Wiring Basics

Feb. 3, 2020
Tools and techniques for access control installations

Security and low voltage technology has rapidly evolved in the last 50 or so years as wireless has gained favor. The technology has evolved to where the only situation where wire is required is for power transmission, and even that is transitioning.

Wherever possible, a wire is replaced by a battery, a wind turbine, or a solar panel.

The main advantage of a wireless network over a wired one is that users can move around freely within the area of the network with their laptops, handheld devices etc and get an internet connection. 

Users are also able to share files and other resources with other devices that are connected to the network without having to be cabled to a hub or router.

Not having to lay lots of cables and put them through walls etc. can be a considerable advantage in terms of time and expense. Wireless also makes it easier to add extra devices to the network, as no new cabling is needed.

Hooked On Wire

Cables are required for permanent operating power. Some applications allow for PoE,  but a data cable is a wire.

REX & CONTROL:  can be hardwired or RF (if battery powered transmitters and receivers are used). (Observe Life Safety Code requirements)

Card readers, smart phone interfaces, keypads, are typically wired (but there are RF versions available).

Power for electric locks will require wiring where the control panel is providing the operating power for the locking device. If the control panel is switching the lock and its associated power supply with a remote relay, RF can be used to actuate a remote relay, but the lock power supply will usually be hard-wired.

Power: Unless you are using an alternative power source located adjacent to your locks or control, wiring will be required.

The Life Safety Code requires elements of the system which directly control unlocking for required immediate egress in an emergency to be wired. In many access control systems, you will be running cable between the door location and the controller, so using wire dies not impose a significant amount of additional labor.

Wherever there is wireless, there is probably a battery, and the inherent maintenance required to replace them. Do you want to risk lives and your business by trusting a battery?

Where power to operate and the reliablility are required, wiring will be your alternative.

Where signals and data are involved, wireless may be possible. Where security against hacking is desired, wired is more secure.

Video Surveillance uses misleading terms.  Wireless means the video data is communicated wirelessly but a hard wired power source (AC transformer or DC power supply) is still required. Wirefree means the camera has a battery and the video data is sent wirelessly.

The battery imposes constraints on the duty cycle of the camera. Who wants to mount a camera knowing it is just a matter of time before it will need its battery replaced? Who wants to pay you to perform a service call to replace a battery? Who wants to explain to the client that the camera failed to record when their car was broken into or was stolen?

PoE power and data: In Ethernet environments, both data and power are sent through the Category cable, and there are certain limitations to the power and voltage levels possible, but PoE streamlines network technology and performance options.

Electricity & OHM’S  Law

When designing and troubleshooting circuits; Ohm’s Law is the golden rule.

By using Ohm’s Law , the three parameters of a circuit  (Voltage, Current and Resistance) can be calculated so you can ascertain that the power supplies, type of cabling used and the load characteristics  will match up to form a functional circuit.

Ohm’s Law uses algebra, but numerous Ohms Law calculator apps are available online.

Voltage Drop is another design issue which results in unacceptable system performance unless compensated for by the system designer. Voltage Drop calculators are also available online.


When working with voltages and switching/control circuits, a means of safely, reliably and accurately measure is a must.

What is the difference between a multimeter and a clamp meter?

A multimeter has a variety of ranges and settings and can measure many electrical parameters.  These meters use test leads.

You will often hear the term clamp meter, which is an electrician’s tool to measure current (Amperage) safely when the circuit is energized.

There are so many features and model multimeters, selecting one may be a daunting task, or you may wish to, like me, own a few.

Things to consider:

Type of display: These days you will be offered a digital display as opposed to a meter which has a needle which sweeps across a dial. A meter with a needle is referred to as an analog display. Although they were accurate and interactive, they were delicate and difficult to read under certain lighting conditions.

Size of display: Generally we do not work under ideal conditions where there is adequate lighting or where we can hold the meter up close so we can read what what’s on the display. Also some displays require ambient light in order to read them. Backlighting may be an option you want.

Durability:  along with the display, how tough the entire meter is, is important since it may be subjected to rough handling. The display face, the controls, the input jacks, the case itself are all likely to be exposed to reality checks and drops.

Shock resistance: shock can refer to physical as well as electrical shock, and these are factors which should greatly influence your selection of a meter. For example in my own work environments, I was often on a ladder, and would often drop my meter. It’s not good if you lose the use of your meter after it’s been dropped. It’s also not so great to have a frequently replace your meter.

Also I would find myself working with unknown conductors, and I was not sure the nature of what I was measuring. That was why I was using a meter, to determine what I was dealing with, ACV (Alternating Voltage), DCV Direct Current Voltage), and what level. Examples would be low voltage line voltage or very high voltage.

