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Replacement Security System for Second Home

SteveInNorCal

Active Member
I installed an Elk M1 Gold in our primary home almost five years ago and have been very happy with it. I've used Alarm Relay for monitoring and have really liked their service - very reliable and reasonably priced. I use the built-in automation features of the Elk M1G to control lights via UPB so our home looks lived in whenever we leave and arm the alarm system. Also, I have it programmed to turn some key lights off every work day at 8 am and on again 20 minutes before sunset. Uplink provides cellular data backup when the internet connection is down (this has worked really well as our internet has short outages a couple times a week). I am not using any other home automation features. I would like to add water leak detection, main water shutoff on a detected leak, and connection to our wired smoke alarms.
 
We are buying a second home and it comes with a security system, but I don't know the brand or monitoring company (though I'm guessing ADT). I am thinking about updating the system in the new second home to include the same features listed above, add connected smokes, and add water leak detection and master shutoff valve. Also want to add interior temperature monitoring in two or three locations.
 
Here's the question: What brand home security / automation system should I buy? I think there is a huge advantage to me of having the same system at both locations. That means I can do much more of the work myself and whatever I learn is applicable to both houses. 
 
But I get a vague general impression that Elk still seems to be lagging in the industry and I continue to worry that they won't be around (nothing specific, mind you, but I just get the general impression they are behind). But Elk certainly does have a broad line of products and a strong track record. 
 
All you experts out there --> Should I consider alternative solutions? Or stick with Elk? What are the top alternatives to Elk? As a business, is Elk healthy or distressed?
 
As for communications, should I continue to stick with PulseWorx UPB switches or move to wireless switches? My general impression is that it is still easy to add / remove / replace UPB switches without doing a lot of network reconfiguration unlike wireless.
 
About the time I was doing our primary home installation, Omni was purchased by Leviton. How has that acquisition worked out? Is Omni / Leviton still a good brand? How does it stack up against Elk? Has Leviton invested in the Omni products or abandoned them?
 
I'm also thinking about adding interior and exterior cameras at both locations. There are so many brands and solutions to consider. What do you recommend?
 
What brand water leak detection systems should I consider? I'd like to have a system that feeds input signals to the Elk (or other) panel so I can use the same alerting mechanism.
 
I currently use two large Elk backup batteries, one for the control system and a second battery for the alarm horn. We have very reliable power at our primary home and outages generally happened once or twice a year and typically less than one hour. Our second home is in a neighborhood, has underground power, and is close to the Canadian border so it gets more snow. I don't know about the frequency and duration of power outages there. What do people do for bigger backup power systems to ride through longer power outages?
 
TIA for any and all help!
 
Steve
 

ano

Senior Member
If it all works great, I'm not sure why you would want anything different for a new home?  If you don't have wireless sensor capability, I'd recommend adding that. Then get water sensors that work with that. I use WaterCop as my valve, then just connect to the Omni Pro II relay to trigger it.  You can add a second relay to reset it, but I didn't have the extra wire, so if it ever trips, I just have to reset it manually at the valve. You can used wired sensors for water, but why bother when wireless works so well?
 

mikefamig

Senior Member
First I'll say that there is a big logistical advantage to sticking with Elk if you are going to manage it yourself. You already know Elk and parts will be interchangeable.
 
As far as upgrading I'll answer your question with more questions.
 
What are the shortcomings of your Elk in the first home or what have you wished for in the past?What functions have you wished for that the Elk doesn't have?
What new functions are needed in the new home that Elk can't handle?
Alexa type voice activation is getting popular but I don't know of a system that has that function included.
 
In my case it was easy because the Elk is really overkill for me. I wanted a solid security system with lighting automation and it has been doing a good job of that for me with the added UPB.
 
Mike.
 

