Considering VeraLite for home security, benefits of a dedicated system instead?

Thanks for reading!

I’ve been looking into DIY home security and automation for quite some time now, but I’m not sure what the benefits are of a dedicated security system (like DSC) integrated with the VeraLite. The only gains that I can see are having a numerical pad to enter in alarm codes and a battery backup. The cost ($100 for the control board to integrate the two systems, plus the alarm cabinet, battery backup, keypad, and dedicated alarm sensors) just don’t seem worthwhile when I think most of the functions I want can be done with the VeraLite.

I am not interested in an alarm monitoring service.

This is my plan as an alternative, let me know what you think:

VeraLite with 2 motion sensors and 4 door/window sensors, door deadbolt, and a siren (either a Z-Wave siren or one plugged into a Z-Wave power plug).

Wall Mounted Android Device (likely an old phone) - this would act as the home ‘control pad’ to activate / shutdown the alarm. It has a battery backup and PIN unlock - type in the PIN, click the shortcut to disarm. Maybe even a custom application for the interface of the dedicated control pad.

I assume I can set up scenes to do things like: Active - Home, Active - Away, & Inactive states for the ‘alarm’. I also assume I can do something like a 20 second delay to send the deactivation command when opening a specific door. IE, coming through the back door instantly triggers the alarm, triggering a motion sensor prior to the front door instantly triggers the alarm, opening the front door gives the 20 second delay before triggering the alarm.

The alarm would just be the siren and an alert sent to our phones.

Additionally, is the API open enough for custom applications? I was considering using our personal android phones to turn on / off the alarm using NFC tags to trigger different scenes. Swipe a tag to disable the alarm from the garage, swap another to enable (or just use one to toggle). Swipe a tag in the bedroom to trigger a panic button type effect (alarm on, notification sent or auto-dial 911). I guess the applications would only need to be able to send a specific command to the VeraLite system or a small script, but I don’t know what is possible since I don’t yet have the VeraLite.

Later I would like to add remote switches to turn on/off external lights during the day/night, and maybe a few internal lights for when we are away, but I’m sure that’s what this was designed for and shouldn’t be an issue.

Again, thanks for reading and any input you can provide!

Short answer: Search the forums, this question gets asked and answered a lot.

Long answer:

Using a dedicated system like DSC or Elk (or others) for your alarm is better than using ZWave to do it. Why? ZWave, while mostly reliable, was designed for home control/automation and not strictly security. An alarm system from one of the manufactures was designed to be a security system first, and then things like home automation were bolted on afterwards with add-on modules.

To put it another way:

Get a home automation system if you want to do home automation.
Get a security system if you want to do security.

With the DSC and Elk plugins (and others), you can make the sensors in your alarm system available to Vera for home automation use. I’ve personally re-purposed one of my wireless door sensors that I replaced with a magnetic reed sensor to turn on lights. We have a dog, but don’t let it upstairs, so there is a gate on the stairs. I placed the sensor here, so at night, when the gate is opened, it triggers the lights to come on with the Smart Switch plugin for about 2 minutes (I have a ZWave wireless PIR sensor at the top of the stairs that does the same thing when someone walks upstairs).

Think of it this way:

Having your home automation system act as your primary security system is like trying to improve the performance of your junk old car by giving it a new paint job. It may look nice, but it is still a piece of junk.

Plus, dedicated alarm systems will also let you know if there is a problem with one of your sensors. With the Vera, it is a bit harder to find out if something isn’t working like it should. And, battery backup is an integral part of the system, where you have to buy a UPS (or other solution) for your Vera to work when the power goes out.

Some relevant forum posts on DSC:
http://forum.micasaverde.com/index.php/topic,16191.msg123631.html#msg123631

http://forum.micasaverde.com/index.php/topic,16221.msg123850.html#msg123850

http://forum.micasaverde.com/index.php/topic,12118.msg120197.html#msg120197

Using the alarm system plugins, you will be able to arm and disarm the systems via your Vera. For the DSC system, you have to set a variable in order to do it. Just realize that any Luup/Lua code you have on your Vera with the alarm system PIN numbers/codes in it, will be backed up to the MiOS servers.

With my alarm system (DSC), at night I have a scene setup that, if the system is not already armed in Stay Mode, it will automatically arm the system in Stay Mode and send a notification that the system has been armed. Then every 30 minutes until a certain time, the system re-checks this, and re-arms the system in Stay Mode again (useful for when someone goes outside and forgets to re-arm the alarm).

