What Is Wireless in Home Security?

“Wireless” can mean a few different things.

The term “wireless” can be confusing, especially when it comes to home security systems. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve tested a wireless product that had to be plugged in. That doesn’t sound wireless, does it? Well, it depends on your definition.

Let’s break down the meaning of wireless in home security.

What is wireless?

When a security product is wireless, that generally means one of the following three things:

  1. The device straight-up has no charging cords. It has batteries or another charging mechanism, so it doesn’t need a plug. However, it might need to be wired to another device or your home electrical system to communicate.
  2. The device communicates without wires. You don’t have to physically connect it to the rest of the system or hardwire it into your home. It speaks to other devices and any monitoring services by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, radio frequencies, or cellular signals.
  3. The system doesn’t have cords and communicates without wires.

When something is wireless, sometimes we automatically assume we’re getting #3. In reality, #1 or #2 is a much more common definition of “wireless.”

Pin icon
Wired vs. wireless
To further complicate things, some home security systems use a mixture of approaches. They may have fully wired pieces (hubs that need to be plugged in and attached to a landline) that work with completely wireless equipment (battery-powered sensors that work off radio signals or similar communications).

Benefits of using a wireless system

Why wireless security? There are a lot of advantages to using a wireless home security system.

Energy savings

If you have a wireless system without charging cords, your biggest benefit is saving money on your electric bill. Plus, devices that don’t have to be plugged in free up your outlets for smart lamps and Google Homes.

Self-installation

Systems that communicate without wires are often DIY systems. These systems are often quick and easy to set up. You install them on your own with minimal time and tools. That’s a major convenience if you ask us.

You can learn more about self-installed systems by checking out our best DIY home security systems.

Better protection

Systems that communicate wirelessly are harder to disable than systems with wired connections. Your wireless system should have a backup battery. If someone cuts the power, the system continues working as long as the battery lasts.

The real danger to a wireless system is signal jamming. That’s difficult to do, but not impossible. We’ll talk more about that in a minute.

Pitfalls of using a wireless system

As great as wireless systems can be, there are also trade-offs to choosing one over a hardwired system.

Battery changes

If your system has no cords or wires, it probably runs on batteries. You might have to remember to change and/or charge the batteries. If the batteries last a long time, that’s not a problem. But if they don’t hold a lot of power, changing them out will get real old, real quick.

Light Bulb icon
Wireless security camera
If you get just one item that doesn’t need to be plugged in, the security camera is a strong contender. It’s a hassle to find an outlet or run a cord for an outdoor camera.

To learn more about what to look for in an outdoor camera, check out our top outdoor security cameras review.

Internet cost

Most wireless security systems draw on your home Wi-Fi when it’s available.

Most wireless security systems use radio or cell signals to communicate, but they also often draw on your home Wi-Fi when it’s available. For maximum efficiency, you’ll likely want an internet plan with a speedy connection. And the faster the connection, the more your internet usually costs.

Check out our guide to choosing an internet speed to learn more.

Signal jamming

The average citizen doesn’t have the skillset to signal jam security systems, so it’s not a common risk. Still, it does happen.

Some security systems have jamming fail-safes built into them. If you’re concerned about protection against jammers, talk to your home security system provider or manufacturer.

Heads Up icon
Before you buy
We recommend thorough research into your system hardware before you sign any contracts. That way, you already know what protection measures are in place.

Recap

Wireless doesn’t always mean no wires, so make sure you double-check so you know what you’re getting. Talk to your potential security company to learn the limitations of the system you’re eyeing.

To get you started, we suggest looking at the best home security systems.

Wireless FAQ

Let’s walk through a few common questions about wireless security.

Wireless or wired home security, which is better?

We don’t want to sound like we’re copping out, but honestly, it depends on your situation.

Wired security is usually better in rural areas with worse radio and cell signal reception. The layout or building material of your home could also interfere with signals. But if those barriers don’t exist for you, wireless could be a convenient option.

My system communicates wirelessly. If the internet goes down, does it stop communicating?

It shouldn’t.

Most home security systems that aren’t hardwired communicate through cellular or radio signals. The Wi-Fi may be there as an aid, but it’s not the end-all-be-all. The other communications still work when the Wi-Fi is down.

Info Box icon
Closed networks
Some security systems create their own network that operates independently from your home Wi-Fi.

The exception is if the system clearly states that it works through the internet only. If the system is solely VoIP, it may stop working when the Wi-Fi goes down.

One final note: if the power goes out, the system will last only as long as the backup battery. Ask your security provider whether you’ll get a notification when your equipment shifts to the backup battery. You’ll want to work quickly to get things back online. Otherwise, your system will stop working when it runs out of juice.

What kind of wireless connected devices can I get?

A wireless security system usually comes with a motion detector and door/window sensor. But you typically can also supplement it with a wireless camera, doorbell camera, glass break sensor, freeze or flood sensor, smart lock, smoke detector, or carbon monoxide detector.

And if you’re looking for full home automation to go along with your wireless security, you have lots of options. You might be able to find wireless routers, automated window blinds, or smart garage door controllers, to name a few things.