For installing alarm, surveillance and building control system copper wiring, technicians use many of the same tools as they do for placing data and communications networks. These tools include, but are not limited to, cable cutters, crimpers, strippers, punchdown tools and blades, and test equipment. There also are applications that may require specialized tools.

Some voice/data/video (VDV) specialists build their own custom tool kits that meet specific needs and brand preferences, while others start with basic kits offered by several manufacturers containing the most-used tools.

“We offer a twisted-pair and coaxial tool kit that includes all of the necessary tools for twisted-pair and coaxial terminations,” said John ­Phillips, product and marketing manager, Platinum Tools. “Tools in the kit work with telecommunications Cat 5, 5e and 6; satellite and HDTV; security; and home theater systems—perfect for the commercial and residential wiring installation professionals. We also offer a 10-gig kit for larger cables.”

Greenlee offers a variety of VDV tools and kits for low-voltage installers, said Feras Khouri, product manager.

“Multimeter or twisted-pair kits would include cable cutter, a stripper, twisted-pair stripper, punchdown tool, a punchdown blade and telephone ratchet crimper,” Khouri said. “Custom grip pack kits combine all critical installer hand tools into a convenient hip package that prevents loss of tools when working aloft or in tight crawl spaces. A good grip pack will include an adjustable compression tool, a ratchet, screwdriver, a torque wrench, stripping tool and a small flashlight.

”[Our] HDMI termination kit enables creation of custom-length HDMI cables in the field. It should include a cable-prep tool for cutting 24 AWG HDFT cables, stripping the outer jacket and twisted-pair shielding. A termination tool for preparing the wires for installation in the field also has a place in the kit.”

While any of the same tools used to install low-voltage and VDV networks are compatible with one another, coaxial, Ethernet and HDMI applications often require specific tools.

“These tools include grip pack, NETcat, cable strippers, coax compression tools, f-compression crimpers, punchdown tools, jack terminator, cable tie guns and HDMI termination tools,” Khouri said.

In addition to the tools in a basic kit, other necessary VDV tools are fishing tools and rods with lighted tips to fish cable inside walls and ceilings in light industrial and residential jobs and knockout kits for making holes in stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum, fiberglass and plastic. Common hole sizes are from ½-inch up to 4 inches.

For contractors who do any significant amount of work with low-voltage systems, specialty tools are better than conventional electrical tools, said Mark Mullins, marketing manager, Fluke Networks.

“They reduce the time required for installation and also are less likely to inadvertently damage the smaller low-voltage cabling,” he said. “Tools installers must have are strippers, impact or punchdown tools, and snips, which are included in kits offered by Fluke Networks. The cabling used in these systems hasn’t changed in the last decade, so we haven’t changed our tools significantly.”

Chris Niklas, product manager for Klein Tools, said Klein offers several basic kits and custom kits with tools based on the customer’s specific needs.

Tools in Niklas’ “must-have” kit include a coaxial cable cutter, coaxial cable stripper, compression crimper for coaxial cable, modular connector crimper and punchdown tool with 110/66 cut blade.

Several of these tools have seen evolutionary improvement over the past two years.

“The coaxial cable cutter is a new product for us,” Niklas said. “We have seen an increasing amount of coaxial cable that utilizes a center conductor composed of copper-clad steel as opposed to copper. As a result of the increased center conductor hardness, the blade geometry on the cutting knives required a design change. This new cutter was developed specifically to cut the center conductor cleanly and repeatedly for more than 10,000 cuts. Now it can easily cut common [copper-clad steel] coaxial cables such as RG-59, RG-6/6Q, RG-7 and RG-11. The blade geometry ensures the [copper-clad steel] coaxial cable retains its form when cut to facilitate easy insertion into connectors and provide excellent terminations. Additionally, there is a fine-cut shear-style cutter for precise/detail cutting/trimming capabilities such as cleanly cutting and snipping solid and stranded copper, aluminum, UTP/STP twisted-pair wires and cables.

“The compact ratcheting modular crimper has been optimized into a very compact, ergonomic form design for natural, single-hand operation. It has a precise ratcheting system to ensure complete termination. The tool cuts and strips Cat 6, Cat 5e, Cat 3 and flat-satin voice cables, as well as crimps 6 and 8 position modular connectors [RJ-11, RJ-12, RJ-45].

“Punchdown tools of the trapezoidal design have been available for years and have come to be synonymous with punchdown tools,” Niklas said. “Klein has developed a new design that draws on its success with screwdriver handles and has cushion-type grips and extended reach to facilitate connections in crowded punchdown panels. The tool also uses a new blade made with the MIM [metal injection molding] process that are harder and more precise to perform consistently and last longer.”

Testers and testing notes

Manufacturers of installation tools emphasize testing systems as an essential step in installation of structured wiring. Each tool-maker offers both copper and fiber testers for testing structured building cabling.

Many tests can be performed with instruments used for communications and data cabling, while other systems require special testers. For example, armored copper fire alarm cable has different characteristics than telecom cable.

Faulty cabling or poor terminations in security applications can mean the difference between clearly seeing details in videos and pixilated, jittery images with limited usefulness. HD or UHD cameras are of limited value if the details in the video image are unclear or snowy due to improperly terminated or configured cabling.

Closed-circuit television (CCTV) multifunction testers display analog CCTV signals, verify line voltages, communicate with cameras in more than 20 protocols and measure IRE levels.

Tone and probe testers find and identify copper cables and verify continuity.

A wiremap tester with a length measurement feature helps identify whether cable runs are too long and whether signals may be attenuated too much before reaching the far end of the cable.

A power-over-Ethernet tester can verify if the camera is receiving enough power from the injector over the category cabling.

Qualification testers check the gigabit Ethernet standard by sending gigabit traffic to confirm the cable can accommodate such traffic and connect/perform at 1 gigabit per second. Qualification testing is more complex than wiremap testing but is easier to perform and costs less than a full certification.

Certification testing proves the installation has been done correctly, is compliant with TIA/EIA standards and will perform to specified levels. It is necessary in order for electrical contractors to file warranties.