Monday, 20 November 2017

This is why I will never be an alarm installer

Today, with some help from Jamie (thanks), I installed an alarm system for someone. They are guinea pigs in this, using the SolarSystem alarm system I created (on GitHub). They know what they are getting in to and have paid cost price for it. It actually seems to work well, but let's give it a few months. My system at home has worked for 5 months now with no issues.

Whilst I am capable of doing this, no way I would do this every day. Yes, maybe, I could run a company that does, but seriously, I have managed to avoid this "hard work" thing quite well, and my knees are now killing me. All I did was spend half the day standing on a step!

And what can I say without swearing? Fucking screw connectors. They are evil. Really, horrid things.

TBH I am thinking that I need a shitload of simple crimps for wires to then use in screw terminals. Better than solder tinning them, as I understand it. Better than twisting them together. And something you can do on a panel at ceiling height whilst standing on a step. It has to be done, to do it right, and I doubt any alarm company does that. Next time I do this, I think this will happen.

But installing alarm systems is not for me. It is something we could do if we wanted to be in this business. But yes, the SolarSystem works!

19 comments:

  1. You might be interested in Wago terminal blocks?

    I've only used their connectors with T&E but it looks like they have a product for PCBs as well.

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    1. Came here to say exactly this. We use Wago 222 for DC connections in our solar systems (see what I did there) and general mains connections.

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  2. I strongly recommend bootlace ferrules for this, ideal for use in screw terminals. Neatens things up nicely.

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  3. You wont win any accolades in reddit.com/r/cableporn with that!

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  4. Alarm system wiring in general is dreadfully designed, you get screw terminals at the other end as well in the passive infrareds, other sensors, and bell boxes. It's all positively stone age. Why can't they use solid core cable and IDC connections like phones and structured cabling?

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    1. Give alarm installers IDCs and you just know what tool they'll use to insert them...

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  5. As someone else says, the things you think you want are called bootlace ferrules, though people don't tend to bother on wire as small as alarm cable, and I suspect you'd find the additional fiddle of the crimps and the crimper just made the job even worse. It's probably the craptitude of the specific screw terminals which was really causing the misery.

    The Wago suggestions are no use if you're lumbered with someone else's PCBs which already have the crappy terminals on them, but if you get a chance to do a PCB yourself then there are both good spring terminals and much better screw terminals than they probably were.

    Good precision strippers make a lot of difference, because you can stop worrying about damaging the wire every time. The CK ones are excellent. https://www.rapidonline.com/ck-tools-330013-wire-stripper-size-2-range-0-25-0-80mm-93-0006 if you don't know what size you need, or they do fixed ones if you do.

    It's a truly horrible-looking job, so I suspect you'll fit right in if you do decide to go into the alarms business.

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    1. LOL, that was he “before” picture, but yes.

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  6. (+1 for Wago, by the way, but probably not for alarm panels)

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  7. Another vote for Wago blocks here - failing that, how about Krone terminals (I assume you have an illicit proper spring-loaded Krone tool, everyone I know seems to).

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    1. I find the cheap solid plastic tools more use than the spring loaded Krone tool. The Krone tends to either be too hard to punch down, or it doesn't exert enough force (depending on the IDC block in use), and if the cutter works at all it cuts the wire a bit too close to the terminal and they occasionally pull out. And this is a real Krone tool not a knock off.

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  8. Our real-world experience of IDC (Krone, etc) terminals for this sort of wiring has been absolutely horrible. After years of blaming the tools, installers, etc, we've given-up and gone to this sort of thing, which is miles better, provided you can strip the wire reliably: http://uk.farnell.com/phoenix-contact/1792889/

    I believe the new BT NTE has some kind of no-tool IDC connection system but I haven't seen one.

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  9. If my house is wired up for passives and door sensors already and all I want to do is replace the panel and keypads and then run SolarSystem, what physical hardware do I need to buy?

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    1. We got a Honeywell cased RIO/PSU, a pi, 12V PSU for pi. RS485 USB drivers. I should do parts list and pictures shouldn’t 8.

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    2. Well, a start, CTS direct sell https://www.cts-direct.net/galaxy-p026-01-b-powered-rio-p02601b-honeywell and https://www.cts-direct.net/honeywell-galaxy-c072-rio-expander-module-c072-honeywell
      The latter is only needed if you want more than 8 input and 4 output.

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    3. You may want a galaxy keypad as well, and the Max readers for any door entry systems.

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  10. Are the terminals you are using the type where the screw itself bites onto the wire? I would be careful using then if you tin the wires. Make sure you only lightly tin the wires and don't cover them in lots of solder. Solder is quite soft and it can deform and you end up with a poor loose connection after a while. The better type is where the screw pushes down on a metal plate. The force is spread over a much greater area and there is some springiness in the clamp to cater for the wire flattening over time.
    As others have mentioned Wago connectors are very good but also take a look at this type:-
    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/20Pcs-4-Pin-2EDG-Screw-Terminal-Block-Connector-5-08mm-Pin-Spacing-PCB-Mount/272533923102
    You can fit the connector on the wire where you have more room to do it comfortably and if there are any issues you can unplug it and test very quickly. You can even make a test module which can be inserted to highlight any faults.

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