Power Supplies: The Critical Link

Dec. 4, 2017
Select the appropriate power supply for your electronic access control installation

While the mechanical lock is still the cornerstone of physical security, electronics and electrical technologies have made it possible to expand the applications for all types of mechanical locking systems and the integration of physical locks with electronic control.

The role of the power supply in modern security technology is transitioning. Let’s review some power supply types and terms:

DC: Direct Current is what a battery or rectified power supply produces. A device that uses batteries requires DC voltage to operate.

AC: Alternating current is what is available from wall receptacles and transformers. The transformers we use do not generate AC; they lower the voltage down from ‘line voltage’ which is 110-120 VAC in the U.S. to the range ‘low voltage’ devices are designed to use, typically 12 or 24 volts. A device that uses a transformer requires AC voltage to operate.

Amps: How current is measured. Generally security equipment operates in the milliamp range, but some locking equipment will require larger in-rush currents.

One of the major trends in security electronics, actually all electronics, has been to redesign equipment to use less current, making the device more efficient. Low current consumption has made it possible to reduce the size of batteries and the proliferation of professional security equipment which is battery operated.

Wall mount (a/k/a wall wart, or plug-in) devices plug into a receptacle and depending on their designation provide either AC or DC voltage at a voltage specified on the device. You cannot use a transformer and a power supply interchangeably.

Enclosed: This is a power supply (or transformer) that is provided in an enclosure, usually metal, to provide protection for the components against tampering or damage. Many building codes will mandate that power supplies be enclosed to reduce the risk of an electrical fire emanating from the electrical equipment. Using a cabinet ‘key lock’ is optional but makes servicing the power supply faster, easier and more “locksmith-ish.”

The first lock I ever picked was a cabinet lock, It was an alarm panel on a service call in a pizzeria on Queens Blvd, and it was almost closing time and they could arm the system.

Battery back-up: Batteries are often used in security to provide for uninterrupted power in the event of a power interruption. We stopped using ‘dry cell’ type batteries and began using rechargeable type batteries several decades ago. Batteries are rated in Voltage and Amp Hours. The Amp Hour rating indicates how many amps the battery will provide over time. Resources are available on line to help you calculate what size battery will best serve your particular equipment and back up requirements.

Linear: Describes a power supply design that was used exclusively up until only recently. This design uses transformers, rectifiers and capacitors to transform, rectify filter and regulate the DC output. Transformers are linear and the simplest way to obtain AC power.

Switched: A new technology that offers several advantages over linear designs. It is smaller, uses less copper (no transformer), and provides more accurate and regulated power.  Your laptop uses a switched power supply, and switched power supplies are available from most security power supply manufacturers.

Monitored: Adds the ability to monitor the status of the power supply of a system. Remote monitoring of power supplies is emerging and an additional RMR (Recurring Monthly Revenue) stream for security dealers.

Installation Planning

When discussing the general topic of power supplies, a locksmith acquaintance remarked that the power supply was that last thing that he’d need to find a home for when performing an access control installation. He said he always looks above dropped ceilings for a receptacle. Not a good plan!

The power supply is as important family member as any other component in the system, so waiting until the end to find it a place is not prioritizing correctly.

When planning and laying out a system, consider the power supply must be in a secure location but still accessible for running wire to it and for servicing. Batteries are frequently supplied with power supplies. Batteries are heavy, and they are potentially dangerous since they provide very high current, and if the battery fails or is shorted out, a fire might result. Hanging a metal enclosure containing batteries requires a strong mounting surface and the proper fasteners.

The line voltage connection to the power supply must be reliable and safe from being accidentally or deliberately disconnected.

The line voltage wiring is dangerous, and needs to be installed in a means which is code compliant.

The low voltage side of the power supply which connects to the access control components and locks is not considered hazardous but also needs to be protected from being damaged or disconnected. Furthermore the length of the low voltage wiring must be considered so it is not a length which will introduce voltage drop to your equipment.

There are resources available online to help you calculate voltage drop, and what measures you can take to address them.

If you find a receptacle above a suspended ceiling, it was not placed there for your use.

