Tech Tips: The Importance of Wiring

Feb. 4, 2019

The state of the art on Security Technology requires the locksmith be familiar with multiple technologies. For many decades, locksmithing primarily concerned itself with locks and keys, although most lockshops and locksmiths I’ve known had transitioned into locksmithing or broadened their activities reflecting their interests former military training, family traditions, or requests made by potential clients. Gunsmithing, luggage, blacksmithing, and general hardware are a few that come to mind.

But during the 1960s, electronics began to play a role in security, and although many locksmiths stuck to their traditional crafts, many began to offer products and services that involved wiring.

In one situation where I subcontracted, the locksmithing team was divided into the guys who worked only on mechanical and the ones who would take on products which involved electronics and wiring.

The larger your organization and the how prosperous your business was helped to determine the level of departmentalization in your company. Small one man shops, you did it all. Larger shops you had the “specialists.”

I always though growth and diversification was the best policy for success.

Every one’s entry point into this trade is unique, and who is to judge who is right or wrong?

Alarm systems used wiring:

  • to connect sensors to the control panel
  • to connect the control panel to signaling devices
  • to connect the control panel to keypads
  • to connect the control panel to a power source
  • to connect the control panel to communications to the central station

Access control systems used wiring:

  • to connect the control to an input device (credential reader)
  • to connect the control panel to station controls (for example: REX controls)
  • to connect the control panel to locking devices (electric strike, electromagnetic lock)
  • to connect the control panel to operating power
  • to connect the control panel to a network or other controllers to form a multiple door system

Video surveillance used wiring:

  • to connect cameras to hubs or recorders
  • to connect cameras to power
  • to connect hubs or dvrs to CRT displays

Traditionally wire was used for all security infrastructure, and it was primarily low voltage. Everyone had to pull wire throughout residential, commercial and institutional structures for low voltage applications. Low voltage circuits are evaluated on the voltage level (typically under 50 Volts, and the current limiting characteristics of the system elements).

The uses of wire have changed drastically over the last few decades.

Hard wired connections and networks have been supplanted with WI-FI or RF in both residential and commercial systems.

Additionally the architecture of alarm systems, access controls and video surveillance cameras has evolved into self-contained, standalone wireless and wire-free components.

New terms have entered the vernacular such as:

Wireless (generally used to describe products that communicate wirelessly but still require a power source such as a receptacle or power supply)

Wirefree (generally used to describe products that have on board batteries and communicate wirelessly

Standalone (generally used to describes access controls which are battery powered and contain the lock, the electronic processor, and the input device (keypad or reader)

It is highly likely that sooner or later you will be required to wire up a wall transformer or make a connection to an electric locking device. Guidelines are generally included with the products, and tech support is available from your distributor and the product manufacturer. What follows are a few points I wanted to present, and some new products for you to consider.

Any additional questions or concerns? We love to hear from you and reply to your questions.

Wiring power to locks, station controls, and data communications: When you are surveying for your installation, the lengths of the wires, power sources and planned routing of the wiring should all be considered so you have the right materials ordered, estimate the time that will be required to install the wiring, and know the layout of the structure so the customer will be prepared for when you strike up the band and bring in the ladders and power tools.

Installations can be disruptive and create less than ideal conditions for the normal ambience to be maintained on the site, and you cannot assume your client knows this and will be OK with it unless you tell them in advance. You may need to schedule your work according to your client’s requirements and not just assume you will be welcomed with open arms whenever you decide you want to show up.

If there are other tradesmen involved, they too may not be sitting around waiting for your call so they can run over at your convenience.

It is best to be able to see the finish line before you begin, since “A Work In Progress” just exposes you to a plethora of unforeseen events to occur.

Voltage drop is defined as the amount of voltage loss that occurs in a circuit between the power supply and the load. The load is whatever is being powered, for example a camera, controller, or electric locking device.

Since voltage drop occurs because of the gauge and length of the wire used, there is always some voltage drop. Unless the voltage levels in the installation get low enough to prevent proper system operations, they are inconsequential

The wild cards in installations are the nominal input voltage, the power requirements of the locking device, and the amount of wire required to connect the lock power supply to the lock. Some basic algebra or computing will help you calculate potential problems so you can avoid them.

