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When renovating, don't forget the alarm system

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Great tips for homeowners are offered on the HGTV network. I especially enjoy watching the renovation shows.

Homes opened up and stripped down to bare studs. New wiring, drywall, vapour barriers, heating ducts, and a host of other improvements centered on environmentally friendly technology.

Granite counter tops, hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances, crown mouldings and quality cabinets combined with the right amount of camera angle to produce the final “pop” for viewers.

It’s great to learn about effective barriers that safeguard against fire, mold, fungus and rot, but what about effective barriers that safeguard against “the bad guys?”

If you’re tuning into these types of shows and are planning an extensive renovation, don’t forget about your family’s safety once you hit the studs.

The costs to install even the most elaborate security system are greatly reduced when working at the pre-drywall stage.

If you’re building a new home or planning a renovation, the installation of your alarm system should be done in two stages.

The first stage is the pre-wiring, which is usually done in one day before the sheet-rock covers the walls. This is where the wires are run through the studs and ceiling for all the openings (windows and doors), as well as motion sensors, smoke sensors, keypads, security cameras etc.

Always speak to your installer before he begins the pre-wire to make sure he knows exactly where he’s running the wires. You don’t want to jeopardize your home’s security because your installer missed out on crucial areas that need protecting.

If you want an intercom system or security camera installed, economically now is the time to do it. Even if it’s not in today’s budget, run the wires and add the hardware at a later date.

Make sure your alarm installer is the last person to work within the walls and ceiling because you don’t want other trades like plumbers, electricians or heating specialists disturbing the pre-wire.

Your installer should make sure the security wiring is kept away from any other wiring as well as plumbing pipes and areas that may collect moisture. This will help prevent a short down the road, or worse yet a fire.

The second stage of your home alarm installation follows the drywall. Once all the doors and windows are in place, the installer can complete his work.

This involves installing motion detectors, smoke and glass break sensors, keypads, internal and external sirens, a control box and any other add-ons you allowed for.

Somebody asked me the other day, ”How can I tell if my new home’s alarm system has been wired to the industry standard?”

The industry uses a term called “home run” which means all windows, doors, motion detectors, glass break sensors, water sensors and key pads have individual dedicated wires running back to one panel location.

With the soaring cost of copper wire, some alarm companies are having their installers save money by “looping." This means one wire will leave the panel location and go to the first window, and then another wire will continue to the next and so on. This cuts down on the amount of wire required for the install.

The danger of this type of installation comes when there’s a problem with one window in the circuit; all the attached doors or windows will be affected causing multiple security breaches.

If you’re concerned about whether your security system has been installed properly, here’s how you can check. Count all the hardware (detection devices) you have installed in your home.

I’m referring to the contacts on all the windows and doors, motion detectors, glass break sensors and so on. After you have a number in your head, go to the main panel (usually in a closet or out of the way location) and count the number of wires.

There should be a telephone wire and a wire for every connection to the system with possibly a few spares for future add-ons.

Frank Fourchalk is a security professional with 26 years in the business. You can visit his website at www.yourhomesecurity.ca. You can also e-mail frank at Fourchalk@shaw.ca

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