GE Simon XT wireless security system

I purchased a custom Simon XT system for my mom & dad – so I had it shipped to me, programmed it and then gave it to them as a gift. I have a GE Concord 4 system with a combination of wired and wireless sensors, and this XT is nearly functionally identical, especially mow that they have added cellular and X-10 options.

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I’m not going to go into detail about this system, because there is already plenty of info out there. Instead, I’m going to focus on what I think are some common criticisms of this type of system, and why I don’t think they are entirely valid.

To address the two most common complaints – ease/difficulty of programming and “defeatability”: the included instructions are not difficult, but they are incomplete for some installations; you need to search and download the installers “installation manual” in addition to the included installation “guide”. Several on-line retailers have the manual on their websites. Nonetheless, programming is lengthy and cumbersome, but not difficult unless you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed (an increasing common condition in our society).

Concerning “defeatability” – by destroying or damaging the control panel – this isn’t an issue if you do a smart system design with an external siren (indoor, but separate from the panel – a $15 item) – after all, that’s why the system specifically includes an external siren output. The siren can be mounted a very long way away (hardwired) and the panel siren disabled – so any burglar wouldn’t even know where the panel is. Piezo alarms bounce off the walls and are actually hard to pinpoint quickly – especially for panicked burglars who usually scram the second an alarm sounds. And if they find the exterior siren and disable it, it doesn’t affect the panel, which is now dialing you or the cops. Plus, you can add a 2nd wireless keypad panel (like near the main entrance), with this panel siren enabled, and with the main panel in, say, your bedroom – so you can easily see what’s going on if it goes off in the middle of the night, while being able to easily disarm the system with the 2nd keypad when you enter your home/apt. Plus, the mythical courageous burglar could smash the 2nd keypad, realize it didn’t affect the system (exterior siren and main panel are still fully active) and then go in search of the exterior siren while the main panel in your bedroom/closet/hidden place calls the cops. Duh. Meanwhile, up to 40 other wireless sensor are watching for smoke, fire, water leaks, glass breaks, carbon monoxide, freezing temps, etc.

If you don’t want to pay for a monitoring service, you can just enable the panel to call your cell phone or neighbor or whatever. But all this is meaningless, because with millions of houses and apartments to choose from, burglars don’t mess with those that display security system signs, then start making noise when they are dumb enough to break in. It just doesn’t happen.

But all this does raise the point that you’re going to end up spend a lot of cash for a full system – more than just a basic system cost. You can pretty much triple the cost of the basic system, plus a lot more if you add cellular capability. But it’s still a great deal. Our central panel system costs thousands. After working with the Simon XT, I would recommend it for anyone doesn’t have a basement for a main panel, doesn’t want to run a lot of wires, needs a minimal system, or just doesn’t want to drop a load of cash.

Frigidaire Professional appliances

Somewhere between insanely expensive Wolf and Sub Zero commercial-grade appliances and the shoot-me-now GE Profile stainless-faced run of the mill appliances, there are non-commercial grade appliances with lots of serious improvements in design and materials. One that I researched and discovered is Frigidaire’s Professional line. Don’t be fooled, though, these are no where near professional-grade – many of their parts are shared with their more popular Gallery line (making repairs less expensive).

But the Professional series does provide a lot of meaningful upgrades. The first thing you’ll notice is lots more stainless steel throughout the appliance – not just the front surface. one of the things that really bugged me about a lots of stainless appliances was the mélange of stainless sheet metal with black enameled surfaces, plastic hardware and faux metal trim. We found a Lowes-exclusive LPGF3091KS combination gas/electric oven to be a great bargain at about $1100.

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It features a full stainless top (including under the burners) heavy cast iron burner grills, a gas cook top with some serious BTU’s, a warming drawer and a combination gas-electric convection oven that runs off standard 120V electrical. Most convection ovens will require a 220V outlet to handle the current draw (remember V = i R), which is a major renovation expense if you don’ already have a 220V outlet. This stove instead uses gas as the main heating element with a single, circular 120V convection element with a fan – this is the best of both worlds. It also has a very nice gas broiler element. It’s also a standard 30″ width, so you don’t have to redesign your kitchen for a 36″ stove.

We recently added a GE Gallery side-by-side, counter-depth refrigerator (LGHC2342LF) that matches the Professional range pretty closely, but not exactly. Since these appliances are not side-by-side, you’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference. The main reason stainless finishes don’t all match is because of protective finishes that manufacturers use – especially on refrigerators. These coatings generally darken the finish slightly.

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So far, we’re extremely happy with the Gallery refrigerator, too. Going with a counter-depth model does reduce the total volume, but not as much as we expected. The height of this refrigerator was slightly higher than our old one, so this likely makes up partially for the difference.

Unfortunately, the GE dishwashers universally receive poor reviews – so we’ll be shopping within a different brand for that.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to buy a “matching set” of appliances from a single model line. Doing this, you’ll certainly end up with one, possibly two, poor-quality appliance. It takes a little extra work to shop around to find quality appliance that look good together, and you’ll definitely pay more up front – but it’s a case of pay now, or pay later.