Can You Use Cat5/6, Ethernet Data Cables For CCTV?
If you’re wondering whether you could use cat5/6 data cabling or your existing Ethernet cables/ structured cabling for wiring your CCTV cameras read this blog for all you need to know. In this article I discuss the uses of data cabling with CCTV systems and it’s applications. Let’s begin.
CCTV Over Category 5/ 6 Data Cables
It is possible to use twisted pair cabling for connecting your CCTV cables but it’s important to consider a few things beforehand. Things to consider are, what type of CCTV cameras/ system you have? How you are going to power the cameras and the type of recording device (DVR/NVR)
Cat5e/6 for IP CCTV Systems
Digital IP based CCTV systems are designed to be connected with twisted pair cabling anyway but the way exactly this is connected may differ between CCTV systems. Most small IP based systems will come with a built in Power Over Ethernet(POE) switch which means that the CCTV video and power can all be provided off the same data cable which connects between the Network Video Recorder(NVR) and the cameras themselves.
Other types of IP CCTV systems do not come with a built in POE switch on the NVR. In instances like this you may need to install a POE injector to provide power for the CCTV camera that isn’t being provided by the NVR or some IP cameras will have a separate power connection for a local powering of the camera with a traditional Power Supply Unit(PSU). This is helpful for very long cable runs where the video image may be fine but you may occur a voltage drop from the POE.
Other types of IP NVR’s do not have a network switch at all installed inside for separate video channels but instead connect to the local data/Ethernet network and connect to the cameras this way. You’re much more likely to use a system like this on very large systems or systems where an existing data cabling network has been installed and you can not home run the cables from the cameras back to the NVR. The same rules apply in regards to powering the cameras here, depending on the make/ model of the surveillance cameras this can be done by a POE injector, POE switch or local PSU.
Switches/ POE Switches For Zoning IP CCTV Systems
If you have a few cameras that are all going to be installed relatively close together but far away from the NVR, it doesn’t always make sense to go to the effort of running all the cables back to the NVR site. What can be done which can really speed up installation and reduce cabling required, is to zone the system by bringing the cameras that are close together to a single location to create a zone, this may be far away from the NVR site. In this zone location a network switch can be installed for to the cameras. If an POE switch is installed here which allows POE to be provided to all cameras on the Network switch port. Depending of what type of switch you install you may need to login to the user interface of the network switch to turn the POE on the switch ports off or on.
Category 5/6 Cables For Analogue CCTV Systems
I still install a lot of analogue CCTV systems and the picture resolutions now possible through HD-TVI systems are now comparable to IP based CCTV systems with a bit less of a cost. My suppliers now stock 8 MP TVI CCTV cameras for very reasonable prices and this is continually improving overtime.
The most common cabling for analogue CCTV is RG59 coaxial cable, but other cables like RG6 can also be used if you can find appropriate connectors that fit this cable. However, Cat5/6/7 cables can be used provided that you use video baluns at either end of the cable. A balun is an unbalanced to balanced transformer that will match the unbalanced coax cable to the unbalanced twisted pair(Cat5) cabling. This will allow the Cat 5 or 6 data cables to connect between your DVR and your analogue CCTV cameras and BNC plugs. There area few different types that you can get.
Single Passive Video Baluns
A pair of passive video baluns can be used for one CCTV camera connection the DVR. A balun is required at each end of the cable which is why these are usually sold in pairs. It’s important to install these the right way around otherwise you may find yourself trying to connect male BNC connections together and female connections the other end which will not work. There are a few different types of these, some will have screw-down terminals for you to connect one of two pairs into for the video signal, others will have the Phoenix connection which kind of clips in place but my favourite as it’s by far the neatest finish is one that allows a RJ45/ 8P8C plug to be inserted.
Most video baluns do not allow the DC power usually provided on a separate pair of coax shotgun cable to be provided down it. What can be done here is to use a pair or two to connect the video connection to the baluns and use a separate pair of two to go into a conventional DC plug and connect to a PSU/ power intake at the camera. This does make the cabling a bit of a mess behind the DVR and the thin pairs on the Ethernet cable can break easily and fall out when moved so I prefer to use Video baluns that can have a RJ45 connector.
Single Video Balun + DC Power
As I already said I prefer to use these over just passive video-only baluns as these make the CCTV cabling much neater at the DVR location and I prefer the ones that allow a RJ45 plug to be fitted as this means that there is no loose pairs from inside the twisted pair data cable.
Zoning CCTV with Multi-channel Video Baluns
Much like the suggestion with using Network switches to zone IP CCTV systems the same can be done with multi-channel Video baluns. You can bring the coaxial cabling from the CCTV cameras back to a central location, here you can install a multi-channel video balun for distribution the video signals for multiple CCTV cables. This could help speed up installation time and cabling required in the CCTV system. This works by converting the video signal from the cameras onto a single pair of the Cat 5/6 which has 4 pairs. This means that 4 CCTV cameras can be converted onto a single Ethernet cable. Other options existing like 8 channel and 16 channel video baluns which will need to 2/4 data cables respectively to carry all the separate video channels.
