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Is Wireless Security Better Than Wired?

Whether a wired or wireless security system is better will depend on what you need from a security system. 

Hardwired alarm systems have an edge on reliability, while wireless systems provide a more streamlined installation and can be used in places where wired systems can’t.

So what makes a system wired or wireless? A home security system’s network of sensors, along with the control panel, connect and communicate with the outside world via either cellular or landline connection.

More specifically, a fully wireless system uses individual sensors throughout the home that communicate wirelessly to the central control panel, typically using radio frequency technology. 

The control panel will then communicate wirelessly to the outside world using a cellular uplink. Essentially, your system will have a cellphone of its own. 

On the other hand, a fully hardwired alarm system connects the sensors to the control panel with a network of wires (concealed within the walls and floors of your home) and then to the outside world using your home’s telephone line.

How Wired & Wireless Home Security Systems Work

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A hardwired home security system is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a system that uses wires running throughout your house to relay information back to the central control panel and, when applicable, the monitoring centre of your security company. 

With wired home security, any pieces you choose to include in your system — like sensors and cameras — are connected via tangible wires. Specifically, they use the wiring of your landline telephone system to communicate.

Wireless security, on the other hand, uses a cellular network to communicate throughout your home. Wireless systems leverage radiofrequency technology to set up a mini cellular network within your house to relay alarms. Wireless systems can also include security cameras that, again, send information to you and, if you choose to have monitoring, to your home security company through this cellular network. 

Unsurprisingly, there are some pros and cons with each system. Wireless security is easier to install, for example, but the wireless network it relies on isn’t as dependable as traditional wiring. And while hardwired security does give you that reliability, it’s a hassle to install in your house, and it’s not as flexible as a wireless system. 

That’s just a quick overview, though. To make sure you have all the information you need to choose the right home security system for your wants and needs, we’ve looked into the specific pros and cons of a wireless alarm system vs wired security.

Wireless

If your home doesn’t have a security system pre-installed, wireless systems can solve several problems. 

You won’t have to worry about drilling holes or making other modifications, so wireless is an attractive option for renters, historic homes, or buildings with significant interior brick, stone, or marble construction. 

Renters or homeowners who change residence will also be able to take advantage of the portability of most wireless systems—disconnect and reconnect at your new address. 

Frontpoint is an excellent option for those who are interested in a portable home security system. Frontpoint requires DIY installation, but if you’d rather have someone install the plan for you, Vivint is another good wireless contender with professional installation.

The potential drawback of wireless is its reliability. Just like Wi-Fi routers or cellphones, wireless security systems are subject to various types of interference that can cause your sensor to fail to respond or to respond unpredictably (for example, triggering a false alarm). 

Electromagnetic interference can come from many other devices, including baby monitors, remote controls, power lines, microwave ovens, and fluorescent lighting. Structural interference comes from walls, floors, ceilings, or things like metal filing cabinets. 

However, these issues are rare. To help counter potential problems, each wireless sensor contains a battery, which works great, especially in a power outage. 

Just make sure you stay on top of changing out your batteries to know they’re continuously operating at peak performance. Additionally, wireless security systems are pretty safe.

Advantages Of Wireless Security Cameras

A primary advantage of wireless security cameras is that they are much easier to install than wired cameras. You may need to mount them to a wall or ceiling using a drill, but otherwise, there's minimal installation – plug it in and connect it to your Wi-Fi network using the camera’s smartphone app.

Wireless security cameras are also straightforward to use. You can view live or recorded footage on a smartphone or tablet app, where you can quickly scroll through a timeline view of events triggered by motion or sound. 

You can also control your camera’s settings from the app and download footage you want to store long term.

Wireless cameras also have advanced features powered by machine learning and innovative software. 

Wireless cameras can determine whether it's a person or an animal in your yard, or whether somebody's walking back and forth multiple times2

Some wireless cameras offer onboard storage so you can record footage directly to a micro SD card. If you have a battery-powered camera and local storage, your camera will still work and record even if your power and internet have gone down.

As most wireless cameras use cloud storage, you can store more video for longer than you can with a wired system. Some cloud services offer up to 60 days of footage, although you have to pay a fee for this.

Wireless cameras are an excellent solution for renters as they are easy to both install and uninstall. Their flexibility also makes them a good option if you think you may want to reposition them in the future.

Disadvantages Of Wireless Security Cameras

Monthly fees are one of the major cons of wireless cameras. Most rely on cloud storage, which requires a subscription fee. You also may have to pay a fee to access additional features like person detection.

Wireless cameras are only as good as your home Wi-Fi network. If your Wi-Fi is too slow or your camera is placed too far from your router, you may experience glitches, the video that lags or freezes, or sometimes not be able to access a live view at all.

Another issue with wireless cameras is that the quality of your video feed will fluctuate as your internet bandwidth does. 

Even if you have 1 GB internet, Wi-Fi quality will go up and down based on many factors, such as how many other people in your neighbourhood are using the internet at a given time and radio interference from other wireless devices in your home. 

As a result, your 4K cameras may sometimes transmit in just 720p (not even complete high definition) because there isn't enough bandwidth to provide higher quality video.

Wire-free cameras are very flexible in placement, but you have to wire your cameras to a solar panel or remember to charge their batteries. 

If you have to pull out a battery to charge it, that leaves that area exposed unless you have a backup which you can swap out. 

Wire-free cameras also can't record 24/7 without draining their batteries quickly. Instead, they register in short bursts (10 seconds to five minutes, depending on the brand), which means you may miss critical moments.

Because wireless cameras connect directly to the internet and offer remote access, they can be hacked, putting your privacy and security at risk.

