While most people are used to seeing their Ethernet cables inside their home or business, we can't forget about the cables outside. Most internet providers will run Ethernet cables outside, either above or underground, to connect your home or building. Although merely running and burying the Ethernet cable sounds easy enough, it's not that straight forward. You need to ensure you're protecting the cable from environmental factors such as moisture, heat, freezing temperatures, and storms. Additionally, you'll need to know which materials to use, such as for the conduit and cable itself. If you'd like to learn how to safely run outdoor Ethernet cables, our experts break down everything you need to know in our comprehensive guide below.
Before you can begin running cables, you need to identify if the cables are going above ground or underground, because each option will require different materials and procedures. There are a few factors to consider if you're planning to run cable above ground, such as the type of cable, conduit, and cable placement.
Ideally, you'll use an outdoor-rated cable anytime the cable is, well, outside––but it's not negotiable if the cable is above ground. Additionally, when the cable is above ground, you're going to need weather-resistant conduit such as solid copper or at the very least, UV resistant PVC piping. If you're choosing to run cable above ground, the cable should never be on the ground and exposed unless you're using an outdoor-rated cable. An exposed cable is prone to damage from storms, snags, and even landscaping accidents––no one wants a cable caught in their lawnmower. For the best results, the cable should always be elevated using two-hole galvanized cable straps outside the building. In addition, you need to plan the direction you're running the cables if you're near power lines or other surrounding network cables. Never run cables parallel to power lines because you'll experience significant interference or noise. Instead, the cables should run perpendicular to the power lines as much as possible, which as you might expect requires some planning.
On the other hand, most internet installers opt for burying Ethernet cables because it's a more reliable method. Buried cables are much more dependable because they're mostly out of harm's way when it comes to the environment. However, it's not as simple as merely burying a cable, so read on to learn more.
There are two options when you're burying an Ethernet cable: direct burial or traditional burial that requires running a conduit. If you're running a solid copper conduit or PVC piping with the sealants on each connecting point, you could use a standard Ethernet cable, but it's risky. This is because any moisture that finds its way into the conduit could ruin your cable and you'll have to replace it. So, for the longest lasting solution, you should simply use outdoor-rated cables in all scenarios. If we're being honest, running cables underground is fairly labor-intensive, so for the least amount of work, we'd suggest using direct burial cables. Manufacturers designed direct burial cables with additional protective layers to make them safe to bury without requiring conduit. However, you must meet local regulations when it comes to burying cables. Never begin digging until you're sure there's nothing in your way. When in doubt, call before you dig.
Like we mentioned previously, there are several environmental factors that can damage your cables. First and foremost, any cable that's above ground must be waterproof, otherwise you'll experience power surges during storms and that will likely damage the cable permanently. Additionally, the UV rays from the sun can damage your cables if they're overly exposed. The best way to protect your cables from the sun is by running the cables through a UV-resistant conduit.
Don't forget to weatherproof your cable's connector box outside. The electrical charge produced by standard cables attracts lightning, not to mention rain and snow. To weatherproof the connector box, you should avoid having a box that's made with metal, as it attracts lightning strikes––opt for a PVC material instead. Furthermore, you should seal every edge of the box with an outdoor sealant such as silicone; that way you'll keep water, debris, and pests out.
Ultimately, to safely run outdoor Ethernet cables, we'd encourage you to consider direct burial with outdoor cables because you reduce the risk of environmental elements damaging your cables. It's important that you invest in high-quality cables that will last; you don't want to dig up the cables you worked so hard to bury in the first place. Not to mention the time, energy, and money you'd be wasting by not using high-quality cables in the first place. Before you order your cables and begin digging, make sure you know what category cable will work for you. In most cases, you can use a Cat5e or Cat6 cable and have excellent connectivity.
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