What Powers My Alarm System?

What Powers My Alarm System?

As a Customer Service Representative for Protection 1, I receive many questions from customers on how their alarm system is powered. I would like to take this opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences to help give a better understanding on why you shouldn’t have to worry about your alarm system losing power.

Your home alarm system is a “low vol”, or low voltage system. These systems are not wired directly in to your house power, but are powered from your wall electricity by a large transformer. This is basically an AC power adapter and a backup battery found in a panel box installed in your home.

The back up battery takes over and powers your system when the main power transformer is unplugged, goes bad, or when you have a power outage. Low voltage systems require less power consumption to operate and insures that your alarm will work whether or not your electricity is on.

There are two options when it comes to the sensors that are on your doors, windows or those that detect smoke and motion. You can either have a wireless sensor that is powered by batteries inside the individual units. Or, you could have ones that are hardwired. These hardwired sensors would run directly from the back up battery and the power transformer with no batteries necessary. If you do have a battery powered sensor, your system will alert our monitoring station when they are low. This will then create the action for us to call and alert you!

The transformer itself is a 16 volt two-pronged device about the size of your fist, and is generally off white or light tan in appearance. They are commonly screwed into a conventional outlet plate to hold them in place. The transformer is normally installed in garages, attics or closets in your house…though this placement can vary. They should be warm to the touch if they are operating properly.

Backup batteries that are located in your alarm panel (keypad). Normally they need changed once every four years. However, it could be more often if there are a large amount of power outages. Most of the alarm systems on the market use a 12 volt battery that resembles a miniature car battery with .1875  terminals that are commonly referred to as a “F1″ faston. The most common models used are UB1250 or UB1280 which are universal battery model numbers. The 12 refers to the voltage and the 50 or 80 numbers are AH numbers, or ampere hours that the backup battery will continue to operate. These AH numbers bear no weight in the power output of the battery.

The use of a transformer as well as a battery insures that you have a fall back method of power in the event of a power outage. This can be especially important for customers that experience severe weather with long-term power outages. This was the case with hurricane Sandy, which left many of our customers with no power or limited power for days. With looting reports all over the news, a working alarm was important to protect the property of our customers in this trying time.

What do I do when my system powers down?

Check your transformer to ensure that it is plugged in and warm to the touch.

  • If the transformer is not warm, ensure that the outlet that it is plugged into is operational.
  • If the outlet is powerless, check your breaker box.

Sometimes, a breaker can get flipped or tripped causing loss of power to the transformer and forcing your battery to drain while you are not at home. You may not even be aware that the system is down until you pass by the keypad and realize that there are no lights on. If the breaker isn’t tripped, the outlet works, the transformer is plugged in and you still have no power to the alarm, that transformer adapter may need replaced.

If the transformer is working and operational, it should be charging the back up battery. Even if the battery goes dead, the system should continue to work from the wall power. When the panel battery begins to get weak, your system will alert you to the problem.

Does your keypad display “BAT” or “Battery”?

This can be caused by a power outage, flipped breakers, or your system may have been unplugged. Your keypad may continue to display the same message after power has been restored. This indicate that your battery is recharging. If the same message remains on your display after 72 hours, please contact Customer Service for assistance.