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

Access-control systems have always been the standard for self-storage security. But access-control systems cannot protect a self-storage facility against tenants with ill intentions. Thats where door alarms become a critical part of a facilitys overall security strategy.

May 3, 2010

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

Access-control systems have always been the standard for self-storage security. But access-control systems cannot protect your facility against tenants with ill intentions. That’s where door alarms become a critical part of your facility’s overall security strategy.
Many older self-storage facilities have wired door-alarm systems and, unfortunately, some are now realizing the downside to a wired system: It can be difficult to maintain; it makes it impossible to modify your unit mix; and it’s easily susceptible to damage from tenants and rodents. Fortunately, wireless door-alarm technology is reliable and often more cost-effective for new and existing facilities.

Understanding how a wireless door-alarm system works may seem complicated, but the concept is easy to grasp. At its core, the system is made up of three main components:  

  • The wireless sensor, or transmitter, sends the signal back to the office.

  • The base station, or receiver, receives the signal from the wireless sensor. This base station connects to your site security system so you can see the door activity and run reports. (Some security packages allow you to see the activity directly in your management software.)

  • Repeaters, or transceivers, receive a signal from a distant wireless alarm and boost it back to the office. The quantity needed will depend on the size and layout of your facility.

Whether your door alarms are wired or wireless, you’ll still need an integrated access-control system that will notify the alarm system of who is and isn’t on site. 

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.
Frequency Considerations

When making the transition from wired to wireless alarms, research the security company and product thoroughly before committing. One important factor to consider with wireless is the frequency in which it operates. Several companies use technology that mimics cordless phones, operating on the 900 MHz frequency range.

Having those sensors at your facility can cause interference for your other wireless devices as well as your wireless sensors. To prevent interference, look for sensors in a frequency range lower than 900 MHz. Doing so will prevent interference issues and increase battery life, since the higher frequencies use more power to transmit.

Individual wireless alarms for self-storage have come a long way since they were originally patented back in the 1990s. Today they offer improved battery life, reliability and ease of installation. Wireless security systems are a great way to modernize your facility while at the same time adding value for your tenants.
Sean Cargo is a self-storage consultant and senior account executive for Quikstor Security & Software, a provider of self-storage management software, wireless door alarms, access control and digital video products. For more information, call 800.321.1987, ext. 228; e-mail [email protected]; visit www.quikstor.com.

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Self-Storage Talk: Security Alarms

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