Pros

  • Clean installation
  • The system is flexible, mobile
  • Easy to scale up and add more cameras
  • Intruders cannot cut wire because there is none

Cons

  • Limited signal range
  • Walls, floors and other building elements can impede signal
  • Interference with other Wi-Fi-dependent systems possible
  • Prone to digital snooping
  • Batteries need changing for wire-free systems

What Are The Privacy Concerns Of Wireless Home Security Cameras?

When you have home security cameras monitoring your home, your actions and conversations are being recorded, as are those of your friends and family. 

If the camera is connected to the internet, as most wireless cameras are, that footage is now online. 

This raises significant privacy concerns, in part because any footage transmitted over the internet to cloud storage can be hacked. A lot of default passwords make it easy to hack into cameras. Cloud-based security is great, but if you hack the cloud system, you have access to all systems in the cloud.

To protect your security cameras from being hacked or accessed without your permission, there are some simple steps you need to follow. The first and most important is to secure your password. 

Make sure you change the default password that the camera comes set up with. And if you really want to make sure you're not being watched, unplug or physically cover the camera whenever possible. There are less drastic measures to take, too, including enabling two-factor authentication on your account.

Additionally, any recording device falls under federal and state wiretapping laws, varying form by state. 

Federal law is a one-party consent system: as long as you’re a party to the conversation and you consent to it being recorded, it doesn’t matter what the other parties think. 

However, several states have two-party (or more accurately, all-party) consent laws, where it’s illegal to record audio conversations without the consent of everyone involved. 

If you install security cameras that record audio, Howell recommends mitigating legal concerns by obtaining express consent (preferably written) whenever you’re recording a conversation you’re participating in. They should not record other peoples’ conversations.

These laws apply specifically to audio. In terms of video, people have very little expectation of privacy outside the special zones of their own home or car. 

It also doesn’t apply to burglars. A video or photo of someone trespassing, breaking in, or committing some other crime that is captured by a home security camera gets no special privacy protection.

The simplest way to avoid any legal and privacy concerns is to have the cameras turn off when you're home and on when you're out of the house. Many wireless security cameras have this feature built-in. 

It would be best if you also considered using any stickers or signs included with security cameras that indicate the property is being surveilled by audio and video.

Do You Have To Have Wi-fi For Wireless Home Security Cameras?

Most wireless home security cameras require Wi-Fi to communicate with the cloud to store their footage. However, some can create their local wireless network that doesn’t broadcast to the internet. 

Others can store footage directly on the camera and only send it to the cloud over Wi-Fi only when you request it. Without an internet connection, footage from wireless cameras won't be viewable from outside the home. 

One way to connect a camera to the internet without Wi-Fi is by using cellular data. However, these LTE-enabled cameras are expensive and limited video quality because cellular connections aren't as fast as Wi-Fi and can’t transmit as much data.

Wired

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If your home has been prewired for a security system, a hardwired option may be a better choice since the system will be easy to install.

If you already know which provider installed the equipment, activating your design is simple—all that’s required is a phone call and maybe a tech visit to update the control panel. 

If you’d instead go with a different provider, installing and updating the system ought to be as straightforward as programming a new number into the control panel. In some cases, a converter or even a new control panel may be necessary. 

Still, as long as the wiring itself hasn’t been damaged, all the existing sensors should work with any provider’s equipment—all hardwired systems contain essentially the same technology.

Most major security system providers offer wired and wireless options, so choosing the right provider will be more important than deciding between wireless or wired security. To better understand what kind of system is best for your home.

Pros

  • Clear video and audio signals
  • Reliable signals should not drop
  • Constant power to cameras
  • Wireless hacking of home system not possible

Cons

  • Not portable; system remains with the house if you move
  • Lengthy wiring must be hidden
  • Wiring must be run to numerous locations
  • The number of cameras limited by many jacks on the DVR

Advantages Of Wired Security Cameras

The most significant advantage of a wired camera system is reliability. With a wired system, you don't have to worry about Wi-Fi signal degradation or charging the camera's batteries. Also, with wireless cameras, if the network goes down, so do the cameras. With wired cameras, you can keep everything up and running with a battery backup.

Wired security cameras are less likely to be hacked (although it’s not impossible) but still have the benefit of being able to connect to the internet should you want to view footage when you’re away from home.

While wired cameras can connect to the internet, the fact that they can operate entirely locally makes them more secure. If privacy and the security of your network are significant concerns, wired cameras are the way to go.

Wired cameras are a good solution if you have an inconsistent or unreliable Wi-Fi signal or a large property with many areas to cover. 

Wireless signals don’t extend very far – 300 feet at most without a wall or anything else to block the signal. A wired system will provide a more reliable password. Additionally, the video quality will always remain consistent as it won’t be susceptible to bandwidth fluctuations. The cameras won’t use as much bandwidth because they don’t need to send their video to the cloud.

Wired cameras record continuously with no monthly fees or cloud storage subscriptions, and you can add more cameras to the system with less expense. The cameras themselves cost less than their wireless counterparts, as most of the system's brains are in the recording device, not the camera.

Disadvantages Of Wired Security Cameras

The equipment for a wired camera system can cost less than that of a comparable wireless system, but setup costs will usually be higher. That's because professional installation is most likely necessary unless you’re comfortable fishing wires through walls and along ceilings to connect to the central recording device.

The apps and software used by wired systems are often not as advanced or user-friendly as those used by wireless cameras from the likes of Ring, Nest, and Arlo. Moreover, wired cameras don't work with virtual assistants such as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, while many wireless cameras do. You also may need to set up a computer monitor to view your footage, and most DVRs are limited in capacity, capable of recording seven to 14 days of footage before wiping recordings.

Protecting your home is easier than ever with security camera systems. Using either wireless or wired cameras, you can monitor your home while on vacation or at work. When you’re at home, the system acts as a second set of eyes around your property.

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