Today’s technicians are faced with many choices when it comes to routing and securing system cabling. Should the cable go in a raceway or conduit, be surface mounted, and if so, how should that cable be properly secured? Knowing the best technique and hardware for accomplishing cable management can be a time- and money-saver for any installation company. Additionally, not using proper methods of securing cable can severely affect signal performance.
With data transmission now in the gigahertz range, the proper orientation and securing of cabling has become a challenge for today’s technician. This month we will look at some tips and guidelines for properly securing cabling.
Methods, Devices to Secure Cabling
We will start out with one of the most popular and, sometimes, most abused methods for securing cable.
Cable ties were first invented by Thomas & Betts, an electrical company, in 1958 under the brand name Ty-Rap.
Sometimes referred to as a zip tie, mouse belt, tie wrap, quick draw or rat belt, the cable tie is an inexpensive method for securing one cable to another cable, fixture, or almost anything else that is handy to hang a cable on. While this is a common device that virtually all of our readers should be familiar with, there are a few tips and precautions when using this simple device.
When installing a security device, in the interest of saving time, many of us have been tempted to tie wrap surface-mounted alarm cable or coax to an adjacent conduit to get it up and out of sight. Did you know that the National Electrical Code (NEC) frowns on this practice, and in some cases the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) could penalize you for this practice? A separate cable run with screw-in tie-wrap mount plates is a better choice.
Be careful using ties to secure special motion sensor cable or video coax as they may have tension limitations. Too much cable tie tension could crush the waveguide of RG-type (RG = radio guide) coaxial cable. Cable ties also come in special types such as UV-resistant black (not all black ties are UV-resistant). Another type is red cable ties made of ECTFE (Halar), which are used for installations in return air plenums. Check out the Mille-Tie for an interesting type of cable tie technology. (TIP: You can often reuse a Ty-Rap by releasing the small ratchet finger with a small screwdriver or pin.)
If you are looking at cable management that will dynamically change then you may want to look at popular Velcro cable ties, which can be easily opened and closed. Now let’s take a look at some other cable management devices.
Staples — This is one of the most inexpensive and versatile methods for securing surface mount cabling. Make sure to select the correct size staples for the type of cable and structure you are stapling to. With a little practice one can learn to always get a good bite in the surface, and with the proper staple gun angling any tech can make a small sensor cable drop hide around the edge of the door molding. Always try to use jacketed cabling for extra protection.
J-hooks — As system cabling heads from many sensors up to the ceiling and other high locations, the J-hook is a good method for securing bundles of cables heading back to the head-end. They also allow for easy addition of new cable. One word of caution: Installers are often tempted to attach J-hooks to existing ceiling support wires. Again, this is a code no-no, since the weight of many cables has been known to bring down a ceiling grid.
A cousin to this device is the bridle ring, which can easily be nailed in attic rafters and provides a good method for securing cable bundles. The rings have a slot opening that allows for easy addition and removal of cables to the bundle. It is a nice way to keep cables organized and high off attic floors.
Another interesting device in this category to check out is the CableCatch from San Leandro, Calif.-based Rip-Tie.
WireMold — When looking for a quick way to aesthetically enclose surface mount cabling, WireMold-type products have always been a handy choice. Product lines come in both plastic and metal. The plastic type is available in hinged varieties that also come in a giant compact roll instead of 10-foot sticks. They come with adhesive backing that may or may not work depending on the surface being mounted to.
Metal WireMold allows for signal shielding similar to conduit and can actually be offset aligned with special WireMold tools, similar to conduit bending. (WireMold is actually the brand name of a company located in West Hartford, Conn.)
I have often noticed that alarm technicians do a horrible job at surface wiring the last few feet to a commercial door sensor or a CCTV camera. The use of just a little bit of this product would make for a cleaner and more secure installation.
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