Security & Fire Protection Systems/DIY DSC install - possible or "pro required?"
I am moving into a different house. The house does not have an alarm. My current house has a DSC and I'm quite happy with it. I'd like to install a hard wired alarm myself in the new house. I'd plan to use a DSC 1864 for the brain, an EVL-4 for IP monitoring, and probably a fancy PTK5570 for the main panel. I'd plan to have 3 Motion zones, 15 windows, 4 doors, 2 glass breaks, 8 smoke/heat, and an exterior annunciator. I have never installed an alarm system in a house but I am very handy having performed lots of various electrical installations as well as wiring up components on aircraft carriers. I do not think installing the components will pose an issue. I can handle some basic programming having already made a few changes to my current DSC system. What I'm most curious about is, is there something I'm overlooking? Is there a special installer-only tidbit that I may run into that is kept secret to the pro-world? Any advice you can offer is greatly appreciated.
Hello Jason, and thanks for writing.
There are a few things you should consider before choosing whether to install your own system. First, you'll need to find out what licenses and permits may be required, both at the state and local level. For example, is a construction permit required before you begin, and will you need a permit to operate the system after it's installed. There may also be a requirement that you, as the installer, may need to be licensed. (In the last 20 years or so, there's been a lot of legislation in the alarm industry primarily aimed at false alarm reduction.)
Here's a link to some legislation for South Carolina: http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t40c079.php
You might need to contact city hall and ask around. And since you're planning fire alarm as well, don't overlook the local Fire Marshal (the AHJ, or "Authority Having Jurisdiction") as a resource for finding out any specific requirements (they really appreciate being asked in advance).
If you do install your own system, there may be some specialty tools needed -- primarily to get wires from an attic or basement/crawl space to the doors and windows you want to protect. For example, a "feeler" drill bit, which typically is 3-4 feet long and flexible.
Another consideration is the fact that you'll be drilling holes in and around casements for doors and windows. There are many ways to conceal the wiring and contacts, and you'll have to choose a method (and contact type) based on the type of window and the construction around it. It will be helpful to have a look at the Sentrol Application Notes which illustrates different ways to protect doors and windows. You can download it in PDF here:
(If the link doesn't work, just Google "Sentrol Application Notes")
Finally, look at every opening you want to protect, and figure out how you're going to get concealed wiring from there to the control. The "nightmare scenario" is when there's a two-story house on a slab, and you need to protect a first-story window ... you can't get to from below, and it can be daunting to get to it from above. (That's the best advertisement for wireless that there is ...)
Well, I hope this helps, and it doesn't scare you away from doing it yourself. There's a lot of satisfaction in installing your own system.
If you have follow-up questions, don't hesitate to write again!