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A Common Sense Guide to Installing a Camera System


So you want a security system, and you’re thinking about installing it yourself to save some cash. Great! Let me just say that you have just made the best or worst decision of your life…maybe. What do I mean? Well, essentially, make sure you can chew everything you have just bitten off. There are a lot of things to consider when taking on the endeavor of installing a camera system, and if the factors are right for you then you’re in like Flynn.

The first thing to consider before anything else is, “What do you want your system to be capable of?” Whether you install it yourself, or pay someone to complete the work for you, you will still need to know what you can afford and if your expectations are reasonable. For more guidance on these subjects, I would urge you to read my other blogs in the “Common Sense” series. These will help you understand the industry and what is important.

Once you have a grip on what needs to be covered and the level of detail you’d like to obtain (and whether or not you have the budget to do it the way you’d like), then you can begin breaking down the job. First thing you’ll have to start working on is where you’d like to place the cameras. Are there clear views of the areas you need to see? Can you get the camera nice and close to the area to give you the best detail of objects of importance?

Here are some bullet points to always remember when designing a camera layout:

  • Up close shots will always produce better images than wide open ones.
  • If you require detail at distance, you are increasing the cost of your system.
  • The more detail you need, the more sophisticated the camera.
  • Optimal infrared distance is under one hundred feet.
  • Special purpose solutions may have a camera designed specifically for that.

Second, you’ll have to begin planning for the cable. We recommend using bulk cable as the quality is usually far better than lightweight plug and play cables. There are also several different types of cable. What cable type you select is a personal preference in many ways. However, you may also be required to install a specific type of cable in order to properly install your system or make your design work. The last factor is that you may want or need a special kind of cable. For instance, some building codes require that plenum cable to be installed. Its a special cable that’s extremely fire retardant. Another possibility is that you are burying cable. There are special cables that do not require conduit called direct burial. You may want to consult your local building code, electrician, or installation authority if you think it may be an issue for you.

Next, you will need to consider your building. Start snooping around. Become familiar with your attic and basement spaces. Go look at every place you want to place a camera and start thinking about a basic plan on where you’re going to run the cables. Will you need conduit or other materials to complete the install the way you want it? Will other materials be needed for cosmetic reasons? Begin making a list of these things and ideas that you have.

Now is the time that you reevaluate your plan. Is there something you’re missing or could do better? Will the equipment choices you are considering still work? Are the lens sizes correct? Whether or not you actually install the system yourself, the equipment should be correct for your application.

Once you’ve decided on the equipment you’re going to install, you should begin to make your plan. Create a working sketch of your installation on a floorplan with wiring diagram. Try to make it complete with wall measurements so you can figure out how much length of cable you will need. When the plan is in place, “walk it over”. This means actually physically go over it so that you know for certain it will work and you are capable of completing the install. This should include thinking about things like getting wires up or down walls, across pipes, through partitioning walls, through multiple levels, and any other barriers or obstacles you may encounter in your plans.

Now it’s time for the tool check. You should consider the parts you are looking to purchase. Will you need any tools that you don’t already have? There are often options for installation that require some sort of special tool. One such example that you may find is that you want a nice firm connector on the end of your cables, and therefore choose to install RG-59 coaxial cable and professional compression fittings. A special compression fittings tool would be required to make the end connection. Additionally, you may need other tools like a drill fitted with hole saw or masonry bit, or may also need several different sizes of the same tool or component.

The last thing to consider are the additional parts that may be required. Pipe fittings, wood screws, electrical boxes, spacers, wire chases, wire ties, gel connectors, drywall patching, etc might all be needed to either complete the installation or make repairs. You have to realize that you’re going to make mistakes. Just be prepared to handle them after you’re done.

So now that you understand the scope of the install, the amount of planning and work, the tools, and the other materials that are needed, you can appreciate the prices that are involved in installations a little more. Granted, there are also profits programmed into those prices. You can certainly do it yourself, but I would recommend having a fall back plan in case you get yourself into something you can’t take care of yourself. Find a network tech, handyman, or installer that you like in the event that you need to call in the cavalry to help bail you out. Just be informed and planned, and you shouldn’t have too many problems.

Now you’re prepared! Start your research and parts hunt, and try to have fun with it. The work is very gratifying in the end. Good luck!


About Matt Stetson

General techy all around guy. I've worked in fiber optics, earth stations, cabling design, and optics (photography). I've been an employee of TechPro Security Products for over five years, and I've done everything from design, to install, to sales, to system support. These days I've left networking and tech support behind in favor of a more sales oriented career and function as the Sales Manager for the company.

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