Security & Fire Protection Systems/Ameco Home Security System Question

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QUESTION: Hi Dave,

First, thank you for this service you offer ~ it is wonderful!! I am hoping you can help with a challenge I am having with my un-monitored home security system that was here when we purchased the home. Here are some details on the system:
- Keypads are Ademco 6150
- The programming and installation guides note the system as Ademco Vista Series (Vista 20P, Vista-20PSIA, Vista 15P)
- I have the previous homeowners keypad code available if needed.

Several times, our panels started beeping at random times, but pushing any button would stop this. About a wk ago, there was a power surge in our house that caused one of the panels to start beeping. I hit a button and it stopped, but ever since then, the door sensors (three beeps when you open them), stopped working. I thought it was a bad battery, so I swapped that, but the doors are still not beeping when we open them. Currently, the panels have the display 'FC' and/or 'not ready' or '6F and 'CHECK', with 'AC' always in the upper right corner. So, I am hoping you might be able to help with a few things:

1. Is there a way we can get this functionality back where the doors beep when you open them?
2. Is there a way to turn on and off this functionality with an unmonitored system? We have a baby on the way, so we want to be able to turn this off to prevent waking him if one of us leaves, but keep it on when we will be in the house.  

Thank you again! I appreciate any and all support you are able to offer!

Regards,
Marty

ANSWER: Hello Marty, and thanks for your questions.

Let's see if we can sort things out for you.

First, the "AC" should always be on; that's the power indicator for your system.

"Not Ready" means that the alarm is not ready to be set... as in there's a door or window open.

It's the FC and 6F indications that are the issue.

"FC" is Failure to Communicate, meaning that the control attempted to contact the monitoring center, and after 8 failed attempts, shoed you this trouble.

"6F" is actually "bF." It means "back-up fail" or "back-up fault." It indicates a problem with the unit that could be comm failure or a tamper alarm #like if the panel cover is open#.

You mentioned that your system is not monitored. But from these trouble indications, I'd say it was programmed to be monitored before. You should have a technician come and reprogram the control as a "local," meaning that it won't be trying to make any calls to a monitoring center.


For the Chime Mode, you probably turned it off by accident. The command to enable it is your code plus the key labeled "chime." I think it's the number 9 key.

I hope that helps!

Best Regards,

Dave

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dave,

Thanks so much for the assistance! Although the previous homeowner didn't leave it, I was able to find a user manual online to get the chime back (same instructions as you provided), but I am glad I wrote based on the other info you provided!

I do have a few follow ups based on the other issue if I may... The system was moniored by the previous owner. Is there a downside to have it kept as is and not reprogrammed to 'local' (not sure if it is material, but we do not have a land phone line)? Is there other things it can do if it is reprogrammed to 'local'? Finally, does the reprogramming require a tech, or can this be done with the programming guide I have?

Thank you again!!
Marty

ANSWER: Hello again Marty...

Yes, there's a downside to having an unmonitored system programmed as if it is monitored. Each time the system has the need to transmit information, it will attempt to do so, and the result will be the troubles that you noted appearing on the keypad.

In addition, the data for these "unsent" events is usually stored in a memory chip, in the hope that at a future time, it can be sent to the monitoring center. Once the capacity of that memory chip is full (as would happen after storing several events#, the system may cease to function as expected. Again, in general, the way to clear the buffer and empty out all those unsent events is to power down the control #both battery and AC), then re-apply power.

This is all just bad practice, and I can't recommend doing it.

Do you need a technician to reprogram it? Perhaps you could do it yourself, but you'll need the Installer's Code to access the programming. And even if you have it, the task of programming is not a simple one. In my experience, trying to describe to a non-alarm technician how to make a programming change is a risky proposition. One mistake and other -- perhaps critical -- programming choices can be altered.

So while it'll cost some money to hire a technician to do this, I do feel it's the best option.

But if you want to try this on your own, I'll do my best to help. But just remember you might wind up with a system that might be worse off than when you started.

Does that help?

Best Regards,

Dave

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: That does help! I will give the installation company a call to see if they are able to come and do this for me.

Thank you again!
Marty

Answer
Sounds good! It's probably best to contact the original installing company (they should have a decal or stickers on the equipment). The reason is that they will have the Installer's Code, which they selected during the installation.

A bit of advice... you will probably get a sales pitch to sign up for either/or a monitoring contract or maintenance agreement, so be ready for that. Let them know that all you want is a "Time and Material" service call, with no contracts.

If the refuse to do service without a service or monitoring agreement, thank them and hang up. Write me again and I'll help you find other resources in your area to do the work for you.

Best Regards,

Dave

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Dave Neuweiler

Expertise

The design and application of burglary and fire systems for homes and businesses. Helping alarm owners understand how their system works. Helping to troubleshoot false alarm problems. Questions about monitoring issues.

Experience

Over a quarter century in the industry. Experience in installation, service, and monitoring centers. Training manager for a national protective services company; director of education and training for a national trade organization for for alarm dealers.

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