Old DSC Security System - DIY upgrade?

Discussion in 'Alarm & Security Systems' started by Revlus, Dec 5, 2017.

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  1. Revlus

    Revlus n3wb

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    This is a continuation off my introduction thread.. just creating a thread for this specific topic.

    I have an apparently old DSC PC1555MX based security system. Don't know any of the codes, the default master and installer codes don't work. It only has 6 zones. I'd like to upgrade to 14'ish to be more specific about where alerts are coming from, rather than "Upstairs" or "downstairs door"

    I have two keypads.. one by garage entrance to house, and one in master.


    So perhaps time to upgrade as @tangent is suggesting. If I was going to expand that board for more zones, I'd need a larger lock box (or whatever you call it) so would have to re-wire it anyway.

    If you were starting from scratch, and would have a combination of wired security devices(windows, motion) and wireless (adding new things such as glass break detection), that you wanted cellular monitoring for, along with smart home integration (smartthings).... 14'ish zones... suggestions what to look at? Wouldn't be tied to DSC anymore either I suppose.
     
  2. Revlus

    Revlus n3wb

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    aahh yea. If anyone can move this to the security forum... Thx.
     
  3. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    The PC1555 dates from the 1990's and there's no way to expand it beyond 8 zones or do much anything else to expand on it.

    You certainly aren't limited to DSC. It would be very helpful to post a picture of the inside of the cabinet. You'll need to determine if end of line resistors are installed, where they're installed and what their resistance is, and how wires were installed on loops with multiple sensors (do they all go back to the panel?).

    The cheapest options would be things like the DSC PC1832, PC1864, HS2032 (neo), or HS2064 or the Honeywell Vista 20P. Parts for this end of the spectrum would probably run around $300-400 (board, cabinet, battery, 2 keypads, and maybe some keyfobs and a zone expander, maybe some other modules). A cellular communicator would add more to that number.

    Fancier options would be something from ELK, HAI (leviton), or Bosch. These would probably be 2-4 times more expensive but would provide better home automation integration.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2017 at 12:50 AM
  4. Revlus

    Revlus n3wb

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    [​IMG]


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  5. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    Please set the battery on top of the cabinet without unplugging it and pull the phone jack forward and snap another picture. Also, count the number of cables that are going through the hole at the top of the cabinet.

    Where in the house is the cabinet installed?
     
  6. Revlus

    Revlus n3wb

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    This is in the basement. IMG_8772.JPG IMG_8773.JPG

    Forgot to count.... next time down there I'll see how many wires.
     
  7. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    Don't bother counting the wires. I can see enough detail in your pics now. Most of your zones were run with a type of wire that lacks an outer jacket, you'll need to be extra careful keeping track of the wires. One more photo request, lift the door off and take a photo from a few feet further back.

    It looks like you could probably gain 2 more zones by splittings things up fairly easily (hopefully one is another door on the main floor). Trying to split things up any more than that is likely to be difficult, but you can use wireless sensors. It's pretty common for houses that were pre-wired for alarms at construction to put all the windows upstairs on one zone. It looks like you also have wire for a zone that isn't connected, it was either run a spare or they wired it up to a sensor and it was never connected to the panel.

    How handy are you with a multimeter and basic electronics?

    Make a list of your zones and everything that's on them.
     
  8. Revlus

    Revlus n3wb

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    IMG_8775.JPG IMG_8776.JPG

    Thankfully, the wires coming out the top are all labeled, and I apparently should be able to find the wires coming down from all the different areas into the basement easily enough to be able to split them out as I want.

    Nothing is behind the door... and I took a pic of the wires going up to the ceiling and running across to their locations with other telephone wires on the like. This was a custom install.. not really pre-wired. The guy who built the house did all sorts of stuff during the time the house was being built because he knew the builder so had the access.

    Yea, multimeters, electronics, etc., no problem. I've wired an entire 2nd floor for electric, did all the plumbing, gas lines, etc... and even passed inspections. Even built a heathkit TV back in the day. I'm certainly a DYI'er.. when the kids don't suck my time away... and only electrocuted myself once. :) but it wasn't my fault! *cough*

    Appreciate your help and guidance here... definitely accelerating the learning curve.
     
  9. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    That explains a few things

    Don't know if they ran cables for networking at construction, but it looks like you could re-purpose some unused phones lines if you ever need to (can't read the jacket but it's likely Cat-5 or 5e).

    Here's a thread on another forum where somebody swapped an old brinks panel for something else that's worth a read: Assistance w/replacing older Brinks with new DIY installation? - Home Security
    This alarm system forum also has lots of information: DIY Home Security Systems. Alarm system technical help - Index

    The first thing you should do is thoroughly test and document the existing installation. This is a little harder if you don't have any codes for the panel as you can't even turn the chime on, but you can still read the zone leds on the keypad. This means making a list of all the zones and everything on them, verifying that the zone lights change state appropriately, performing a visual inspection of the sensors and taking pics, and noting any zones that behave erratically. If you have any plunger or roller ball style switches on doors (unlikely) you may need to replace them. You should also make a wish list of things you want to add and whether they'd be wired or wireless.