A poorly insulated meter or one with damaged insulation poses a potential accident hazard to you, the technician, and to the equipment you are trying to measure.

Accuracy: In many situations, it’s OK to be “In The Ballpark” when measuring, but IMHO I want to be as accurate as possible in all situations. Like doing math, there are often a decision required as to how may digits to the right of the decimal point you want to be accurate.

Measurement ranges: newer meters auto range so they don’t get damaged if you apply them to too high a voltage. Most of the meters I’ve used are also fused to protect their circuitry and the operator from damage or getting a shock.I am OK with trusting my meter’s health to a fuse, but not my own life, or my fingers.

Newer model multimeters come with a set of other advanced functions including but not limited to Bluetooth readings, temperature measurement frequency measuring, continuity testing with an audible tone, diode and transister testing,  compatibility with smartphones for a second remote display screen, a high-quality graphic display and other expanded capabilities. At some point they morph into portable test scopes and Ethernet certification devices.

Cost is usually an issue when selecting a meter. I have purchased many new meters, traded for them, got lucky at yard sales, or bought the cheapest one they had in the store in an emergency.

If you only use your meter to check AA batteries once in a while, you can save your money. If however, you are poking around in the dark above ceilings, or checking  electrical receptacles, I would advise that you choose wisely.

At this point in time I own four meters and one probe. The probe enables me to check receptacles without having to touch conductors or use a screwdriver.

Over the years I’ve had meters and tools damaged by helpers, stolen, borrowed and not returned (almost the same as stolen), and somehow left behind where it was not practical to return and retrieve.

The meter I miss the most is my Triplett Model 310C. it was analog, small, and could really take a beating. One day I was working  a project, and the fire alarm guy asked if he could borrow my meter, which was my Tripplet 310C. That was the last time I saw my meter, and the last time I lent someone a tool without leaving a deposit.

Types Of Terminations

Electronic security practitioners have probably been exposed to several different approaches to terminating wires.

Terminating the wires is as essential to the project as is installing the cabling.

Screw down terminal strips are very common in electrical and electronic equipment. Terminal strips are a comparatively large form factor, especially as technology continues to shrink the size of devices. The conventional terminal strip utilizes the ‘cold weld’ where pressure between the wire and terminal is applied by tightening a screw.

The exact configuration of the terminal and the screw varies depending upon the number of wires, the wire gauge and conductor type the terminal is designed to accommodate.

Twist on wire nuts are the bane of electronics. Although they are included as a part of the installation kit with many devices, they are frowned upon by most experienced technicians.

Twist on wire nuts used by electricians are different from the all plastic type common to low voltage in that the wire nuts used by electricians have spring wire inside them which wrap around the conductors, metal to metal.

Crimp connectors (includes b-connectors and hi-hats) use the cold weld technique to fuse the wires together with the metal sleeve of the connector. Some types specify not requiring that the wires be stripped before crimping. B-connectors are available with anti-oxidant gel in them, and those without the anti-oxidant gel. The ones without the gel are a little less expensive, but should only be used in environments where the splice will never be exposed humidity, moisture or other foreign substances. The gel forms a seal that protects the wires.

Heat shrink tubing is a specially formulated tubing designed to slip over a splice, then heated so it shrinks and tightly encapsulated the splice offering physical as well as environmental protection the connection. Shrink sleeving can be used directly over a soldered connection.

Insulation displacement terminals came to security courtesy of telcom and later on networking. Punchdown blocks are pretty much standard fare for a wide variety of infrastructure, as well as RJ-45 blocks and plugs.

An insulation-displacement connector is an  electrical connector  designed to be connected to the conductor(s) of an insulated  wire  or cable by a connection process which forces sharpened blade on the connector through the  insulation on the wire, making it unnecessary to strip the wire of insulation first. A properly made connection, cold-welds the terminal to the wire creating a gas-tight connection.


In electronics, soldering is used to connect wires and also to assemble printed circuit boards. Soldering involves fusing conductors together with a metallic substance (solder) which originally was lead-based.

Besides being labor intensive, requiring special tools and a relatively high degree of skill to do, soldering took a big hit when lead was declared a highly toxic substance, and other means to connect wires were introduced.

So there is a debate between soldering and the other technologies.

The Telcom industry has statistics that wireless connectors take half as long to install than other methods.

There are many different types of soldering tools. The soldering gun was once popular. Soldering pencils are also handy. IMHO Soldering tools that use line cords are not that suited for field installation work, in the exact same way that line cord operated hand tools don’t make it either.

