Home Security Blog

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Alarm Grid Is permitted to do alarm monitoring in Florida under license #EG13000444.

As Alarm Grid's home state, we are both proud and excited to begin monitoring home security accounts in this wonderful state.

Florida is a big state, and municipalities are in charge of their own rules with regard to alarm registration. Some cities require alarm system owners to purchase a permit from their local police department to avoid false alarm fines. If your located in any of those cities, it is your responsibility to know what you need to do to make sure that your alarm is in compliance with local regulations. That said, we do our best to make sure that our local database has information about your location, though the incredible frequency with which local regulations change will mean that our database is occasionally displaying old, outdated information. You should call your local police department in order to make sure that you are in compliance.

In the case that Alarm Grid is required to be permitted within your city limits and there is no permit displayed on our municipal database's page, simply email support@alarmgrid.com in order to obtain our permit number and any forms that might need for local registration.

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Alarm Grid is permitted to do alarm monitoring in Virginia under license permit #11-9013.

We are proud to be working with the state of Virginia, and its municipalities to both reduce false alarms and to make sure that our users are in compliance with both state and local regulations at all times.

The great state of Virginia has granted Alarm Grid permission to operate within the state under permit #11-9013. This is a pre-requisite for Alarm Grid to obtain permits in any city in the state. Alarm Grid does our best to remain compliant with municipal rules, but it as the alarm system owner, it is your job to know the laws in your particular jurisdiction. Please check the ordinances within your city and county's limits to ensure that you are in compliance with the local jurisdiction.

In some cases, you will need to make sure that your security system is registered with the local police, though that is not necessarily the case. Additionally, in some counties within Virginia (Fairfax County for example), users are required to fill out a triplicate carbon copy sheet that is to be submitted to be held by the owner of the system, the county itself, and Alarm Grid. If you live in one of these counties, please ask us for the forms since they are specific to your security company and we will send out a pre-filled form to you that same day.

If you find that the licensing information for your city is out of date on Alarm Grid's municipal database, please email support@alarmgrid.com so that we can make sure to update the locale's information. We do our best to help you remain compliant, but local municipalities regularly change their ordinances. And with more than 9,000 municipalities nationwide, there are times when our database will be displaying out of date information.

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Happy 4th of July Alarm Grid! And Happy Birthday America!

We just wanted to relay the message: we're Closed Today.... Too Busy Being All Patriotic....

We wish you all the best of health. Stuff yourself with hot dogs, wave flags, and shoot rockets off in your back yard (if you're in a state where it's legal). Just be safe and follow the rules!

Remember, if you are getting the itch and work on your panel today, call the central station and put your panel on test. THE CENTRAL STATION IS ALWAYS OPEN. So if you need them, feel free to call our main line, (888-818-7728) and press 1. A friendly, helpful operator will pick up right away. For those of you who are having fun instead of working on your security system, toast a beer (or diet coke if you're me) to America and eat a hot dog.

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If you're just down from yesterday's loss by America's World Cup soccer team, maybe this news will help cheer you up! Honeywell has finally released its award winning L7000 to the public, after tantalizing the DIY community with little previews since early November 2013. If the L5200's roaringly successful debut is any indication, the L7000's release is likely to be met with unprecedented eagerness by alarm system enthusiasts.

Just coming off winning the ESX's "Best in Show" award, the L7000 may be the most impressive security system released to date by any company ever. The L7000 is really very similar to its one month old predecessor, the L5200. But for its large 7-inch display, ability to handle many more zones, and the fact that it's capable of monitoring up to 4 cameras (the L5200 can monitor only one), the L7000 is the slightly souped up version of an already impressive line of wireless security panels.

"While the L5200 is the system most people need, the L7000 is perfect for DIYers with big homes, or needs that are outside of the scope of the L5200," said Joshua Unseth, Alarm Grid's director of marketing. "We have made all the resources available for these units, so that anyone who wants to install the system on their own can do it very easily."

Alarm Grid's free resources have become well-known among security system enthusiasts. The Alarm Grid videos are given regular mentions in Amazon reviews and are regularly cited by customers as the impetus for choosing Alarm Grid. Unseth says that, along with their comprehensive list of frequently asked security system questions, the rich set of resources Alarm Grid provides is their biggest source of leads. "We believe that giving away everything that a consumer needs to know about their security system is the best way to build trust with consumers who are rightly mistrustful of this industries."

