Re: Common House Information
From: Sharon Villines (sharonsharonvillines.com)
Date: Mon, 5 Apr 2021 10:07:53 -0700 (PDT)
I received a question off-list about our entry system and I thought more people 
would like to see this because it isn’t a topic that most of us have experience 
with until we move into cohousing (and join the facilities team). What we have 
is:

AEGIS 7000 Series
http://www.pach-co.com/products/aegis%20series/aegis7000/aegis7000%20manual.pdf

It is about 10 years old now so there are probably updated ones now. I did the 
replacement when our first system was hit by lightning so I remember the 
research and the problems. Advice based on our experience:

1. Find a security / locksmith person who is dependable and recommends a good 
quality product. Larger cohousing communities are semi-commercial and things 
wear out. We have 60+ adults and several teens who use the entry system and 
some of them several times a day. We use our locksmith much more often than you 
would think based on your own personal experience. But they recommended an 
entry system that we thought was too expensive. We should have stayed with 
them. We used another service that was recommended to us but had to have the 
installer come back and install other features or correct settings several 
times, and he refused to do even the first programming because “it takes too 
long.” We had to have things like a heater installed as an addon — not revealed 
when researching systems. Part of the entry system couldn’t be installed 
outside and had to go inside. We found a place for it inside but no everyone 
would be able to do that. (Sorry, I’ve forgotten what it does.

2. Compatibility with other devices. We have keypads on our fire stairs and the 
CH back door that are not compatible with the main entry system. They have to 
have different codes—not a big issue but frustrating to explain to service 
providers. Entry has an * first but others have the * last.

3. Pay attention to things like grounding for lightning strikes, moisture 
barriers if it is outside, a heater for cold weather outside or in a foyer, 
compatibility with other keypads. Not all entry systems are designed for 
outdoor use. Our first system stopped working from shorts, moisture, or cold, 
someone had to reprogram the whole system or no one could get in using a code.  
In misty weather, particularly for more than a few hours (big problem in DC), 
our first entry system just didn’t work — the buttons wouldn’t fire. Now that 
most people have cell phones they can call someone to get buzzed in or have 
them come to open the door but still, it’s an issue at 4 in the morning or in 
the afternoon when no one whose phone number you have in your phone is home. We 
all have an outdoor key but since it isn’t often needed not everyone carries it 
around.

4. Check that there is something firm under the buttons—this is where a good 
locksmith is important because they will know the  history of everything they 
recommend. Our buttons are wearing out. Some numbers can’t be used because they 
were used too much and are weak. I think 7 must have been in every code we’ve 
used for 10 years. Not  a major issue but an indication that the others may go 
before we actually need a new system.

5. Pay attention to the programming procedure. (I should have put this first.) 
Be sure there is battery back up or direct wiring so all the codes aren’t wiped 
out when the electricity goes out — even for 3 seconds. Reprogramming 43 codes 
is time consuming and not something you want to do on an emergency basis. Ours 
has 11 things to remember when programing each code—not 11 steps to 
reprogram—but the list includes things not to do and things that look wrong but 
are necessary and serve a purpose. It needs reprogramming when people change 
phone numbers — new phones or new residents — and if it is some time since 
someone did it, they have to relearn the instructions. We have a wiki now but 
even finding the instructions when the last person who used them had moved or 
was unavailable.

6. Check illumination if you don’t have it installed under or near a light. 
Check the readability of the screen under various conditions. Does it fog over? 
Some are not legible in the sun. Non-residents are dependent on reading the 
screen messages.

7. Have a dedicated phone line. We tried using one phone line for both the 
entry and for the CH which is rarely used now that almost everyone has cell 
phones. It still didn’t work. There were still too many times when someone used 
the CH phone and talked a long time. Then the entry didn’t work.

8. Don’t get more functionality that you need. Each step of complexity breeds 
more complexity down the line. We started out with a complex system that linked 
to the ground line in each unit. Each unit had their own code, plus codes for 
the mail carrier, pest control, etc. We could track who was using those codes. 
Except that the software either didn’t work or no one understood it. It was a 
true intercom system with a huge dashboard in the basement with a lot of wires. 
Every time a new landline was installed or changed, the telephone installer 
would mess up the whole system while connecting and reconnecting wires. 
Programming was so tedious that we stopped changing codes. We now have one code 
for residents and another one for vendors and guests. Two codes so we could 
change the guest code often. But someone had to remember to tell all those 
vendors and guests about the change and no one could remember or was home to 
tell everyone. We still have a guest code but don’t change it often. We haven’t 
needed the feature of tracking who was using a code.


These sound like little things but getting it close  to right means less daily 
irritation. In our situation half of us are dependent on the entry system to 
get home, and the rest have to use it to check mail or enter the CH. During the 
pandemic we receive several food deliveries each week, even on some days. Since 
we are an urban community the doors are always locked except on workdays and 
during cookouts when there are lots of people round.

Sharon
----
Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
http://www.takomavillage.org




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