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Topics - Magnum Alert

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1
Hey, other pros, what's your take on this?   I've worked on hundreds of DSC systems over the years and never had an issue like this.

Got a PC1832, version 4.2 panel.  Two LCD5500z keypads, and an RF5132 receiver.  The customer was getting a low battery trouble on zone 24.

First service call, I find there is no zone 24.  Not only that, the zone type is 00, it's not assigned to a partition, and there is no ESN for 24.  In fact, there were no wireless zones at all.  So the zone should never have even come up, as it was never enabled.  Figured maybe there was some errant programming somewhere.  Defaulted the panel, keypads, and receiver, and reprogrammed.

A week later, it happens again.   DSC tech support is not much help.  I found a receiver hidden in a basement ceiling joist.  Disconnected the receiver, problem hasn't happened in months.  Leaning toward a bad receiver or something.  At that point, since there were no wireless zones, a receiver was not reinstalled.

A few months later, we get a call.  His keyfob hasn't worked since we were last out.  Now it all makes sense, the receiver was just for his keyfob.  I bring a brand new RF5132 receiver over, install it above the panel, and go into 804-41 to enter the keyfob ESN.  All is good.  Arm the system with the keyfob, trouble light comes on - boom.  you guessed it.  device low battery, zone 24.

So I at least have it narrowed down.  The fob's LED isn't flickering like they do when the batteries are low, but I replaced the battery anyway, and armed and disarmed with the fob.  All is ok, but the zone 24 low battery did not restore (typically, arming and disarming with the new battery clears the fob battery trouble).  So now I'm suspecting a compatibility issue somewhere in the receiver and LCD5500z keypads.  I try to connect his old RF5132-433 receiver (the older kind with the straight up and sideways antenna) thinking maybe there's a compatibility problem.   I do a 902, then go into 804.  I can only enter 5-digit ESNs on this older receiver.  Ok.  Disconnected both receivers.

Yesterday, I came back with two new PK5500 keypads, a new RF5132 receiver, and a new keyfob.  Now, my gut is telling me that maybe the older LCD5500z keypads are acting flaky with the receiver.   I have had some really OLD LCD5500 keypads flake out on new DSC panels, as well as the 5501s when you go into *5 user programming.  So anything is possible.   My next option, if I can't narrow it down, is to install a Linear DX receiver onto a keyswitch zone and get him a Linear DX keyfob.  I install the new RF5132 receiver.  I go into 804-41, enter the keyfob ESN of his existing keyfob, and arm and disarm the panel probably 100 times - absolutely no problems.  No low battery troubles on zones that do not exist. 

I'm certain, however, that it will recur.  It always has.

2
Security System Horror Stories / LEAVE SLACK!!!!!
« on: December 30, 2017, 03:56:11 PM »
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.

4
Give us Your Input on this Forum / What I like about this forum:
« on: July 25, 2017, 07:10:36 PM »
Hey friends, new and old.  I promise that I do occasionally pop onto this old forum here, admittedly not as much as I used to.  I do still thing, "man, I've really got to pop onto the forum and see what's new!".   Still a community!

I've been a member since 2005, and a moderator for ten of those 12 years.

What I like about this forum is, we have true pros on here.  It was easy to jump onboard with the facebook-based security groups but very quickly had my fill of it with peoples' egos and company bashing.  One member would post a picture of his/her work and a dozen other tradespeople were ready to nitpick and critique about stuff they forgot, like bushings for knockouts, etc.  When I talked about my company, a member made a reference to my company being cheap and I went on a rant and deleted myself from that mess.  I like it here.  People are cool and not flaunting their egos.   And we still have enough visitors that there is always a flow of information.  And, well, some of us have also been on here for a decade!  I remember names like MmmDee and Security Monitor.

Hope everybody is wiring well.  Keep the questions coming.


~ Dan / Magnum Alert

5
Alarm Installers Tips and Tricks / Wire Fishing
« on: March 03, 2016, 09:55:31 AM »
Just wanted to poke the installers' brains about wire fishing, which is becoming a lost art with the dominance and popularity of all-wireless systems being done in most homes and businesses.   I've been on this forum now for TEN YEARS (do I get an anniversary prize??) and really didn't work in the trade until later, but had installed my own system "the hard way" now that I'm here.  anyways, I've done mostly service, but had the need every now and then to add wired devices and I realized how much I didn't know about fishing wire - particularly in a customer's home, and learning the hard way, after a hole was cut in a wall.  I thought you could do it all with a fish tape and a weight on a string, boy was I wrong.  I saw our installers using the LSD rods for 99% of their work and I wondered why I never thought of that....?   For simple runs like an unfinished basement to a wall-mount device like a keypad or glassbreak, they just taped the end of the wire to the top end of the rod in the basement, pushed it into the wall and pulled it out with a hook. 

