home. But they aren't. The wired systems are a bit frustrating, but with some persistence, anyone can install them. That said, the more popular (and equally as powerful) wireless products like the Honeywell L3000 or L5100, are so easy that you don't need to be a seasoned expert. Learning sensors to the system are easy as pie, and the install itself is astoundingly simple. While some installers will charge something like $80 to install just one sensor, what you may not have known is that you can install them in under a minute using the industrial strength sticky tape that comes already stuck to the back of each sensor.

Not everyone wants to install their own system. But more and more people are re-connecting with their inner-caveman and getting hands on with all the various home improvements they can do. So while your neighbors are paying more than $500 per year to have their ADT or Brinks system monitored, you can get high-quality monitoring that is ridiculously affordable as well as having the satisfaction knowing that you installed the system yourself.

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In recent months, there have been a rash of projects on sites like kickstarter. These projects claim they are here to disrupt the home security industry by making changes to security systems that will give YOU full control of the unit.

The truth is, none of these products are disruptive. Security companies have been making their own products for an incredibly long time. While we sell Honeywell, and a lot of dealers also sell GE, 2Gig, DSC or other branded systems, there are tons of companies that make their own products. Alarm Force is probably the best known of these companies. The Canadian company has put millions of dollars into developing their own products. The reason companies build their own equipment is because then you have no choice but to use their service. So, if Alarm Force installs their units in a million homes, those homes will have to buy a completely new system if they do not like the system they installed. It means that either 1) they stop service or 2) they have to pay $300-800 (depending on how big their system is) to move to a new company.

A lot of companies that do sell you their own product tout their willingness to forego a contract (just like Alarm Grid does), but the catch is that you have to install their equipment, and once it's installed, should you want to upgrade or move will required that you stay with that company for the long haul since getting rid of their products and buying new products is expensive.

The difference between the new systems being developed by Kickstarter companies and those created by well-known alarm companies is that most of the DIY systems can't call a central station. So while these new systems solve some problems (some of them are prettier than what's available others are more customizable and simpler to install), the truth is, most of these systems have neat features but are neutred of their most useful feature, the ability to be monitored.

That said, Kickstarters for these products are regularly funded in the order of millions of dollars. This indicates that there are a lot of people out there willing to pay for awesome home automation and DIY home security systems.

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Canary in the coal mine

I was born in Brazil back in 1985. Calling the US was expensive, and my parents rarely did it. To save money, my father got his HAM radio license. We would go to a little room upstairs in a publishing house down the road from where we lived in Belo Horizonte, and we would call America at scheduled times in order that whoever was on the other end could hear our message and respond. We would also write our fair share of traditional, pen-to-paper letters.

But everything has changed.

As I see it, no one really understood how disruptive all this new technology was until around 1999 when Napster changed the landscape of the web. The impending slaughter of traditional business was unknown, but it wasn't long before the first victims of this new age began to close their doors. A mere 10 years after Napster started the revolution with their peer to peer music sharing technology, the last Virgin megastore in New York city closed. Those years destroyed the entire music business as we knew it. And yet, even in spite of that, the number of artists we have come to enjoy seems to have swelled as hard-working musicians are suddenly able to promote their own music and actually make money (unlike in the old model).

Everything has changed since 1999. Most people have gotten rid of their pesky house phone, copper lines are dying, 8 year olds have their own phone numbers, 2 year olds know how to operate tablet PCs, phones are computers and one of the biggest, most important companies in the world started off indexing pages on the internet. The tech bubble died, language has changed ("lol", "ROFL", and other weird letter-based phrases have entered the vernacular), and we purchase products - site unseen - by going to websites and typing in our address and credit card.

Unfortunately for those who are frustrated by the rate of change, the future doesn't look like it's going to slow up at all. Google's self-driving cars are sure to kill the truck driving industry or taxi industry, pharmacists may start being replaced by robots, and the rise of e-books will continue to change traditional publishing. Every industry is ripe for disruption... and that includes the home security industry.

