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Magnum Alert:
As of yesterday, I was no longer employed with my company, who did mostly home and small business security, and quite honestly, couldn't even handle that, let alone trying to do commercial fire.

I recently went on a service call for an open zone in a large, well-protected house.  This zone was 3 basement windows, both upper and lower sashes, so 6 contacts all in all.  I determined it was an open circuit.   There was only a single 22/2 coming into the panel for the entire zone.   I clipped my audible continuity tester onto the wires, and headed out to try to locate the open.

All 3 lower sash contacts, surface-mounted to allow for venting magnets, were ok.  So, that left the upper sash contacts, 3/8" recessed.   At this point, I already knew that the loop was daisy chained and the basement was fully finished and drywalled, so I saw this crashing and burning almost immediately, if it was like every other system they installed.

It was.

That company uses Nascom contacts (a product I have had very poor experiences with) with 5-foot leads.  Instead of bringing the field wiring to the contact and splicing the wires right behind the contact - you know, where they would be accessible to the service tech 5 years later - our standard procedure was to run all 5 feet of those leads into the basement ceiling or wall cavity, and make the splices to the field wiring wherever the leads ended, usually 5 feet from the contact, then go to town with the T25, stapling everything down nice and tight.  Over the years, I have had to cut holes in ceilings to access splices, or completely re-drill windows just to replace a contact.  For years, I screamed and yelled at the installers to stop doing that because it is impossible to troubleshoot, impossible to remove contacts, etc.

So, I began to try to get the first top sash contact out.  With no effort, the lead broke off the back of the contact and there was less than 1/4" of wire to work with.  Once again, they left absolutely no slack in the wire to allow the contact to be pulled out, replaced, etc.   Immediately, I knew I and the customer were screwed.  Now, on top of what I assumed was simply a bad contact, we now had a broken wire.  Add to that, everything was daisy chained with splices buried behind a finished ceiling, so there was no way to isolate that at the panel and keep the working contacts connected.

Nope, an entire zone now is bad because of:  I'll say it:  PISS POOR wiring methods.  The absolute laziest thing someone could do.  The least amount of effort.  The installer who did that, well that was his reputation.  If there was a way he could shortcut something, he was a pro at it.  The company knew it.  For years.  Did nothing about it, he eventually quit on his own accord.

Now, this is a DSC PC1832 system that was already maxed out at 32 zones.  At this point, we (actually, they, since I left the company)  are looking at adding at least two wireless transmitters:  one for the bedroom window, and one for the two side-by-side windows that were all on that zone.  I pulled the center trim off between the two windows, replaced the contacts, and ran the contact leads up to the top of the trim board where the transmitter could be installed behind the blinds.  Now, I know that I could have just as easily sold and installed two large, bulky transmitters side by side rather than take the 15 minutes it took to pull off a trim piece and replace two surface contacts and connect them to one transmitter.   Add to that, the panel now needs to be upgraded to an 1864 to allow the additional wireless devices to be enrolled.  Such a major, unnecessary expense and waste of labor for a woefully poor installation.

I will never understand why it's such a difficult concept that everything you install will, sooner or later, need to be taken back out for service, troubleshooting, or replacement.  Contacts, motion detectors, panels.  Is it really asking too much to take an extra 10 minutes to home run your windows that are 15 feet from the panel?  Is it really not common knowledge that you shouldn't do a brand new install that will leave splices permanently buried behind finished ceilings?  Is it not common knowledge that you should leave a little slack at a contact?

Holy hell.   If there was certification in laziness, I think it would go to a home security installer somewhere.

So what's your next line on your resumť going to be?  Independent?

Wow. Rant mode off.

I feel for you, been there many times myself. The utter lack of foresight of some people is amazing. They either canít plan for future servicing or keep wires short because copper is expensive. They obviously donít realize how expensive labour is.

Good luck with whatever you do next. 

Magnum Alert:
Copper may be expensive, but if at the end of an install, you use an extra 20 feet of 22/2, how much did it cost the company you work for?  a few cents?  As an installer it doesn't come out of your paycheck, and any competent company will realize that extra few cents for 8" of wire at a contact is worth more than a simple service call to replace a contact taking two hours instead of 10 minutes that it should take, the customer having no faith in the system or your company, and your company inevitably eating time, labor and materials costs now to fix the problem and keep the customer happy. 

I'm moving into the commercial fire trade.   Might keep doing security on the side.

I wish you luck in your career change, I did it myself about 28 years and retired from Fire System service eight years ago. You will soon find out that you have traded one set of problems for another. Instead of problems caused by brain dead installers you will have to deal with problems caused by brain dead electricians, electronic engineers and Fire Marshalls.


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