DIY Home Security, Part III: Programming

Previously I posted that I was installing my own home security system using DSC’s Power Series (rather than using newer, flashier protocols such as Z-Wave of Zigbee). In Part III of the series I provide a guide on how to set up a basic wireless home installation.

DIY Home Security Series Contents


Before we go any farther, let’s get something out of the way, especially (but not only) because we are dealing with issues of life safety:

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First let’s demystify the term “zone”, as it may be unfamiliar to readers not familiar with security systems. A “zone” generally has a one-to-one relationship with detection hardware. A front door contact (the magnetic sensor that can tell if the door is closed or not) would be one zone, a side door contact would be another zone, a motion detector would be another zone, and so-on. These zones are typically numerical, so you’ll want to have a table relating the zone number to it’s common description (zone 1 is the front door… zone 2 is the side door… etc).

You need to program the zones as well as some other initial programming in order for the system to know how to talk to your wireless device, how to act when the zone is tripped, and so forth.

DSC Programming Basics

Before we begin, you should have in your possession a DSC PC1616/PC1832/PC1864 Installation Guide. The Installation Guide can be confusing at times, however many of my tips below are distilled directly from that document. I encourage you to compare my explanations here to the wording of the guide so you can get a better feel for how the guide is laid out and how to further configure your system.

In order to program your DSC system, you will need to know the following basics:

  • When programming, you will be keying characters ranging from 0-9 and A-F. However, you only have a 0-9 keypad to type with, so DSC has created the following method to enter in A-F when necessary:

    Letter Code Sequence
    A *1*
    B *2*
    C *3*
    D *4*
    E *5*
    F *6*

    Tip: You can enter multiple consecutive alphabetic characters by not entering the trailing ‘*’ key. Example, to type AF sequentially, the code would be *16*… DAD would be *414*.
  • There are several default codes you should know, including:
    • Installer Code: 5555
    • Master Code: 1234

Basic Programming

The most important basic programming for a stand-alone system is in what’s called the Third System Option Code bank, or bank 015. You get into this bank by using the code sequence “* 8 [INSTALLER CODE] 015″. Once you’ve entered the code sequence you should see any combination of the numbers 1-8 on the keypad LCD. The description of what these numbers mean (at least the ones we care about) are below. You can toggle them by hitting the corresponding number on the keypad. To exit, hit # # (the pound key twice).

Description Number
When ON (the number is displayed), the fire button will be enabled. When OFF, the fire button will be disabled. 1
When ON (the number is displayed), the panic button (using the Keypad or a wireless Keyfob) will be audible via the bell/siren. When OFF, it is a silent panic and therefore only useful if you are connected to a central monitoring station. You probably want this ON. 2
When ON (the number is displayed), the system supervises the telephone line and will display a trouble (the yellow light) if the telephone line is not connected. When OFF 7

Zone Programming
There are three parts to zone programming: Defining your zones, defining zone attributes, and linking zone hardware to the control panel.

Part 1: Defining the Zones
For the purposes of this tutorial, let’s say we are installing two door contact zones (front door and rear door) and two motion sensors as well as one smoke detector. We’ll define the zones as such:
Zone Number Description Zone Alarm Type
1 Front Door Alarm after providing a delay (default 60 seconds) in Stay or Away mode – “Delay 1″ zone, option ’01′
2 Back Door Alarm instantly if violated when in Stay or Away mode – “Instant” zone, option ’03′
3 and 4 Interior Motion Sensors Alarm instantly if violated only when the Away mode (bypasses when in Stay) – “Interior Stay/Away” zone, option ’05′
5 Photoelectric Smoke Detector Instant audible alarm, but delayed communication of alarm to automation (if enabled) by 30 seconds to allow user to disregard – “Wireless Delayed 24-Hour Fire” zone, option ’87′

Zones are programmed in-sequence into the system by the option code listed in the ‘Zone Alarm Type’ column listed above, starting at zone 1 and continuing until you are done. So, by example, to enter in the above programming, we’d use the following code sequence:

* 8 [Installer Code] 001 01 03 05 05 87 # #

Let’s break down the above code sequence:

  • * 8 [Installer Code] – Hopefully you’ve seen this enough by now that it is becoming familiar. This is the code sequence you enter in order to get into the Installer Programming portion of the DSC system.
  • 001 – This gets you into zone programming for zones
  • 01 03 05 05 87 – This is the sequence of zone alarm types, from 1 to 5.
    • Advanced programming tip: if you wanted to skip a zone number (say skip zone 3), you still have to go in-order; you just define the skipped zone as a null-zone, or ’00′.
  • # # – This saves what you’ve done and gets you back out of programming mode.
Part 2: Defining Zone Attributes
You will need to define certain zone attributes for each zone you define. Zone Attribute definition is in Installer Programming banks 101-164, where 101 is representative of zone 1 and 164 is representative of zone 64 (obviously, we’re just dealing with 5 zones in our example). Ex: to get to the zone attributes for zone 1 the key code would be * 8 [Installer Code] 101. Of course, # # saves your settings and gets you out of programming.

Once in the Zone Attribute bank, you should see any combination of the numbers 1-8 on the keypad LCD. The numbers/options we care about are below. You can toggle the options by pressing the corresponding number on the keypad.

