The Security System Goes In

This past Friday we finally got an alarm system in, but it’s not complete, so we’re still staying there. The security sub contractor will be back on Wednesday – at that point we’ll have break/shock/open sensors on all accessible windows and doors. There are also motion detectors in strategic locations. And we’re putting sirens inside and out. I want to wake up the neighbors if we’re getting robbed 😉 On top of all that we’re putting redundant smoke detectors in that are tied into the security monitoring company – so they know if a fire is happening in the house, and there will be a flood sensor in the cellar in case the sewer backs up.

The shock sensors are sorta cool. If someone even bangs into the window the alarm will go off – they don’t have to break the window. Given that we have “smash proof” glass on many of our accessible windows – that works well. And one shock sensor can cover a bunch of windows. Apparently it even senses shocks elsewhere in the house – say if you drop a glass and break it.

There’s also security cameras all over the house. Four are in already and when we’re done there will be a total of seven cameras – three on the front, two on the back and two on the roof. They’re infrared / see-in-the-dark cameras. Here’s a shot of the monitor screen taken after dark…

security camera monitorYou can see a lot more detail when you stand next to the monitor – the picture doesn’t do it justice. But what you see there is that the cameras go into infrared mode at dark – the grayscale images. The back yard has so much light from the lights on the building next door that it stays in daytime/color mode. It’s sorta amazing how much detail you can see even at night – the infrared really works well.

It’s a DVR system, so the other night the outside motion sensor went off and I was able to go to the monitoring system and look at what was going on just before the alarm went off. Turns out a rat got into the garbage and the movement of the rat set off the alarm. It was sorta funny – the infrared camera picked up his beady little eyes…

The other cool thing is that we can see the cameras using an app on our iPhones and iPads. So when Dan is there at night he brings up the app on his iPad and when a motion sensor goes off, the first thing he does is start up his iPad and see what’s going on – but we can do that when we’re away from the house as well. We can also share access to the cameras with neighbors and even NYPD (if they want to see what’s going on).

The one sorta stupid thing about the security system is how it communicates to the monitoring company – it requires a phone call. We have Internet access in the house now, but Honeywell hasn’t come up with an Internet-based protocol for security systems, which is completely lame – it’s 2011 already – everything else is Internet-based. So I figured I’d get another Vonage box – but no – that’s not sufficient – the Vonage signal isn’t strong enough. You either need to go with Verizon or Time Warner – that adds at least $30/mo to the cost. HOWEVER, there’s a cellular option you can choose – costs about $300 – and it has no (additional) monthly fee. So that’s what we’re going with. Unfortunately – two units = two cellular antennas – the units can’t share an antenna.

They say your house is your castle. I never really thought about it until now – but castles need defenses – and that’s where the security system comes into play. Since moving to NYC I’ve always lived in apartment buildings and never really gave too much thought to security. The robberies a few weeks ago changed that but the security system levels the playing field.

We Have Water! (and some sprinklers)

NYC street torn up for water main connectionBackhoe filling up a hole in the sidewalk

New water main connection

Today we stopped by the house and DEP was there, the street was blocked off and they were connecting us to the water main. The work was being done in a hole, so I couldn’t really get to see it happening – I could just hear welding going on. But right before we left the DEP guys came up and said “You now have water” – which was VERY good to hear.

Inside the house the pipe and the valve are pretty hardcore..

valve at water connection into brownstoneCompare that to what it looked like when we bought the place – much smaller and just a galvanized pipe (I assume now they’re using black pipe)…

old water main line into Harlem townhouse

Notice also the corroded, cracking gas pipe coming in at the top there – it’s a bit scary – lucky it was completely inactive.

So now there’s all these sprinkler control valves that get connected to main valve. They also need to put in the water meters. Apparently that’s a hot potato no one wants to be responsible for. The water main sub contractor is saying the plumber should pull the permit for it. The plumber is saying the water main sub contractor should do it. If it were easy it would be no big deal and either one would be OK with doing it, but as we’ve seen over and over – the biggest problem with renovation in this city is the city bureaucracy.


They’re also fleshing out the sprinkler system. A couple days ago the sprinkler supply risers were going in. Now they’re running pipe to the actual sprinkler head locations. When we went by they were done with the top two floors…

pipe for sprinklers installedLow voltage wiring

Low-voltage wiring

The low voltage / security guy also made a lot of progress. There is now lots of ethernet, cable TV, security, and even a little phone wiring in the building.

We’re getting a 6 camera security system. Three on the front of the house, two in the rear and one on the bulkhead/roof. We’ll be able to see any camera over the Internet with our iPhone – that’s sort of a cool feature that’s practical as well.


Finishing details on the stairs

There was also a guy in today doing welding on the stairs. There were a few finishing details to take care of, and they still need to do railings – but that will come a little later.

Continued work on the stoop

The masonry guy is continuing to work on the stoop. The under side of the stoop is looking pretty good and the opening for the grille is all cleaned up.

The fireplace surround

Dan’s been trying to figure out the fireplace surround. We’d like to do something nice, but don’t want it to be an upgrade / change order. I thought venetian plaster might be nice and not too expensive (since our contractor is really good with plaster work), but the foreman was pushing us to clad it in stone. Hopefully we can find a stone we like that’s not too expensive.


The next order of business is to get ConEd to connect the gas and electric. We need electric pretty desperately since we’ve been running on generators for months now. But with 170,000 customers without power ConEd has been busy with other things lately. Hopefully we can get them in soon.