How to Install a Wired Security Camera System
If you’ve decided to get a wired security camera system instead of a Wi-Fi camera, the setup is a bit more involved, but you’ll end up with a better system in the end. Here’s how to install wired security cameras.
RELATED: Wired Security Cameras vs. Wi-Fi Cams: Which Ones Should You Buy?
For this guide, we’ll be installing an EZVIZ 1080p system, which comes with a DVR that locally records footage 24/7. No matter what system you end up going with, the installation procedure is similar across the board, with maybe a few differences here and there based on the system.
What You’ll Need
Unlike a simple Wi-Fi cam, you’ll need more tools for installing a wired camera system, including:
- Ethernet cable
- Baluns (Converts analog to digital—highly recommended if your system is analog)
- A power drill with drive bits and spade bits (and some regular drill bits as well)
- Steel fish tape
- Masking tape (or any kind of tape for that matter)
- A monitor, mouse, and keyboard
- A friend to help out (seriously, this is highly recommended)
As you go through the installation process, you might decide to use other tools to make things a bit easier depending on your specific situation, but the things listed above are the basics that you’ll need.
How Wired Camera Systems Are Set Up
Before you dive deep into installing a wired security camera system, you first have to understand how everything is connected.
Pretty much every system consists of a set of cameras and a DVR box that serves as the user interface for managing the entire system, as well as storing all of the video footage that gets recorded.
RELATED: How Do Night Vision Cameras Work?
All of the cameras connect directly to the DVR box, either using BNC cable for analog camera systems, or ethernet cable for digital systems. If you have an analog system, I highly recommend skipping the BNC cable and getting special adapters called baluns, which allow you to use Ethernet cables—they’re a lot easier to install and more modern overall.
Since the cameras directly plug into the DVR box, this means that if you install a camera by your back patio and the DVR box is upstairs in your home office, you’ll need to route the camera’s cable through your house in order to connect it to the DVR box, which can get a bit complicated, depending on how your house is built how exactly you plan to route the cable.
From there, the DVR box gets plugged into a power outlet and then you connect an external monitor to the DVR box to manage the entire system, see a live view of all the cameras, and review past recordings. Most systems will also come with a mouse, but a keyboard is also recommended.
Step One: Figure Out Where You Want Your Cameras
When it comes to installing wired security cameras, it’s not enough to pick just any spot and mount them. You have to think about what makes the most sense as far as ease of installation (and if it’s even possible to install a camera where you want it).
For example, it would be great to have a camera mounted on the outside wall next to your front door in the upper corner, but you have to think about how you’re going to route the cable from the camera all the way to the DVR box. That is your limiting factor when it comes to installing the cameras.
So instead of mounting it on an outside wall, perhaps mount it on your front porch’s ceiling. From there you can run the cable through the porch’s own little attic and then up into the main attic, taking it wherever you want from there. Obviously, you’ll have the best judgement on this, but it’s something you’ll need to keep in mind.
Step Two: Prepare the Camera Installation
Depending on where exactly you install your cameras, you may need some different tools than what I use. For instance, I’m just drilling through wood, drywall, and aluminum, so a regular power drill and some basic drill bits will work fine. However, if you have to drill through brick or other masonry, you’ll likely want a hammer drill with some masonry drill bits.
In any case, start by marking a hole where the camera’s cable will feed through, as well as holes for where the camera’s mounting screws will go. Some kits will come with a template sticker that makes the job a lot easier. If yours doesn’t come with these, hold the camera up to the wall or ceiling where you want it and mark the holes with a pencil.
Get your power drill and a drill bit and drill pilot holes where the mounting screws will go. Then drill the bigger hole in the center that the cable will feed through. Usually you have to use a spade bit for the bigger hole, but you might be able to find a regular drill bit that’s big enough.
Step Three: Run Cables to Each Camera Location
Once you have holes drilled for your cameras, it’s time to run cable to each of your camera locations. This is also where the order of things might be different for you based on your situation, but essentially you’ll be drilling holes either through walls or ceilings in order to feed cables to where you need them to go.