Receptacles are permitted above a suspended ceiling; however cords are not permitted to be concealed by walls, floors, or ceilings nor are they permitted to be located above suspended or dropped ceilings [400.8(5)] so a receptacle would have to be mounted in the ceiling, accessible from below.

However, a receptacle above the suspended ceiling might be required or desirable for use for portable equipment and/or tools.

A receptacle can often be used as a junction box and can feed other circuits, but unless you are an electrician, don’t do it.

If you are an electrician I’ll not only assume you have a license and insurance but also that you can trace the circuit and determine the total load on it and the size of the conductors and breaker feeding it, and whether a receptacle box is on a switched branch circuit.

On my proposals and contracts I always clearly state that line voltage wiring is not within the scope of work. It is best to determine what you need during a survey and state it in your proposal, then do what is necessary to have those requirements addressed prior to the installation.


 Locksmith Ledger contacted Altronix President Alan Forman to get a year-end wrap up on his company and its products.

Please tell us about your company.  

Altronix proudly manufactures, engineers, and designs low voltage solutions in the U.S.A. that are backed by a lifetime warranty for the Access Control, Video Surveillance, Fire and Security Markets.

How would you define your marketing channel?  

Our go to market is through wholesale distribution.

What markets do you service (life safety, access control, video surveillance)? 

We service all these markets. 

What products features differentiate your company?

All of our products are feature specific to meet the needs of the customer depending on the market segment and the application.

Can installers use your product for upgrades or new installs? They can use our products for both.  

They can upgrade their analog video surveillance system to IP without needing to rip and replace coax cable using our eBridge series of products.  On the other hand if they are doing a new IP video installation and have long cable runs, they can use our Pace product for cable runs up to 500 meters instead of needing to install repeaters or switches every 100 meters. Additionally, our LINQ8PD network power distribution modules retrofit with most currently installed AC or supervised DC power supply/chargers, facilitating monitoring, reporting and control of these devices over the network.

What should the security professional consider when specifying a power supply?  

He or she should consider quality of the product and manufacturer.  They should also ensure that the power supply chosen will meet the needs of the system being installed.  Regardless of how basic or how technically advanced the system is, without power, none of it works. 

What opportunities are there for locksmiths?

We offer a large number of products locksmiths would naturally gravitate to that power the locks they work with.  Additionally, locksmiths that want to broaden their normal offerings by entering the video surveillance and fire/life safety markets can do so using Altronix products.

Is licensing required for installing and then monitoring your products?

It depends on the product and the local codes.  Some products require a high voltage input that would need to be connected by a licensed electrician.  Others can simply be plugged into a power source or connected to the network.

What training is required and what technical resources do you offer? 

Training is always offered but never required, that is unless the local codes require the training.  We have technical resources on our website, a tech support department, regional and local representatives.

How does the RMR work, and how is billing and payments managed? What kind of revenue stream does an account create?  

RMR is up to the installing dealer.  Our LinQ technology allows you to monitor, control and report power/diagnostics - this has been used by many dealers to create RMR through their own managed services program.  

Altronix eFlow Power/Supply Chargers now communicate over the network with new Altronix LINQ2 modules. This real-time data allows early intervention and response in handling system issues – which minimizes downtime, eliminates unnecessary service calls, and creates RMR opportunities.

LINQ2 monitors DC output voltage, current draw, AC and battery status, unit temperature and much more. LINQ2 provides email and Windows Dashboard Alerts to report system issues and also features an event log that stores history. It also enables you to control and reset devices via Internet access.

New additions to the Altronix Trove series include Altronix integrations with Bosch, DMP, Honeywell, Kantech and Sielox access. These new models join the versatile line of Trove solutions which accommodate AMAG, CDVI, HID/Vertx, KABA/KeyScan, Mercury and Software House access controllers.

“Trove enclosures and backplanes simplify board layout and wire management, greatly reducing installation and labor costs, while providing the versatility and scalability that system designers and installers require to easily configure their system, said Forman.

Trove2 Access and Power Integration Solutions are designed for larger applications, allowing Altronix power/accessories combined with access controllers from leading manufacturers to be wired and pre-tested prior to on-site installation. This reduces total cost and enhances performance efficiency.