So what is next for alarms? What is the future going to bring?

The question is important, and we need to understand some of the changes that have already happened. 1) home security systems have become affordable enough that anyone can put them in their homes; 2) advances in simplifying user interfaces made by companies like Blackberry, Palm, and Apple have made security systems simple to program and use; 3) the evolution of wireless technology has revolutionized the industry as they no longer need complicated wire-runs in order to work; and 4) open source operating systems like Linux or Android, open source sensors and open source computers like Arduino or Raspberry Pi make the production side of home security attractive decreasing barriers to entry for competitors with some of the biggest home security companies.

The most important of these realities is number 4. While it hasn't been done well yet, these open source platforms decrease barriers to compete. Preliminary evidence of the attempts to use these projects to disrupt the industry can be seen in such products as Ninja Blocks. While new, Ninja Blocks is built on open source software (Linux), includes open source hardware (Arduino), and is encouraging that their users take advantage of open source technology to make the produce more and more powerful. While Ninja Blocks does not yet have the capability to inform a central station of a break in, and (as of the date of this post), it doesn't appear to have such safety designations as a UL listing, it's presence certainly makes it clear that this industry is being primed for a disrupter to emerge.

Thankfully, as a result of Alarm Grid's newness and understanding of these technologies, our goal is to both disrupt and encourage good disruptors who are willing to work with us, in order to make sure that we survive the coming changes.

Anyhow, that's enough about how far the world has come since we were all younger. It's important to understand how the world has changed, but that is only part of the story. Maybe I've convinced you that the home security industry needs to be disrupted, but now you're left wondering why part of that disruption will have anything to do with a rise in that DIY mentality.

Well the truth is, one of the things that makes the home security system industry so ready to be changed has to do with the installer model. It's not to say that no one will ever use an installer. Au contraire. It's just that if more people do their own installations, fewer installers will begin to get a bigger piece of the pie. Less jobs=less installers. It's sad, but it's often what happens when technology marches forward.

So why DIY is all the rage?

The easy (though non-scientific) answer to why DIY is all the rage would probably be to point to the economy the last 10 years and say people want to save money. But I'm not so sure that's the case. The truth is, the do-it-yourself American spirit has really been a mainstay of American life for a very long time. When cars were not so complex, men loved working on them in their garage. Even today, thousands of husbands have abandoned their wives to live in the garage where they are restoring an old hot rod. Humans are hands-on. It's sort of part of our caveman nature. For many of us, building things makes us feel accomplished.

So what makes something drop into the "this is a weekend DIY project" category? Well, for that to happen, the consequence of doing the project without having any previous experience can't be dire. The project has to be sufficiently simplistic; the complication needs to be largely stripped out of it. Finally, it has to be fun.

You know what's not fun?

Rolling around in your attic on fiber glass insulation running wires. Mike Rowe might enjoy that sort of thing, but for your average Joe, tearing up from all the itchiness is not our idea of having fun. It's also not fun to have to remember weird button sequences to get zones programmed. Hit *18 + 79 + *33 + 82 then tap 0, 16 times, spin around, touch your toes twice, and hit Away, then slap the wall next to the keypad, and say the magical phrase, "supercallifragilisticexpialidocious." That's how programming a wired Vista 20P system sounds to most of us. I'm amazed that people can and do do it. You know what is fun? Spending only 10 minutes programming a system, using fun home automation technologies that make your lights turn on and off, and then instantly being gratified as you hit buttons.

The rise of the wireless security system has changed everything. Now, programming the system, pairing it to the WIFI or GSM network, and even installing the system are easy as pie. Likewise, since we can now check your system's programming from hundreds of miles away from an office in Florida, we can mitigate any consequences that you might have suffered as a result of not programming your system correctly because you didn't know what you were doing. But I can assure you, you will likely have no problems with programming at all. Programming these state of the art systems is easier than you could ever have imagined.

