Running Wires

Dec. 3, 2010
Even in this wireless world, locksmiths must run wire for access control installations. This guide to wiring and tools helps select and install the right product.
It might be a wireless world, but today’s locksmith still runs a lot of wire. Wiring is needed for video systems, electronic access control, intercoms, alarm systems and IP-based video and access control.

Aren’t wireless alternatives to these wired products available? And the answer is: if course there are wireless alternatives for many of these systems, but not all. And the additional expense of the wireless counterpart may not offset the perceived savings on wire and labor.

Standalone access control is not a one-size-fits- all solution for every installation. We do not go to a prospective client’s premises with the any preconceptions except that we will be closing a sale. We specify what will best serve the client’s needs.

For example, if a client wants a door control system, choices include maglock, motion and REX. If a client wants a delayed egress system, again this must be wired. Even a wireless alarm system requires at minimum, wiring to a wall mount transformer for power, and a wiring to a telephone (or DSL) jack.

So the conversation is not so much whether to wire it or not but rather to refine the conversation to what type of wire to use and how best to install it.

Types Of Wire

Plenum Rated: Plenum is the open space found above a building’s dropped ceilings, and it is often used for air circulation in heating and air conditioning systems.

Plenum spaces are often used to run wiring. Article 800 of the National Electric Code (NEC) says cable used in plenum spaces must be Plenum-rated.

Cable which is to be run between floors in non-plenum areas is rated as riser cable. The fire requirements on riser cable are not as strict. Plenum cable can always replace riser cable, but riser cable cannot replace plenum cable in plenum spaces.

Article 800 of the National Electrical Code (NEC) states that plenum cables must comply with the specifications for flammability and smoke density outlined in Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) testing methods.

Plenum-rated cables are distinguished from other types of cabling by the special types of plastics used in their jackets which are flame-retardant, low smoke materials such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), fluorinated ethylene polymer (FEP), or a polyolefin. These plastics offer good resistance against fire, and in the event that they do begin to burn, they will not emit large quantities of harmful fumes.

Consider that damaged ductwork in a dropped ceiling can result in the space above the tiles will inadvertently become a plenum, and will therefore serve as a conduit for toxic fumes from burning wire in a fire.

So for highest fire safety it is best to assume all drop-ceiling airspaces are plenums, whether or not they are officially designated as one.

Non-Plenum Rated generally describes cabling designed for interior use.

Direct Burial: Direct burial cable is designed to be run in a trench underground without the use of conduit to surround it. The electrical wires are encased in a thermoplastic sheath that seals out moisture and protects the wires within.

Solid Conductor: Wire is a single conductor, as opposed to stranded.

Stranded: Many strands are wrapped together to form a conductor. Because solid wire is more rigid and is likely to fatigue and break if bent stretched or flexed, solid wire is avoided in most low voltage work.

Shielded: Cable has a metallic cover wrapped around the inner conductors but within the outer protective jacket. In some situations the shield is incorporated as one of the conductors but in others, it is attached to a system or earth ground and is used to protect the inner cables from radiated electrical noised from adjacent wring and machinery in the structure.

UTP: Refers to unshielded copper wires that are twisted around each other to decrease crosstalk or electromagnetic induction. The twist in UTP helps to reduce crosstalk interference between wire pairs. Every signal on a twisted pair involves both the wires.
The term UTP often refers to an alternative means of transmitting video surveillance camera signals.

Cat 5: Twisted pairs are often bundled together as four pairs within one outer cover and used in networking. This family of cable is referred to as Category 5 cable.
Currently Cat 5e is the most often used version of Cat 5 cable, with Cat 6, which has a higher performance specification, also frequently used.

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting the Category cable for your projects.
Although Category 6 is rated for Gigabit network speeds, unless every component in system is gigabit rated, you are not going to achieve that level of performance and the extra expense for the Category 6 cable is a waste of money, and perhaps misleading to the customer. At this time, Category 6 cable costs more than Category 5e, but Category 5e does not cost significantly more than Category 5.

With Category 6 cable, the maximum speed of the network is throttled down by the slowest component in the network, making the investment not justifiable.

However because of the minor cost differentials between Category 5 & 5e, the use of Category 5e can be justified as it provides the best possible topological environment for the data, and the smartest cost/benefit ratio to the dealer and end/user.

CAT 5e cable provides a significant performance enhancement over Category 5 with respect to crosstalk (electrical interference when one wire’s signal effects another wire’s signal).

Bandwidth is the information-carrying capacity of a system. The greater the bandwidth, the greater the information-carrying capacity is in a given period of time. CAT 5e cable is rated at 350 megahertz. This increased bandwidth (compared to CAT 5 cable) allows it to support Gigabit Ethernet.