In that time, I've taken it upon myself to experiment for the easiest ways to do this.  I have an assortment of fishtapes, from the standard 1/8" to the flat but more flexible 3/16" that has proven to be a very worthwhile investment when you have to fish a tight angle, like in an exterior wall where you have to drill at an angle through a floor joist through the plate into the wall, because the plate is over the foundation.  When I elected to wire my windows in my home and learned that the plate is out past the foundation, I learned the value of dropping some jack chain into the wall and drilling horizontally into the cavity to retrieve it.  Sometimes, I get that beginner's luck - about two years ago, I installed a security system in my sister's place and when it came time to install the motion detector in a corner of two exterior walls, I dropped my weight and string into the wall, went into the basement and about fell over when I saw the weight and string hanging down freely, the wall was made of 1x3 furring strips between the drywall and exterior brick with no actual floor plate.   But get to my house, with old lath and plaster walls, and I learned that the insides of each wall have about two inches of dirt and broken plaster laying in the bottom of the cavity, forcing you to use something rigid from the basement up into the wall.

I've acquired my assortment of fish tapes, a set of Klein glow rods - though they're somewhat stiff and I'd kill for an affordable set of the LSD rods!  I carry about 12 feet of jack chain, and a spool of pink mason's twine with a standard lead weight.  I've also acquired about 15 feet of ball chain with a pre-attached lead weight, and an LSD "Wet Noodle" kit which I haven't actually gotten to try, but the amazon reviews suggest it's basically like the wheel.

What are your tools and tricks?

6
Do It Yourself Security Community Chat / Back
« on: February 29, 2016, 04:30:44 PM »
I haven't had a consistently-working computer and kind of gave up on the forum (for that reason) about a year ago.   Just wanted to stop in and check how things were.

I'm still working for small central PA alarm, but feel that I've gone about as far as I can go in the area after having been around the block.  Next week, I leave the burg/fire trade and go to a company doing government/healthcare access control.  Massive career change, but I haven't been able to get a raise in about five years and I gotta do what I gotta do.

Great to be back....


Dan / "Magnum Alert"

9
aight guys... I hate that I'm a pro and have worked with concords and nowhere in the installation guides for the Concord 4 can I find the sensor group to use for a keyfob.  Even on GE's technical download site!

What sensor group??

10
Job Listing / Salaries
« on: July 10, 2014, 12:14:48 AM »
Looking for a website that is a pretty reliable resource for salaries to our business.  Trying to see what a good ballpark salary is for a field tech, 5 years experience in security with 3 additional years with a big name in fire alarm.

11
Here it is, all compiled into one thread!  Feel free to add onto this if you want.  We in the alarm industry are committed to reducing the unnecessary police dispatches.  It wastes time and money, and it's a common thing I run into on most service calls, because the police have been there at least once before I got called.

First and foremost:  motion detectors!

These guys are responsible for the bulk of false alarms, and they're the easiest to fool into thinking there is movement.  Most detectors use infrared imaging to detect a mass of heat moving across a field.  This is a PIR detector.  Some detectors use both PIR technology, and microwave technology, and will not trigger unless both elements detect motion.  These are called dual-tech motions and are very valuable and have their place.

PIR units can and will be triggered by radiant heat.  That means that they must, MUST be located and installed in a manner that they will not be facing heat-producing objects like baseboard heaters, radiators, floor or ceiling HVAC vents, or large glass doors that catch the sun.  I've seen these cause false alarms more than I can count.  I personally prefer to locate my motions in an exterior corner of a room, facing in, so that they're not looking right at the windows, but will trigger within a few footsteps of climbing inside. 

If you have a detector that is being triggered from temperature changes, or is in an area like a garage where the temperature cannot be controlled, you really, really want to put a dual-tech motion detector there.  The heat may trigger the PIR, but it won't trigger the microwave element.

