by Jennifer Spears – System Design Engineer
Rugged CCTV

Time and time again I am asked if surveillance camera systems come with a manual on installing the cameras. My answer is – ALL surveillance systems for businesses and regular home purchase should come with some type of guide to walk you through how to install your system.

Even when you hire an installer they might also have questions because equipment from different manufacturers can be slightly different. Being able to call tech support is worth its weight in gold, but having a step by step guide in your hand is like having someone standing beside you walking you through each step.

Installation may vary depending on the exact equipment purchased, so just keep that in mind.

I’m going to start at the beginning, at least that’s where I like to start, and we’ll go through each section of the install. I’ll cover cameras, video cabling and terminations, and then connection into your power supply and DVR. We will not talk about wireless cameras here, because that is a whole different article.

I like starting with the camera. Other installers like starting with the wiring, and others still like to connect everything to the power supply first. You’ve probably purchased more than just one camera, so you can always run through it once and see what you like. Making it an assembly line can greatly reduce the number of hours it will take to install your system. Hang ALL your cameras, run ALL your wiring, make ALL your terminations, etc.

Here we go …

1.Mount your cameras in the desired location. Mounting screws are included with most cameras, but make sure they are the correct type and length of screw required for the substrate you are mounting the camera to.

2.Run all of your video cabling back to the DVR and power wire to your transformers or central power supply. If you have PTZ cameras, you will also need to run your data wire. For premade cabling make sure and pull the wires the correct direction. The power end of the wires will only connect one way to the camera. Label your cabling on the DVR end and the camera end, so when you terminate your cables you’ll know what voltage you need and where the wires are running to. (If you are going to be using heat shrink, go ahead and place it on the cabling now. It will be finished in step #7.)

3.Terminate all cables – If premade cabling was purchased, your terminations for both power and video, should have already been made for you. If you have bare video wire that was purchased on a spool or out of a box, you probably received a toolkit to go with it. The toolkit will provide the tools necessary to terminate the cables, and the proper connectors needed for the type of cabling you purchased.
– Video cabling – You may have bought RG59 coax, RG6 coax, or, if transmitting over twisted pair wiring, cat5e data wire with the use of baluns and/or hubs. Termination instructions should have been provided with your equipment and they are different depending on the type of cabling you have. Most of the coax connectors are either 2 piece connectors with a ferrule, or the newer compression type connectors which are an all-in-one connector. The type of tools must match the type of connector and match the type of cabling. Make sure you talk to a design engineer when purchasing your system to make sure you are getting all of the correct accessories. Baluns are adapters that change a coax connector on a camera or DVR into screw terminals that can be directly connected into cat5 data wire pair. Cat5 and baluns are used for long distances and/or existing wiring. Terminate all video wires.
– Power Wires – strip ~1/2” on each end of each wire.
– Data Wires (for PTZs only) – strip ~1/2” on each end of each wire. Only one pair is used per camera, and one piece of cat5 has 4 pairs of wire. Just make sure and mark which pair you are using. I always use solid blue for positive and blue/white stripe as negative for the first camera. Then I’ll use green, then orange, and then brown. Whatever you do, just keep it consistent so you don’t have to chase problems at the end of the install.

4.Never cut molded power connectors off of the camera leads or cabling. Adapter pigtails should have been provided if they are needed to tie into bare power wire. Cutting power connectors off equipment will almost always result in the warranty being voided, since the integrity of the camera has been compromised.

5.For each of your cameras – connect the video wire at the camera end, and into the video inputs at your DVR. If you have PTZ cameras with RS485 Data connections you will need to connect those as well. Depending on your equipment you may be tying in the data to a keyboard/joystick or your DVR itself. Just make sure and connect the correct polarity to the terminal block on the device you are going to be using to control those cameras.

6.For each of your cameras – connect the power wiring at the camera end. Male/female connectors will be used for premade cables, and using wire nuts or dolphin splices for any bare wire connections. MAKE SURE ALLWIRING IS CONNECTED WITH THE CORRECT POLARITY. For low voltage camera wires the POSITIVE WIRES ARE ALMOST ALWAYS RED! STOP … make sure all wiring is connected with the correct polarity. This is the most common problem I hear on a weekly basis. Customers think it is correct and it’s not and it fries the camera immediately. And NO – this is not covered under most warranties either. So if you fried it, you get to buy another one!!!

7.Wrap all exposed connections with black electrical tape or heat shrink to prevent any ground looping or corrosion.

8.Follow the instructions inside your central power supply box (if this is what you are powering your cameras from) for connecting the provided cable for 110V power, and connecting the power cables for each camera. (Knockouts should be provided.) If you have individual transformers then it is normally just a plug and play situation. Leads may have been provided for this as well.
– Most central power supplies are supplied with an electrical cord or you can wire the central power supply box direct from an electrical junction box. Remember – All high voltage electrical connections must be made by a licensed electrician.

9.For when you are actually connecting your camera power wires – Red or positive wires should terminate to the numbered or positive terminal on your power supply board.
– Black wires are almost always negative.

– Keep in mind – Camera damage due to incorrect voltage and reverse polarity are not covered under warranty.

10.Double check your terminations and power connections before powering up your power supply and DVR. Connect your BNC connectors to the DVR video inputs, and plug in the central power supply. When most DVRs are powered up, and a new camera signal is connected, it will show you video immediately. If you’ve got power going to power supply and the DVR is powered up and you don’t have pictures – remove power from the power supply IMMEDIATELY. Check the polarity, make adjustments and try again.

11.Adjust your camera position and focus (Varifocal cameras only).

12.Take a deep breath, wipe the sweat from your brow, put your tools away, do a little dance of joy, and go get a beer because you deserve it!

If you’ve never installed a surveillance system before, all of this might seem overwhelming, but just take it step by step and you’ll do just fine. And if you bought your system from Rugged CCTV, then you have unlimited tech support for the life of your equipment, and you’ll know that you will always be taken care of whether you have one question or a thousand.

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