IF you were approaching an older hard-wired alarm system that was inoperable or that suffered regular false alarms, what steps would you take to troubleshoot the system?

Q: When trying to sort out alarm system failure or repeated false alarms first check AC power and the transformer, then the battery – it could be low on power, or dead. Look at battery terminals and check everywhere for wire whiskers that could be shorting. All terminations need to be clean. If the controller is working and there are zone trouble issues, you’ll need to test more widely.

When checking zones runs look for broken or cut wires – it’s a slow job but proper measurements taken first at the panel and then at the sensor should mean you only need to physically check 1 zone run, not all of them, depending on how may zones have an issue. Make sure wires aren’t grounded and check for simple things like doors or windows jammed open, or out of true.

Next, check for corroded, burned out or broken door switches. Check reed magnets. Sure, they last forever, but you might have got the one that didn’t. It’s also possible for particles of iron to get caught in the armature gaps of relays so the relays won’t jam when they should. Again, it’s rare, but it happens.


Alarm.com app is particularly good at highlighting alarm system issues.

Look for potential on the system that shouldn’t be there and search carefully for shoddy soldering or for shrink tubing that doesn’t quite cover all a connection in a busy and hard to reach corner of the panel. If you can see green corrosion you’ve found resistance. Other trouble spots will be found in damp places where moisture causes current leakage.

An issue with old alarm panels these days is communications – you’ll need to add a communicator with 4G and RJ45 capability and cable the panel into it. One of the beauties of an upgrade like this is that it can allow remote troubleshooting.

Something that’s wonderful about modern alarm systems is their ability to tell you everything about their state remotely via app. Not only will they notify you of issues as they arise, but they keep a list of issues for the installer to work through when recommissioning an alarm system that needs attention.

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