Altronix also offers the Trove1 Access and Power Integration Solution, a more compact version of the Trove2 for smaller applications which accommodate CDVI, HID/VertX and Mercury access controllers.

All Trove enclosures include a cam lock, tamper switch and mounting hardware. Altronix has further simplified the product selection and configuration process by offering a free online Trove System Design Tool for configuring your access system. It is available free to use at the newly designed at http://altronix.com/configurators/trove2/index.php

More Info: www.altronix.com.

LifeSafety Power®

LifeSafety Power (LSP) is a preeminent manufacturer of intelligent power management solutions.Their focus is to provide the most flexible, predictive and proactive power systems for access control, fire, intrusion and CCTV systems in the industry. LifeSafety Power has created a new category of intelligent power management solutions that provide robust, proactive analytics to mission-critical devices. This new standard of performance by LifeSafety Power substantially adds to overall system health, performance and reliability. LifeSafety Power, headquartered near Chicago, has won numerous industry awards and accolades for product design and innovation.

Joseph M. Holland, Vice President of Engineering Joe Holland has more than 40 years of engineering, marketing and management experience in the life safety industry. As Chief Engineer of Fire Control Instruments, he was responsible for the product-line development of all the FC-72 products. Holland co-founded AlarmSaf Inc. and served as Vice President of Engineering where he oversaw all product development and manufacturing. During his distinguished career at AlarmSaf, he was responsible for many industry-leading innovations (first NAC module, rack mount power supply equipment, industry conversion to off line switching power supplies and the buss based power management system). Joe Holland is a long-time member of both the NFPA and IEEE associations and has been a contributing instructor of CEU accredited course work in the area of life safety power for over 35 years. Holland is the chief architect of all LifeSafety Power’s products including the award-winning FlexPower® Unified Power Systems, which incorporate many industry-leading innovations in access control, CCTV and mass notification.

Locksmith Ledger interviewed Holland,about his company and its products. 

How would you define your marketing channel?

We market actively to three distinct channels: systems integrators, security end-users and architects, engineers and specifiers.

What markets do you service (life safety, access control, video surveillance)?

The life safety and access control verticals are our primary markets.

What products features differentiate your company?

LifeSafety Power prides itself on being highly innovative. Our technological leadership has resulted in a comprehensive product line responsible for changing the paradigm of the power supply industry from static hardware to smart, connected solution.

The next-generation FlexPower® Multi-Site Manager (MSM-Enterprise) manages an unlimited number of power-connected systems across the enterprise and extracts comprehensive information, producing charts, graphs and other critical data for proactive site management and maintenance. PC-software driven, MSM-Enterprise makes it simple for systems integrators and end-user customers to see or export statistical information, for example, voltage fluctuations over time, standby power and incidents of AC power loss or spikes for a rich history of power across the protected premises.

NetLink Network Communications, a LifeSafety Power invention, allows network communications to the power supply system and provides real-time status and data, scheduled and event driven status reporting and remote diagnostic and test capabilities including remote battery testing for maximum system uptime.

All low voltage power supplies have optimized output voltages to increase the service life of electric locks.

ProWire™ Unified Power Systems feature enclosures and systems capable of directly housing most access control equipment specific to a manufacturer like Mercury or Software House along with the power components for a smaller footprint and more efficient system.

Can installers use your product for upgrades or new installs?

New or retrofit installation is fully supported and gives new meaning to teaching an old dog new tricks.

What should the dealer consider when specifying a power supply?

Reliability, value-added services to the customer, maximum system uptime and UL/CUL certifications.

What is your best-selling system and what are its features?

Our FlexPower Unified Power line, which combines the power system and access control panels in a single enclosure, is one of the best-selling solutions with its modular capabilities and integration with leading industry access controller. Featuring pre-drilled backplates for all popular access manufacturers, FlexPower also offers installers both single and dual voltage, standard or network managed outputs. ProWire, our most recent innovation, eliminates performing internal wiring in the field and assists with service and maintenance efficiencies from standardized footprints across the enterprise.

What opportunities are there for locksmiths?

Anytime electric locks are used, LSP equipment provides an advantage with its state-of- the-art power solutions.

