Converting to a Wireless Door-Alarm System in Self-Storage: Benefits, Pitfalls and Other Considerations

Sean Cargo Comments
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Benefits of Wireless
The benefits of wireless are apparent right out of the box. Your security vendor should preconfigure each wireless sensor for your facility. A storage-unit number should be listed on the back of each sensor along with the sensor ID, which should be entered into your security software prior to installation.

Installation of your new wireless alarm system is as simple as taking the sensor out of the box and matching it to the corresponding unit. Typical installation takes less than five minutes per door, and anyone with a cordless drill and four screws can do it. No wires or conduit between buildings or back to the office is needed. This solution works great even if you have an existing wired system that’s no longer functional.

With wireless, you have the flexibility to build your system as your occupancy increases or to best fit your budget. For example, if you have multiple buildings, you can just add sensors to a couple and rent those at a premium. Then use the proceeds to add more as needed. This keeps your start-up costs to a minimum and allows you to tailor your site to the needs of your tenants.

If you currently own a wired system, you understand the challenges of expanding your facility or modifying the unit mix. If you add a building near the back of your property, you probably won’t want to trench through your pavement to get wiring to your office. If you add an additional property, it might be across or down the street rather than immediately next door.

Modifying the unit mix in an existing building is also difficult; if you split a 10-by-10 into two 5-by-10 units, you won’t have a spare wire for your new unit. With wireless, these facility changes are never a problem.
 
Get the Facts

Objectivity is important when making such an important decision as adding individual door alarms. There are still critics out there who will swear wireless is less reliable, has battery issues, etc. Listen to the concerns of the critics, and then quiz your security vendor to see how it responds to those concerns. Here are some of the most common apprehensions people have about wireless unit alarms.

Battery life. All wireless sensors require a battery to transmit the signal back to the office. The long-standing concern is a facility manager will be constantly replacing batteries, especially in cold weather. Consult with your security professional about the battery life of its sensors, and get something in writing that says how long they should last. Many companies offer a standard one- or two-year warranty on batteries; others offer up to a 10-year warranty.

False alarms. Wireless sensors are no better or worse in terms of false alarms than wired sensors. For either system, the quality of the installation dictates how well the system will perform. However, not all wireless alarms are created equally. Ask your security company about the maximum allowable gap can be between the sensor and the door.

Reliability. “But are they reliable?” is a common question about wireless alarms. The answer is a resounding yes. Just think about all the wireless devices that have become such an important part of your everyday life. However, do your homework on the alarm company you’re considering by asking how many systems it has installed and in what climates. Ask for references from facilities in climates that most resemble yours.

Maintenance. If anything, maintenance can be added to the “pro” column in the wireless vs. wired debate. A wireless system is virtually maintenance-free. There are no wires to break or multiplexers throughout the facility to troubleshoot. You never need to call tenants to open their units so a technician can trace a wiring issue. Most wireless sensors are mounted on the outside of the unit to allow easy replacement of either the sensor or the batteries, if or when it is needed.

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