Security Tips and Industry Musings

Control Panels

Lew Stouffer - Thursday, March 27, 2014

The brains of any security system is called the control panel (panel), or more universally, the motherboard. It can come in several different styles that we’ll go over later. As a rule, the control panel is the center of your security system. It determines the functions that you and your security company have available for programming. The specifications of a panel can be quite extensive. Generally speaking though, the average user will be a good fit for most of the panels available. The three most important considerations that we face with the average user is the number of zones available, the number of user codes available and the ability to upgrade the panel for future needs.

As I stated earlier in the series, the manufacturer of the panel really doesn't matter too much. As long as your choice stays inside the major manufacturers you will find this to be relatively true across the board. They all produce a high quality product. They all offer a wide variety of options. The difference for most applications usually comes down to the preference of the installation company. This preference is very similar to the age old Ford/ Chevy argument; personal preference.

There are two major panel styles available. Self-contained and the traditional panel.


The self-contained panel has all of its components inside one box that has the keypad on the front. They offer compact size (in comparison to the traditional panel) and ease of installation. While some of these of these offer hardwired zone connections, most current panels of this type do not. Most self-contained panels are designed to use wireless security equipment. Typically the only wiring necessary for these type panels is for the power supply and the communication connection if you are choosing a source other than cellular. These units are more expensive and due to the wireless nature of the systems are quicker to install.



The traditional panel arrangement consists of a circuit board that is contained inside of a metal box. This type of system typically offers a wider variety of options than the self-contained type. Most of these type control units are designed for use with a wired security system, adding a wireless receiver allows for the incorporation of wireless devices as necessary.




The self-contained units are a good fit for applications where the owner may move frequently. Their nature of installation makes them easy to remove and reinstall at the new location, often without the need of reprogramming. The more traditional panel is Atlanta Home Alarms recommended system for almost every other application. The additional time and lower cost allows for a more personalized installation.