Also, ceiling fans, balloons, and curtains that are right in front of the detector will trigger motions too, particularly if there is an HVAC vent under a window that blows hot air up and causes the curtain to move (I only mention this because I've seen it happen).  If you have pets, this is a special concern, but isn't typically a problem.  Make sure you have a "pet immune" detector (as most are) and make sure that your pets are within the detector's weight limit.  Do not aim the detector at stairs!!  Or anything that the pet can jump on, as these will defeat the pet immunity.

After you installed your detector, take some RTV silicone (the service tech's best friend) and plug any unused holes in the back of the detector.  Be sure, also, to plug the hole where the wiring comes in.  Even the smallest spider, the size of a flea, will trigger the detector if it crosses the PIR element (I have pictures!!)  Stinkbugs and spiders love motion detectors.  I recently took apart a Honeywell dual-tech motion that was installed properly but was falsing.  I opened the cover and counted 12 ladybugs living in there, crossing the PIR element and nesting inside the microwave transmitter.  A little silicone will keep them out. 

Make sure your detectors have the sensitivity adjusted correctly.  Typically, you want the pulse count ON.  Many detectors are factory set at the highest level, and in most homes, function perfectly on the lowest or near lowest setting.  PIR detectors will NOT sense movements through glass, but microwave elements can pick up movement through walls.

Take a broom or vacuum cleaner every now and then and brush the spider webs away from the corner where the detector is installed.


I will add to this as time permits.  Feel free to ask questions!
Dan

12
All,

We are at the beginning of the phase-out of 2G cellular service.  If you have an existing 2G communicator, it will need to be replaced.  If you're with a reputable dealer, they should have notified you already.

This affects all alarm communicators that use GSM cellular (not true radio).  This includes all Alarmnet units that don't have 4G in the part number, DSC's 3060 units (use the 3G3060 instead) and potentially the Telguard and Uplink, etc.  Feel free to add to this as you come across this.

This will not affect true radio units like AES Intellinet, etc.

I have personally seen the 2G radios start dropping out.  To the alarm trade, this is like a tornado siren sounding and dark clouds on the horizon.  This isn't the alarm industry, it's the telecommunication industry looking to push technology further.

Be careful if you are looking online at GSM communicators!!  If you get something that is not at least 3G, it may not work and if it does, it won't be for long.

Alarmnet is already on 4G.  For your Honeywell panels, the GSMX4G is the current unit that automatically selects the best service - 2G, 3G, or 4G.

13
All,

We are at the beginning of the phase-out of 2G cellular service.  If you have an existing 2G communicator, it will need to be replaced.  If you're with a reputable dealer, they should have notified you already.

This affects all alarm communicators that use GSM cellular (not true radio).  This includes all Alarmnet units that don't have 4G in the part number, DSC's 3060 units (use the 3G3060 instead) and potentially the Telguard and Uplink, etc.  Feel free to add to this as you come across this.

This will not affect true radio units like AES Intellinet, etc.

I have personally seen the 2G radios start dropping out.  To the alarm trade, this is like a tornado siren sounding and dark clouds on the horizon.  This isn't the alarm industry, it's the telecommunication industry looking to push technology further.

Be careful if you are looking online at GSM communicators!!  If you get something that is not at least 3G, it may not work and if it does, it won't be for long.

Alarmnet is already on 4G.  For your Honeywell panels, the GSMX4G is the current unit that automatically selects the best service - 2G, 3G, or 4G.

14
All,

We are at the beginning of the phase-out of 2G cellular service.  If you have an existing 2G communicator, it will need to be replaced.  If you're with a reputable dealer, they should have notified you already.

This affects all alarm communicators that use GSM cellular (not true radio).  This includes all Alarmnet units that don't have 4G in the part number, DSC's 3060 units (use the 3G3060 instead) and potentially the Telguard and Uplink, etc.  Feel free to add to this as you come across this.

This will not affect true radio units like AES Intellinet, etc.

I have personally seen the 2G radios start dropping out.  To the alarm trade, this is like a tornado siren sounding and dark clouds on the horizon.  This isn't the alarm industry, it's the telecommunication industry looking to push technology further.

Be careful if you are looking online at GSM communicators!!  If you get something that is not at least 3G, it may not work and if it does, it won't be for long.

Alarmnet is already on 4G.  For your Honeywell panels, the GSMX4G is the current unit that automatically selects the best service - 2G, 3G, or 4G.

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