COAX: Short for coaxial cable, this is an inner conductor enclosed in a outer shield, and all covered by a protective outer cover. The physical construction of coaxial cable is designed for higher frequency data such as video signal transmission, connecting surveillance cameras to DVRs. Coaxial cable is usually RG59 or RG-6.

Where & Why Wire Is Used

Power: Operating equipment frequently will require power. Locks and cameras which cannot be operated with self-contained (batteries) or alternative (solar) power need wiring to bring in the juice.

Power wiring used for locks and security range from a pair of #22 gauge to a pair of #14 for some heavy duty locking devices. The gauge of the wire is determined by the power required by the particular device, the required operating voltage, and the length of the cable between the power source and the device being powered.

The parameter which will vary and which needs to be calculated when selecting wire gauge is Voltage Drop. The correct wire gauge is determined by the calculations which identify the correct gauge to deliver the required voltage to the device. Voltage Drop calculators are available for use for free on-line.

Data: Refers to information such as that sent by a card reader, or a digital device. Generally the data is in serial streams. Weigand is a typical format used with card readers and keypads in access control.

Control: Wiring sends on and off signals, usually but not always by switching a voltage on or off. If it switches on and off very rapidly, it graduates to being referred to as data. Again, conductor diameter and wire length must be calculated to ensure proper operation of your device. Other examples of signals are DPS (Door Position Sensors) and REX (Request To Exit) controls.

Image: Video signal is typically analog and sent over coax. If it is digitized (the output of an IP camera, for example), it is referred to as video data.

Installation of wiring is considered by many as much an art as a skill. Snaking cable is the term used to refer to concealing wire and getting through tight places such as in door frames an inside walls. This takes experience and in many situations specialized tools and hardware components.

Fluke Networks

Fluke Networks TS90 works on virtually any two-or-more conductor cables. With the patented SmartTone analog tone generator that generates five different tones, identifying a specific pair is quick, even in proximity to current-bearing cable. SmartTone capability identifies the exact pair by changing the tone at the far end of the cable when the correct pair is shorted.
The bright large LED screen and simple menu is easy to read, even in low light conditions. When clipping on to an unidentified pair at a job site, with voltage up to 250V AC, the unit will immediately sound an alarm.


Altronix Hubway

The Altronix HubWay16Di Passive UTP Transceiver Hub w/Integral Isolated Camera Power transmits UTP video, RS422/RS485 data and power over a single CAT-5 or higher structured cable. The unit provides 16 camera channels in a space saving 1U EIA 19” rack mount chassis which may be rack, wall or shelf mounted. Video transmission range is up to 750 feet per channel. Units are compatible with AC and/or DC fixed or PTZ cameras when utilizing Altronix HubWayAv, HubWayDv or HubWayDvi Video Balun/Combiners.

In addition, the unit features individually selectable 24VAC or 28VAC fuse protected outputs with surge suppression. An optional HubSat4D Passive UTP Transceiver Hub with Integral Isolated Camera Power can be used as an accessory module to transmit video from up to 4 cameras over a single CAT-5 or higher structured cable back to the HubWay16Di. In addition, the HubSat4D provides power to these cameras locally to eliminate the possibility of voltage drop associated with long cable runs.


Labor Saving Devices

Labor Saving Devices (LSD) offers specialty devices designed to help you work miracles when wiring those impossible jobs. LSD’s Base-Boar-Zit® - Baseboard Drill Bit was developed to create a curved hole from just below carpet line up into the center of the floor plate in the wall cavity, therefore avoiding removing the base board and chiseling out a path through the wall and the wood floor plate.

This tool provides a clean, professional installation when you need to route wire or cable from the floor level up into the wall. It is ideal for slab construction, concrete floors or under-carpet wire applications.

The sturdy powder coated steel frame directs the specialized cable shaft paddle bit up along an arc into the wall cavity so that you prevent drilling through the opposite wall surface.
The Base-Boar-Zit is available in two sizes: the standard 5/16” size and the larger 7/16” size to accommodate coax. Each size is shipped as a kit that includes the cable bit with frame, a 10ft. thin fish wire in storage case (to fish your wire or cable through the curved hole) and hex wrench.

The ReBore-Zit drill bit is designed to enlarge a previously drilled hole while retaining the existing wire in that hole.

The bit is fabricated with a custom made, hollow bodied drill bit containing a free spinning, swivel eyelet mounted to its pilot hole center shaft.

It is available in 3/8”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1” (final size of re-drilled hole) diameters. Each diameter has an associated pilot hole size.