Cheat sheet for Ademco Vista 20-P installation

Fellow Do-it-yourself Home Security System Installers, I purchased an Ademco Vista 20-P system a few months ago. After much reading and web research I was able to program the panel to my liking. In doing so I found that the Ademco installation manual, while containing everything needed to set up the system, was lacking a high level overview of alarm setup (i.e. a cheat sheet). Anyway, after getting my system set up I decided to make a few notes so that next time I need to change something I won't have to spend a lot of time searching through the Ademco manual. Below is a version of the cheat sheet that I created. Hopefully it will save other do-it-yourself alarm installers time in setting up a new Vista system. I apologize in advance if there are errors or if my notes are not clear.



Ademco Vista 20P Programming Cheatsheet Jim L.

17 February 2008

Primary reference: Ademco Vista-20P/PS Series Installation and Set-up Guide

General notes/comments:

  1. There are nearly 200 registers that affect the behavior of the panel. I found it necessary to change just a few of these from their default values. I.e. the defaults seem very well thought out.

  1. Nearly all documentation needed for this and other Ademco products is available online, and for free, at the following web site:
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  1. A number of excellent technical "how to" articles are available online at the following web site:
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  2. A nice, high level overview of Vista 20P setup is available as follows:
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  3. Unless you have one of the (very few) modems capable of communicating with the panel, don't waste your time trying to use the Compass downloader software. It's really not needed for a typical home installation. However, if you have a compatible modem and want to use the Compass software it can be downloaded for free from the following web site:
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  4. Useful internet groups dealing with home security systems include:
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  5. Zone 1 MUST have an EOL (end of line) resistor installed. For other zones the resistor is optional. Hence, zone 1 is a natural one to use for smoke alarms.


- Make sure to buy at least one alphanumeric keypad (for programming the system)

- I recommend the 6160RF keypad as it is alphanumeric AND it provides wireless capability without having to add wireless modules to the panel.

- Keypads must have unique addresses (settable via keypad dip switches)

- The first keypad of partition 1 must be assigned address 16

- Keypad attributes are defined via registers 190-196

- You can program the panel such that alarms are identified (on alpha keypads) with alphanumeric names instead of numbers. See "Setting zone attributes"

Register values (See "Mechanics of Programming on page 3-5"):

- Enter programming mode by keying in your installer code (default =

4112) plus 800 (e.g. 4112800)

- Use the pound (#) key to examine register values (e.g. #21)

- Use the asterisk (*) key to change register values (e.g. *21)

- In some cases you can clear register contents using

*Register_number*. For example, to clear register 21 enter *21*

- Exit programming mode by entering *99

- WARNING: Entering *97 will reset the entire panel to the default state (i.e. you'll lose any programming you've done)!

Specifying user codes (Section 12 of manual): - User 01 is the Installer user. I suggest leaving this set to the default value (4112). This is NOT a security problem in that this code can NOT be used to disarm the panel provided a different user code was used to arm the panel. - User 02 is the Master user. This code should be different from standard user codes. - User 03 is the Partition 1 Master code (I set = Master code for my single partition setup) - User 33 is the Partition 2 Master code (I set = Master code for my single partition setup) - Use codes 04, 05, ..., 32 for Partition 1 standard users Specific commands: - Add user code: Master code + 8 + 2-digit user number + user's code - Delete user code: Master code + 8 + 2-digit user number + #0 - Assign user attributes: Master code + 8 + 2-digit user number + #[attribute number] + value User attributes: - For typical user numbers (e.g. 04, 05, 06, etc.) I set the attributes as follows: Authority level = 0 Access group = 0 Active partition = 1 RF Zone No. (see manual page 12-1) Open/Close Paging = 0

Setting zone attributes (Section 5 of manual) - Enter *56 to enter zone programming mode

Alpha Descriptor Programming (Section 9 of manual) - Alpha descriptors can be assigned so that zone faults show (on alpha keypads) with English language descriptions instead of numeric codes. Below are some examples: Smoke alarm = 176 + 002 Inside front door = 101 + 085 + 057 Outside front door = 140 + 085 + 057 Basement door = 016 + 057 Inside back door = 101 + 013 + 057 Outside back door = 140 + 013 + 057

Wireless keyfobs (Pages 5-6 and 5-7 of manual): - Each keyfob takes up FOUR wireless zones - I disable two of the four zones, leaving only "alarm on" and "alarm off" enabled (note that FOUR zones are still taken up with this approach, two of which are not used.)

Telephone dialer: - I don't have a dialer (see next few comments) - If dialer not installed, make sure that a callback number is NOT assigned otherwise the panel will attempt to call when an alarm occurs and the call will fail causing the keypad to display a "Comm failure" message (alpha keypad) or an "FC" message (numeric keypad). - To prevent the "Comm failure" message make sure to clear registers 41, 42, 94, and 92. (See

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Clearing alarms:

- To turn off an alarm enter: User code + OFF (keypad "1")

- If an alarm occurs and is not cleared at the time it happens (i.e. you are away from home when it happens) the keypad will display a message indicating which zone it happened on, etc. To clear this information enter: User code + OFF twice. The first entry disarms the system. The second entry clears the message.

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Looks pretty good, except for a couple of minor errors.

  1. There are no dip switches on a 6160RF keypad.

  1. If you are using Zone 1 as a fire zone, then all other zones "may" have to be set to EOL circuit also, and it's best to use EOL on all circuits anyway.

  2. There is no requirement for the first keypad to be set to address 16 on partition 1, I personally don't set any keypad to address 16 at all.

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Could you clarify statement 2 below, the "may" part?


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