Alarm Grid's President, Sterling Donnelly said, "The L7000 security system might be new, but we have spent the last several months using it, testing it, and troubleshooting it. As consumers begin working with this new piece of equipment, they will quickly see how valuable having our resources at their fingerprints is." That said, Donnelly emphasized that Honeywell seems to have invested a lot into understanding the user experience. "Honeywell designed a panel that is easy to use, and hard to set up incorrectly. We don't anticipate consumers having many problems using the L7000. It's interface is the same as the L5200, and consumers have found that system to be both simple and reliable."

Honeywell's standards for equipment manufacturing are well-known, and the L7000 is no different. UL listed, the panel boasts every security feature under the sun including Advanced Protection Logic (APL), the ability to stream Total Connect cameras live over the local WIFI network using the l5100-WIFI modules and more. The system's flash upgradeable, just like the L5200, which makes the panel resistant to future updates. "This might be the most important change Honeywell has made to these systems, with regard to cost," said Donnelly. "While hardware limitations are always frustrating for users when a new product comes out and obsoletes an old product, Honeywell seems committed to making sure their consumers are able to continually update their panel for new features. Ultimately, this is good news for anyone putting a Honeywell panel in their house."

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For the consumer looking to get the most out of their security system, the Honeywell L7000 is the most highly anticipated security system ever released by Honeywell. The L7000 is the biggest, most comprehensive system ever issued by the company, and it boasts more features than any consumer security panel has ever contained out of the box. For those reasons, the panel has already won plenty of the industry's most important awards, even being named the winner of ISC's 2014 Best in Intrusion Detection and Prevention Solutions.

While the L7000 is not yet out, we at Alarm Grid are very excited about the panel, and are eagerly awaiting the day that it is made available to the general public. For those who do not need a 7-inch screen, and do not need the extra camera or zones available in the L7000, the already released L5200 has almost the exact same feature set. It's a little bit smaller, and does not have the capability to monitor as many zones as the L7000, but it is ready to go, and every bit as functional.

That said, for those who are interested in a rundown of the unit, we have prepared a short video describing the L7000's incredible array of features.

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Honeywell VAM

The VISTA Automation Module (VAM) may be Honeywell's most anticipated wired system accessory in years. Previously, those who owned wired systems were stuck paying the hefty price of a Tuxedo Touch WIFI if they wanted to take advantage of Z-Wave capabilities available to Honeywell security system users. The nearly $500 price tag has been a point of criticism for years, as users have flocked to wireless systems such as the L5200 where they can gain access to the convenience of Z-wave home automation with a simple $25 Z-wave ready circuit board that can be installed in seconds. But Honeywell's commitment to making systems more affordable and more DIY friendly seems to have given way to VAM which acts as a simple Z-Wave controller for their VISTA series panels.

If you are one of the numerous customers who have always wanted to take advantage of the home automation advantages of a Z-Wave system, but aren't ready to pay the huge expense of a Tuxedo Touch? Then today is your lucky day! The VAM, which is basically just the guts of the Tuxedo Touch without a screen, will get you where you need to go for a much more affordable price. Get yours today, to unlock the power of your VISTA when enhanced with Z-Wave automation products!

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During the last few days, Alarm Grid customers who are using AT&T as their cell phone service provider have indicated to our support team that the messages are coming in from different phone numbers. While not a huge inconvenience for most Total Connect users, for those who have setup alerts based on the phone number from which the message is coming are probably not getting the audible notifications that the audible notification of a message from Total Connect has stopped. The way to get around the issue is to change your AT&T SMS email recipient in your Total Connect 'Users' settings to an email address instead. Use the email address of your 10-digit number@mms.att.net. As the Total Connect SMS radial button option is really just a front end that tells the AlarmNet service to send an email to your 10-digit number@txt.att.net, this email setup is essentially doing the same thing as the SMS radial button. However, the key difference, and the reason is solves the problem of the ever changing contact on the Total Connect messages is that by sending it as an email you are having the messages come through AT&T's MMS gateway instead of their SMS gateway. For whatever reason, this solves the problem and all your messages will come from the same contact: totalconnect2.0@alarmnet.com so that you can setup a unique ring tone for your critical Total Connect notifications.

EDIT (Nov 1): We have noticed that a number of Alarm Grid customers have stopped receiving Total Connect messages if they are using the AT&T SMS setup on Total Connect. This was just an inconvenience before, as the messages would come through but they just would come from a different contact every time. Now it seems it has turned into a more serious issue where the messages don't come through at all if they are set up as SMS.