SteveInNorCal

Active Member
Thanks, Mike. That's pretty much my conclusion, too. There are big benefits to learning one system and managing spare parts for self-management and maintenance. There really are no shortcomings in terms of functionality (actually, I would like a better integrated thermostat, but that's not an Elk issue). I've used IP for primary comms with Uplink for backup cellular comms and that fail-over has been reliable. It is a solid real time operating systems on a stable hardware platform. I just have a vague sense that Elk doesn't invest a lot in new products or upgrades. Just call it a vague feeling. I'm also concerned about information security and am not convinced any security vendors do a good job in that area.
 
I used an AV Integrator to set up an Anthem MRX receiver (it was FAR easier than the old Japanese receivers) and he contacted me this week about Alexa integration with AV and home theater. I personally think that is a solution in search of a problem (at least for me) and I could see that introducing new security holes in security systems. 
 

BaduFamily

Active Member
I would think that leveraging your experience with your primary system would give you more time to enjoy your second home.
 
The Elk folk are at this point rentiers, so I don't expect too much innovation.
 
You can have fun tieing the two homes together via a VPN! A power fault 'up there' could send you an alert at home 1.
 
now to brass tacks -
  contact / review the local power companies website for outage histories. They're probably required to provide that information
  neighbors will have some oral history about power stability.
  if it's actually remote a propane powered generator with automated cut-over may help. You may need something to provide heat so the pipes don't freeze during long outages.
 

SteveInNorCal

Active Member
Thanks, BaduF. I was already looking into power reliability in winter in the area. Good idea to check w the power company. I just pinged our realtor who lives nearby on his experiences and thoughts on the matter. 
 
"The Elk folk are at this point rentiers" -- exactly my impression. Thanks. Looks like the newest thing they've done since I did my original installation four years ago is add C1M1 dual channel communications, but it appears they OEM'd that from Telguard with not much development of their own. So I don't see much, if any, improvement there over the ELK-M1XEP with the Uplink 4500EZ combination I'm using now. 
 

EyeofSauron

Member
So that begs the question... what WOULD this group advise as an alarm/automation controller for a new build?

I have an Omnipro II, but it doesn’t seem like Leviton is that interested in it... and apparently ELK isn’t that thrilled about innovating in the space either.

I’m likewise building a second home, and wondering what I should use.
 

pete_c

Guru
what WOULD this group advise as an alarm/automation controller for a new build?
 
Personally relating to new combo alarm/automation controllers I have not seen any combo alarm/automation at this point that matches the OmniPro 2 or the Elk M1 functionality. 
 

newalarm

Active Member
The thing that bugs me with the Elk are Areas. I have my house set up with 4 areas (basement areas, then main house and separate garage). Love the fact that i can arm garage while home so that if there is a break I will actually know about it. What truly annoys me about the elk system is that there is no keypad (that I know of) that show all areas at the same time. you can do that with ekpro, but not with the elk wired system.
 

mikefamig

Senior Member
newalarm said:
The thing that bugs me with the Elk are Areas. I have my house set up with 4 areas (basement areas, then main house and separate garage). Love the fact that i can arm garage while home so that if there is a break I will actually know about it. What truly annoys me about the elk system is that there is no keypad (that I know of) that show all areas at the same time. you can do that with ekpro, but not with the elk wired system.
I agree, both show and control all areas from the keypad would be nice. It is currently possible but difficult. I'd like at least to be able to arm and disarm all areas from the keypad easily. I wrote rules that use an F-key to arm and disarm my second area.
 
Mike.
 

newalarm

Active Member
@mikefamig Yes, I know it can be done via programming, but our lives are already busy enough without having to spend all that time with extra programing. I guess if you do it through a f-key, you can do it from any keypad (i have three types including the one without a digital display). I would like to be able to look at the elk display and see what areas are armed vs disarmed and status. Seems like it would not be that difficult to do.
 

mikefamig

Senior Member
Agreed. I would like a button that you could press that would toggle the keypad's focus from one area to the next. It could require a special security code for security reasons.
 
Mike.
 
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