A Low-Cost Way To Install A Wireless Alarm System In Your House In Less Than 20 Minutes

When we moved into our current house, it already had an ADT alarm system in place. I never activated it because I don’t like the idea of having to spend $40-$70 a month on their monitoring service, not to mention the cops showing up at the house with guns drawn every time the dog accidentally trips the system. If you want to cancel? Too bad, you’re locked into a multi-year contract.

No thanks.

I still wanted an alarm system for the house, though– especially for when we travel. Layers of protection, at least in theory.

If you do any research online, you’ll quickly find that the Simplisafe wireless alarm system is the dominant player in the market. The reviews sounded good. In fact, they sounded a little too good and made me wonder if perhaps they weren’t shills for the company. So, I ordered one and figured that if it sucked, I’d send it back for a refund and at least have some interesting review material for the blog.

First Impressions: The Simplisafe Wireless Alarm System Came In A Small Box

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The entire system came in a small, clean package. Be aware that shipping took about seven days to arrive (ordered from the Simplisafe web site… if you order from Amazon, they’re saying that shipping takes 1-2 days) so if your house has just been burglarized, don’t expect overnight delivery. Upon opening the box, each component is packaged individually. My system came with: A cone-shaped base station (the brain of the system); several magnetic entry sensors; motion detection sensors; an entry keypad; a couple of keychain remotes, a thin manual and a few window stickers.

One of the keychain remotes doubles as a USB thumb drive. You plug that into your computer and it auto-runs the set up guide that walks you through the process. It was all pretty intuitive and easy.

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How It works

You put the base station on a shelf, preferably near a window. It’s got an auto dialer cell phone built inside so if you’re using their monitoring service you’ll get better reception next to a window. Plug it into an outlet (yes, it’s got a built-in battery backup, too) and the unit starts to talk to you and walk you through the set up test.20130217-192117.jpg

Next, place the entry sensors on your doors and windows. Each entry sensor has two parts: One a magnet and the other the sensor. When the magnet gets more than two inches away from the sensor (for example, when the door opens) it triggers the base station that then sounds the alarm after 30 seconds. (You can adjust the duration of the delay from the auto-run set up, when you plug the USB thumb drive into your computer which downloads the settings. Then you plug the USB into the top of the base station and it downloads the settings to the brain of the unit).

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I found it all to be very intuitive and easy to set up, and I’m far from a whiz kid with this kind of stuff. The sensors have 3M double sided tape on the back that you use to adhere to the door and the door frame. It’s small and inconspicuous. The back side of each component (entry sensors, motion sensors, keypad) all have a tab that you pull that activates the internal battery, too.

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As soon as you do this, the base station will talk to you and let you know that it’s now active.

The motion detectors work pretty much the same way: If you’re going to mount them on the wall then you first pull the battery activation tab and then peal off the backing from the double-sided tape. However– we just placed them on book shelves. They’re small enough to be inconspicuous. I called the company to ask about our dog. Since the online advertising mentioned that dogs less than 30 lbs. would not trigger the sensors, I wondered about what would happen when The Giant Schnoozer woke up from his nap to find that we weren’t home and triggered the motion detectors.

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What the guy from Simplisafe told me is that the sensors view a 90 degree angle and then downwards, so he recommended turning them upside down and mounting the motion sensors at about five feet off the ground.

I asked him what would happen then if a band of midgets broke into my house? (Anybody remember the movie Time Bandits?)
All I heard on the other end of the line was crickets.

Whatever.

The alarm system has a test mode and it seemed to work well.

We’ve now used the alarm several times and the dog hasn’t tripped it once, so it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

As for the keypad: It mounts the same way. Pull the battery activation tab and then stick it to the wall next to your entryway

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Some Things About the Simplisafe That I’m Not Crazy About:

  • The siren isn’t loud enough and it only comes from one easily identifiable location: The base station. Simplisafe does sell a louder add-on siren (actually, you can add as many sirens as you like!) which I’m planning on doing. From their web site:

    SimpliSafe 105 Decibel Auxiliary Siren

    The SimpliSafe Auxiliary Siren delivers ear-blasting siren power. This siren will ensure any foolish burglar knows you’re protected. Get two or more and your entire neighborhood will peek out their windows. Look out burglar – the sheriff’s in town.

    • Weather resistant for outdoor use
    • Easily screw mount under an eave outside or adhere to a wall inside
    • Wireless, with a 1-2 year battery life (4 AA batteries included)
    • Compatible with all SimpliSafe systems
    • Add as many as you want. You’re in charge

 

  • The LED display on the keypad is nowhere near bright enough.
  • The entry sensors need to be placed right next to each other. If you have an alcove doorway where the door and the door frame are not flush with each other, it can be a problem. Our only door like this is the one to our garage, so I placed the sensor on the outside of the door frame (still in the garage but not in the house). In theory, somebody could break into the garage, rip the entry sensors off the door, kick in the door… but they’d still trigger the motion detectors… so I’m not too worried about that scenario.
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Alcove doorway. This entry sensor is from the ADT system that was already installed in the house. You can see they had the same problem, but solved it by drilling a hole and then running a wire so that the sensor could be placed on the outside of the door frame. You can’t do that with with the Simplisafe, because it’s wireless.

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Simplisafe sensor I placed on the outside of the garage door (still the interior of the garage). Not optimal. Simplisafe could improve upon situations like this by letting you increase the trigger distance of the sensor from the control panel.

 

 

So, What’s The Verdict?  Should You Buy This Thing?

Heck yeah!

Bottom line: It works and it works really well.  It’s inexpensive compared to an ADT-type system, installation takes less than 30 minutes and the product does what it says it does.  ** Note: If you’re not using the monitoring service, turn off the voice prompts so that it doesn’t blast “Monitoring Service Is Not Being Notified” when the siren goes off.  LOL.

We’re really happy with this system, overall.  Once we receive the auxiliary sirens (I’ll probably buy two, just because I do everything overkill) it will be even better.

You can order directly from the company’s web site.  If you order from Amazon instead, then I get a small affiliate commission and the benefit to you is that the product is shipped in 1-2 business days rather than the seven days I had to wait for mine.  I mention this just in case you’ve recently experienced a break-in and you’re worried about them coming back, you should be aware of the difference in shipping times.

Feel free to share your experience with the Simplisafe Alarm System in the comments field, below.

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