Monday, January 9, 2012

Be Careful working in Old Burglar Alarm Panels


I found this old FBI 650 panel few years back. It operated on 6 volts DC often used a dry cell lantern battery for back up power however this panel used a rechargeable battery today 12 volts DC is what you find in modern panels.
The business owner had just bought the building to expand his business and while in the process of hooking up a new system
I ran across this beautiful little booby trap.
These alarm panels such as FBI 650 and Ademco 221, 330 etc where manufactured back in the late1960s' to early70's and you brought the
120 VAC power directly to the panel instead of using a a wall transformer like modern version used.
A large frame transformer was built into the cabinet. Of course this meant you had live 120 volt terminals on the board which presented a danger to the installer if he was not careful in some cases manufacturers put a plastic cover over the 120 VAC terminals to prevent problems while most did not.

You where suppose to use Armored Cable also known as BX cable to the panel which properly grounded the metal case or rubber coated SO or SJ cord with ground if you where plugging it into a 3 wire outlet or Non Metallic cable NM also known as Romex and ground it to case . Early version panels did not include a ground wire terminal or flying ground lead while later models did this one did not as grounding back then was not seen as important as it is today. But as you can see here some one used 2 conductor lamp cord no ground and mickey moused the plug in transformers off the 120 VAC lamp cord by soldering the wires and then taping them instead of using a proper plug strip. It amazes me more alarm installers where not shocked and homes burned to the ground over this deadly trick and there are still plenty of these panels still rigged up this way floating around in old homes and buildings waiting to cause a fire or shock some one.
This is why you should always be on your guard any time you take out one of these old alarm systems boxes they can still be plugged into 120 volts not doing anything but sitting there ready to shock you. If you have to open one do so very carefully trace and disconnect the 120 VAC wire if possible as the wiring to these panels are very old and brittle in most cases.
Yes these panels are from the heavy relay days and before all the modern codes where in place but they never should have been wired this way even back then The National Electrical Code was in place and should have been followed. But as usual it was not until fires and electric shocks and law suits being filed etc. because installers wired these incorrectly where panel styles changed.
Its a dam shame manufacturers always have to idiot proof alarm panels but they have to do so do to the amount of idiots and uncaring alarm system dealers out there who will not even try and get properly trained.
Because I still see panels such as the Ademco/ Honeywell Vista 32FB and 128 FB panels which require a 120 vac line run to them still being hooked in with lamp cord.
because alarm company's will not hire an electrician to properly do it.
Alarm panels are designed for professional installation but I see very few professional installs in my area. Mostly just hacks who do not give a damn.

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