Subscriber Discussion

The Right Cable For Alarm Systems?

I am in need of a good resource for what type of cable is recommended for installation of alarm systems?

  • 18 guage multi conductor
  • Cat 5
  • Cat 6

What's the right cable and where to find the right advise?

Short Answer: "It Depends"

If you are talking about wiring up alarm contacts, they draw ~zero current, so you can almost certainly use 22/2.

Pretty much everything else will depend on the amount of current drawn, and the length of the run.

A typical honeywell setup for a house:

Contacts: 22/2

Motions: 22/4

Smokes: 22/2 or 22/4 depending on if its a 2 or 4 wire smoke

Keypads and expansion modules: 22/4 (single keypad) or 18/4 (multiple keypads daisy chained).

Sirens: 18/4

Google should lead you to a wire sizing chart (your looking for "NEC wire sizing chart" if you are in the US).

Like James describes, the typical wiring for sensor and keypads is 4-conductor jacketed cable. Gauge depends on device amperage and distance.

Alarm cable usually color-codes wire jackets with:

  • Red: used for + power
  • Black: used for - power
  • Yellow: data out
  • Green: data in

Observing color codes makes it easy to keep track of which wire connects to as given terminal.

Usually, dedicated power circuits, or for devices pulling larger amperages over long runs (like the sirens/keypads James describes above) 18 gauge wire is used.

James, Thank you. I should have clearified my original post. This would be for alarm devices, like keypads, hold ups, door contacts, heat sensors and vibration sensors the installation would be from an alarm panel inside a building to an outside remote building. This would be where some, part or all of the wire, cable may go underground.

Depending on where your project is located, underground cable is offered in 'direct burial' types that can be trenched unprotected into soil, or can be run in conduit to protect cable from water, ice, and pests.

Direct Burial cabling typically has a thick seamless polypropylene sheath, like shown below:

The installation of burglar alarm cabling is guided by National Electrical Code Article 725. Here are a couple of articles to give you some guidance.

NEC Technical Reference

NEC / CEC Substitution Chart

A great resource for assistance are cabling suppliers like, CSC, Windy City Wire, West Penn and others. They are there to help you select the right cabling.

For our own use we purchase the product called Aquaseal for underground cabling. It is available for various applications.

Damon, sounds like your application requires multiple cables to be run to an out facility. Based on that, I would run 3/4 inch PVC conduit undergroung (if appropriate) to the remote facility and run the cables mentioned earlier. You mentioned a heat detector. keep the jacket color red with anything fire related. Also, cables should be stranded rather then solid With respect to alarm system conductors. Lastly, you mentioned a keypad. It's a good idea to run a Cat 5/6 to the keypad Area. You won't regret that. Regards

22-12C works great as well for alarm system in places where you want to pull one wire and hang a few devices off of it.