Check this for NFC integration into Vera:
http://forum.micasaverde.com/index.php/topic,12484.msg91535.html#msg91535

Wow, thanks for the reply! I’ve read through most of those posts. Thanks for the NFC post, he’s doing exactly what I was looking to do (and using the same apps I already have!)

I guess I’m just not sure what the dedicated security system brings to the table. Higher reliability? Is Z-Wave that unreliable or problematic? The sensors are going to be relatively the same type of magnetic sensor attached to a door or window wirelessly. The only difference is the what is controlling it, or what technology it uses to communicate (I don’t think they use z-wave). If it’s just low battery, I’m not sure that’s worth the cost.

Cost wise, it’s about twice as much for the alarm system + VeraLite setup compared to just a VeraLite system, and I’m finding it difficult to justify the cost vs benefit.

In the end, it is really your call.

Can you use a Vera Lite for security? Yes.

Will it be as reliable as a dedicated system? Maybe.

Why the maybe? It is because of a few things:

The Vera system is known to be buggy, and certain features like the auto network heal that happens at night, where the system checks and reconfigures your ZWave devices, can cause one or more of your sensors to drop off or stop functioning.

Wireless PIR sensors are known to have delays up to 6 seconds.

Now, that being said. If all you are looking at is your budget, and don’t mind the fact that your system is as secure as the unit itself controlling it, then go ahead.

Here’s something that might be of interest:

http://www.diyalarmforum.com/board/index.php?topic=9388.0

And someone who integrated a security system with home automation:

http://www.diyalarmforum.com/board/index.php?topic=18416.0

And more random stuff regarding this:

http://www.diyalarmforum.com/board/index.php?topic=18134.0

Dedicated systems also have their disadvantages as well. Two of the biggest (and probably the most daunting for newcomers) is installation and programming.

Since most dedicated systems you will find are normally meant to be installed by professionals, help and documentation is limited to forums like those above (unless you have a friend who is an installer or who has done it themselves).

Don’t let the initial cost of a dedicated alarm system + Vera setup be your only reason to decide against going this route.

You can start with this kit and build off it:

The most expensive part will be adding in the interface to connect it to the Vera. Take a look at the DSC plugin on http://code.mios.com for information on way to connect it without buying an Envisalink3.

And you don’t need to subscribe to a monitoring service.

My own opinion Z-wave sensor do not compare to dedicated alarm sensor at all. There are too many reported problems utilising them including reliability, configuration and battery life.

Simple comparison:
Z-wave wireless 30 m (100 ft) max 3 hops (therefore 90m or 300 ft)
Wireless Alarm 300m + (1000 ft)
Z-wave Battery life 1 year
Wireless Alarm battery life 3-5 years.

It is not to say you cannot achieve your aim but a dedicated alarm with a keypad is critical when it goes off. I remember a post a while ago where one member went the z-wave route and was rather happy until the middle of the night when it went off and after the one incident without the dedicated keypad and the comms with a mobile device and his Vera failing it was a total change of heart. Not sure if he did finally change but it was an limitation that was not clearly understood before that night.

Learning curve with the alarm system is a one off normally unless you switch out the main system. Most home system have about 10-15 years life and once setup should be pretty much set and forget. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

Learning curve with z-wave route maybe multiple as a result of firmware changes, system upgrade and who know what the future holds…, You can still use very old PIR with alarms system but will the case when utilising z-wave. Most z-wave sensor already have implemented different version with different firmware and in some cases variable sets that are distinctly different between brands, so expansion could be a potential future consideration. Vera currently at UI5 and who knows what the future holds. UI4 to UI5 rendered a number of z-wave sensors unworkable for a number of months so I believe the history is written by the victors and I have both an alarm system and some z-wave sensors and during that time, the z-wave sensor were out of action. Impact to me, very little as I had a dedicated system that was not impact at all. I only reintroduced the z-wave recently to cover a few extra spaces because I had them, if I didn’t it would have been a different story.

[quote=“SOlivas, post:4, topic:176821”]Wireless PIR sensors are known to have delays up to 6 seconds.[/quote]DSC wireless sensors have a built-in 6 second delay to prevent false alarms.
This allows you to open a door and set off a motion sensor simultaneously, on your way to the keypad.
Without that delay, the motion sensor might get processed first, and that would cause a false alarm (since a motion sensor tripping without an entry/exit zone tripping first is considered an alarm - this could mean someone came in through a window or other entrance).

