One of the most popular and versatile security panels Cooper Technology Group works with is the Ademco Vista-20P panel. This is the brain of the entire security system for your home, so it’s important to choose something reliable and capable. Enter the Vista-20P panel.
Most of the time a security panel will be mounted in a basement or other utility area. It’s enclosed in a metal case to protect the board itself. All hardwired zones and other devices will get wired back to this location. The 20P allows for up to 15 hardwired zones if zone doubling is utilized, 40 additional hardwired zones if zone expanders are used, or 40 wireless expansion zones, if a wireless receiver is used. Using a zone expander or wireless receiver prevents the ability to zone double for a total of 48 zones. Suffice it to say this one panel can provide more than enough security zones to cover most people’s homes. There are also tricks we can use to make better use of the panel’s terminals, for example we can combine all the back windows into one zone.
A very important aspect of a security system is its ability to alert the authorities if the alarm is tripped. In the past they relied on a physical phone line connection, it would seize the home phone line to dial out. Now we can install a cellular radio to do the communicating for the panel. The cell units use either the Verizon or AT&T network. We test the signal strength in your area to make sure the proper network is used. We can measure the signal from our office, once the cell is installed. We ideally like to put the cell in the attic to give the best opportunity for a quality signal. A big advantage a cell radio provides you over using a telephone line for communication is no worries of someone cutting the phone line rendering your entire system useless.
Some devices that are normally used with these panels include window and door contacts. These will let the panel know if a window or door is open or closed. They can be hardwired or wireless. They use a magnet to close the circuit, so if the contact is close to the magnet the circuit is closed the panel is happy and your system will show normal, but if the magnet is too far away from the contact, like when a door is open, the panel will see the circuit is open and your keypad will show a fault on that zone. Motion detectors are another often used device. They can sense movement in certain locations, depending on how they are installed and which way they are facing. There is also a distance limit on these. Glass break sensors are usually put in areas with casement windows or glass sliding doors. They trip when they detect a certain level pitch of noise; there is a sensitivity adjustment so that if they are installed in an area that is relatively loud they won’t constantly trip. There are also temperature sensors that can be installed to monitor temp changes in a specific location. You have the ability to set a high and low point so that if the temp falls out of the range it would notify you through your security system. A flood sensor or “water bug” is a useful device that can be used to notify the customer if the sensor detects any water. Heat detectors are used to monitor the rate of rise of temperature in the room it was installed in. These are usually reserved for attics and garages. There are also smoke detectors that can be wired to the security panel. A big advantage a smoke detector wired to a security panel has over a regular electric smoke is that it will alert people in the house of a fire via a siren and it will also alert the fire department of the fire as well. A normal electric smoke will just make noise locally, making it the home owner’s responsibility to call 911, which can cost precious time you may not have, or even worse if they sound in the middle of the night it may take you a little bit before you realize what is happening.
The most common way a user will interact with their security system is through a keypad. The keypad allows you to arm and disarm the system, it gives you visual feedback as to which of your security zones are faulted, like a back door is open, all your zones must be cleared and your keypad must have a green ready light before you can arm, Unless you are bypassing a zone, which you would use the keypad to do as well. You can put the system in chime mode, this allows you to hear a chime noise come out of the keypad any time a zone is open, very handy for people with smaller kids. The keypad also allows you to add and delete user codes, these are the codes used to arm and disarm the system. The Vista-20P panel supports up to 48 user codes. Besides a keypad you also have the option of downloading an app on your smart phone to control your entire system if you opt to get Total Connect. This allows you to check on the status of your system remotely, very handy for people that like to double check or just forget sometimes before they run out the door.
All in all the Vista-20P panel is a powerful and versatile piece of equipment. It gives the customer everything they would need for a security system and installers love them because they are easy to work with.