We're not sure what is causing this to happen, but we are aware of the problem and are working with AlarmNet to implement a solution for anyone who is experiencing the outage. We will give an update here as soon as we hear more. In the mean time, if you do the MMS email trick that we posted above, the messages will come through.

EDIT (Jan 13): Unfortunately, we have received reports that now even with the AT&T emails being set up to go to the @mms.att.net email gateway, customers with AT&T cell phones have stopped getting their Total Connect messages. We are still waiting for a fix from AlarmNet but in the mean time, we have developed a workaround. If you add your Gmail address as a Total Connect email recipient (and validate it), you can then use Gmail's filtering and forwarding features to have the emails pass through the Gmail account on their way to the cell phone. For some reason, this seems to bypass whatever was blocking the messages originally. If you are familiar with setting up Gmail filtering in your account, feel free to do it. If you are not, or would rather we help you with it, please give us a call (888-818-7728) or email support@alarmgrid.com, and we will work with you to make sure that you can get your email and text alerts.

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Sometimes having security cameras means seeing some unexpected things. In Scott County, KY, the Smith's caught a postal worker throwing packages onto their driveway. The homeowner, Jill Smith, described what the video caught as astounding.

At Alarm Grid, we're very proud of our postal workers. After all, they deliver a large number of the packages we sell every single day. This video is not representative of their work. That said, it does provide a pretty compelling example of why having outdoor cameras is not a bad idea. While they can be used to see who is at the door, or to give a homeowner forewarning of an intruder or approaching danger, you just never know when you'll need a glimpse of something incredibly unusual happening right in your own driveway.

If you are using  Total Connect, and are interested in installing a camera outside of your home, the IPCAM-WO is just what you're looking for.

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While the Honeywell L5000 and L5100 are very different security systems, they look almost identical. Luckily, Honeywell left a few distinguishing marks that makes it very simple to be able to tell the difference. 

The fastest way to identify the two systems is by simply looking at the buttons below the screen. If they have words written on them, then you have an L5000. If they are only icons, then you have something newer. It's also worth noting that the area surrounding the screen is going to be tan on a Honeywell L5000. This is the same color that can be found on early revisions of the l5100. But if you see a tan colored area surrounding the screen, you can be certain that the panel is either an L5000 or an L5100.

While the L5000 is crippled in some ways, the L5100 was not flash upgradeable (not like the new panels) which means that when Honeywell would update the system with new functionality, the newer versions would be able to do things that the older ones could not. For example, a later revision L5100 was able to open a garage door opening while the older was not. As a result of the non-upgradeability of the panel left many users in the lurch as they were not able to access many of the functions they were hoping would be added to the L5100.

If you are concerned about which L5100 panel you have the identification is very easy.

If you can be certain that you do not have an L5000, knowing which approximate revision you have of the L5100 is as easy as looking at that plate I mentioned earlier. If the area surrounding the screen is tan, then you have an early L5100. If it is as white as the driven snow and there are 4 buttons below the screen (4... because 2 buttons signifies a different system), then you have a newer L5100 and it can be used to open and close your garage door.

The L5200 is the newest arrival in the Honeywell line. Having been just released, this security system is the most state-of-the-art ever created. 

While an L5100 has four buttons right below the screen, the L5200 features only two small rubber buttons. The rest of the features have been integrated into the touchscreen. The chances of the system you're trying to identify being an L5200 are pretty slim since it just came out. That said, it's worth having a look at. The L5200 will be the same size as the L5100, and it's hardware performs much of the same functions.

All of that said, the l5200 is not the only new system with two buttons. If your system has two buttons, you may also have the L7000, which isn't very much different from the L5200 in its functionality, but it is the bigger and better of the two panels.

Again, the fastest way to identify these units is by their buttons. If the Honeywell security system sitting on your wall has only two buttons, these are the only two systems they could be. If the buttons are made of rubber, and the system looks just like the L5100, then it is most likely an L5200. If the screen is much bigger, and the buttons are made of plastic, then the system is an L7000.

The big advantage of these panels over the older ones is their customizability. For example, a user can now edit the chimes that sound when a door is opened.

Moreover a user can easily upgrade the panel to the newest revision.

