Pure Copper CAT5e Cable vs CCA

Published on July 23, 2019 by Matt Garnham in Installation Blog Posts

What is CAT5e Cable?

Orange Security CamerasCAT5e cable (or Category 5e cable) is actually 8 cables in one. Within each length of CAT5e cable, you will find 8 smaller wires. These wires are arranged in 4 pairs.

Each pair is assigned a different color (orange, blue, green, brown). Each pair features one solid color (solid orange) and one striped color (orange and white stripes).

Each pair is twisted together and then all 4 pairs are again twisted together.

This twist is important as it reduces the amount of ‘crosstalk’ or interference. CAT5e is more tightly twisted than previous cable types.

CAT5e is a type of ‘structured cable’. It is an extremely versatile cable. It is used for almost any application you can think of. Networks, data transmission, video, TV, audio and in our case: images from security cameras.

How is CAT5e Cable Used with Security Cameras?

Orange Security Cameras WiringWe have a detailed guide on our website showing how to use CAT5e cable and video baluns for security camera systems. You can find that here: CAT5e Wiring Guide.

In short, one length of CAT5e cable (up to around 200ft) can carry both the video and the power. This is achieved with Video Baluns and DC Power Connectors.

What is Pure Copper CAT5e Cable?

Pure Copper is exactly as it sounds. Each individual wire that makes up a CAT5e cable is completely copper. There is no other element.

Copper has a naturally high conductivity and low resistance. This makes it ideal for transmitting data (and in our case security camera images) over longer distances.

Copper is also more flexible making installation easier.

Generally the cable supplier will list in the specifications if the cable is Pure Copper. If it doesn’t say for any reason, it’s likely NOT to be pure copper.

What is CCA CAT5e Cable?

CCA stands for Copper Clad Aluminum. Just as it sounds – the middle of the wire is aluminum which is then covered in copper. There is usually around 10% – 15% copper in an arrangement such as this.

It is a really great idea! Aluminum is massively cheaper than copper. Copper is nearly 3 times the cost of aluminum. Aluminum also weighs about 30% of copper. Combined, this means the cable is not only cheaper to manufacture but also cheaper to ship.

Cheaper? GREAT!
Lighter? GREAT!
CCA is GREAT!
…in theory.

The real problem with CCA is that the aluminum core changes the electrical properties of the cable. This change has a negative impact on a security camera image when transmitted over the cable.

Why Pure Copper CAT5e Cable?

The primary reason to use pure copper is that the electrical properties of the wire favor sending security camera images

There are secondary reasons such as pure copper cable can go around tighter corners, it’s reportedly safer etc.

The only real downside is pure copper cable is a little more expensive. If you’re spending the money purchasing a professional quality security camera system and you’re spending the time (or money) installing this system properly, why cheap-out at the last part of the system?

Different Types of Pure Copper CAT5e Cable

Not only do you have to worry about what element the cable is made up of, you also what form this element takes.

Solid Core

As it sounds – each wire is one solid length of copper.

Solid core is better for outside use, it has better corrosion protection (if the outer sheath gets broken) and it generally performs better and over longer distances.

When you have a need for a cable that is not going to be moved around (such as the case with security cameras), then you definitely want solid core.

Stranded

Again, as it sounds – each wire is made up of lots of thin strands of copper.

The reason that stranded cables have become more popular is that this type of cable can be bent out of shape. The downside is that the cable doesn’t perform as well – and this is particularly noticeable when using Video Baluns for security cameras. You also don’t want to use stranded cables for more than a few feet.

As with the pure copper vs CCA, if the supplier doesn’t tell you, or make it clear, the chances are the cable is stranded and one to avoid.

I Have Some CAT5e Cable. How Do I Know What it is?

Frustratingly, the 2 types of cable look pretty similar.

Normally the make-up of the cable is printed on the outer sheath. However I personally have seen cable advertised (both in marketing materials and on the cable) as pure copper, but when investigating more closely found it to be CCA.

How to test?

The test to determine which cable you have is actually super simple! It only takes a few seconds.

  1. Strip back the outer sheath of the CAT5e cable exposing the 8 internal cores
  2. Strip back the sheath of one of the internal cores to expose the metal wire
  3. Lay the wire along a hard surface and scrape away at the cable

If it is CCA, you will see a change from the rich copper color to a silvery color. If the cable is pure copper, you will not see any change in color.

Given how easy it is to test, it’s always recommended to test an unknown cable before undertaking an installation. Just be careful when scraping.

Conclusion

Pure copper CAT5e cable is not expensive – we sell high quality cable for $0.40 per foot or $190 for 1,000 feet. When taking the time and spending the money installing a professional grade security camera system, don’t cheap-out with CCA cable. If you’re lucky, it MAY work for a period. The chances are you will end up having to replace the wiring at some point in the future. Spend the additional extra money and do the job once.

If you have any CAT5e cable related questions, reach our to our team.


about the author: Matt Garnham
Security Camera expert for many years. He is the founder and owner of Orange Security. Started life in the security industry in the UK. Relocated to Southern Florida and Orange Security was formed.

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