[quote=“SOlivas, post:2, topic:176821”]To put it another way:

Get a home automation system if you want to do home automation.
Get a security system if you want to do security.[/quote]

What if your goal is both? I want to do some automation with some lighting control. I also want to do some security with IP cameras and motion sensors.

Is the “BEST” way to do 2 separate systems and not integrate them? In other words, come into this project like you are doing just 2 smaller projects?

If you want to do both, then I personally will recommend you get both systems. Then, use the alarm panel plugins here to have the Vera talk to the alarm system and extend the reach/functionality of your HA system by using the security system’s sensors.

So yes, approach both as separate projects, then link them after they are both setup the way you want.

[quote=“SOlivas, post:8, topic:176821”]If you want to do both, then I personally will recommend you get both systems. Then, use the alarm panel plugins here to have the Vera talk to the alarm system and extend the reach/functionality of your HA system by using the security system’s sensors.

So yes, approach both as separate projects, then link them after they are both setup the way you want.[/quote]

We had a preinstalled alarm system, so didn’t have to make the choice, but I agree with this. The hard wired sensors on our alarm are just better quality and more reliable than the z wave devices. I’ve used the vista plug in here to integrate the two, and while we don’t often actually arm the alarm, the ability to use the door/window and motion sensors as part of scenes has been great.

I actually wish it were easier to add items myself to the alarm system–I’d do that to plug things into vera instead. The sensor options for home security systems are also more aesthetically pleasing as well vs a lot of what I’ve seen on z wave. Though how no one can make a decent looking motion sensor is beyond me!

If you require Security … get a Security system!!!

If you want both, then Vera does an excellent job at integrating (some) security systems. I use DSC-64.
All the Security sensors in the DSC-64 are available for automation in Vera.
As others have indicated, the Alarm sensors are in general much better quality than the Z-Wave, I think this is because of volume and market penetration, the bad stuff quickly gets weeded out.

It’s easy to have Vera react to events in your alarm system as well as to command/control your alarm. Most of the good Smart Phone apps control an Alarm System integrated to Vera as well as the other Home automation stuff.

[quote=“RichardTSchaefer, post:10, topic:176821”]If you require Security … get a Security system!!!

If you want both, then Vera does an excellent job at integrating (some) security systems. I use DSC-64.
All the Security sensors in the DSC-64 are available for automation in Vera.
As others have indicated, the Alarm sensors are in general much better quality than the Z-Wave, I think this is because of volume and market penetration, the bad stuff quickly gets weeded out.

It’s easy to have Vera react to events in your alarm system as well as to command/control your alarm. Most of the good Smart Phone apps control an Alarm System integrated to Vera as well as the other Home automation stuff.[/quote]

+1

I found that having the option of using wired sensors from the Alarm System made the automation system much more affordable as well.

I too have a DSC 1864 and have it loaded with wired motion and door sensors, almost every door in the house and every square inch of the house covered with motion detection. Not to mention a driveway sensor.

If you were to compare the cost of the wireless z-wave sensors to wired DSC (or any company for that matter), the difference is about the same as the cost of 3 security systems!

No brainer IMO

[quote=“RichardTSchaefer, post:10, topic:176821”]If you require Security … get a Security system!!!

If you want both, then Vera does an excellent job at integrating (some) security systems. I use DSC-64.
All the Security sensors in the DSC-64 are available for automation in Vera.
As others have indicated, the Alarm sensors are in general much better quality than the Z-Wave, I think this is because of volume and market penetration, the bad stuff quickly gets weeded out.

It’s easy to have Vera react to events in your alarm system as well as to command/control your alarm. Most of the good Smart Phone apps control an Alarm System integrated to Vera as well as the other Home automation stuff.[/quote]

Richard, has there been any change in the ability to have the DSC show as breached from a tripped z-wave motion sensor? I now have some unused z-wave motion sensors (since installing my DSC two days ago) that I would like to put up in areas where there was no alarm pre-wiring done.

Using google search…
http://forum.micasaverde.com/index.php/topic,10763.msg75821.html#msg75821

That’s the early discussion, then there were people that went and did it, in other threads.