For my installation, all of the cameras’ cables will converge in the attic above my garage, and from there they’ll all feed up into the main attic above the second floor. So to start, I’m going to take cable and feed various lengths out to the edges where my cameras will be. This is a lot easier to do if you have steel fish tape—it’s very difficult to physically locate yourself around the edge of your attic, since that’s where your roof slopes down and creates a very cramped space to work in. So to solve that, fish tape will be your best friend.
You can feed the fish tape up into the hole that you just drilled for your camera.
Once the fish tape extends far enough into the attic for easier access, tape the end of the cable to the fish tape and pull on the fish tape from the outside to thread the cable through the hole you drilled. This job is a whole lot easier with a friend helping you.
RELATED: How to Crimp Your Own Custom Ethernet Cables of Any Length
Next unwrap and remove the fish tape, and your cable will be ready to hook up to your camera when you’re ready to install it. If you’re using ethernet cable, you might have to crimp your own connectors on if they’re not already installed.
Step Four: Run the Cables to the DVR Box
Once you have all of the cable runs located where each camera will be, it’s now time to route all of those cables to the DVR box.
You’ll likely need your fish tape for this again, as well as your power drill to drill holes through walls or ceilings. This is where things can become a bit complicated, so if you’re not quite sure where to start, maybe phone that friend if you haven’t already.
Essentially, I’m routing the cables from my garage’s attic up to the main attic that’s a floor higher. This requires a hole to be drilled in the garage’s attic wall, plus a second hole in the main attic to feed the cables all the way through. However, I got pretty lucky with my cable runs, since the path I wanted to take with all of the cables was already cleared by previous cables runs, so I didn’t have to drill any new holes through studs or walls. You may not be so lucky.
After all that, I’ll drill a hole in the ceiling in my closet to feed the cables down through that hole where they’ll meet the DVR box.
How you mount the DVR box is completely up to you. Most will have mounting holes on the back, similar to what power strips and surge protectors have. You can also just have it sit on a desk or tabletop of some kind.
Fish tape will be required to pull cables through all walls and ceilings, and you may end up taping cables to the fish tape, pulling them through, removing them, and repeating the process several times through multiple walls before the cables finally arrive to their destination.
Step Five: Install the Cameras
Things get a lot easier from here, since running the cables is definitely the most difficult part. Installing the cameras should only take a few minutes each.
Start by connecting the cable coming out from the hole to the camera itself. Then feed the excess back up into the hole.
If you want, you can wrap the connection with electrical tape to secure it so that it doesn’t get unplugged by accident.
Next, grab the mounting screws that came with your kit and use your power drill to mount the camera to your house.
After the camera is installed, you can then make some rough adjustments to the camera by loosening the adjustment screws and then tightening them back up when all adjustments have been made. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to make finer adjustments once you can actually see the live view of the camera, so you’re not entirely done with this step just yet.
Step Six: Connect Everything Together
Once the other end of the cables are completely routed through your house, you can begin connecting them to the DVR.
The connections should be pretty easy, and as you can see, I’m using those special adapters that I mentioned further above. Just connect each cable to its own port, and then connect the external monitor to the DVR box, as well as the mouse and keyboard. You can also keep a USB drive plugged in for when you need to export any footage in the future.
Step Seven: Set Up the User Interface
This is where things can be different for you depending on what camera system you have, but the setup process is likely similar across the board.
With my system, the user interface setup consists of creating a password, setting the date and time, and going through a quick tutorial on how it all works.
From there, you’re good to go, but taking some time to navigate through the settings to customize some things is recommended, like whether or not your cameras should record 24/7 or only during motion, for example. Your system may also have video settings that you can tinker with to make the image quality a bit better.
Once you have your camera system officially up and running, take a look at the video feeds and decide if any of the cameras need adjusting. As described further above, use those small screws on the camera to adjust the positioning to where you want it.