Is licensing required for installing and then monitoring your products?

At this time no licensing is required for Multi-Site- Manager (MSM)-Enterprise.

What training is required and what technical resources do you offer?

Videos and LSP’s PowerProTV You Tube channel, powerpoints and regionally based training is available along with significant technical information from the website such as application notes and white papers providing in-depth knowledge on a wide range of trending subjects.

More Info: www.lifesafetypower.com.

Securitron Power Supplies

The Securitron AQE250R and AQE500R are 16-port, Power over Ethernet (PoE) injectors that can be monitored and managed online. This series provides power and data to PoE devices such as access control, door locks, edge controllers, PTZ cameras, video and other PoE devices. These rack mount power supplies feature (16) ports at up to 32W per port with 10/100/1000 Base-T Gigabit support. They offer remote power monitoring and the ability to remotely shut down individual ports or all ports simultaneously. They also include a 48V battery charger for cost-effective backup power.

Features include:

  • Up to 32W/port, IEEE 802.3at, up to maximum output of 256W or 540W
  • Operating temperature range -4 to +122F [-20 to +50C]
  • Remote managed system with browser interface
  • Remote PoE shutdown per port or all ports simultaneously
  • Plug and play installation
  • Port status LED for easy diagnostics
  • Over-temperature, overvoltage, overcurrent and short circuit protection
  • Illuminated master power switch with circuit breaker
  • 1U 19" rackmount or wall mount (with bracket included)
  • Accepts AC or DC input power
  • MagnaCare® Lifetime Replacement No Fault Warranty

Securitron EcoPower is a highly efficient power supply designed to work with low-power access control devices. Using a patent-pending method, EcoPower reduces power supply standby power consumption to only 8.5mW (0.0085W), a 99 percent decrease compared to current linear and switching power supplies.

Similar to how a plug-in hybrid car operates, EcoPower utilizes its battery to power the door’s low-power electrified lock; it only draws energy from the wall to charge the battery as needed, less than once a day. EcoPower is GreenCircle Certified to reduce total door power consumption by 99% from 20W or more to a phenomenal 0.3W, when used with a lower power lock such as EcoFlex TM electrified mortise lock from Corbin Russwin and Sargent. EcoPower is so efficient; it uses less energy while powering a lock than current access control power supplies consume without any locking device connected at all.

Features include:

  • Low power consumption, only 8.5mW standby power consumption with a 115V input
  • Included battery provides up to 26 hours of backup
  • Universal input voltage capabilities (100-240VAC)
  • Aesthetic design allows for convenient installation near the lock
  • Reduced low current wire runs and wire run length provides additional cost savings
  • Fire alarm and access control input dry contact (NO or NC)
  • Supports fail-safe and fail-secure lock configurations
  • LED troubleshooting
  • Built in battery end-of-life notification system
  • MagnaCare® Lifetime Replacement No Fault Warranty

The Securitron AccuPower® AQD6 power supply provides 6 Amps of field selectable 12 or 24 volt output. The AQD6 was designed to power even the most sensitive of DC powered access control devices and sensors. Its dedicated battery charging circuit provides for tight control of the 24 volt output while still charging the batteries with 27 volts.

Expand the capabilities of your AQD6 with Securitron’s distribution board options. Offering up to 16 Class 2 power limited outputs with a variety of relay configurations, the AQD6 can be configured to meet all of your access control power needs.

Its 90 percent 90% efficiency means more than just environmentally friendly. It also means lower operating costs through less energy consumption. The AQD6 can save you $70 per year or more when compared to older power supply technologies. Its low heat loss (15W) also means a lower air conditioning load when it is installed in a server room or other air conditioned space. It is also UL 294 6th edition listed.

Most power supplies that have a battery charger produce 27 volts on the output to facilitate battery charging. The dedicated battery charging circuit on the AQD6 allows the power supply to send 27 volts to the batteries while capping the power to the locking devices at 25.5 volts, thus reducing the possibility of overvoltage on your locking devices.

More Info: www.securitron.com

About the Author

Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary is a security consultant, trainer and technician who has also been writing articles on all areas of locksmithing & physical security for many years.