Be sure you know the specifications for your power supplies and locking devices, and perform the voltage drop calculations beforehand to be assured you have adequately sized wire for our job. Voltage drop calculators are readily available and you can always ask your distributor or manufacturer for technical support.

Wire types for conformance to building codes: PLENUM VS PVC

Riser cable (CMR) is a cable that is run between floors in non-plenum areas. The fire requirements on riser cable are not as strict as the requirements on Plenum cables (CMP).

A plenum cable can always replace riser cable, but riser cable cannot replace plenum cable in plenum spaces.

Twisted-pair, coaxial, HDMI and DVI versions of cable are made in plenum and riser versions.

Another detail to be aware of is the building codes which apply to your jobsite regarding whether plenum rated cabling is mandated by Code. You cannot simply see what’s already in the ceiling and use the same thing for your job, since building codes are constantly being revised, and you have no reason to assume the last installer knew what he was doing, (unless, of course, the last installer was you).

Plenum-rated cable gets its name from an HVAC term — plenum spaces. The plenum spaces are those that lie between a drop and standard ceiling (or a similar version in the floor space) and it is this section where the air in a building circulates, thus aiding in heating and cooling functions.

The riser cable gets his name from its function – it rises between the floors of a multi-story structure / building. A riser cable is the primary conduit of a building’s distribution system. It carries voice, data and video into the different spaces and levels of a building from the service entrance point.

When no conduit is used, plenum cable is often required since the cable is considered to be freely installed.

Plenum spaces allow fire and smoke to travel quickly. By using plenum-rated cable, the levels of toxicity in the smoke would be lower since plenum cable is coated with a jacket that is typically made of flame-resistant material such as Teflon. This special jacketing makes the cable smoke less than regular PVC cable and the smoke that is emitted is less toxic.

Non-plenum cable, which is otherwise known as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) cable, is the less expensive of the two choices. You are likely to see many projects stipulating non-plenum to save on costs, since, more often than not, the decision on the type of cable jacketing is made by the building owner or end user based upon their circumstances.

By contrast, most schools stipulate that plenum-rated cable be used, mainly due to insurance requirements.

Because plenum cable is considered to be less toxic, it is used in locations such as schools and hospitals.

Certain facilities with lower occupancies such as warehouses and distribution centers seem to lean toward non-plenum, mainly because of the structural setup.

State Regulations & Licensing

States with statewide electrician licensing requirements typically have an electrical or licensing board with the power to give examinations and issue licenses and to suspend and revoke licenses for cause. Some states have no statewide licensing requirements, leaving this matter entirely to local jurisdictions. Some states have reciprocity arrangements for contractor/electrician licensing with others that have the same or similar requirements.

Exceptions: Some states exempt certain types of work or classes of installations from electrical code, inspection, and/or licensing requirements.

For more information, visit:

EZ PATH® Series 22 Fire Rated Pathway

Specified Technologies Incorporated is an industry leader in developing innovative fire protection systems that help stop the spread of fire, smoke, and hot gases. For over 25 years, their team has worked hand in hand with the construction industry to create simple solutions to complex firestopping problems.

The EZ Path® Series 22 Fire Rated Pathway is designed for easy installation in walls. Tested and approved cable capacities range from 0 to 100% visual fill. EZ Path® Series 22 Fire Rated Pathway is designed for new cable installations. In these installations using the provided wall plates, the device does not require mechanical attachment to either the wall or the wall framing and may be installed after the wallboard has been installed. EZ Path® Series 22's split body design also allows the device to be easily disassembled and installed around previously installed cables in existing construction.

EZ Path® Series 22 Fire Rated Pathway provides exceptional cable capacity. A single unit installed in a wall has an equal cable carrying capacity of a 2” (50 mm) diam sleeve utilizing typical putty firestop systems (35% cable loading).

The EZ Path® Series 22 Fire Rated Pathway is a pathway device designed to allow cables to penetrate fire-rated walls without the need for firestopping. This device features a built-in fire sealing system that automatically adjusts to the amount of cables installed. Once installed in a fire barrier, cables can be easily added or removed at any time without the need to remove or reinstall firestopping materials.

