There is a proliferation of new DIY alarm and security systems. Tech companies are hungry to offer yet another device and subscription service. Privacy concerns aside, there are some issues with DIY security and alarm systems.

Before delving into potential issues, I’d like to state that DIY is okay. There’s nothing wrong with someone taking charge of their own security or doing a gone project. In fact, I like the idea of democratizing security. I don’t think security should be something only the rich have access to.

DIY alarm systems typically use all one brand. There’s not a lot of cross product compatibility like there is in professional systems. This limits a customer’s options and may force them into choosing less than ideal products.

There is a balance between complexity and funny function, between security and ease of use. If these systems are so easy where do they fall on the security spectrum? If these products are do great at they being used to safeguard their corporate headquarters? The CEO’s home? I doubt it.

The biggest issue with any DIY project is you don’t know what you don’t know. A person may think they have everything installed properly and everything works. There’s nothing else to do. However, they don’t have the knowledge of a professional helping them assess the system.

One major issue DIY alarm devices face is support. There is no team of techs they can send out. Only online or over the phone tech support and product replacement. No real alarm installer would be interested in servicing a DIY install.

These issues aside, I think the alarm industry will come to an impasse with the proliferation of these DIY systems. There have been ongoing issues with how municipalities deal with alarms. Not every police department dispatches immediately to a residential alarm. Professional installers set up systems and train customers to avoid false alarms but they still happen.

As the number of systems increases the number of false alarms will also increase. Poor WiFi, cell service, app issues, phone issues, and just plain but having your phone on you can result in a false alarm but being cancelled. It’s my contention that the number of false alarms will skyrocket. Emergency response, 911 dispatch and police, will be inundated with calls. It’s not fair that the financial and time burden will be placed on these critical services.

I believe the end result will be that police will take any residential alarm a lot less seriously or even adopt policies to not respond to them. Google search for “police response time to alarm” and you’ll find a lot of information about police departments that have adopted a no response policy.

What’s the solution? No one gets an alarm? Only the wealthy sound have alarm systems to keep the numbers down? Open the floodgates and see show things shake out?

I don’t know what the solution is. But I think companies that manufacture and support DIY alarm systems need to be involved in reducing false alarms and in part be held responsible for them. It’s not right to shift the burden to a public service and keep your profits. I think municipalities should focus on charging door false alarms instead of not responding to them.

This needs to happen quickly, like yesterday. If not the 2019 Black Friday and holiday DIY alarm systems soon to be installed will be just the start to a sharp increase in the number of DIY systems which will inevetibly lead to more false alarms.

Professional titles help people understand very quickly what someone does. Doctor, lawyer, teacher. We know what they do. However, the term “locksmith” is quite ambiguous.

The term “Locksmith” is related to blacksmith because locks and keys were forged. Creating locks and keys required the ability to heat, shape, and manipulate metals. Today, keys are cut using various methods but the name remains.

Today, the term locksmith is simply bad branding. Locksmithing includes a myriad of different sub specialties: automotive, safes, door installation and repair, electronic access control etc. The term likely locksmith is a decent catch all but doesn’t articulate what most locksmiths actually do.

The term “locksmith” has created customer confusion. Many people are surprised that I frequently install / repair door closers, hinges, and strikes. I’ve even had customers that were surprised that I drill bores for new locks – thinking that this was in the realm if a carpenter. While many carpenters certainly can drill lock bores, locksmiths do this with much greater frequency.

The term doorsmith would be misleading. Many locksmiths don’t install doors but rather just fix issues with doors once they arise.

The term Security Specialist or Technician is a reasonable contender. However, it implies they cover all aspects of security: electronic access control, alarms, cameras – and most locksmiths don’t cover all of those areas.

Security Integrator is a commonly used specialised term. It conveys selecting, installing, servicing, and of course, integrsting those various components. However, most Security Integrators don’t touch keyed locks. Most don’t have key a machines or pin kit. They are very far from being “locksmiths.”

There may be no superior term that the generic “locksmith.” But it certainly is a generic term that doesn’t articulate everything they do. For LinkedIn and marketing purposes I’ve decided to call myself a “Locksmith & Security Integrator.”

If I could choose a title that would easily convey what I do – I would choose “Tech Smith.” Bringing technology into the physical world and bringing the physical world to technology. The term smith implies an understanding of physical infrastructure that impacts how technology works. An access control system won’t work if the door doesn’t work.

Running cable, mounting TVs, installing server racks are very physical. I sympathize with my fellow low voltage technicians that get lumped in with IT. There is a big difference between being at a computer desk doing system adminstration and being out in the mud doing a point to point internet connection. I’m not lumped into general IT because my primary profession is being a locksmith… or Security Integrator… or whatever I call myself now.

The term “Tech Smith” is probably just another confusing title that will puzzle the populous but I like it.

Whatever you call yourself or do – remember you are unique human being that is more than just a title and the work you do. But whatever you do – strive to be the best whatchamacallit you can.

A ferrule is a metal tube crimped over stranded wire to secure the strands within a screw terminal. Electric wire ferrules are also called  electric end terminals, or bootlace connectors/ ferrules.

