Last night I was supposed to be attending Turnout Toronto and finding new ways to get involved with the city. Instead, I spent it at home, fighting with my house’s home alarm system. It’s an unmonitored DSC Power 632 system that came with the house and apart from some random beeping that could always be silenced by hitting the Reset button, it has always been quiet until last night when it started wailing after I opened a door.
As I would during any crisis, I turned to the internet for help. Because it took me awhile to find the information that I needed to finally put an end to the howling banshee that my alarm system turned into (this video was useful), I’ve decided to detail how Husband and I stopped our unmonitored home alarm system goes berserk.
Hitting the Reset button had always previously worked but it wasn’t doing a thing this time. We hadn’t been left any codes or even an instruction manual but I tried entering in the obvious codes: 1234, 4321, 0000. Nothing worked. However, if you even find yourself with a crazy alarm system, do try this approach out. Maybe you’ll get lucky and shut it up.
If you don’t get lucky, try calling the company that used to provide monitoring services (look for a sticker on one of your windows; it’ll have a name and usually a number). I did do this though the guy wasn’t that helpful since I had no interest in turning the service back on. But maybe you’ll luck out and speak with someone who doesn’t tell you that the only way to turn off the siren, or to prevent it from suddenly wailing again, is to call an electrician.
The wailing siren noise that my alarm system was emitting was coming from the basement, from, I thought, a small box that was attached to one of the walls. So I ripped the box from the wall and cut the wire that was coming out of it. The alarm noise stopped and I thought I had won.
Then, maybe 20 minutes later, the siren sound started again. It was still coming from the basement but, after listening more closely, it seemed to be coming from inside the wall. Fuck.
Thankfully, it suddenly stopped and I took advantage of the silence to call the company that had previously monitored the system. When I told the guy I had cut the wire he said that was a bad idea and to not cut any more wires. But beyond that, he didn’t have any useful advice so I turned to the internet and after some searching, found a permanent solution. This led me t o discover a panel located under the basement stairs that controlled the alarm system and a little loud speaker that was the real source of the alarm noise. Turns out that the thing I had cut was a motion detector.
Since it wasn’t ringing, I didn’t touch the speaker. Then Husband came home and set it off. After confirming that the voltage and amp of the wire weren’t going to kill him if he cut through it (this info was listed on the speaker), he took the wire snippers to it. This is not the recommended approach, as cutting live wires can be deadly. Because of that, I need to state that you really shouldn’t do this.
While the screeching siren was now quiet, the system was still beeping so we decided to permanently disconnect the power to it. Most (all?) home alarm systems have two power sources: The AC power and then a backup battery that’s located inside of its operating panel (usually found in a basement or utility room). To truly kill this beast, both had to be discounted.
[Important note: Different alarm systems do work in different ways so what we did next might not work for you. Ideally, consult a source that specifically references your system for the best information. ]
We started by killing the battery power. This was easy and just involved unplugging the two wires that fed into the battery. Killing the AC power was a little tricker. First we had to find the AC wire. Thankfully, our panel came with a diagram that pointed it out. Then Husband unscrewed this wire from the panel. Finally there was true silence, which we enjoyed as we wrapped the ends of every exposed wire with electrical tape.
Looking back, I wish we had disconnected the alarm system shortly after moving it. This would have been way less stressful and would have involved no wire cutting, which is always the safer route. If you’re in a new place that has an old alarm system, I recommend dealing with it sooner rather than later so that you never have to experience the joy of trying to figure out how to silence a screaming siren at 9 pm at night.