Providing AC Power to an Alarm System

Providing AC Power to an Alarm System


In this video, Michael from Alarm Grid explains how AC power is provided to an alarm system. This represents the primary power source for a security system, ...


hi diy-ers this is michael from alarm grid and today i'm going to be talking about providing ac power to an alarm system ac power represents the primary power source for an alarm system uh it's basically the transformer that's plugged into uh the wall outlet that goes to the panel electrical electrical current travels uh from the transformer through a wire to the panel and it gets to the panel and that's how the panel uh stays running uh the reason it's called a transformer is because it transforms the high voltage current uh from the outlet into low voltage power uh to power the system the low voltage power won't overpower the system it won't fry it so to speak um and it won't mess up your equipment assuming you're using the proper transformer uh you'll often receive see these referred to as step down transformers because like i said it's stepping down the high voltage down to low voltage power that won't overpower the system uh so um i have some uh props today uh share and tell uh to share with you um uh to show you a little bit about what i'm talking about here when i'm talking about a transformer and uh wiring and everything so um there are different types of transformers like i said you'll encounter ac transformers and dc transformers the type you use depends on the specifications of the security system you're using some systems will need ac power and others will use dc power now a big difference is that when you're using an ac transformer polarity doesn't matter meaning you don't have to observe which wire goes to which terminal that is uh for positive and negative power um both of the terminals will be equivalent and you can have either wire going to either power connection on the panel um so i have one transformer here uh this is an example of an ac transformer and you see it just says ac and ac so i could either have i could have either color wired going to either one and then having it go to either connection at the the panel you won't have to observe polarity so that makes it a little bit easier just something you don't have to worry about but conversely this transformer right here is a dc transformer so if you look closely you'll see that it has a positive terminal and then a negative terminal so the positive traditionally that's where you connect the red wire and then negative that's traditionally where you'll connect the black wire negative also sometimes referred to as the ground connection and you'll want to observe polarity at the panel as well when you go to connect the wires at the panel you want to make sure that the positive like i said that's usually the red one is going to something like 12 volt dc or it will have a positive symbol plus sign and then the negative the black wire it's going to ground gnd or maybe a negative symbol minus sign so you'll have to observe polarity on uh the dc transformer now as you can see on both of these transformers there is no wire currently connected the wire is detachable and you actually have to supply your own wiring in most cases usually with a system it will include a transformer but it won't include wiring now there are exceptions to this rule sometimes it will include a wire but traditionally um you you do supply your own wiring and this is because traditionally alarm systems are in the past they've mostly been installed by professional installers and you would expect a professional installer to have wire cabling readily available in their work vehicle so they can go and cut whatever wire length they need for the job normally speaking you want to have the wire to be enough distance to reach the the outlet and the panel obviously but you don't want it to be too much longer than that you want it to be just long enough you know you you want like a little bit of slack so that way you can oh you can complete the connections comfortably but you don't want to have a wire that's super long and i'll explain more about that in a little bit but and that's also just uh for uh preparation just um so that way you're not having wire going all over the place or anything but um a professional installer will be able to cut the wire uh to the exact need that they need for the job at hand so uh that's a big reason why uh the wires are detachable also just in case the wire becomes damaged or cut then you don't need to replace the entire transformer and just as an example here i do have a transformer um that is a fixed it has a fixed wire a permanently connected wire that can't be detached so you see if this uh transformer if if the wire on it were to become damaged then i would likely need to replace the entire transformer um so that that's pretty inconvenient so you don't usually see those with alarm systems you might occasionally but that's not as common now i do want to talk a little bit about some of the wiring you might encounter with an alarm system um one thing i do want to mention is um like i said there's a maximum wire run distance that most panels will have in their specifications um uh as current travels down a line um it it there's a loss of current along the way a small amount of current becomes lost along the way and it becomes more prominent as the cable becomes longer so if the cable's too long too much current will be lost along the way and not enough current will reach the panel you'll get an ac loss condition or the panel might not power on so you'll want to observe the maximum wire run distance um based on the panel you're using and that also applies based on the thickness of the wire that you're using or the gauge the awg the most common gauges for alarm system wiring it's usually a 18 gauge or 22 gauge wire lower gauges are thicker than higher gauges so 18 gauge wire is thicker than 22 gauge wire when you have thicker wiring it holds current a little bit better so you'll be able to do a longer wire run so if you're worried about having to do a long wire run if you really have to stretch the distance from the panel to uh the transformer to where the it's being plugged in the outlet then you probably want to go with a thicker gauge wire um i'll just show you some examples here i do have some i believe this is 18 gauge wire right here and you'll see that this is solid core wiring now we normally don't recommend solid core wiring you can use it it works just fine it's going to accomplish the same goal as any alarm