Why am I such a fan?

  • They’re useful
  • They’re inexpensive
  • They are very cool

It’s very European. Call me old fashion but I think European stuff is neat. I think people would be well served by looking into how people do things in other countries and consider adopting them. Take the best of both worlds. Take the metric system for example, we should adopt it immediately. (Opinions expressed in this article are my own and are reflective of Lock Alchemy’s opinions). It’s my new personal mission to get people to use these. #ferrulegang will be showing up on Instagram very soon.

It’s a fairly straightforward solution to be pretty obvious problem. Copper cable strands get mashed under terminals, get cut and sometimes a loose strand can cause a fault. Connect, disconnect, reconnect – you have a mess on your hands. Ferrules allow you to remove the wire from the terminal block and easily move to another location on your board or in your control box without have to deal with flattened or damaged wire.

These are very common in automotive wiring and wiring PLCs (Programmable Logic Controller). In automotive their used to create a more secure connection that’s resistant to vibrations. In PLCs, they’re used for all the above reasons and for the ability to easily change wiring. Often times their required by PLC manufactures.

Weidmuller has a lot of technical data available available about the benefits of ferrules for creating good electrical connections. I’m not posting any links because they might change where they store this information.

Downside

I don’t see a huge downside to using ferrule connectors. They’re is the cost of the crimping tool(s) and the ferrules themselves. Past that it’s time.

Learning Curve

Actually crimping them is very easy. Learning how to buy ferrules is more difficult. Firstly, they’re in Metric, like everything else should be. (Getting that I like the metric system yet?) There is a color coding system for the gauge of wire used in a ferrule. Sounds really smart and easy right? Sort of. There’s a German system and a French system. I’m really not sure what’s used where and what’s preferred in different European countries. I’d love to hear feedback on this.

Great – German system and a French system. The colors are based on metric wire sizes. So your AWG (American Wire Gauge) cables aren’t going to fit into that system without doing some math. Sure you can order European ferrules online. After shipping they get kind of expensive. Enter Ferrules Direct. They have tons of, you guessed it, ferrules. They sell ferrules in standard packs of 500 and mini packs of 100.

The French color for the equivalent of 22 AWG is Pink in the French system and Turquoise in the German convention. I don’t know about you but I’d prefer not to use those colors. Ferrules Direct has a W, D, and T series that only vary in colors. So you can get 22 AWG ferrules in white, orange, pink, turquoise, or yellow. So you can select a color based on personal preference or brand colors. I chose white and some orange ones because it’s like of Lock Alchemy’s color. Along with width for wire size another specification for ordering ferrules is barrel length.

 

UL & Legal Stuff

I’m not a lawyer, I’m not giving you advice, I’m not responsible for anything you do. Use UL rated connectors. They’re some discussion about matching a brand of crimper with brand of ferrule. Do your own research. It’s your customer, your company, and your name on your work – be proud of it.

Crimper Selection

I like using good tools that work well and will hold up. It’s not easy looking for crimpers for a few reasons: they’re expensive, they’re hard to find, the technical information is a little confusing. I did a bit of research about crimpers before I made my selection. Some people on Facebook groups swear by cheap crimpers available on Amazon. Knipex, Weidmuller, and Mullex all make premium crimpers ($200+). I’m sure there are other brands available. If I’m missing something send me an email.

Hexagonal or Sqaure

In general, square crimps for square blocks and hexagonal for round blocks. I’ve actually used the opposite crimp on some terminal blocks because they were very tight and the other crimp style fit in better. I’d recommend cutting off the old ferrule, re-stripping the wire, and crimping on a new ferrule as opposed to just recrimping the same ferrule.

 

 

Square crimp for square blocks

 

 

 

Hexagonal for round blocks

 

Crimper Review

I got a cheap set of ferrule crimpers to justify myself why I bought premium ones. They came with some  presumably non UL listed ferrules. They actually are pretty decent. Of course I wouldn’t use these in the field but they’re good for testing and playing around with different sizes. That way you don’t have buy 100 packs of “real” ferrules of various sizes for your tests.

The crimpers work pretty well. The ratcheting function is not as smooth as premium crimpers. The odd thing about these is that they put a strange strain on your hand. The end of the crimp is a little difficult. For 10 or so crimps it would be fine. If you have 100 to do, I’d consider getting a real crimper.

 

 

 

 

These are the crimpers I went with. The Weidmuller PZ SQR and PZ HEX. I got a screaming deal on them. A lot of people on Facebook forums like the Knipex one. I’m assuming they went with them because they’re already familiar with the Knipex brand and quality. I saw a few people mention that they like the Weidmuller better than the Knipex ones.

These are amazing. They feel great in the hand. Ratchet very easily and put very little strain on the hand. The end of the crimp is butter smooth. 10/10.

 

Here are two 18 AWG wires with single wire ferrules I crimped on. Less than 1 cent for both and 10 seconds of time – a lifetime of connection :)

I plan on updating this article with pictures from panels and boards.

 

Join #FerruleGang on Instagram