The EZ Path® Series 22 Fire Rated Pathway consists of an enclosed heavy gauge galvanized steel pathway lined with intumescent material engineered for rapid expansion when exposed to fire or high temperatures, quickly sealing the pathway and preventing the passage of flames and smoke.

EZ Path® Series 22 Fire Rated Pathway is painted safety orange for easy identification. Its compact square profile allows a maximum number of cables to be installed in a relatively small area. The pathway measures approximately 1-1/2” x 1-1/2” (37mm) and is 10-1/2” (267 mm) long.

More Info:

Flir Saros

FLIR Saros is an advanced, all-in-one security solution designed to enhance perimeter and wide area protection. Saros features dual FLIR thermal sensors, a 1080p or 4K image sensor, IR and visible LED illuminators, and video analytics in one housing. Attractively priced, Saros enables commercial businesses to implement state-of-the-art, reliable outdoor intrusion detection for the first time.

Because of its affordability and its high-performing detection technologies, Saros opens the door to new business opportunities, revenue sources, and customer base expansion for security professionals in the alarm monitoring vertical.

Commercial customers have few outdoor security options. Traditional perimeter security systems can require substantial investment, both in initial deployment and ongoing costs from false alarms. Saros addresses these issues by reducing the amount of equipment required and using advanced analytics to reduce false alarms.

Saros utilizes four technologies to deliver accurate, actionable alerts – regardless of unfavorable lighting or weather conditions – and provides verified alarm data for police and first responders. The result is a shortened response time, saving companies from loss of equipment, merchandise, or interruptions in business.

More Info:

By implementing Saros, security professionals gain a solution that:

  • Delivers 24-hour monitoring
  • Reduces false alarms with accurate target detection and classification
  • Provides visual identification of intruders
  • Produces verified alarm clips for police dispatch
  • Enables real-time audio response
  • Integrates with leading central monitoring platforms and video management systems
  • Deters intruders with white light illumination
  • Delivers a return on investment in just a few months for high risk areas

Saros provides wide-area monitoring coverage, reducing the number of devices needed to safeguard a property. Easy to set up and mount, Saros installs quickly, minimizes infrastructure expenses, and increases deployment efficiency.

Saros provides reliable detection of intruders for applications where there is significant outdoor area and perimeter risk.

Some examples include:

• Auto Dealerships and Storage Facilities

• Power and Gas Utility Substations

• Bridges, Airports, and Critical Infrastructure Sites

• Construction Sites and Construction Supply Locations

• Farming and Agricultural Facilities

• Generators, HVAC Units, Storage Tanks, and Similar Exterior Equipment

• Sports / Recreation Fields, City Parks, Public Spaces

• Marinas and Boatyards

• Self-Storage / RV Storage Facilities

An onsite security guard covering only non-business hours typically costs $10,000 - $12,000 per month. The same site can be remotely monitored, with equal or better effectiveness, for under $1,000 per month.

Commercial customers who store valuable assets outside, such as storage yards, car dealerships, and construction sites, have few security options. Traditional perimeter systems are too expensive, while motion sensors, fence sensors and visible cameras all have limitations that result in numerous false alarms.

There is a key opportunity for an accurate, reliable intrusion detection solution optimized for large outdoor area protection that commercial customers can afford. This kind of solution would not only provide a new level of security to commercial businesses, but also open the door to new revenue opportunities for alarm dealers and central stations.

An onsite security guard covering only non-business hours typically costs $10,000 - $12,000 per month. The same site can be remotely monitored, with equal or better effectiveness, for under $1,000 per month.

Remote monitoring agencies can respond to alerts in real-time, dispatching police with verified alarms for maximum response time, saving customers from loss of merchandise, equipment, or interruptions in business.

For customers in high risk areas, return on investment can occur in as little as 3 months.

This kind of solution not only provides a new level of security to commercial businesses, but also open the door to new revenue opportunities for alarm dealers, integrators and locksmiths.

About the Author

Tim O'Leary

Tim O'Leary is a security consultant, trainer and technician who has also been writing articles on all areas of locksmithing & physical security for many years.