If you are interested in installing your own DIY home security system, let us know. We have a YouTube channel and incredibly knowledgable techs on hand who will make this process ridiculously easy. Be prepared to be surprised by Alarm Grid's amazing service.

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LYNXTouch with Total Connect

Home security systems have been getting cooler and cooler. Not that long ago, just 15 years or so, these systems were like lights, you could turn them on and you could turn them off. But in the last 10 years, there has been a revolution of sorts, and in many ways, the security systems of today are becoming the brains of your home.

When all your system could do was be turned on and off, and you only really ever wanted to do that when you were home, it made sense that you had to be standing right in front of the panel to make it do anything. But now, as the systems can do more, there are a lot of reasons that you might want to access your panel from a place other than the house.

To access your security system while your in New York city and your house is 2,000 miles away in Salt Lake City, UT, Honeywell created the Total Connect app. And while it's revolutionary convenience is the sort of thing that many of us have always dreamed of, the app itself is a bit of rigmarole. It works by connecting to servers some place in Melville New York, talking to those servers, then the servers send a signal out to your panel, wherever it is. So while it's convenient, sending a single command can take 10-20 seconds some times. That's awesome when you're home isn't nearby and any communication is nice, but that's unacceptable when you're upstairs in your own house and you simply want to arm away for the night, or maybe you want to turn off the Z-wave lights in your room so you can go to bed and your panel is just 30 feet from you. When you flip that switch, you want it to be instantaneous... right?

Enter stage right the L5100 Connect app. This nifty little bugger controls your system using the WIFI network in your home. It only works locally (which means you can't use it when your not on the same network), but since its on the same network, it's really quick, it effectively turns your iOS device into another keypad, and it's only $9.99!

The process of getting it up and running is pretty simple. First, make sure that you have a WIFI communicator installed in your L5100 (you probably do, but some people only have the L5100's cellular communicator installed). If you want to know how to install it, watch the video below.

Then pair the system to the network.

Then watch the following video which shows you how to pair the iOS device to the L5100 once you've got everything going.

Why am I so excited about the price? Well, if you were 'round these parts back in March of this year, you may remember Honeywell sending out its own 7-inch tablet to pasture. The tablet, known as the MID-7H, was slow and nobody liked it. While it was Android, it was basically just a glorified keypad since it came pre-installed with this app and really wasn't powerful enough to support many others. That tablet set users back about $180, and that was the only way you could control this system locally.

While we eulogized the MID-7H tablet back in March, (sort of) lamenting its passing, we mentioned that we were excited for the day that Honeywell allowed local control from tablets and phones using that app which wasn't yet released to the public. Well now, it has been. So get all the benefits of that tablet coupled with all the benefits of having an iOS device that you love. Dim the Z-Wave lights while you're watching a movie in the family room, turn up the heat during the winter using your Z-Wave thermostat, see arm your system as you are about to walk out the door, see which zones are faulting without leaving your chair.

Sit back, relax, and realize that now that you can finally control your security system without getting up out of your recliner, the future has arrived.

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Jonathan G Meath portrays Santa Claus

It's almost like a holiday in itself. Making that list to hand off to your wife (or mother... we don't judge) letting them know what you want Santa ;) to bring you this holiday season.

We are getting a lot of phone calls lately from all of you indicating that you are looking at Alarm Grid's security products as great items to find under your Christmas tree. While we're honored that you think we can make your holidays better, we also feel a tremendous sense of obligation to make sure that Mr. Clause has a simpler time getting you what you need.

So, wives, girlfriends, mothers and daughters, husbands, sons, fathers, and uncles, if you are looking to fulfill the dreams of whomever handed you their list, we are here to help. Call us today and let us help you understand what that special list-maker really wants.