Since a small torch is a logical progression to achieve higher heat than a soldering tip, and a flame is not really feasible from battery power, I’ve defaulted to butane fueled soldering. A small torch also can also serve and a heat gun if used judiciously. Heat guns are used for shrink sleeving.

So we have looked at several ways to terminate wires in search of the best one. The answer is there is no one size fits all solution. The technician has to use his best judgement in each case.

I would not be totally truthful if I said I soldered everything. You really can’t solder network connections, and for many situations soldering just doesn’t make it.

Here are a few tips.

  • Be certain the wires are clean
  • Make as strong a physical connection as possible then crimp or solder.
  • Avoid damaging the conductors or the insulation with strippers or cutters. Broken strands are no good. Nicked solid conductors are a potential point of failure.
  • Cover the splice with a b-connector, heat shrink tubing or at least electrical tape. Gel filled b-caps are better than non-gel filled.
  • Whichever techniques you use, do it correctly. A poorly executed splice will eventually fail, regardless of the tools and technology you use. Craftsmanship is the essential component in wire splicing.

Labor Saving Devices Inc.

Many of the tools available today that address the special needs of wire installation were initially developed by LSDI. Over the years, several companies have tried to follow their leadership by offering “me too” products, but LSDI’s continued success is based upon offering superior design and quality that can only be created by truly understanding the needs of professional installers in the audio/visual, electrical, communications and security-alarm markets.

Many of their R&D staff are experienced installers who understand the demands of professional installation.

They will continue to bring innovative solutions that save installation time and produce better results.

Products include:

Creep-Zit Pro 36ft. Kit – Threaded Connector Wire Running Rod Kit 81-000: LSDI’s most advanced and best value threaded connector rod kit for running wire and cable.

Kit Includes:

  • Five FiberFuse™ 6ft. push/pull rods with male and female threaded connector ends
  • One Luminous (glows in the dark) FiberFuse™ 6ft. push/pull rod with male and female threaded connector ends
  • One 6ft. Fish Tailz™ 1/8" Mesh Pull Sock
  • Whisk Threaded Tip
  • Lighted Bull-Nose Tip
  • Ball Chain Threaded Connector Tip (12” ball chain length)
  • Female Bull Nose Threaded Connector Tip

The kit is packaged in a clear square plastic tube

Grabbit™ - Fiberglass Telescoping Poles: The Grabbit series of telescoping poles are constructed of non-conductive, lightweight, shockproof, friction locking telescoping fiberglass.

The tool is indispensable for running (pushing or pulling) wires or cables through limited access areas and false ceilings. The Grabbit is designed for both residential and commercial installations.

The tools include LSDI’s patented Z-tip wire “grabber” tip. The inner V of the Z-Tip has a double knife edge designed to literally grab the wire insulation without cutting the actual metal wire, while the outer V (without knife edge) is designed to push a wire loop.

 The GRMINI, GR12 and GR18 now include a handy snap-on light accessory (included) for seeing in dim lighting areas. Just snap on the LED light in dark applications, and snap it off when not in use. Don't forget the free J-Tip, which handles wire loops or metal fish tapes.

Lightweight construction make the Grabbit pole easier to use than other poles.  Includes a clip-on LED tip light and a J-Tip.

The Grabbit it available in three lengths:

The GRMINI is made of 8 sections, when collapsed is under 22" and weighs less than a pound!  When extended the GRMINI will reach 10ft.

The GR12 is made of three sections, and when collapsed is just under 55" and weighs less than 3lbs. When extended, the GR12 will reach to 12ft.

The GR18 has five sections and when collapsed is less than 58" and weighs less than 5lbs. When extended, the GR18 will reach to 18ft.

 More Info: www.lsdinc.com

EZ-RJPRO® HD Crimp Tool

The new EZ-RJPRO® HD Crimp Tool is designed for the professional installer providing a ratcheted, high leverage, ultra stable platform for consistent, repeatable terminations. This heavy duty tool is ideal when working with high performance, larger OD cables that are tougher to terminate due to larger wire gauges, thicker, harder insulation on the conductors and pair separating splines. Not only will you overcome these connectivity obstacles but you can be assured that every termination will meet FCC specifications. Compatible with all EZ-RJ45® and EZ-RJ12/11 connectors as well as all standard modular plugs, except AMP.

·        Zero flex frame prevents torque loss during the crimping cycle.

·        Tool steel die head assembly provides 360 degree of connector support during crimp.

·        Clean, ultra flush trim on the EZ-RJ45® extended conductors.

·        Expanded surface area on contact drivers delivers full, uniform crimp force.

·        Built in wire cutter and strippers.