1. When ON, alarms are audible via the bell output. When OFF, alarms are silent. You want this ON
2. When ON, the bell output is steady (for burglary). When OFF, alarms are pulsed (for fire). You want this ON for every zone except for a fire zone… zone 5 in this case.
3. When ON, A zone violation or rest oral will activate Chime. When OFF, Chime is not activated. This is purely preference, but you may want to turn on a chime on your front door.
5. When ON, The partition/system can be armed even if the zone is violated (the zone will not affect the Ready status). When OFF, the zone must be secure before arming. This should be ON for any motion sensor that can ‘see’ the keypad, and OFF for everything else.
8. When ON, the zone is a wireless or addressable device. When OFF, the zone is a hardwire zone. This should be ON. The default is OFF, so you must turn it ON.

Part 3: Linking Zone Hardware
On the back of each piece of hardware you should note a 6 digit (0-9,A-F) ESN number. In order for your DSC system to talk to your hardware, the control panel needs to know the ESN number of each zone.

To enter ESN codes for your zones we will be working in programming bank 804 [Zone Number]. To get there, enter the sequence * 8 [Installer Code] 804 [Zone Number]. Once there, enter the 6-digit ESN, then # # OR you can hit [Zone Number] and another ESN to continue programming other ESNs. For example: Say Zone 1′s door contact had an ESN of 1234AF and Zone 3 had an ESN of 123456, we could program them both using the following command: * 8 [Installer Code] 804 01 1234*16* 03 123456 # #.

To test the connectivity of your newly connected zone I find it easy enough to simply try to create a “trouble” for the zone. In most instances this can be done by removing the sensor from its mounting plate. A trouble yellow-light should appear on the keypad if everything is talking.


By now, with some relatively common-sense sensor hardware installation you should have a working DSC locally monitored security system! Be sure to test the system thoroughly before putting it into regular use, and remember that no security system is no replacement for responsible safety habits.

If you’re done setting everything up, don’t forget to change your Installer Code and Master Code. To change the Installer code, enter * 8 [Current Installer Code] 006 [New Installer Code] # #. To change the Master code, enter * 8 [Installer Code] 007 [New Master Code] # #.

  1. The tip under the code sequence picture reads, ‘Example, to type AF sequentially, the code would be *AF*… ‘

    I think you meant to type *16* at the end or maybe I am misunderstanding.

    If you have to correct, you can delete this comment.

    Also, I had to laugh at the disclaimer. Very smart, but you don’t have to worry about me. I take full responsibility for my own ignorance. ;)

  2. I’m up and running. Looking forward to Part IV and for things to really go over my head. :wink:

  3. Can you help me out?

    I’ve recently bought a dsc PC1616 with pk5508 panel to replace my old system which was the dcs Pc 632, because the master and the installer code were unknown by the previous owner of my house. All my sensors are hardwired.

    The wiring on the first system was done by a professional, so it was quite easy to wire up the new system following is instalation. I marked all wires with there respective slots before removing from the old system, So I am positive that the wires are properly linked to the panel.

    Here is where I am having trouble; when I power up the system, all the numbers on the panel light up. I’ve followed your instructions and succeded in getting some lights to turn off. Howeve,r for some unknown reason, as soon as I plug in the system, the siren goes off after 1minute or 2 and I have to unplug the system to deactivate the siren.

    Is there an initial set up or an important step that I have forgotten or is this the result of a faulty wiring?

    Please help

    • Hey,

      Thanks for checking out the site. I’ll see what I can do to help you out.

      Assuming you haven’t changed the master code (’1234′ I believe by default), then plug the system in and go ahead and let it go into alarm and enter in the master code once and see if that quiets it. My guess is that the system is currently in one of the ARM states (either home or away) and has been tripped. I don’t think unplugging the system will clear that state, so when you plug it back in, it remembers it and it goes off again. The only way to clear it is to disarm the system using your Master Code.

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by “all of the numbers on the panel light up”, but at least try the above. Also, if that doesn’t work, try just unplugging the “bell” connection rather than unplugging everything. That will stop the siren, but leave everything else active so you can keep troubleshooting.

      • Thank you, that did the trick.

        However, I am having 1 last problem with the system. After testing the wires to see what wires belongs to what sensor, I noticed that the front door was connected directly to the keyboard instead of the panel and does not show up in any of the 8 zones.

        Here is my set up (all hardwire)

        1 front door sensor (connected to keyboard) Does not show on zones
        1 padio door sensor (connected to pannel) zone 1
        2 motion sensors (connected to pannel) zone 3&4

        I assumed that the front door might have been zone 2, so I entered the following code.

        *8 (installer code) 001 (03 (zone 1 padio door) 01 (zone 2 front door) 0505 ( zone 3 & 4 motion sensors) ##)

        Everything works but zone 2 stays on and no zones respond to the front door beeing open or closed.

        Where did I go wrong?

  4. Found my answer:

    I had to enable zone 2 on the keyboard via these few steps:

    *8 (installer code) – section (020) – zone (02) – ##

    Thanks for this amazing walkthrough on how to basic program the PC1616, my system works like a charm.

    Special thanks to Allan

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