How to Wire a Home for Security Cameras

How to wire home for cameras diagram

We’ve wired homes, both under construction and already completed homes, for security cameras. In this article we are going to take you through the steps for selecting which wires and tools to use and how to wire a home for security surveillance cameras.

We will focus attention in this article on wiring for cameras which are connected to a security camera DVR. If however you aren’t using a DVR, wiring a camera straight to a TV/Monitor is much the same. We will not cover wiring for audio or the more complex, pan tilt zoom camera systems because these are more prevalent in commercial applications. We are not reviewing the equipment, view this page link for more information on security camera system components.

Rather, our focus will be on the more typical, fix-mounted camera. Fix mounted cameras are available in many different styles of housing configurations such as: dome, bullet, black & white, color, color by day & black and white by night or concealed inside some other special housing; all have identical BNC video connections (pictured below) and a power connector. Additionally, these camera types we noted most often require 12 volts DC power to function. Some cameras could require 500 milli-amps while others require 900 milli-amps yet these requirements vary from camera to camera.

Below we’ve embedded a brief video in relation to wiring for security cameras. Additionally, we posted a How to Wire a Home for Security Cameras diagram. We encourage you to take a moment to look over the diagram as well as view the video.How to wire home for cameras diagram

What type of wire can be used for home security cameras?

Wired security cameras require two kinds of wire, one to transmit the actual video signal and a second to supply electrical power to the camera so the camera can function.

For transmitting video there are two general cable options, coaxial cable and Cat5 Ethernet cable. Cat5 is fairly straight forward as far as cabling goes and it is forward compatible with emerging ip camera technologies whose costs will continue to fall over the years. However, Cat5 does require other equipment to be added to the system which coaxial cable doesn’t require. We’ll expand more on Cat5 later in the article but let’s take a look at the different options for using coaxial cable.

What types of Coaxial Cable can be used for wiring security cameras?

Simply put, RG59 is an older class of coaxial wiring which is still used today in camera systems and can often be found as the cable which comes pre-made as part of a whole camera system kit. RG6, compared to RG59, is a newer coaxial cable with the primary difference being the extra shielding, from external electrical inferences which appear as snow on the picture screen, built into the cable itself. So long as neither cable is run close and parallel to high-voltage electrical wire both cables work fine. Our preference between the two literally is determined by the circumstances pertaining to a particular project, budget, etc. Next we are going to talk about the power wire and how it is sometimes incorporated with RG59

What type of Power wire should I run for security cameras?

Before we focus entirely on just the power wire itself we want to mention that often times, when you purchase a complete pre-packaged security camera kit the power wire is often provided as one complete part of the RG59 video cable. RG59 can also be purchased in spools called “Siamese” cable whereby one cable contains both the video and power cable. But before you decide this is the route you want to go we need to later discuss the tools you might need for this project, the tools might influence your decision regarding which cable to use. So, for just running power we typically have used a 16 or 18 gauge 2 conductor wire. Most projects we’ve worked on range from around 2,000 square feet up to 7000 square feet and in all cases the 16/2 or 18/2, as it’s called, worked well. Smaller homes can use 18/2. The Cat5 Ethernet cable we mentioned earlier can also be used to transmit power however to do so you’ll want to strongly consider additional equipment, often referred to as “Power over Ethernet” to properly send power down the Cat5, below is an image of such a device.

Using Cat5 Ethernet cabling for wiring Security Cameras

Cat5 consists of 8 internal conductors, each conductor is only 24 gauge. Usually only 2 of the 8 internal conductors are needed as a means of transmitting the camera’s video image short distances back to the camera system DVR and/or monitor. The proper way to incorporate the use of Cat5 with the types of cameras listed above is by using what is called a Balun on both ends of this wire (pictured below). The purpose of the Balun simply is to transition the Coaxial BNC connector coming out of the camera to the twisted wiring pair characteristic of the Cat5 and then back again to the BNC on the other end. Baluns are available for both just video, just power, or a combination of video and power together. Baluns tend to be bulky is size when compared to a standard BNC connector; we mention this because, before you begin to drill any holes anywhere we strongly recommend you have the baluns in hand first and you test to make sure they not only function properly but that they work as you need.

Tools needed for wiring security cameras

Tools such as ladders, drills, and a means to fish the wiring through holes and tight spaces aren’t what we will focus on here but rather… we’ll list the less commonly used tools needed specific for this work.

Compression Tool – If you are not using a premade coaxial cable or Cat 5 then you’ll need a compression Tool. Most often people will use a compression tool specifically designed for BNC fittings and they can be costly, as much as $100. If you are using RG6 then you can consider using a tool to compress on F connectors and then purchase and F to BNC adapter which simply spins on by hand. F connector compression tools cost around $65 and are readily available at many big box home improvement retailers as well as online.

Wire Strippers – There may be two different styles you will need. If you are using coaxial cable you’d need a stripper designed for coax, you can view this tool on this page link. You’ll also want a wire stripper for the Cat5 or the 16/2 – 18/2 power wire.

Drill Bits – The two drill bits we prefer are the spade bit and the uni-bit. The spade bit drills a clean hole through wood. The uni-bit works well when drilling through plastic.wiring home camera tools and parts

Tips for wiring Security Cameras:

1.  Turn off any electrical breakers before drilling or pulling wire.

2.  Check with local building officials regarding local permitting and code requirements related to the cabling process.

3.  If you are using pre-made wires which come with a complete kit, or any other premade wires, handle the wires and fittings with a great deal of care (we learned this this hard way – be very gentle). Exerting any amount of force on the wire when pulling it or on the fittings can and will ruin the wire.

4.  Label both ends of the wire so that you know, before you pull the wire, how to identify a particular camera. Labeling wires on both ends is a huge time saver in the long run.

5.  (If you are running cables that are NOT pre-made then this tip doesn’t apply because it doesn’t matter which end you run first.) It’s important to become familiar with the connectors at both ends; verify the correct connector properly connects to the camera before you begin to pull the wire from point A to point B. Look to see which end is male and verify the other end is female. Not all cables are created equal and if you skip this step it could cost you a lot of time and headache redoing the work because you pulled the wrong end. Because there are so many different manufactures we can’t list which end to pull, you will need to look at your equipment and verify which end before you start wiring. 

6.  Talk with your camera equipment supplier about the distance wire run limitations specific to the equipment you are buying and running wires in your project. This is especially important if you are running wires and installing your own cable fittings.

7.  Look before you drill, strike one nail with a spade bit and it’s ruined. It might be a good idea to have an extra on hand.

8.  If your DVR has an Ethernet Port for connecting your home computer network or router than you’ll want to run a CAT5 wire from the DVR back to the router.