Help with getting an alarm system


New Member
I need help on choosing an alarm system. Iam a firefighter who is away for 24hrs at a time and the wife has been on me to get an alarm system. I dont want to pay alot of money for someone to install it, so I thought I might install it myself. Iam looking for something wireless or a hybrid. I have a unfinished basement where I can put the control box, but I will need a wireless keypad for upstairs to control everything. I also want wireless door/window sensors, smoke detectors and sirens for the main floor since wiring would be to difficult ,but I am concerned with the range and effectiveness of wireless. I have a 2100 sq ft ranch with basement. Also I would like something easy to program, if there is such a thing. Iam not looking for an allaborate set up just protecting all entry points. Not sure if I want it monitored or just loud sirens with the ability of the alarm to call my cellphone or other phones. I have looked online and found several sytems, caddx nx-8, ademco vista 20p and some others. Or should I look into the all in one units like the simon 3, powermax etc... Just not sure which is right and everything I need. If I decide to have it monitored How do program it to do that with a company? Any help would be appreciated. I will continue to look over this good sight for more info

I think Honeywell/Ademco makes a self contained unit (Links or someting like that) with a wireless recevier built into it. There are really no hardwired zones its all wireless. I think you can add a wireless keypad if you need control from a second location. It has a built in siren and I beleive it comunicates with their wireless siren.

Where you mount the unit you will need 120 Vac (a regular outlet to plug into) and a telco line. I also beleive they are coming out with a version that will have the ability to connect to their ethernet module so alarms can go over the internet if you have a broadband connection.

The system is designed for simple install in a house or apartment. It may not be quite enough for your needs but if it is you might be interested.
It looks like you're on the right track. My first experience with an alarm company left me locked into a 3 year contract at ridicuous prices on a system that I hated.

I haven't tried this company, but their visionic powermax is well regarded system for an all-in-one, and this company will monitor it fairly cheap and send you e-mail alerts.
Why not the Elk M1 with the GE Caddx wireless sensors?

Range won't be a problem with them. Easy to program and you can expand it.
Welcome to the forum sahhog!

It looks like you've already started to get a good handle on what you want. Dig around in the "how-to" section and the glossary for information about installing alarm systems if you haven't already.

You've already named a couple of good choices if you want a simple alarm. To make programming easier, look for a system that has programming software available with it. You CAN program a system from the keypad, just like you CAN put out a fire with a bucket brigade. It's just a he** of a lot easier to use programming software or a pumper. Don't be scared by the "programming" part, as it's not programming in the computer sense, but more along the lines of "programming" a VCR. The biggest problem with most of the programming packages is the unfamiliar terms specific to the alarm industry.

As for monitoring, it's no longer that much of a problem. There a plenty of companies now that cater to the DIY crowd, and will help you out. Some still require a long-term (1-3 years) commitment, but there are others who will deal with you on a month-to-month basis.

Again, welcome to the forum.
I have a Caddx NX-8E that I put in myself. Manual is intimidating, but once you get started, it's not bad at all. It supports both wired and wireless zones.

Since you have an unfinished basement, you should be able to get to many zones using wired sensors (just need to be creative). The advantages of wired sensors - cost, and no batteries. Wireless sensors have long life batteries, but they still need to be replaced eventually.

Good luck
Welcome to CocoonTech!

The powermax is a pretty easy to install (and affordable) DIY system, supports wireless sensors, but I don't think it comes with a wireless keypad. The wireless keypad requirement is going to be a major showstopper IMO.
Some DIY Alarm Retailers will program your panel for free when you buy your panel from them, so that may be one item to consider when deciding where to purchase. The Ademco Vista panels are rock solid and probably the most affordable, but are not the easiest to program.

I bought my Ademco Panel from a dealer that offered discount monitoring for $5/month and free lifetime support ( and have purchased most of my add-ons off of eBay (for 50-80% below retail).

My first panel, the Vista 20P, was not too bad to program. I recently upgraded to the Vista 128P, which is much more complicated to program but allows me to connect to my PC via a serial connection. Both the 20P and the 128BP can also control x10 devices directly without a PC.