    One thing you should check is if EOLRs or end of line resistors were installed, it's common to see them installed in the panel (which you don't have) but they don't really do any good installed like that. Zone 5 would be an easy one to test, disconnect the zone from the Z5 terminals and COM terminal to the right and use a multi-meter to check the resistance between the two wires it will either be close to 0 ohms (whatever the resistance of the wire is, <100ohms) or 2-7 kohms (may need to check different ranges on your meter, looks like for this alarm it would be 5.6k ohm). Most alarm panels give you the option to turn off using ELORs, but different mfgs may use different resistor values. This is done to make switching brands more difficult and is something you need to check before you try to decide on what you want to replace it with.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017 at 1:14 PM
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  10. t84a

    t84a Getting the hang of it

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    Buy an 1832 kit, a zone expander, and a 2nd key pad. Get the kit that has the English keypad. Just finished an install today.
     

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  11. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    One more thing you'll need to check is your bell / siren. The old panel can drive up to a 3amp bell (to get close to this it would likely have been a literal mechanical bell or siren), modern panels can only handle around 600-700ma. There are 2 sets of wires connected to the bell terminals, check if they're wired to 2 sirens (one could be in the attic, crawlspace or outside) or if they doubled up on the wiring and check the current specs on each.
     
  12. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    The DSC 1832 is fine option. One thing to note you can only connect 1 wireless receiver to the panel on pretty much all brands, whether that's a module in the panel or a keypad with receiver.

    Before you delve too deep into choosing a panel you should check for EOLRs.

    Here are some thoughts on different brands, I should probably warn you I don't install alarms professionally:

    DSC:
    idiot proof, type in the code to arm or disarm and that's it. You don't have to choose home/stay, away, or push an extra button (typically 1) to turn the system off. If you don't leave, it arms stay.
    Acquired by Tyco who also acquired ADT, company then split and DSC is now owned by ADT. Some recent innovation from the acquisition of Visionic. New Neo panels add some nice features, but third party integration is more difficult/limited as the wireless transmitters and keybus are now encrypted (not a bad thing in principal, but it means no EVL-4). You can get keypads for the neo that support prox tags. Some of the internet or cellular communicators may provide a serial interface for third party integration but documentation is almost nonexistent, older serial interface boards are not compatible.
    DSC is one of the bigger names which means you can get parts for lower prices. Programming with a PC Link cable and DLS 5 software is awesome.

    Honeywell:
    Reliable and inexpensive, familiar to many people. Innovation in their traditional hardwired product lines has been a bit slow the last few years and as more R&D has gone into the self contained wireless touch screen models. While I described using a dsc panel as idiot proof, programming a honeywell panel gets closer to idiot proof. However, their computer software for programming is awful compared to DSC and interfacing locally is very difficult. Don't even think about trying it, do your programming from the keypad. You can get an ADT branded keypad with prox support (might be nice for the nanny) relatively cheaply. Like DSC there's a wide installation base meaning it isn't hard to find parts, manuals, videos, and automation integration support.

    GE/Interlogix/UTC:
    Acquired ITI who was an early innovator, their products in the 90's were years ahead of their competitors. ITI's product line now forms the Concord line of products. Innovation here has slowed considerably unfortunatly and there are debates on whether the mythical Concord 5 will ever be released or if they'll just kill off the brand entirely. The Concord 4 might be the only hybrid alarm out of the box with a built in wireless receiver. They did just release a new keypad for the concord line though. The NetworX line is the evolution of the products from the acquisition of Caddix and is designed to be fairly intuitive to people used to installing Honeywell panels. I do kind of like the new NetworX Touch Screen Keypad, but i'm pretty sure it falls short of it's potential for home automation (I haven't used it). The NX-8E has a built in serial port for interfacing home automation without requiring an extra module. You can get very good deals on Interlogix products at times, but you'll have a harder time finding help. Plenty of NetworkX and Concord panels end up ripped out (they have their quirks) by installers familiar with DSC and Honeywell who don't want to learn anything else. The new UltraSync Modular Hub has potential but I haven't seen enough or been hands on with one and have no real opinion of it.

    ELK Products:
    The M1 Gold would be the go to option if you want a higher end alarm system and extensive home automation. A basic kit will cost a few times what a DSC or Honeywell kit runs and probably include a bit less. It has 16 on board zones and 13 on board outputs as well as on board serial and a host of powerful features not found on DSC or Honeywell. If home automation is a real priority, Elk is worth considering.

    Leviton/HAI/Omni:
    Make some great high end products, but ELK is the more economical and practical choice.

    2Gig Vario: has potential but it's not a very diy friendly option.
    Napco: They still exist? Yes, and they're actually trying to innovate a bit.

    Bottom line it's hard to go wrong with DSC, Honeywell, or ELK. If your current system has EOLRs, I probably wouldn't put in the effort to use anything other than DSC.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017 at 8:01 PM
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  13. t84a

    t84a Getting the hang of it

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    Incredible write up, tangent.
     
  14. t84a

    t84a Getting the hang of it

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    Connect2Go is a great add-on as well. They finally got an app.
     
  15. tangent

    tangent Known around here

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    That's just a dealer program from the Eyez-On EVL-4 right?
     
  16. t84a

    t84a Getting the hang of it

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