I recently used a four channel video balun to replace underground waterlogged coaxial CCTV wiring between buildings, rather than pulling four separate coax cables which would have been very difficult as the cabling had to be routed in underground ducting was around 100m in length, I installed 2x video balun transceivers and pulled one Cat5e FTP data cable for all four cameras to connect between sites which made installation far easier.
To provide a power for the CCTV cameras I recommend installing PSU’s near the camera end, ideally by the multi-channel video balun if there is a nearby electrical socket as this would make it much easier for maintenance/ repair.
Network Cabling For Connection To Monitor
If you’re installing a monitor in a location not near your CCTV DVR/ NVR, Network/ Ethernet cabling could be used for this purpose also. This can be very advantageous as it may not be easy to get HDMI/ VGA cables the correct length for the video connection between your recording equipment and monitor, in fact HDMI over normal HDMI leads without additional equipment can really struggle over 15m. What equipment you install depends on the type of video connection that you’re going to use.
HDMI Over Cat5/6
This will give the best picture quality, to use Cat5/6 for this connection you will need a pair of HDMI-Cat5 video baluns. Some can carry a HDMI signal as far as 100m. Some models exist where the data cable can be used to power the baluns themselves, but I recommend the models that have a separate power supply for each balun. The distance you can send the HDMI signal depends on the resolution you’re trying to send, higher HDMI resolutions which require higher bandwidth do not travel as far. For instance 4K will not travel as far as 1080p, 1080p will not travel as far as 720p etc. For some of the higher resolutions you may be required to install superior cable to Cat5e for higher bandwidth, like Cat6, Cat6a and Cat7.
VGA Over Cat5/6
Another option is to use the VGA connection instead of a HDMI if your monitor/ recorder support this. Similar to the HDMI separate baluns will be required each end of the cable but these must be VGA-Cat5 baluns. At either end a short VGA cable will connect between the NVR/ DVR and the monitor and a Cat5/6 cable I between the baluns. Most VGA baluns can support 1080p for a distance up to 50m. It’s also important to mention that VGA doesn’t support audio like HDMI.
BNC Video Out/ Phono Over Cat5/6
Most CCTV recorders will have an option for a BNC video out. This can usually be configured from inside the NVR/ DVR to display all of the cameras video in a single channel or a select few. To connect this to your monitor over Ethernet data cabling you could use a Single Passive Video Balun you convert the coax signal to a Cat5 or Cat6 cable. If your monitor has a BNC input, this could connect directly into there if not you can with a BNC phono adapter connect it to the yellow composite-video phono connection, or green on some component-video phono connections. You may find that you will need a male to male BNC coupler or female BNC plug to able to connect the baluns to the monitor/ recording equipment.
Internet Connection For Remote Viewback/ Playback
Most CCTV equipment nowadays comes with the facility to be able to access your CCTV equipment when away from site through things like Smartphones, tablets, PC’s etc. For this to work it needs an internet connection. The best way to do this is with a direct Ethernet cable to your broadband router/ Local Area Network (LAN). Some systems will allow for a wireless connection, but a wired internet is far more reliable and advised. I fit’s problematic getting a data cable between the DVR and internet connection,you could use something like Powerline adapters which sends data over existing electrical cabling to make this task easier.
Data Cabling To CCTV Cameras Can Future-proof A System
I like installing Cat5/6 for all my CCTV systems where possible now as it future proofs a system. If the client ever wanted to change between an IP or analogue based system this could be easily done, unlike with coaxial cable.
Use Screened Cat5/6 Where Possible
I strongly advise when using data cabling for CCTV systems to use a screened data cable to protect against outside sources of interference. This is particularly important with analogue CCTV systems when using baluns as the interference can be visible on the camera picture. I once installed a long section of Cat5e near a mains electrical cables which completely ruined the CCTV picture and caused lining on all the other camera images. I had to pull a completely new cable in the end. I recommend using a F/UTP cable that has all four internal pairs inside a single metallic screen. Other screened options exist with a separate screens around each individual pair which offers further improvements like minimising cross-talk but these cost more may and not always necessary.
External UV Stable Cat5/6 For Outside Cabling
It’s a good idea to try and keep all CCTV cabling internal ,but this isn’t always possible. It’s imperative when installing data cabling externally that a UV stable cable is required. If a cable intended for indoor use only is installed outside it will quickly fall apart in the sun and is very likely to become waterlogged over time. There a wide selection of readily available external rated data cables and I recommend a screened, UV stable cable.
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