Did your husband say that he wants to make his VISTA 15P compatible with wireless sensors but can't decide between the 5881ENL or a 6160RF in order to accomplish his goal? Did your wife say something about liking 5820L sensors more than 5811s because they are cuter and would work better on the thin window frames? Wondering what your father means when he says that he is rearin' to add more zones of on his VISTA 20P but that it's going to require some zone doubling, which he isn't sure how to do but is excited to learn? Did your son tell you that he loves the new VIP programming on the Honeywell 6162 alphanumeric keypads? Confused? Have absolutely no idea what the heck they're talking about?

Don't worry! We are here to help you navigate this weird alarm-system language. If you need some help purchasing equipment for that special person in your life, call us today, and let us make your Christmas as amazing as it can be.

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Hello deal shoppers!

I'm sorry, you're not going to find any big sales on Alarm Grid today. It's not because you haven't found the super special secret page where we list them just for certain customers. It's because we don't actually run deals on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.... Actually, since we started Alarm Grid, we've never run any deals at all.

Why you ask? Will we ever run a deal?

Well, the why is really simple. We do our best to price our products as low as we possibly can. When we are cut a deal by our suppliers, we try to pass it off to you right away. We also try to manage our inventory very closely, so we don't end up with much overage each month.

Now the question of whether Alarm Grid will ever run deals is a bit more difficult. We aren't opposed to running deals when it is necessary. But we do find something a bit objectionable to the idea of giving some people one price, while giving the rest of you a different price simply because you purchased 1 day later or earlier. Our philosophy has been to be fair, up front, and very honest, and in some very existential way, deals run counter to that philosophy.

We're not going to state definitively that we will never run a sale, but as for the moment, don't bet on it happening any time soon.

If you're looking for that perfect security system that you want today, and you like what you see on Alarm Grid, go ahead and ask us anything you'd like to know. We're available by chat, by phone (888-818-7728) or by email: support@alarmgrid.com.

And we love to help!

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Turkey FryerFor Thanksgiving this year, our Alarm Grid's president, Sterling Donnelly, has decided to fry a turkey in our special Alarm Grid turkey fryer. It's dangerous, yes, but if you've seen any of our Alarm Grid videos, you would know that Sterling is a dangerous man, performing all of his own stunts.

That said, we're still all a little bit nervous, and have decided to close down the office for the day in order to make sure that Sterling doesn't do something foolish and burn the company to the ground. So if you try to call in tomorrow and you get the answering machine, now you know why. We should be back up and running Friday, and we'll be on in a limited capacity on Saturday and Sunday as usual.

As is always the case, Alarm Grid's central station never shuts down. If you need to contact the central station for any reason, call the main number, and select option '1.'

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Like Honeywell's VISTA series AUI keypad, the Tuxedo Touch, these keypads feature sleek, rounded corners. While Honeywell has used the old 6160 for years and years, rarely updating their keypad interface, this new keypad marks a new era in Honeywell design as they are moving to a more end-user friendly design. The large backlit display of the new Honeywell 6162 makes understanding what is being done on the keypad much more simple, even for those who are not that familiar with the wired systems.

What's that all mean? This is better for all you DIYers out there! It gives you way more options. If you are more comfortable with a wired system, or simply like some of the added functionality of a wired system over the wireless series panels, such as the L5100, then now is the time to become a home security DIY genius. It will work with any new VISTA-15P or VISTA-20P panel that sports revision 9.16 or higher. The VISTA-21iP panels need to be revision 3.16 or higher and the VISTA-10P panels need to be 4.16 or higher.

The new keypads also come in a variety of choices. For those wanting the voice annunciation features that are built into some of the newer systems like the L5100, the 6162V or 6152V should be your weapon of choice. For those looking to add any of Honeywell's wireless sensors, the 6162RF and 6152RF are where you'll want to look. Like the 6160 and 6150 series keypads, the 6162 is the alphanumeric programming keypad, and the 6152 is the less expensive, fixed-English keypad. Both of them look great and are a better user experience, but only one of them is recommended for programming.

It's an exciting time to be a Honeywell customer, big changes are coming! Honeywell seems more and more dedicated to making sure that end-users have full control of their monitored security systems.

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