Closed-Circuit Television and UTP

Jeffrey Herman Comments
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Security is a primary selling point for any self-storage facility, and nothing says “safe and secure” to a prospective tenant more than closed-circuit TV security cameras keeping a 24-hour watch on your site. But before investing in a new CCTV system or upgrading your old one, you should know about a readily available option that could save you big bucks.

A basic, modern CCTV system has several main components: video cameras, a digital video recorder (DVR), display monitors, and cables to connect them all together. Quality equipment is important, but you can streamline costs by selecting an alternative type of cabling.

Traditionally, a CCTV system connects via coaxial cable. With this approach, every camera requires a dedicated cable connection to the central monitoring console. Although coax is known to be reliable, another technology is giving it a run for its money: UTP, or unshielded twisted-pair cabling. UTP uses a balun—a device that converts an unbalanced video signal into a balanced one—to adapt the video signal from the coaxial cable so it can support it. Together, UTP and baluns provide a dependable, cost-efficient video path.

Advantages

What are the advantages of UTP? The first is the material cost savings. UTP costs about 40 percent less per foot than coax cable. On top of that, it can support up to four camera signals, while coax can handle only one. This creates a windfall of savings if your system contains several cameras near each other, as you can use just one cable to send the video signals back to the monitoring equipment.

Versatility is another factor that translates into cost savings. UTP is generally easier to install and connect than coax. In addition, it is less bulky and lighter to transport, and requires less valuable conduit space in the building. CCTV installers are starting to use UTP to eliminate the need to supply 110-volt power at the camera or run separate cables for each. Within limits, a single cable can do it all.

Thinking ahead, if a new self-storage facility is going to be prewired with UTP for voice and data anyway, it makes business sense to add a few more cables to support CCTV. This avoids the need to install new cables for video, plus the UTP can be reused for other services later, if necessary.

Finally, twisted-pair cabling lowers the cost-per-camera connection, so it’s affordable to offer more camera positions. For example, for a premium, you can offer additional camera views to a tenant who would like additional surveillance around the perimeter of his unit. If you’ve already installed UTP, accommodating his request will not only be possible, it will be cost-efficient.

How Much Savings?

To get an idea how much you can save with UTP, let’s look at a sample facility with 16 cameras. Assume the cameras are clustered in groups of four, positioned about 500 feet from the DVR. If coax is used, the cable would cost $2,160 at a median price of 27 cents per foot. If UTP is installed, the price is $300, plus the expense of 16 baluns at $20 each. The total price tag weighs in at $620, a savings of $1,540 in cable alone.

Any self-storage facility investing in a CCTV security system should consider the advantages of twisted-pair cabling. Consult with your local security and surveillance providers before purchasing your system, or you may lose the opportunity to save time, convenience and money by thinking ahead with UTP.

Jeffrey Herman is product manager at MuxLab, a Montreal-based designer and manufacturer of CCTV and audio-video connectivity solutions for copper twisted-pair cabling. For more information, call 514.734.4320; e-mail j.herman@muxlab.com; visit www.muxlab.com.

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