Published In September 2001
You’re in like Flint. You have the customer, so it’s the perfect time to offer an add-on low-voltage product, or suggest an upgrade to newer technologies. Low voltage is one of the hottest markets around. There’s so much to choose from, including telephone and telecommunications, intercoms and paging, security, burglar and fire alarms and intrusion detection, closed-circuit television surveillance, access control, structured wiring, home automation, and more. Make low-voltage products work for you by taking cues from these five tips. • Take a good look at wireless technology. Everything’s wireless, from sensors to CCTV to burglar alarms. Increased product reliability and a wide range of products fit every application. Wireless is one of the best ways to begin to offer your customers low voltage. Choose from the more common combination hardwired/wireless control panels and sensors, to the offbeat and up-and-coming, such as personnel “man-down” transmitters. What’s the big interest in wireless aside from the reliability? It’s labor savings and aesthetics, according to Glenn Nichols, senior product manager, Commercial Fire/Burglary Systems, The Ademco Group, Syosset, N.Y. No longer do installers have to “blast through walls, which may sometimes be difficult or even impossible.” “It saves labor and material costs, and you can’t wire it wrong. Battery life has improved, and now there are products that meet commercial burglary and fire requirements from Underwriters Laboratories,” Nichols said. “When a customer adds a new section to a building or wants an individual protected area, wireless is the way to go. Best of all, it’s more widely accepted by the Authority Having Jurisdiction, who are becoming familiar with the technology.” Wireless for fire applications is increasingly popular. Ademco’s new 5800 CKT Commercial Wireless Starter Kit allows the wireless installation of traditional hardwired burglary or fire contact devices in accordance with commercial UL applications. Ideal for fire pull stations, tamper valves, water flow valves, motion detectors and door/window contacts, the 5800CKT installs quickly and easily. • Consider a range of options. Don’t pin yourself down to one area of low voltage. Take time to discover what products are available on the market. Attend telecommunications, structured wiring, and voice/data/video (VDV) shows and conferences, where often there’s hands-on assistance from participating manufacturers. Find the perfect complement for one of your current customers and build confidence and additional business. From the more common to the offbeat, it’s all in the low-voltage genre. There are watch fobs for remote control, pool alarms, or even CCTV monitors for the baby’s room—and that’s just a sampling. Do you have a customer with an expansive outdoor area that needs protection? Consider gates, turnstiles, and exterior detection in the way of physical barriers, photoelectric beams, and microwave detection. Delve into fiber optic fence detection and more if you’re already accustomed to its nuances or want to get started in this equally exciting wiring adjunct. How about that retail store manager you just did some wiring for? He or she may want a bell, annunciator, or other sounder to alert him or her to customers entering the store when he or she is in a back room. Or, your customer might consider a locking device on the back entrance area or room with a safe. • Start small and see what fits. Maybe you’re leery about adding new products and services. You can start small and find the area that works best with your niche. For example, if you have many industrial customers, consider supervisory signals and switches for machinery and critical equipment monitoring. Or, try installing humidity sensors or water detectors at museums or other institutions. Opportunity abounds in low voltage. For example, Safety Technology International Inc., Waterford, Mich., offers a variety of low-voltage accessories to get your feet wet. Multi-purpose push buttons in the STI Stopper Station line are the latest addition to the company’s offerings, which range from protective covers for strobes to covers for high-tech access control fingerprint readers. STI continues to develop its multi-purpose pushbuttons for standard applications such as “Fire,” “Emergency,” “Exit,” as well as custom-phrasing, such as “Plant Evacuation.” “STI accessories have proven very popular with end-users and dealers/installers,” said Becky Wyble, spokesperson for Safety Technology International. “These products are an effective way to help eliminate vandalism, false fire alarms, and theft to a wide variety of fire, smoke, access control and other safety/security products.” • Don’t forget the basics. Access control is one of the most popular ways to add security to a business or upgrade a customer’s interior and exterior detection. But, don’t forget about the basics, such as single-door access control with or without magnetic stripe or proximity and pushbutton keypads. Every business has a door that needs protection: a manager’s office; warehouse; or storage area with valuables. Best of all, access control is generally available in modular units that can grow with your customer’s business. If integrated systems are your niche, then access control is a must. Vandal and weatherproof proximity readers designed for hostile environments like the ANP-1000 Stainless Steel unit from Rokonet USA, Elmsford, N.Y., provide a seal from the weather and protection from tampering. Manufactured with a read range of 4 to 5 inches, a tri-color light-emitting diode (LED) indicates system status. • Be open to new products. So many innovations are occurring within the security industry. Digital technology is rewriting CCTV signaling and recording. The Internet and computer and telephony technologies are merging and allowing additional control via computer, and the ability to link even the most remote locations. Wireless continues to develop in reliability, signal strength, and battery longevity. Keep your business open to new possibilities. Work with others who are successful at what they do. Tom Lowry, a principle of Structuring Wiring Systems in Joliet, Ill., dabbled in structured wiring recently and now offers structured wiring packages for giant homebuilder Pulte Homes and more. And, he’s partnering with an Aurora-based burglar and fire alarm company to further develop his low-voltage expertise. In low-voltage work, anything’s possible, and success is probable. Don’t forget the service and maintenance agreement. O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Chicago and contributing editor of security for Electrical Contractor. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (773) 775-1816.