Avoiding the most common problems with your new outdoor installation

Hello!  If you've purchased an outdoor surveillance solution from Radius Vision, we're sure you'd like it to perform well, not just at first, but for a long time. When we see problems with a system that begins to "act up" a few months after installation, we often find the same types of hardware issues, time and again. Here are a few "ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" problems that we commonly encounter, but that are easy to avoid:

  • Outdoor ethernet cables must be shielded: a common misconception is that it's OK to  install long runs of outdoor-rated Cat 5 or Cat 6 unshielded ethernet cable without some form of protective shielding. The problem is that unshielded cable can pick up high-voltage spikes from nearby electrical equipment, power lines, or even lightning strikes. Those spikes are then carried into the ethernet ports of the associated equipment, such as radios, IP cameras and ethernet switches, where they can cause permanent damage. While most equipment has some built-in protection against spikes and surges, it's generally not capable of dealing with extremes that can be induced in the exposed cables by, for example, nearby lightning strikes. That's why we always recommend using either a shielded Cat 5 ethernet cable, or  unshielded cat 5 cable within grounded metal conduit, for any exposed ethernet cable runs in excess of just a couple of feet.
  • Ethernet cables must be correctly terminated and seated: All assembled cables should be carefully tested with a purpose-built ethernet continuity checker prior to installation. A completely non-functional termination will immediately show up either as a no-power or no-connectivity problem. However a partially-working termination (or connector that's not properly seated) can show up as weak or intermittent power, or a connection that only works on half-duplex mode or with poor throughput - and troubleshooting these kinds of problems is a huge and expensive time-sink. 
  • Outdoor antenna or ethernet connections not correctly waterproofed: Industrial N-style antenna connectors are designed to be water-resistant - but that's not sufficient esp. in rainy or humid environments. Once your system has been installed in its final location and tested for proper operation, the last step should be to correctly wrap the connector and the last inch or so of the antenna cable with self-amalgamating rubber tape (sometimes called plumber's tape) and then cover that with high-quality electrical tape to provide UV protection.
  • Outdoor antenna cables must be correctly dressed and oriented: all cable runs should be installed with at least a 6"  "drip loop" so that accumulated water has somewhere to go other than inside your newly-installed radio or IP camera equipment.  It's also important to avoid sharp bends in antenna cables, especially the heavy-duty LMR-400 1/2" diameter coax cables that we generally use on outdoor installations. Sharp bends interfere with the cable's ability to carry radio signals and may eventually compromise the protective sheath.
  • Installed equipment not properly grounded: when you install wireless equipment or cameras on a roof-mount pole or wall-mount bracket, either the bracket or the equipment case needs to be directly grounded with stranded  #12 or #14 copper-clad multi-strand wire running to a known ground point such as a 6' copper-clad pole driven into the ground next to the building foundation. The stranded copper wire should be attached to the grounding pole with standard screw-type terminals available at any hardware or electrical-supply store, and then carefully wrapped in waterproof tape to protect them from the elements. At the pole, the stranded #12 wire can be attached to the pole itself, or to one of the mounting bracket screws on the radio. If a lightening protector in installed inline with the LMR-400 cable, that should also be grounded to the pole or radio (at the same spot you ran the wire from the grounding pole) using a short length of #12 or #14 stranded wire.
  • Outdoor installations using separate antennas must be equipped with lighting protection: three types of antennas are supplied with our equipment - built-in, external with DC ground, and external without DC ground. The units that we supply with built-in antennas do not require additional external lightning protection, as is also the case with many panel antennas that are used externally. However, some panel antennas and most omni, sector and dish antennas do not have internal DC ground, and those MUST be installed with the supplied in-line lightning protection to avoid damage to the internal radio module from external events like nearby lightning strikes. Please pay close attention to the supplied documentation, and if the installation diagram shows lightning protectors installed in-line between the antenna cable and the radio, please use them.
  • UPS (uninterruptible power supplies) must be utilized on critical equipment: This is one place you don't want to take a shortcut! All network electronics, but especially servers and desktop workstations, have trouble when the power goes off and on randomly or if you have highly variable incoming voltage causing "brownouts."  To avoid these problems that can range from scrambled setting all the way to destroyed hard-drives, please install a good-quality commercial UPS at each leg of the system, especially your primary router, NAS / server, and monitoring desktop workstation and display. Ideally, you want the entire surveillance system to continue operating if the power goes down.
  • Antenna mounting brackets must be properly tightened: it's often a good idea to only finger tighten antenna mount adjustments during the initial process of antenna alignment and signal-strength optimization. But, you have to remember to fully tighten them when you're done - otherwise the wind will come along, knock them out of alignment, and your system will stop working well, or at all. Bring along a magic marker to scribe the final location before you tighten everything down, so that you can quickly see if you accidentally moved away from the optimum adjustment.
  • NEMA boxes require drip holes: it may seem like a good idea to install ancillary devices like power-over-ethernet supplies, ethernet switches, crossover cables, etc. in a completely sealed outdoor NEMA electrical box. However, over time, water can build up inside these boxes from several sources including leaks from incorrectly-installed conduit, temperature swings and pressure differences that cause internal condensation or seal failure, over or under-tightened cover screws, etc. That's why it's always a good idea to drill a few small (e.g. 3/32") holes in the bottom of the NEMA box to allow trapped water a way out. Even better, install a 1/2" NPT breather (such as those commonly found on air compressors) to allow pressure equalization and water egress without allowing insects and dirt a way into the box.  Note - this is not a substitute for careful waterproofing of the box and any incoming cable or conduit junctions. If the inside of the NEMA box is persistently damp, that can eventually damage and corrode the RJ-45 pins on cables and POE injectors as well as other equipment.

As always, feel free to contact us or post on this forum with any comments or suggestions.

Radius Vision    800.448.6140

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