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While the old-style of home security trapped users into long-term contracts, dishonest pricing, and rates that never stop going up, it's becoming more and more clear that since the 90s, the trend in home security is the proprietary system scam.

According to a press release, Vivint is the newest entrant into the proprietary system market, saying that they are going to begin with their newest system, "SkyControl." Here are the problems with the proprietary system model:

You can't leave the company you're with... ever

Forget contracts! Since proprietary systems have come out, once you have the unit in your home, you can't do anything about it. Generally, those systems are built to be used with one company and one service.

Almost always, these systems are touted as being good for the customer. Alarm Force has made their own system, SimpliSafe is a newer entrant that has built their own system, Lifeshield makes their own system, and now you can pile Vivint's system onto the ever-growing pile of proprietary systems. While most of these companies still make you sign a contract, the fact that their system is proprietary means that even if you tried to exit your contract with them, you'd STILL not be able to simply leave their service.

Why?

Because their system is a simple, effective way to lock you into their service.

The systems are rarely good

Think about the number of companies that have been building systems for the last 50 years, and even more hardware-only security system manufacturers have entered in the last 10 years: Honeywell, 2Gig, DSC, GE, Elk, and many many more. The systems these companies make are top of the line. We sell Honeywell generally because we think they are the best systems on the market. That said, the other choices are pretty darn good. So why would a company, like Vivint, which has been installing the 2GIG Go!Control panel abandon their partnership in order to install their own panel? While I can't say for sure, I would venture a guess that it has very little to do with quality control.

A Security Company Can't Simply Release Their Own Panel and Expect Consumer Adoption.... So How Is Vivint Getting Their System Into Homes?

This goes to the history of Vivint. Vivint has become a huge company in the last 10 years. Formerly APX, they changed their name, which got the company away from a sullied reputation. Though, Vivint still has more than 2000 BBB complaints, and the history of government actions taken against the company tell a more complete story about how the Vivint grew into the behemoth that it currently is:

In 2010, the "State of Arkansas Attorney General's Office filed a complaint in the circuit court of Pulaski County alleging that Vivint, Inc., formerly known as APX Alarm Security Solutions, Inc. violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Home Solicitation Sales Act.... Vivint agreed to pay $125,000 for the costs of the investigation and prosecution of the complaint."

In 2012, "the Wisconsin Attorney General's Office announced a Consent Judgment with Vivint, Inc. The consent judgment requires the company to pay refunds to consumers who were misled about their ability to cancel their alarm service contracts, as well as consumers who were misled about false alarm charges."

In 2013 the "Kansas Attorney General entered into a Settlement Agreement with Vivint, Inc. According to the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the company was accused of using a variety of deceptive practices while going door-to-door offering to install new home security systems or replace existing systems." Again in 2013, the "State of Ohio Attorney General's Office entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance Settlement Agreement with Vivint, Inc. According to the terms of the Settlement Agreement, consumers filed complaints that the company made representations to consumers that its home security equipment was free, but failed to disclose the existence or amount of installation, activation and monitoring fees associated with the system." 

Under APX, their reputation wasn't any better. While these actions are a strong indicator of Vivint's internal philosophy, which is to grow-at-all-costs, they do not tell the full story. Vivint's known for aggressive selling practices, sending young men and women into customer homes, and acquiring new customers by getting them to setup installations and having new consumers sign lengthy contracts. The consumer actions above outline an incredibly sketchy history of deception. Even so, Vivint has grown and grown and grown. In 2012, they were purchased by one of the world's largest investment firms, Blackstone, for around $2 billion.

The reason that Vivint can simply release a new panel, and know that consumers will adopt it is because their consumers are already under contract. Via many of the practices outlined above, Vivint became one of the country's fastest growing security companies. And now that they are in your home, they started Vivint Solar (C- rated by the BBB), and are now reportedly throwing their hat into the ISP ring. So unlike Comcast which is in the home of millions of consumers, and as a result decided to get into home security, Vivint has taken the opposite path, getting into the homes of consumers through security, and moving into providing internet.

All of that said, before you consider allowing a proprietary security system to be installed on your wall, consider what you are doing, especially if you also have to sign a contract. Not only are you locking into that company by way of the contract, you are locking into that company by way of the equipment as well. Should you want to leave at the end of the term of your contract, the expense will involve swapping out the security system in its entirety, sensors and all. And that, depending on how big your home is, can be an expensive proposition... a fact that proprietary system makers are counting on.

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