If you’re looking to set up a security system – whether with CCTV or access control – you’ll need to know what kind of cables the system calls for. Using the proper cables for security systems and understanding how they work with each other ensures your system runs smoothly and won’t become damaged from improper equipment.
For now, we’ll split security cable types into two categories: CCTV cables and cables meant for access control.
Cables are integral to the operation of a CCTV system, carrying the video signal from the camera to the DVR/NVR as well as the power. There are several different kinds of cables used in CCTV systems, including:
Coaxial cables are usually seen on older CCTV systems. Built from wire or fiber that has been twisted with insulated wire braids around it, they are very tough and durable, and can endure plenty of use and wear. They can also carry video signals over long distances without losing quality, and are well-insulated.
Video Power Cables
Video Power cables are designed specifically for CCTV systems, using both a coaxial cable (usually with a BNC connector) to transmit video signals from the camera to the DVR, and a separate cable carrying DC power from the power supply. Simple and easy to use, they’re relatively inexpensive compared to other cabling options. However, the quality of the video signal is not as good as digital cables options, and cannot be transmitted as far over BNC cables.
Siamese cables consist of two different cables fused together, usually a coaxial cable carrying video and a power cable. The video cable carries your video signal from the camera to your DVR, while the power cable supplies the power needed to run your security cameras. Siamese cables work with virtually any analog security camera, provided they are the proper gauge necessary for powering the camera system. The smaller the gauge, the thicker the wire, and the more power it can carry.
Siamese cables are very versatile and make setting up video systems simple, as they use only one cable to run both power and video. They’re also well-insulated against interference.
Cat5 and Cat 6 Cables
Cat5 Ethernet cables are another popular choice, especially for IP camera systems. Cat5E cables may look like regular Cat5 or Ethernet cables, but are upgraded specifically for use with CCTV systems. They carry video feeds rapidly (up to 1000 mbps) over long distances – as much as 3000 feet – while maintaining the integrity and quality of the feed. Less interference, higher quality data.
Cat5E cables are designed for use with digital video and IP systems, and will not work with an analog system without a proper converter – which is easy to find and install. They are also capable of providing Power-Over-Ethernet (PoE), which eliminates the need for a second power cable. If your camera doesn’t have an option for PoE, there are converters available that will make that possible.
Cat6 cables are similar to Cat5E cables, but upgraded for faster performance. They supply Power over Ethernet and capable of data speeds of over 250mhz for IP camera systems. They’re also backwards compatible with Cat5E ports to work with more systems.
Access Control Cables
Just like with your video system, there are a variety of cable options for access control systems.
Composite cables combine the four basic functions of access control – power, card reader, door contact, and request to exit – into one simple cable. They usually consist of four separate cables combined and twisted into one insulated cord, and make installation, maintenance and operation easy, as there is no need to run separate wires throughout the wall. One cable does it all.
Twisted Pair Cables
One basic option for powering access control cameras are 18/2 gauge twisted pair cables, which provide low voltage power to the access reader system at a low cost. Twisted cables come in different gauges and pairings, as well; 18/2 means 18 gauges with 2 conductors, while 18/6 means 18 gauge and 6 conductors, and 22/4 is a 22-gauge wire with 4 conductors for larger systems that require more power.
Twisted pair cables have the benefit of being much less expensive than other types of cables and being able to run long distances without loss of power or quality.
Access control systems can also be powered by Cat6 or Cat5E ethernet cables, just as CCTV systems can. Cat6 cables are backwards-compatible with Cat5E ports, and both can supply PoE as well as run data for IP-based access control systems. Cat6 cables are capable of performance up to 250mhz, while Cat5E can reach 100mhz.
The downside to network cables is that they are not always capable of running the long distances that other cables can, such as an 18/2 twisted cable.