Comparison of Door Access Control Systems

IP Access Control System

Remember when door readers were connected to the central control panel and how difficult it was to run all the connections?

Oh wait, people are still doing that.  The new IP connected readers have been available for a number of years and it’s surprising that they haven’t made more of an impact in the market.  I talked to a number of people about this and the conclusion is that security dealers like to do what they know and find it difficult to work with computers and networks.

Are the IP door readers actually better, or as some people say, too expensive?

In this article, we reviewed the cost of the two technologies for an 8 door system.

System that Uses the Classic Central Panel Type Access Control

There are a number of manufacturers that sell this technology. In general, there are one or more door readers that connect to a central control panel. There could be one or more controllers in the system depending on the number of door readers. Usually, readers use the Wiegand protocol for communication. The cable also includes power and a number of door control signals such as Request to Exit and Door contact sensors

Classic Door Control System
Classic Door Control System

Here is an estimate of an 8 door control system.

Equipment Cost

Equipment cost includes the readers and the central box with power supply.

Each door requires a door controller and a prox card reader.

8 – Door controllers = $500 x 8 = $4,000

8 – Prox readers = 195 x 8 = $1560

The central control box and power supply are required:

1- Site Controller        $570

1- Software                $775   (This can be a lot higher depending on the company)

1- Power supply          $495


Traditional 18-2 or composite wiring from the panel to the reader can range from $0.90 to $1.30 per foot.  Assuming the 6 readers average 50 feet from the panel at minimum, wiring cost will be $270

Installation Labor Cost

Installation is a variable because it depends on the prep work for mounting panel enclosure, distance from the central box, the type of walls and ceilings, and other physical considerations in the building. It goes without saying that multi-building installation adds to the complexity. We used the labor costs at one installation which required about 5 days at about $1000 per day = $5000

Total cost for the system is $12,670

System That Uses IP Door Readers

The new IP door control readers are actually more than just readers, they also include all the intelligence that was in the central door panels.  The readers connect directly to the network and use PoE for power. Technology continues to make these readers smaller and smarter. The latest readers from Isonas are small enough to fit on the door mullion and can read the classic RFID cards as well as the latest Smart cards.  Since all the smarts are in the reader, you can start with just a single reader and grow incrementally.  There is no initial expensive panel to purchase when you just need a single door reader.

System That Uses IP Door Readers
System That Uses IP Door Readers

There are a number of other great advantages when using this type of system.  Not only do these readers get their power from the network, they also can provide power to the lock.  Now you don’t need to run separate power to each door.  Each reader holds the complete database of people enrolled in the system, so even if the computer fails or is not available, the doors are still safely controlled. For more about this type of system take a look at our web page about network-attached door control systems.

Here are the details about the cost of this type of system:

Equipment cost

Door access control reader-controller $700 x 8 = $5,600

Software is free

8 port network switch with PoE support = $200

Total equipment is $4900


Cat 5/6 wiring from the network switch to the reader-controller is about 0.30 per foot.  Assuming the 6 doors average 50 feet from the network switch the wiring cost will be $90.00

Installation Labor Cost

Labor cost is again somewhat variable but since there are fewer devices to configure and install at the door, physical installation is simplified. As for electrical work, since wiring of the reader-controller to the door strike is contained at the door and PoE supplies power to the lock, we have cut out the need for wiring back to one central point. Thus labor costs are much less.  Typically an install requires ½ the time and resources to install so 3 days at $1000 per day is $3000 for labor.

The total system cost is then $8,890.

Summary and Conclusion

Classic System that Uses Central Panels

Pros: The classic system has been around for many years so there are many experienced licensed electricians available.

Cons: Usually more expensive. Not as flexible.  You need the control panel even if you are only controlling one door.

New IP Reader System

Pros: The IP access control system costs less than the older panel type systems. It can be self-installation. Many organizations have an IT staff that can run the network wire, so they have no problem connecting to the same RJ45 connections that are used by computers.   The readers can be installed in more than one building, so if you have a campus that is connected by your Ethernet network, you can install and control the access control system from one computer location.

Cons: Since the new IP door control systems use computer networks, a new breed of installers with network and computer expertise is required. There are fewer dealers who can install these systems.  You may need help with the installation of the electric lock.  In this case, you can bring in locksmiths who are familiar with these types of locks.  The locksmith installs the electric lock and wires to the pigtail of the reader.


The new IP door control system is less expensive and provides greater functionality than the older central panel systems.  You may need to search a little harder to find a security dealer that can install your system, but the new IP door systems are worth it.  We can actually help you find the right person in your area.  These systems can easily be integrated with IP camera systems and IP intercoms to create a complete safety and security system.

If you would like help finding an installer in your area, or help selecting the components for your door access control system, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 914-944-3425 or use our contact form.