wiring the the other type that i'm going to show you today being stranded alarm wire which is what we recommend but you'll see that this is a little bit less flexible it's it's i mean it is flexible i am moving around as you can see but um it's not it's not as forgiving it can become cut pretty easily it's just a solid core it's just one solid inner wire some installers might prefer working with this um i personally don't uh what i prefer here um is the uh the stranded wire which i have just a small piece cut here just to show you for example you see that this uh the wire is split into different strands i can i can split it up so even if one strand were to become broken um then it would still work fine um it would still be able to trans transmit the current down the line so it's a little bit more forgiving it's it's more flexible it's a little bit easier to work with you see that this is a four conductor wire here so if i only needed to use two of the wires say i just needed the red and black for power i could just tie the the green and the white wires back or i could cut them and i would still be able to use this fine so that's an advantage to uh four conductor wiring there uh this this back here was a two conductor wiring it just has the two inner wires which is fine for providing power but there might be some applications where you do need the four inner wires such as um a motion detection sensor a hardwired motion detection sensor where uh data and power are being transmitted data being zone status information between the panel and the sensor so whether you use four conductor or two conductor wire it's up to you just um you can double up two conductor wire by the way if you need a four wire connection so that's also something to keep in mind but uh this is a 22 gauge wires so it won't be able to do as long of a wire run as this 18 gauge wire this is a little bit thicker so it can it can hold current a little bit better as it travels down the line so make sure to look at the specifications for your panel to see the maximum wire distance and it usually differs based on the gauge you're using when you are preparing wire you will need to have a wire stripper we have one here i'm not going to be demonstrating it on camera but i do want to just show you it off uh show it off we have markings on the wire stripper based on the gauge that you can use to insert the inner wires you see there's like an outer shield for the wires and there's inner wires in there and then you strip the the covering off the inner wires to reveal the copper um so you would do this based on the gauge if i were doing a 22 gauge wire i would stick it into this hole and just be able to pry it right off and reveal the copper you see that i already did this and the wire that we have here today um i already prepared it but you see on this end it's not repaired yet i would have to remove the outer wider area to reveal the four inner wires and then strip them one by one so that's something i would do when pairing wire but there is an alternative to having to prepare wire we have what's called a honeywell lt cable and this is an already prepared wire i didn't do anything to this it comes in two parts there's a small part right here and then there's a larger part which we have tied up to make it easier for me to hold but you see the larger end ends in a spade connectors that can easily connect at the transformer so you would uh make these connections using a screwdriver and then it goes down to the male barrel connector on the other end and plugs into the female barrel connector like that and um then at the other end you have uh some ports that you can easily plug into the panel that uh will easily go in um you will see some panels that um have a barrel connector that you can use to just uh you won't have to use the small portion of the wire you can just use the large portion of the wire um and that entails you know connecting at the transformer and then this part goes into the barrel connector at the panel the female barrel connector i believe that um this is a positive ending connection so um you have to make sure your panel supports it um if it does have that barrel connector um so uh check those specifications to make sure that's the case um it's it's a positive centric connection something like that so just make sure you look into that in most cases any panel that's going to support a barrel connector not all panels will have that an example of a panel that does the 2gig gc3e actually does and it will be fine but um you do want to check the specifications to make sure you don't reverse polarity so uh make sure to look into that um so uh that's that's pretty much providing ac power to a panel um most panels will come with a transformer but you will need to supply your own wire in most cases there are exceptions uh the qolsys iq panel 2 plus comes with a prepared wire for you to use and all you need to use to set it up is a screwdriver so it really varies depending on on the wire i mean depending on the panel that is just make sure that you observe the maximum wire distance remember that a thicker wire a lower gauge will be able to allow for a longer wire run so that's something to keep in mind if that's an issue for you the honeywell lt cable i didn't mention this it's only eight feet long so if you need something longer then you might consider preparing your own wire while this is convenient it's not necessarily the longest wire out there so you need to keep that in mind and remember we do recommend a stranded wire over solid core wire both will work fine if you happen to have solid core wire on hand you don't necessarily feel like you need to go out and get new stranded wire but if you are wiring often then that might be a worthwhile investment um just because it's easier to work with and it's a little bit more forgiving uh like i said even if just one of these uh like one strand just becomes off like if i if uh like if i were to take that guy right there on this white wire and it wasn't you know properly connected then the other wires would still be there to pick up the slack and do the job so uh that's what you need to know about providing ac power um to a panel it's a transformer it's a step down transformer that turns uh high voltage power into low voltage power that is suitable for an alarm system so if you have any questions about providing power to an alarm system or you want to learn more about alarm monitoring service or uh uh you have questions about a specific alarm system send 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