EZ-RJ45® CAT 5/5e Connectors

The patented EZ-RJ45® Connector simplifies twisted pair terminations by allowing the wires to be inserted through the connector and out the front. This allows the technician to easily verify the proper wiring order. Electrical performance of the termination is optimized by pulling the connector down over the cable jacket and seating it tightly in the rear of the connector. Reducing the distance between the wire twists and contacts improves performance! Reduces scrap, no wasted crimps. More reliable, higher performance. Crimp with the patented EZ-RJ45 Crimp Tool...crimps and trims in one cycle.

  • Thru holes allow wire pairs to be inserted thru front of connector for faster terminations.
  • Works with solid or stranded wire.
  • Simple one piece design...no bars or liners.
  • FCC compliant, UL rated. Use in category 3, 5, 5E compliant data networks.
  •  RoHS compliant
  • Easy to verify wire sequence

Both are available from Platinum Tools, www.platinumtools.com

Master Appliance Ultratorch

For many applications, soldering is the preferred means to connect wires. Soldering melts a metal (solder) which melts at a relatively low temperature (as compared to copper). Soldering is how electronic components are attached to circuit boards in all types of equipment.

When you solder a connection between two wires, the two wires are heated to the melting point of the solder, the solder is applied to the junction, and the solder flows into the joint physically joining the wires. Solder is also a conductor, so the solder enhances the flow of electrons in the circuit. A properly done soldering connection is also air and moisture tight, so oxidation between the wires, which might impair connections made by other methods over a period of time, is eliminated.

I’ve had a couple of ULTRATORCHs for several years. They are well made out of metal and last.

Note: If you are installing wired hinges for your projects, you probably are familiar with soldering those extremely small and delicate leads.

The ULTRATORCH is a Professional quality, butane-powered, soldering iron, flameless heat tool and butane torch. It is sold in a few configurations:

UT-100 Ultratorch Kit: Includes Ultratorch, 70-01-02 soldering tip, 70-01-52 hot air tip, 70-01-55 shrink attachment, 70-07TU torch ejector, 70-07SU tip ejector, 70-35 spanner wrench, sponge, tool holder and metal case

More Info: https://www.masterappliance.com

Fluke Multimeters

The Fluke Model 110, Model 111, and Model 112 are battery powered, true-RMS multimeters with a 6000-count display and a bar graph.

The Meter measures or tests the following: AC / DC voltage and current, Resistance, Continuity, Diodes, Voltage and current frequency and Capacitance

More Info: www.fluke.com

Bosch Xtreme Rotary Hammer

The Bosch 11255VSR 1 In. SDS-plus® Bulldog™ Xtreme Rotary Hammer was a breakthrough (literally and figuratively) for me when I was drill brick, concrete and masonry to pull wires. It was especially effective when penetrating thick walls in schools and aircraft hangers.

The Bosch 11255VSR 1 In. SDS-plus® Bulldog™ Xtreme Rotary Hammer is a versatile, handy tool that features a robust 8.0- amp motor.

This powerful hammer delivers 2.0 Ft.-Lbs. of impact energy and 0-5,800 no-load bpm, but it weighs just 6.7 lbs. The multifunction mode selector allows users to easily select among three modes of operation: rotary hammer, rotation only and hammer only.

More Info: www.boschtools.com

Securitron R100 Aperio® 

What a terrific option for installing a card reader where wiring is not desirable, unsightly or impractical! I’m thinking of the herculite full glass lobby doors, or historical landmarks, or brick and masonry walls where a wireless reader would have been the perfect solution.

The R100 surface mounted wireless reader with Aperio® technology offers an elegant way to extend access control to glass, stone, granite or marble entryways. It requires no drilling or pulling of wires and can adhere in minutes. Glass entryways can now integrate robust access control while maintaining a clean, wireless appearance.

Product Features:

  • Adheres to glass surface without any connecting wires
  • Online transaction audit trail capabilities
  • Low battery signaling and reporting
  • Green status LED indicator
  • Shortened wire pull from panel to hub provides cost benefit to installation
  • Fully-encrypted AES 128 wireless communication
  • SecuriCare three-year, no fault warranty

Also from ASSA ABLOY Electronic Security Hardware, the Securitron PowerJump ICPT wireless power transfer ports power contactlessly and invisibly across the door gap to run electrified hardware on the door.

Installed on the latch side of the door, it transfers power without pins or wires, eliminating points of vulnerability and wear. It also eliminates the need to cross drill or snake wires through the door

Wired hinges are expensive, and they eventually wear out. There are no moving parts to wear out with the Securitron PowerJump ICPT

More Information: www.assaabloyesh.com

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.