Be a Good Terminator: Cable Termination Best Practices

Did you know that the biggest cause of problems in system installations is proper electrical termination, or the connecting of cables to equipment or other cables?

Be a Good Terminator: Cable Termination Best Practices

Several years ago while traveling through an airport, I was questioned by security about the unusual item I was carrying. When they opened up my bag they were set back for a moment due to what appeared to be a gun.

The security officer asked, “Sir, what is that?” I calmly replied, “A termination gun.” As you might have guessed, I had to explain further. At the time I was running the tech training program at Sonitrol and they used a special cable termination tool that looked like a handgun. Ergo, it was called a termination gun. Not funny to the security officer.

Now, let’s get to the matter at hand, and that is cable termination practices. Did you know that the biggest cause of problems in system installations is proper electrical termination, or the connecting of cables to equipment or other cables? That is why this month I am addressing cable termination skills and practices as an important basic technician’s skill.

There are typically two types of electrical cables: solid core and stranded. Stranded is made up of many individual conductors twisted together. This provides for flexibility when bending and installing.

On the upside, if the cable is slightly nicked during insulation stripping, the majority of the conductors will still be intact. When terminating this cable to equipment, one should always be careful of the tiny loose strand ends as they can short to neighboring terminals. Crimped metal connectors should be used to minimize this problem.

Solid core cabling is often preferred due to cost and ease of termination to equipment.  Technicians need to be careful when stripping solid core as the conductor can be nicked, and with typical small gauge cabling can even break causing a bad connection.

There are a few types of wire strippers to consider depend on experience and comfort level.  One of the best overall is the self-adjusting stripper, such as the Irwin Self-Adjusting Wire Stripper. It will pull the cable jacket off, but not nick the copper.

Another type is one with designated stripping holes such as the Klein-Kurve. Care should be taken to use the proper size hole for the cable or nicking of the conductor can happen. The last stripping tool is the lightweight, inexpensive adjustable wire stripper. While this tool is cheap, small and handy, care should be used by inexperienced techs as it takes a feel to get the right strip.

The simple act of stripping and placing cables in a saddle type terminal connector on a control panel can be problematic. When tightening the connectors make sure it is on the stripped copper and not accidentally on the cable insulation. Do not overload a terminal connection with too many cables. Instead use a distribution strip such as WAGO Splice Connectors for better connections.

Every technician today has to deal with some sort of network connections. The speed of data of these connections have been increasing at a fast rate. This makes this type of connection critical for good data transmission. The standard connector for these systems is the RJ-45 connector.

When terminating cabling to these connectors the connection must be as tight as possible. Any loose length in the cable conductors can make a significant impact on transmission quality. Experienced installers are pretty good at making these tight connections, but it takes practice and experience that many newbie techs don’t yet have.

To help simplify making tight RJ-45 cable terminations, the pass-through connector (e.g. the EZ-RJ45 connector) was invented. By pushing the category cable stands tightly through the connector, a good, tight connection could be achieved with very little expertise. However, there were some flaws in the design that made experienced techs reluctant to use them.

One of my jobs as your Tech Talk author is to find products and techniques to make your everyday work life easier. Recently I was at a trade show and discovered a new version of the EZ-RJ45. It is called Simply45. I had a lengthy talk with the inventor and was very impressed how they have addressed pitfalls of the previous EZ model (see Tool of the Month).

One of the errors techs make when using these types of connectors is not using the companion connector tool. Don’t make that mistake. It will save you a lot of headaches.

Additionally, when making RJ-45 wall connections make sure to use a good tool that will tightly crimp and cleanly cut the wires. Some networking tools that have caught my attention are from a company called Dynacom.

(Courtesy of Simply45)

Tool of the Month

This month I have selected an exciting new network termination product that is hot off the assembly line.

It is highly recommended for anyone serious in making great and simple RJ-45 connections to try out the S45-PSK10G-ProSeries-10G STP Starter Kit. Take a close look at it and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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