Proper Box Camera InstallationBy Brian Rhodes, Published on Oct 31, 2012
Bad installations of box cameras are nearly everywhere. Not only does it make the site look bad, it increases risk of vandalism and service problems. In this note, we look at what it takes to properly hang a box camera, and identify some of the most common installation errors.
Proper Installation Includes:
- Recognizing Common Indoor Mounting Barriers
- Using Correct, Loadbearing Fasteners
- Effective Gasketing & Sealants
- Protecting Cabling With Tubing and Conduit
- Mounting Cameras To Sturdy Surfaces
- Using Drip Loops
Then we examine mounting mistakes that often cause operation issues as a result.
Despite the easy availability of high-quality equipment, the installation of these cameras often leave much to be desired. Fortunately, most of the problems can be easily prevented by being aware of a few critical issues during installation:
Because indoor boxes are typically mounted without a protective enclosure, extra attention should be paid to the vulnerability of exposed cabling - even the pigtails connecting autoiris lenses can be a target. Also, consider the potential for knocking them out of alignment via handslaps or swung purses.
The risk of mounting cameras too high is that poorer images are the result, especially when complicated by downtilt viewing of human subjects. We cover this problem in depth in our Testing Camera Height vs Image Quality post.
Consider the proximity of the camera to flourescent light sources that can cause interference or cast glare into the frame. While cameras may be aimed to avoid glare from light sources, this may not provide ideal coverage of their intended area, which may be possible by relocating the camera.
Indoor box camera mounts often become anchor points to hang seasonal decorations from, especially if mounted in an office-type environment. If discouraging this practice is not enough, consider the impact the extra stress may have on your mounting methods and mounting type.
Use the Right Fasteners
Standard outdoor box enclosures can be quite heavy - often as much as 15 - 20 pounds. This means that using the correct fasteners to secure the mount to the wall is critical. Uncommon fasteners like Masonry bolts, anchor bolts, or toggle bolts may be required to securely anchor the mount to the wall.
The right choice of fastener depends on the type of surface being mounted to, but common drywall screws are never the correct solution for outdoor mounting as they are not treated for corrosion prevention nor have threads designed to hold cameras flush with mounting surfaces.
Using the Right Sealant
Keeping water out of the enclosure and cabling is a critical step. Not only can water cause immediate damage (like electrical shorting) and impair visual quality (fogged/wet lenses), small amounts can freeze.
Any joint or drilled opening should be sealed, especially where the cabling penetrates the housing. Proper sealant needs to be water-proof and UV stable: RTV silicone or polyurethane sealants are good choices, but NOT acrylic caulks or expanding foams because they can soften, crack, grow fungus, and absorb water during prolonged exposure to the outdoors.
Using the Right Cable Protection
Any exposed cabling (like the pigtail extending out the back of the housing) should be run in properly joined EMT, conduit, or liquid-tight flex (LFC) conduit that both seals the cable against exposure and offers some amount of armoring/tamper resistance. Additionally, proper liquid-tight knockout glands should be used to terminate the conduit into boxes or wall penetrations.
Mounting to the Right Surface
This is a commonly underestimated, but critical, step in properly mounting box cameras. Generally, box camera enclosures are designed to be mounted to secure, rigid, and flush mounting surfaces (like brick walls). However, when the cameras are mounted to 'irregular surfaces' like poles, stucco, and equipment trouble can develop. It is critical that the surface is able to bear the entire weight of the housing and is not susceptible to damage from vibration, snow/ice, or being pulled away from the mounting surface.
Installing Cable Drip Loops
Other mounting 'best practices' include installing cabling with drip loops, or cable bends allowing water to drip away from housing before it enters enclosures.
Using water proof putty to back fill voids and gaps in the mounting surface is another damage prevention step. For example, drilling into brick can cause 'breakout chips' around a hole, and dressing this opening with putty prevents further damage.
Spot The Issues
This illustration highlights common problems, which we review below:
1. Driving Fasteners Into Mortar
While it is much easier and quicker to drive screws into brick mortar joints rather than the brick itself, it is not secure. Not only can the fastener easily pull away, this practice can potentially cause wall damage due to 'mortar washout' caused by rain, ice, and wind.
2. Non-Outdoor Exposed Cabling
While it appears a significant length of the exterior cable run is secured in conduit, the 'pigtails' - the sections from the camera to the conduit box - are exposed to potential vandalism and not outdoor rated. Even if no one disturbs the cable deliberately, the effects of weather can break or short the cable over time in its exposed state.
3. Non-Weatherized Knockout
The penetration into the junction box is not weatherproofed using a grommet or cable connector. If water, dirt, or insects infiltrate the junction box, it could potentially disable 3 cameras, not just one.
4. Housings Not Locked
While this may be an optional security step in some installations, the source of this image explained these same cameras had been stolen once before, yet no locks had been installed. In general, securing cameras against theft is an easy step to take: in this case, a few inexpensive padlocks would stifle future theft attempts.
5. Fasteners Not Driven Flush
Several of the mount fasteners can be seen sticking out from the brick/camera enclosure. This not only looks bad, but could potentially allow the camera to pull away or be shifted out of position - especially if high winds or snow loads are an issue.
6. Exposed Splices
Another aspect of this install that begs problems are the cable splices. Assuming that these splices were done in a 'best practices' manner - cable splicing is not always recommended - the fact they are simply wrapped in tape and left to oxidize and be exposed to weather almost guarantees image quality problems, if not outright image failure.
7. No Drip Loops
Rainwater drops accumulate on cable, and will follow the run to the lowest point before dripping off. Unless this point is deliberately made below adjacent knockouts, there is a risk of running water into enclosures. While not a 'worst case' condition, the roughshod nature of cabling means damage could occur without well-formed drip loops.
[Note: This guide was originally published in 2012, but substantially expanded and updated in 2018.]