How an Alarm System Backup Battery Works

How an Alarm System Backup Battery Works

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In this video, Michael from Alarm Grid talks about backup batteries for alarm systems. A backup battery keeps a system running when AC power is lost.


Hi DIY-ers, this is Michael from Alarm Grid. And today, I'm going to be talking about how an alarm system backup battery works. A backup battery keeps an alarm system running when it loses AC power. AC power is the power that's provided from a plug-in transformer, and the wire runs from the transformer to the panel, and that serves as the primary power source for an alarm system. That is AC power. But if AC power becomes lost, either because that transformer was unplugged, maybe somebody cut the cable, or there's just an electrical outage in the area, then it will switch over to its battery backup. The backup battery, in any case, they're always rechargeable batteries. They draw a small amount of power, while the system is running on AC power, it's slowly storing some of the power from the AC power connection, the plug-in transformer. Just slowly storing a small amount of power over time. So that way when power is lost, the backup battery is ready to kick in and keep the system running as well as its communicator which I'll talk a little bit about that in a second. But it's important to understand that a backup battery is only a temporary power source for a system. A system shouldn't be expected to run on battery power permanently. It's only meant to keep the system running until AC power can be restored. You'll see different specifications for different backup batteries. You'll see some, like the minimum is usually that it will keep a system running for at least four hours. You'll see others that will keep the system running for at least 24 hours, and that really depends on the system you're using, the backup battery, and what kind of equipment you're using with the system as well because equipment will draw some power. So those are all things that go into how long. But in most cases, you'll see a backup battery being able to keep a system running for at least four hours or at least 24 hours. Perhaps even longer in some cases. If you are in an area where there might be an extended power outage longer than 24 hours, you really might want to look into getting a backup generator or something of that nature, just in case. But there are different types of batteries based on whether the system is wireless all in one panel or a traditional hardwired alarm panel. So I have types of both here. This is a backup battery pack for wireless all in one panel. Specifically this one's used with a Honeywell lynx touch system. You see that it's just a battery pack, is a pretty compact piece of equipment, and then it has a plug-in connector that plugs into the appropriate port on the panel inside the panel. You'll usually find something similar for any wireless panel. You'll have a small battery pack with a wire running from it, and you'll have a connector at the end that plugs into a port. And so if you need to power it on the system entirely, then you can unplug this to cut battery power. So it's pretty simple. Then if you have a wired panel, you'll have something a little bit larger. This, to me, it resembles more of a small car battery. It's a pretty boxy, heavy piece of equipment here. This can fit inside the panels metal enclosure, which is nice for keeping it out of the way, but you'll see that you will have to attach a battery harness to it. At the top, we have the red terminal for positive power and the black terminal for negative power. These types of batteries are interchangeable between wired alarm systems in most cases. So I can use this with a Honeywell VISTA, DSC PowerSeries Neo system, and older networks panel for instance in most cases. So they're usually pretty interchangeable but what you do need is the proper battery harness that usually comes with the panel for connecting it. Just as an example I have the battery harness for DC PowerSeries Neo right here. You see there is a red wire and a black wire, and I'll just show you real quick how these connects. So I have the terminals right there, and I can just take the connector and connect right there. And then I can do the same for the black wire right here, making sure to follow polarity. So red going to red and black going to black, red for positive, black for negative. And then the other end can go to the battery taking place at the panel. So like I said, this is for a DC PowerSeries Neo system. In the case of Honeywell VISTA, it's usually fixed to the board. So the part that goes to the system is already fixed on there and then you just connect the backup battery using the terminals which it's something similar to this. But I just brought the Neo connector just for a little bit show intel there. So you can see that. So one important thing about a backup battery is that it will also keep the systems communicator running it's not just keeping the panel running, it's keeping its communicator running, which is used for monitoring service. And also in the case of a wired system, the backup power should also be keeping all the connected sensors running. So if you have powered sensors like motion detection sensors or glass break sensors, those will also be kept running. But what I really want to stress here is the fact that it keeps the communicator running. That's also done for a wireless panel. The panel uses its communicator to send signals to a monitoring platform which can then forward the signals to a central station, and/or the end user directly via text and/or email depending on the user's monitoring plan. Now if the communicator goes offline, it loses power, then even if this system's kept running, well that's not going to do you much good. The system's not being monitored. So in event of an emergency, a local alarm can still sounds but it's not going to be able to transmit the signal unless the communicator is kept up and running. So with backup battery keeping the system running, that's fine as long as the communication path is still available. And by that I mean, if you're relying on IP only and there's an electrical outage and you don't have a backup battery for your internet modem, then although your panel will remain online and it's Wi-Fi card or whatever it's using for IP connectivity and wireless systems often use a Wi-Fi card. In either case, it's IP communicator won't keep working. I mean it'll still keep working but the modem won't be online and the Internet will be down because the power is out. So unless you have a backup battery for your modem, then that really won't do you much good there. So a lot of users will upgrade to cellular backup. They'll have cellular communication inside their panels, so their cellular communication involves communicating with cell towers, and you don't need a modem around your home or your office. And even if the electricity is out, your phone, as long as it's still powered on, will works. It uses cellular technology and your security systems the same way. It will still be able to do the cellular communication. So even if the internet goes out due to the power outage, the backup batteries keeping your system online, it's keeping its cellular communicator online. And sent cellular communication and just involves communicating the cell tower, your system will remain monitored. Now if you are using IP only, then like I said, if you do have a backup battery for your modem, something of that nature, then it will be keeping its IP communicator online, its Wi-Fi card or its IP communicator for Internet connectivity, whatever it is, depending on the panel. As long as your modem stays online and you don't lose Internet service, then that's also fine, but just keep that in mind. One last thing I want to talk about with backup batteries is that they have a limited useful life. Over time a battery will lose its ability to store a charge and it will eventually need to be replaced. This usually happens after about three to five years, sometimes longer. It really depends on the battery or you're using and the system you're using. So if you see a low battery message on your panel, then what you should do is give it 24 hours to try and charge itself while the system is running on AC power. Make sure that AC power isn't lost during this time because you don't know. It could just be because there was an extended outage and the battery just needs time to recharge. So give it that chance and see if you can clear the trouble condition at that point. But if you can't after 24 hours of continuous AC power, you're still getting the low battery message and you can't clear it and you know that it's been running on AC power, and it's been roughly three to five years since your last battery replacement, then it will be time to get a new one for your system. You'll need to open up the panel, remove the old battery, and apply the new one, and then you'll be good to go for the next again three to five years, depending on usage. So that's a little bit about how batteries for alarm systems work, backup batteries for alarm systems. If you have any extra questions about backup batteries or alarm systems or alarm monitoring services, send an email to If you find this video helpful, make sure to give it a thumbs up below to like the video. And remember to subscribe to our channel for updates on future videos. We hope you enjoyed the video. Thank you.