How to Wire and Install a Security Alarm System (DIY Tips: Door Contacts)

When you are ready to layout your alarm system design, for installation you must first decide where to mount the alarm control. If you have an unfinished basement, you will be drilling down and running your wires in the rafters to the area that you select for the panel. Most often this will be the mechanical or furnace room.

If you are working on a single story building, you will be running your wires up into an unfinished attic and

dropping your wires down to the control.

If you are in a commercial application you will run your wires on top of drop ceilings or along beams or possibly through exposed conduit.

If you are in a place where there is no place to run all these wires and hide them then you are a prime candidate for a wireless system.

You want to make sure that wherever you decide to mount your alarm control panel, that you have a device such as a motion detector or door contact to protect it. Leaving the control panel in an unprotected area could make it easy to circumvent in the event of a break in. Consider running the wires through the basement, and than jumping them up into a closet, in the protected area of the house. If you are wondering “what about the exposed wires in the basement? Don’t.” Cutting the wires would duplicate opening of the device they are running to, and would cause an alarm condition if the system were armed.

If you elect to go wireless on your system of choice, choose a central location in the home or business that will receive a strong radio signal from all points of protection. Remember that even on wireless system there are some wires that will need to be run. Most often they are the keypad, the siren, the power supply and the phone line. Take these runs into consideration when choosing your central location.

Provide lighting for the chosen area, as this will be where you are doing most of your installation work. Lay out a tarp and place all products and tools and a trash bag in this area. I have learned over the years to come to my central location to get what I need, and return everything I’m not using back to this location when I am done with them, especially tools. If you do not run an organized installation, you will spend ½ of your time searching for a tool, part, spool of wire etc. A tool belt is handy for the tools you will need everywhere, such as fresh drill bits, tape, wire cutters, screwdrivers, B- connects, a small bubble level, stud finder, a clean rag, etc.

You also want to clean as you go. As you finish running each wire and installing the device that will go there, take the time to clean up and bring all trash to the bag at your control zone. Being anal is a good thing, when you are doing a quality installation.

As you run each wire to the control room, measure where the wire is going to come into the control panel hole, and then add about a foot of wire before cutting it with your diagonal cutters. Place a piece of light colored electrical tape around the wire about 5 inches from the end and write on the tape with an indelible sharpie or marker where it is going.

If your home or business is under construction you may elect to pre-wire it for security. Pre-wiring is beneficial in the ability to get every device in the exact location you would want it. Placing wires and gang boxes before construction is complete, is dependent on your ability to read the architects plans and understand where cabinets, appliances and electrical devices will be placed with accuracy. If you do elect to pre-wire be sure to drill your own holes in the wall studs and rafters. Many a lazy alarm technician will run through the electrical and plumbers holes and think they are getting away easy. The problem is that if an electrician or plumber fails inspection they will have to pull wire and pipe out to relocate them to the inspector’s specifications. They are not likely to be concerned about your wire, when doing so.

The best time to run your wires on a pre-wire is immediately after the electricians leave and before the insulators arrive.

If you are ready to start running wires, lets start with the front door. If you are going down to the basement you will be working low on the opening side of the door. If you are running your wires up you will be working on the top of the door. Lets use down for our example. What kind of contact will you be using? Surface mount or recessed? If you are running wires anyway, why don’t you take the time to install recessed contacts so that they are out of site when the door is closed? Set up your drill with a 3/8-inch standard length drill bit.

In the jam of the door, approximately 4 inches from the bottom begin drilling at an angle towards the basement. Switch to your 3/8- inch by 12 to 18 inch long drill bit and continue drilling towards the basement, finally switch to your 5-foot long bell hangers bit and continue drilling till you pop out in the basement. Pull the long bit out of the hole and remove it from the hole. Poke the skinny end of the long bit down the hole.

Go down to the basement with a flashlight, diagonal wire cutters, tape, marker, staple gun with staples in it, and a spool or box of 22 gauge 2 conductor wire. Strip the plastic off of the end of your wire about 2 inches. Twist the 2 wires together and thread them through the hole at the end of the skinny side of the long bit and twist it around itself. Go back upstairs and pull the wire up to the hole. Tie a large loose and temporary knot in the wire after you get it there, so that it will not fall back in the hole. Leave at least 12 inches upstairs, so that you can work with the wire.

Go back downstairs and begin to roll out enough wire to make it to your control panel. Staple the wires with an industrial stapler like a T22 along the beams in a neat and orderly manner from the drop hole towards the control panel. Be sure you are not penetrating the wire with each staple, if you do, remove it now and re-staple. These mistakes are hard to trace after you walk away. Be sure to make it down the wall stud to where you will poke into the back of your control panel (about chest high) and leave an additional foot or more of wire before cutting it off the spool. Mark your wire with the tape and marker several inches from the end.

Congratulations! You made your first run. Be sure to gather and return all tools to the starting point so that you know where they are when you need them.

Get your 3/8 inch recessed contact and magnet. You will need a drill, extension cord (unless you are using a wireless drill), electrical tape, and a wire cutter. Split the end of you wire and strip a small amount of plastic cover off of each end. Do the same with your contact unless you have the type that has small screws for the wires to be clamped under. Twist each end of your wire to an end of the contact wire and tape tightly and individually. After you do each one you can wrap a piece of tape around the whole thing tightly. (It does not matter which wire goes to which wire as this is a circuit wire, and has no positive or negative side.) Carefully poke the wire into the hole and press the contact in. Now mark the door in the spot that the magnet will meet the contact, when the door is closed. Stabilize the door and drill a 3/8 ” hole just deep enough to put the magnet in. Repeat for each door you want contacted. We always suggest that you contact every perimeter door.

We will post additional device wiring instructions on The Experts Know! Alarms web-site for your access.

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