A Decathlon’s Worth of Installation Tips and Tricks

Recently, I attended the International Security Conference (ISC) in Las Vegas. There was a new event at this show that quickly caught everyone’s attention. The event was billed as the “Installer Olympics.” It was a cable fishing contest designed to find some of the best system installers in the country. You could feel the suspense as each installer was challenged to become the “fastest installer.”

The event was hosted by installation equipment manufacturer B.E.S. Manufacturing, and The Training Dept., a supplier of installation training videos and seminars, and sponsored by Security Sales & Integration. Each day, the installer with the fasted installation time was awarded an installation equipment package valued at $500. The event was exciting for both the participants and the spectators who packed the show aisles.

As an observer, I was given a good opportunity to see some amazing demonstrations of installation speed. A small building model was erected at the booth. It was made of two sectioned walls and finished attic area. The outside walls were covered with clear plexiglass so all viewing the contest could observe the progress of the competitor (see photo in print version of the July issue). The wiring had to be run according to a randomly selected path, typically from one wall through the ceiling and down another wall. This included insulation, around wall studs, doors and windows.

The competition was fierce and I recall one winning daily installation time of 4 minutes and 28 seconds. It was interesting to notice how often challengers lost by less than a hundredth of a second. Often, the difference between first and second place was an extra run up the ladder. Carefully planning before executing was noticed in this competition, which is a good lesson to be carried over to our daily installations.

Observing this event and noticing some of the installation tricks used reminded me it was a good time to pass on some installation tips and tricks of the trade.

Special Tools Are Special Indeed
For many installers, the expression “time is money” hits very close to home. The challenge of doing the best work in the least amount of time is always present.

Specialized installation tools can go a long way toward saving you time and money. Devices such as the Wet Noodle™ from Labor Saving Devices and the EZ Spool™ from B.E.S. Manufacturing can save hours of cable installation pain and frustration. Many of these devices have originated from a need by installers to make their jobs easier.

One popular tool category is installation rods for pulling cable through interior walls. One technique I noticed by a top installer at the contest was a push, jerk and release method using a fiberglass Fiberfish™ push/pull rod. Normally, when fishing cable from residential sensors to the attic, one would need either two people or a large number of rods in order to do a whole house.

With this jerk and release method, one installer with a rod can run all the attic cable runs. In the case of let’s say an exterior window, the cable needs to be loosely secured to the end of the rod and then pushed through wall and into the attic cavity. When the cable on the end of the rod appears in the attic, a good jerk on the cable releases it from the rod. The rod is pulled out with the cable end still in the attic.

Magnificent 7 Installation Tips

  1. Make sure to have some extra wooden golf tees in your truck — Why? Jason Click, Stanley Systems Integration project manager, comments on an access installation tip: “If you need to install an electrified hinge in a wooden doorframe and the screw holes are stripped out, stick a wooden golf tee in the hole, break it off and redrill the hole. This works better than a dowel since the tee is tapered.”
  2. First impressions are everything — On residential postwire installations, make sure the first thing a customer sees is an installer with a vacuum cleaner and a drop cloth. It is more reassuring than drills, ladders, and 6-foot flex bits. Additionally, make sure to have the salespeople arrange in advance to have furniture moved away from work areas.
  3. Working with sealants — When dealing with cold caulk and sealant in the winter, warm it in an on-site microwave. Open the cap, lay it on a paper towel and try it in 15-second intervals. No microwave? Then carefully place it on top of a vehicle radiator to warm up. Mix a little soap in water to help keep fingers unstuck when smoothing out a caulk bead.
  4. Handy cable fishing rods — Cut some fish tape into 15-foot lengths. These can come in handy if you find yourself short at an installation site. You can then use a telescopic Grabbit™ or Telepole (did you know they now make LED lights for the tips?) to retrieve cable over the top of a ceiling. Use a piece of flexible conduit to hold your fish tape. Make the conduit piece half the circumference of the stored coiled fish tape. Feed it through the conduit section.
  5. Wrong size door contact holes — You specifically told the door installer to have a 3/4-inch hole drilled before pulling the door contact wire through and mounting the doorframe. But he or she drills a 1/4-inch hole instead. How do you make the hole 3/4 inches without pushing the wire back in and chewing up the walls? Get a special drill called the Rebore-Zit®.
  6. Become a superman with fishing walls — Have you had situations in fishing a wall when you had to make too many turns through insulation for a rod and none of your existing special installation tools would work easily? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to just steer you wire on the other side of the wall?

    Well, there is a device I ran across called the Magnapull. This is a very powerful magnetic roller that, when used with the special bullet leader, allows an installer to literally drive the cable behind the wall.

  7. The return of a classic installation manual — Many of you old-timers remember a classic installation guide that was available from Sentrol for many years. The manual disappeared but has now been rebranded by GE. It has some nice updates and can be downloaded for free at the GE Security Web site. It is called the Intrusion Sensor Application Notebook.

For the complete version of this story, see the July issue of Security Sales & Integration magazine.

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