Mini Node Zero Project - A DIY Guide
This is a project I worked on recently. A budget node zero install in a new build semi-detached. I thought since we see a lot of questions about this type of thing on here, this might help someone with their own project. This is by no-means a complete guide, but feel free to ask any questions in this thread.
Ideally a "node zero" should be located somewhere central to the house. This helps reduce cable usage and will usually offer better WiFi coverage if you want to use a wireless router in the same position. This new build house already has the perfect sized closet space on the first floor, central to the house with easy access into the attic to allow for any future additions like aerials or satellite cables.
A good node zero should be modular, by which I mean it should be easy to add new equipment and / or install new cables for future devices. This means we want to avoid installing cables inside the walls or around tight bends where we can't feed new cables through in the future without ripping out plasterboard or making a mess.
Modern houses are built with solid board floors instead of floorboards. If you live in a new build you're probably familiar with tradesmen telling you they need to cut into your floor or make a hole in the ceiling downstairs for access because unlike floorboards, solid board floors cannot be lifted (at-least not without damaging them). Fortunately there is a solution.
A solid board access cutter can cut a good enough sized hole for electricians or plumbers to gain access without weakening a large section of the floor. The cutter will also cut away a rebate to allow either a metal or strong plastic cap to cover the hole afterwards. The advantage is that once this is done you have permanent easy access to the floor space, without the need to remove any screws or nails.
These hole cutters require a fair amount of torque to drive so you'll need a half-decent drill. Ideally a corded or a good cordless drill. You should also have a side handle for the drill so you don't twist your wrist if it snags.
Figure-out the best place to drill, there are 2 trains of thought here. Usually you would aim for the hollow area in-between the joists, this allows enough access to get your hand / arm in there to pull cables through. However, anytime you need to get past a joist you will need to drill through it, so you'll need either a small cordless drill which can fit through the access hole, or some type of right-angle drill.
You could buy a specially designed right-angle drill, but they're often expensive and may not be worth the investment for a one-off usage. I suggest using a right-angle drill attachment instead. There are various types of right-angle drill attachments available but I can recommend the Dewalt DT71517. It's a hex drill attachment which accepts hex-shank screw driver ends or hex-shank drill bits, it's also safe to use with an impact driver.
You can use this to drill through the joists via the access holes. However, there is an easier option. Depending how many cables you need to run and weather you actually require access under the floor for any other purpose; you can intentionally cut the holes directly over the joists.
This may seem odd but the space between the access hole cover and the joist is more than enough to accommodate several cables, and you won't need to drill or notch any of the joists. This method is also useful for hard to reach areas, such as a joist that is close to the wall. I often use this method when installing CCTV cameras or other devices where the cable comes through from outside at joist level. In this case it was to drop an alarm cable down to the front door for the keypad.
You may end-up with quite a few access holes. There is a total of 20 access holes in this house, leading into every room on the first floor. It is possible to skip a joist and drill through from both sides so you don't need as many access holes, however in this case I also needed access to install new down-lights in the rooms below. In any case it's easier to do it this way rather than trying to feed cables through two joists at a time.
Once you've picked your node zero location and have access you can start pulling through cables. This is quite a minimal node zero, with just a dozen or so CAT6 for general ethernet use, CCTV and modem / router. I also installed a wired alarm system so the main control panel for that is mounted in here too.
There didn't seem to be enough equipment to justify installing a rack system, so instead I installed a small shelf to hold the network switches & router, with a length of 68mm down pipe to act as a conduit for all the cables. This makes for a nice tidy finish while still allowing any additional cables to be installed in the future.
I had to use hollow wall anchors to install the shelf since there were no studs to fix to. I've used these many times, they are easy to use and surprisingly strong. To install you just need to drill a large enough hole to fit the anchor though the plasterboard, leave the screw in & give it a dozen or so turns (I usually do this with a drill) until you feel resistance. Be sure not to over-tighten or the anchor will spin and you won't be able to remove the screw. Remove the screw and install through the batten (or whatever you wish to mount to the plasterboard) and tighten to a medium torque by hand, don't tighten with a drill!
