Submission by Mark Stainton-James – The Visonic PowerMax is a wireless burglar alarm system, with some useful features for home automaters.
Alarm Overview – The PowerMax system is not sold as a DIY alarm, and conforms to BS6799 class 5 standards. The communication between the sensors and the panel uses a “code secure” technology to avoid scanners picking up the signals. The system can be fully monitored by any of the usual companies (eg RedCare). Additionally a modem is built into the control panel to allow it to dial you should there be an alarm. The alarm can be programmed either from the control panel, or via a PC using the (optional) RS232 interface. The alarm allows for 1 PGM output, as well as X10 output (one house code 7 devices). You can have up to 30 zones/devices; one of these can be wired to integrate with existing systems/devices.
What do you get – For somewhere around £250 you can purchase the ‘system kit’ this includes the control panel, a remote key fob, a pet immune PIR (up to 18Kg pet) and a magnetic contact. The box contents on mine seemed to suggest that I should have got 2 door contacts – still a mystery to me.
If you want to use the unit for X10 functionality then you will need to purchase an XM10U to interface from the control panel to the mains (letsautomate.com p/n 10215), you will also need an RJ11 cable – I just used a standard US modem cable (although the manual says this won’t work).
If you plan to connect the system to an external bell box, then you obviously need to purchase that as well – there are two types, those that are ‘self powered’ for backup through an internal NiCad battery, and those that rely entirely on the PowerMax for power. Both types can be used but need to be wired differently.
User manuals and programming manuals are very well written, with clear and concise instructions, although I did not always find the manuals to be 100% accurate !!! Installation
The control panel itself is a fairly neat looking well deigned piece of kit – however I wish Visonic produced wireless keypads as well as the main unit, as a result the main unit must be installed fairly close to the entry/exit door (unless you are going to give everyone a key fob) It would have been better in my opinion if the main unit could have been hidden away somewhere and drone keypad located close to the entry/exit.
The main unit fits very neatly onto the wall, and includes several anti tamper features, should anyone try and rip it off the wall. The main unit also contains back up batteries should the mains supply fail. The keypad is very usable, and the display is perfectly adequate and you are guide through all of the menus with excellent voice prompts.
Before you fix the main unit in its final position lay it and all of your sensors out keeping the boxes – it makes installation a lot easier. Each device needs to be registered with the main unit and is assigned a zone. This is where you need to give a fair amount of thought to the layout of your alarm system. The PowerMax gives you basically 3 types of areas:
· Home – those devices that you alarm whilst in the house – eg perimeter devices/glass break sensors · Away – for when you are away from the house – eg internal PIR’s · Always – areas that are always secure – eg Garage or Smoke alarms.
If you can plan this is advance it will make things so much easier. Once you have decided what goes where you can then register each device with the main unit choosing the name of the device and the zone type. If there is not a device name suitable there are some custom ones where you can record your own voice. After registering each device put it back in its box, that way when you come to register the next device you won’t accidentally reregister the one you just did. This is also the main reason for setting up everything on a table first (can you tell I learnt this the hard way !!)
Once all of the devices are registered, you can then attach the control panel to the wall, connecting the phone line, X10 and PGM and place all of the sensors in their final positions.
One problem I had that I have been unable to solve is the 4 button panic alarm only seems to register as a key fob and not as the instructions state it should as 4 individual devices
Programming – Once the installation is complete the next step is the configuration. There are two ways the configuration can be done, either via a PC software using either the internal modem or RS232 port (optional) or form the control panel itself. Again there are voice prompts all the way through so it is very easy.
Since the devices are already registered you now need to configure the parameters for the zones, and how the system will react based on various conditions. Again a bit of thought before hand is very useful here. There are many options here based on your own installation, most are self explanatory or are at least explained very well in the manual. A couple of features worth mentioning at this point though is the latch key mode and 2 way voice communication, which are features that I thought were little out of the ordinary.
· The 2 way voice communication allows you to listen into the house (through a microphone in the main unit), and if necessary provide instructions over the phone to the house.
· Each user of the system (up to 8) can have a unique PIN for the alarm. When ever a user deactivates the alarm you can receive notification of this event via pager or a phone call. This could be useful for children returning home from school ???? PGM/X10 Before purchasing the PowerMax I had no experience of PGM, so I can’t really comment in detail, that said I am sure many people will find it very useful. Based on the same set of conditions as the X10 trigger (see below) the PGM can trigger. This seems to mean a short 4V? pulse is sent from the PowerMax device to your PGM device – garage door, garden gate ????
Now I guess the big seller for me with the PowerMax was its ability to send X10 commands based on various conditions. The X10 support is limited on its own, but can be used to integrate well with other systems ie Home Visions, HomeSeer etc. The PowerMax will send commands to 7 addresses on 1 house code in a limited fashion. You assign the address to be sent based on any of the following conditions:
· Activation of a zone (your choice – up to 3 zones ) · Arming · Disarming · Alarm Activated · By absolute time · By Key fob
For each address one or more of the above conditions will cause the X10 command to be sent. So for example I could have A1 sent when ever I turn the alarm on, or when I press the * button on the key fob, or when ever I walk in the kitchen and the PIR activates.
One irritation with the PowerMax is that you have to set at a global level how the X10 commands will behave. You either have it poll, so that instance 1 of the activation sends the on command and next activation sends the off command. The alternative to this is that following every on command and off command is sent after a configurable length of time (1 sec – 4 minutes)
To make the PowerMax more useful it is better integrated with another X10 controller, that way you could ignore all of the OFF commands that are sent and just let your X10 controller interpret the ON commands. For example if A1 was assigned to arming then you could have that run various macros to turn off all of the lights and appliances in your house, or for example if an alarm is activated then the CCTV cameras could be activated and movement recorded etc.
The PowerMax is of course also connected to your phone line, this then also opens up a number of possibilities, as via thee DMTF tones you are able to send and of the 7 X10 commands via your phone – again these could be interpreted by your main X10 controller in any manner of ways.
Summary – Overall we have been very pleased with the PowerMax, we have cats and dogs which do not cause false alarms, and the PIR’s work well for occupancy detection. The X10 capabilities are somewhat limited but this can be overcome with additional hardware/software. The installation of the system is very easy, and with no wiring needing to be done it can be done very quickly. The price of the system in my view represents excellent value for money, when compared against comparable products. Approximate Price From Around £250
The installation manuals are all available for download from Visonic, as are several PDF’s detailing the technical specifications of all the sensors: