How Should We Breakdown Labor Estimates For Video Systems?

We are planning to survey integrators to collect baseline labor estimates for installing video systems.

The goal is to publish a guide that averages the amount of time it takes to do different tasks. The results could then be useful for developing labor estimates.

We would like your help in putting the 'labor categories' together. Here are basic examples of what we intend to survey:

Video Surveillance Task: (manhours each device)


  • Installing VMS Server Software: X hours
  • Installing VMS Client Software: Y hours
  • Configuring VMS, per camera: Z hours
  • Configuring Camera, per camera: P hours
  • Hookup Server (physical installation into rack/network): Q hours

Camera Mounting

  • Drop Ceiling
  • Drywall
  • External Wall
  • Parapet
  • Pole
  • PTZ

Camera Focus/Adjustment

  • Camera refocus (manual, auto iris)
  • Camera cleaning (dome or front view window)
  • Camera firmware upgrade
  • Configuring motion detection (in camera)


  • Setting IP address in camera (initially)
  • Connecting NVR appliance
  • Installing external Power Supply (not PoE)

Cable Installation

  • Cat5/5e/6/6A per 50': N hours
  • Coax per 50':
  • Fiber Optics per 50'
  • Installing Lightning Arrestors:
  • Category Cable Termination:
  • Coax Termination, 'F' Style:
  • Category Cable Certification
  • Install Network Patch Block:
  • Installing/ connecting media converters

There is also the question of how we handle different mounting locations. Do we break each category into a simple/difficult values? ('Simple' is ladder work, drop ceiling but 'Difficult' is Lift height, hard ceilings?)

What categories should we add, delete, adjust?

PS: We are not looking for your manhours values yet. We are looking for those common tasks you or your installers do on typical jobs.

What is missing?

Should be a catagory for configuring advanced video analytics per channel. They often take up a good amount of time, especially if you have to go back and adjust them.

For analytics configuration, I worry about the variation across manufacturers.

I know, but it does take time and can factor significantly. Maybe if you're ok with giving a range on this one, you can say for example:

Configuring Video Analytics Per Channels: 1 to 3 hours*

*Depending on difficulty which significantly varies across providers.

But maybe too special a task if you're looking for a more generic list.

When the Avigilon dealers protest, I am sending them to your house ;)

What we will do is include color commentary after each metric, so not only will there be a number / numerical range, it will include different perspectives / experiences below that.

add configuring network hardware (switches, wireless hardware, router)

Ah yes, that's a big category that is missing.

I propose that values are broken into 'managed' and 'unmanaged' equipment categories.

Systems using unmanaged switches are really just 'plug & play' compared to managed gear.


True. Even managed gear can also be plug and play, if you don't feel like taking the time to IP address a smart switch. I'd think the biggest aspect would be configuring remote access, which would be on the router side.

At the fear of sounding hypocritical after my last post, it may be took specific for the list if you start getting into switch configuration, because I don't see a lot of time in that unless you're doing something special like VLAN's or 802.1x or MAC address whitelisting, and you can quickly get into the weeds accounting for all the various possibilities.

But thats kind of like saying you don't have to focus a camera or adjust motion detection since it will possibly work. Obviously more complex network configurations take more time but so can more complex camera locations.

I use metrics like this for figuring "Opinions of Probable Cost" but i group the devices into a particuarl door or camera type consisting of all the products that are needed.

I would condition the hours based upon the level difficulty (like Means Construction Estimates does). The cost will differ if you have a camera in a parking lot requiring treching v a camera in a drop ceiling. Another way is to consider ONLY the mounting and programming of the device including license fees, O & P, shipping, project supervision, warranty labor, owner training, shop drawings and submittals. Some of these could be expressed in terms of a metric (i.e. Parts+labor+10%), while others could be a hard cost (i.e. license fee $200 per camera) and not the wire running back to the central IDF.

I would love to see this result in a table of labor hours. And if it were done correctly, I think this would be of great value to our membership. If i were an integrator,I would want to know how my rates stack up against the averages around the country.

I would add performance test after installation day/night to check out if my wonderful day settings are still working at night. Same for analytics .... You can take 1 to 3 hours during the way, but when replaying night sequences you will find a lot to improve .... light bugs in IR, lights , relects..etc

I mean for "strategic cameras" the ones that are supposed to detect or identify or face reco or plate reco.

On the field it's sadly very rare...

I would add "end-user training." Some specs require a certain amount of hours, but even non-spec systems usually entail some amount of time spent in training the end-user.

I'd concure with that. How do they bring up cameras. How do they review recordings. How do they export video and pictures. How to review Events. Basic stuff that will be in the manual and they'll probably be calling you back when they need to export video anyways, but you still have to spend the inital time to show the actual users the basics.

Safety Orientation. We went to a job where the orientation was 2 hours x 2 techs.

Some more for the lis most of which should be part of the device labor type

  • Progress meetings and inspections (Ive seen meetings last hours on end and at the very end, security is dicussed, yet the integrator needs to be present for the entire meeting or otherwise he may miss something from another trade).
  • Punch list inspections. (could be as much as 20Min per end point).
  • As-built draiwngs
  • Travel time and expenses (job dependent but worth mentioning)


After installing and estimating Video Systems for 25 years, I sat at my desk one day estimating an IP solution and came to an enlightened conclusion. Granted, there are still times I estimate by the component, right down to the connectors on a Cat cable, but overall, I cam to the conclusion that having gone over estimates from 30 previous jobs, I was always somewhere between 4-5 hours total for the whole system from cable to commission.

Exceptions to every rule, but with the volume of quotes I do in a week, I don't have the time to value engineer every design I do. I also exclude programming or configuring the Customer network. I leave that up to their IT guys. Just give me IP addresses and I'll do the configuration on my equipment.

John, I team up with a small local integrator who does all my installations for me and he is not an IPVM member (I've been working on that). Do you want me to get his input on this? I can print it out and give it to him as yet another example of why he needs to fork over the hundred bucks & become a member. His argument against it has been that he wouldn't have time to log on anyway so it would be a waste of $. I think he'd use it more than he thinks, if only for this kind of stuff, so showing him things like this might help move to sign up :)

Hello Meghan, thanks for the offer.

When this is released, we'll send it to members using our internal survey platform. That way, we can also segment responses by location or other criteria as needed. At this point, we will only ask current members to respond, that way there is already motivation to positively contribute.

I am glad you mention 'outsiders' showing interest in these results. As an estimator, I would think that having vetted averages to balance quotes against would be very beneficial, and that is the product we want this survey to provide. If it compels non-members to join, then great!

I totally agree. For me its about establishing a budget for a project. The more accurate my budget, the less we have to Value Engineer out of the project and the better it fits to the integrator's price.

Hello Everyone. A short update on this:

We've sent the first survey out to integrators and had strong response. Thanks to everyone submitting answers!

If you have been sent an invite to take the survey, please complete it ASAP. We are closing it shortly in order to report on the results in upcoming posts.

If you got the link but need it resent, or are an installer interested in taking it, shoot me an email:

Oops, please ignore.