The down pipe is tightly fit into the holes in the floor and the shelf and glued into place using silicone. Once the silicone was dry the cables were fed through the pipe, ready to be terminated.
There's still plenty space left in the closet for a hoover / vacuum cleaner etc.
Before terminating the node zero I installed the various IP cameras outside. These are the newer Hikvision DS-2CD2145F-IS 3-axis dome IP cameras. They're some of the best budget cameras you can buy right now, especially the Chinese import ones. They're vandal resistant, 4MP (2560 x 1440) HD resolution, night-vision, dual stream and support audio via a separate microphone.
The only real caveat to these cameras is that while they are PoE (power over ethernet) (48V) cameras, the microphone is not built-in. This in itself is not an issue because we can easily attach a standard CCTV microphone, however these are 12V microphones not 48V. The cameras can be powered from 12V themselves; using a cheap passive PoE splitter kit, but I have found this to be very unreliable. Most 12V power supplies are just too low quality & not stable enough to keep the cameras operational 24/7 and it's hit & miss finding decent reliable ones, so I prefer to stick to using 48V PoE. This does mean we need both 48V & 12V power to each camera. For this reason I installed 2x CAT6 to each camera, one for PoE, and one to supply 12V to power the microphones.
As always, a bead of clear silicone is used along the top half of the cameras where they meet the wall. This should prevent any rain water ingress and keep the connectors free from corrosion. The camera itself is completely impervious once the lid is attached.
The high-gain microphone is just left poking through the cable slot on the camera housing. It's a good idea to keep the microphone pointing downwards to reduce unwanted wind noise.
Once all the cameras were installed, the node-zero was terminated and alarm system installed. I installed 2 double sockets to supply power to the network equipment, with a fused spur for the alarm system and a switched fused spur for a small florescent light.
Disclaimer: Although it's not actually illegal in the UK, I can't advise that anyone do any type of DIY electrical work. My advice is if you want to do it yourself to save money or for the experience, install the cables and wire everything but the final connection to the mains supply. Get an electrician to check it and allow him to make the final connection. Just be aware that many electricians will actually refuse to sign-off any work they didn't do, regardless if they have checked it or not, because that actually IS illegal. If you require a certificate with the work (and you should) you will need to get an NIC (or other competent person scheme) registered electrician to do it instead.
I also installed a pair of BT cables back to the BT junction-box outside. This really needs to be the master socket since the modem will be installed here, the cable should be as short as possible to the incoming supply to offer the best broadband speed over ADSL. Unfortunately it seems there are no plans to install fibre to these new builds for at-least 2 years, so for the time-being ADSL broadband will have to do. It's also not a bad idea to have a BT socket next to the alarm control panel in-case the home-owner ever wanted to install a BT dialler for the alarm system. A couple spare CAT6 and a coax also lead to the same point outside for future use.
All of the CAT6 were terminated and tested, with one of each pair for the IP cameras plugged into a PoE switch to power the cameras and the other connected to a 12V power supply through a set of passive PoE splitters to power the 12V microphones. An up-link cable was added to connect the CCTV switch to the main switch, and the remaining CAT6 connected the regular way.
Once the internet connection is set-up the modem can just be plugged into the main switch and everything will be up & running.
The PoE switch used here is the D-Link DGS-1008P. This switch was chosen because it features Gigabit ports, unlike many PoE switches which are limited to 10/100 (100 Mbit/s). This is necessary because all of the cameras need to be able to stream HD video simultaneously via the up-link cable, so it's not a good idea to have a low speed port for this or it may become saturated and cause network connection issues to the cameras.
I used a 16-port Netgear GS116 gigabit switch for the remainder of the CAT6. These are well-known reliable switches and the extra ports will offer some redundancy for future devices.
Here is a good video guide on how to terminate CAT5e / CAT6 cables:
Hopefully this has helped someone. I will update / improve this post as I find / take more photos of similar projects. I also go into a lot of detail on the installation process of my own CAT6 / node zero on my build thread here. Feel free to post your own thoughts or projects here too.