Alarm Panels - Canned vs Integrated

By: Ari Erenthal, Published on Feb 07, 2017

Alarm control panels generally come in one of two types:

  • Integrated alarm controllers, with controls and the keypad in the same device
  • Traditional 'canned' control panels

The advantages of 'canned' control panels typically include:

  • Room for accessories
  • Greater security
  • Ease of documentation
  • Longer battery life possible

By contrast, the advantages of integrated controllers generally are:

  • Faster to install
  • Neater wiring
  • More wireless options

Inside this post, we explain and contrast each of these points in detail.

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Control ****** *** ********** **** ******

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Integrated *********** *** ****** ** *******

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Comments (7)

Both serve their own purpose. When we install a security system in a commercial environment, we install one inside of a can. This provides more security and allows for hardwiring system components with better battery backup. If we're monitoring fire the communication equipment needs to be in a fire rated enclosure, you typically can't do this with an all-in-one system.

When we install a system in a home, we use the DMP XTLplus. We do not install systems like the 2GIG shown in the article because the siren and keypad give everything away. Smash that, and the criminal is good to go. They offer SMASH protection at alarm.com, but I wouldn't trust it. We like the XTLplus because it has z-wave, spread spectrum wireless, wifi and cellular communication, and the siren, keypad and control panel are all separate but still just as easy to install.

One of the other big differences between the two styles is communication, typically all-in-one systems only have one path of communication, some have two. Multiple paths especially when monitoring fire is critical. We have a company policy always to install using two paths of communication, the network is primary and cellular is the backup. If they happen to have a POTS line we will plug that in as a third path.

Control panels in metal enclosures can get really messy really fast if the technician is trained to keep it clean. This can cause some serious issues down the road. One of the many reasons we don't offer as much hardwiring in homes anymore.

Yeah, wiring is a lost art. I had a job where I would go from site to site and wire and program the panel. This company had a rough-in crew for running wires with the walls open and a finishing crew for wiring up windows and installing sensors. But terminating the panel, making splices, labeling and documenting everything, and doing the programming is easy to screw up and hard to do right.

I seldom use the integrated systems, but sometimes it's the best option in residential with slab floors, no attic and customers who prefer fast installation with no, or very little, drilling/fishing.

In commercial, I like to use Honeywell Vista-ULKT, a larger cabinet with heavy gauge metal, tampered, which can easily accommodate extra modules and batteries. But, I've used the regular can in commercial jobs too. Never used an integrated system in commercial, don't think it would be prudent to do so.

Interesting. Do you use the the Vista-ULKT in order to qualify for UL, or just because?

I use the Vista-ULKT just because....not to qualify for UL. I installed one in my home and the homes of quite a few customers. My reason for this is to enhance security by further protecting the alarm panel and, in some cases, the GSMX4G within the enclosure. I've taken over accounts where the panel was located in a closet near a front door, with the keypad next to the closet door. I think this is too close to a delay zone giving someone too much time to tamper or destroy the panel. So, I might use the UL can for that install. I've seen a few burglary scenes where the flimsy can was compromised to silence the system. The UL can will slow them down as it is thicker gauge metal.

The other reason I use the UL can is for it's capacity to accommodate extra modules and batteries when required.

I generally try to stay as far away as I can from integrated systems. The whole point of a security system is security, after all. I've seen one too many lick-and-stick systems defeated with a $10 hammer. However, when you're trying to sell someone a DSC NEO panel with a wire-free keypad, because a wire simply cannot be run, and someone else is competing against you with a Simon XTi, it is imperative to demonstrate to the client why a professional company installs a "canned" system over an integrated one. I'll never beat their price, but I can sell the reliability and security of my product any day, provided the client can see value in what I'm offering. Unfortunately, in this cell-phone-market industry we live in where people expect the flashiest equipment for $0 down and an upgrade every 2 to 3 years, it can be hard to sell quality...

Ari - Just so you'll know: the industry term for what you're calling an integrated system is "Self-Contained" System, I guess because the brains/control and battery are just attached to the back of a keypad making a single unit.

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