So, now we’ve got a house full of cables, a nice wiring closet, and neat and impressive outlets. At this point you may be thinking ‘what do I do with all these wires’? We should probably go over some of the things you can do with your new high-tech wiring system, and how to go about having all these technologies co-exist nicely.
Home Cabling Part V
Brian Karas | Future Standard Systems. Inc.
So, now we've got a house full of cables, a nice wiring closet, and neat and impressive outlets. At this point you may be thinking 'what do I do with all these wires'? We should probably go over some of the things you can do with your new high-tech wiring system, and how to go about having all these technologies co-exist nicely.
Brian Karas owns and operates Future Standard Systems. Inc. Future Standard supplies Home Automation and Home Entertainment equipment to installers and end-users. Before starting Future Standard Systems, Inc., Brian was a datacomm and telecommunications engineer.
Every modern home has at least one phone line, often times there may be 2 or more lines in the average residence. There are two ways we can manage our phones lines. 1 to 4 lines can usually be handled easily with the proper wiring closet layout, and multi-line phones at various points in the house. If you have several lines, a home office, or a lot of extensions, you may find a PBX to be more beneficial.
Simple phone line management is probably one of the most common problems people run into. Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this. An 8 port vertical patch panel (~$30.00) is a cheap and effective way to manage 1-4 phones lines easily. These vertical panels consist of an 8 port modular panel, and 8 Cat3 inserts. Simply punch down the ports in a daisy-chain fashion, leaving enough extra cable after the first or last outlet to run to the telco's demarc point. Now, mount this mini-panel near your main patch panel, and connect it to the demarc. What you have created is essentially an 8 port phone splitter with RJ-45 ports, this means that you can easily cross-connect phone service to any outlet in the house with a standard Cat5 patch cable. Because you can wire the modular panel anyway you choose, you can be very flexible with the configuration. I have mine setup so that the first 4 ports have Line1 on the innermost pairs, and Line2 on the next pair (the typical configuration), then the next 3 jacks are connected to Line3 (the data and alarm communications line), with my ISDN line terminated on the last jack. This gives me one central point where are all my lines are neatly organized. If you plan to have a lot of extensions on any given line, then you may want to dedicate an 8 port panel to each line.
If you go the PBX route, then you'll just be connecting the outputs of the PBX directly to your patch panel.
After phones the next most popular thing seems to be a PC network. The Cat5 cable and outlets were really designed for this, so it's not hard to imagine that it's a pretty easy task to accomplish. Select a hub with enough ports for all your PCs, and then cross-connect the outlets to the hub ports using standard Cat5 cables. All that's left is to install network cards in your PC's, and configure them appropriately.
InfraRed Distribution and Other Custom Applications
InfraRed distribution is a very popular technology in automated homes. Unfortunately there really isn't a standard way to do IR over Cat5, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. When trying to do something like IR on Cat5 many times people are tempted to change the outlets around, or otherwise make the wiring system non-standard. I usually recommend the use of breakout boxes instead. Breakout boxes allow you create custom adapters that will allow you to use IR (or other low-voltage technologies) on your Cat5 cable without damaging the integrity of the wiring system. I recommend that you come up with a standard color coding scheme up front. I usually use the brown pair first for these custom configurations, and then the orange pair if I need an extra pair of wires. This allows you to use pins 1 / 2 and 7 / 8 while leaving pins 5 / 6 (line 1 for telephones), and pins 3 / 4 (line 2 for telephones) undisturbed. My breakout boxes usually look like the photo on the right.
You'll need 1 breakout box at the outlet, and one in the wiring closet. By choosing different connectors for your breakout boxes you can easily adapt them to work with temperature sensors, LCD's, or just about anything else.
RG-6 has far less use for it today than Cat5, so this is usually an easy one to manage. Terminate the RG-6 cables in a modular patch panel, and then make custom-length patch cords to cross-connect to your distribution amplifier. Make sure you route these cables away from noise sources like speaker cables, AC cables, etc.
Odds N Ends
When you're all done, you'll end up with a lot of patch cables running around your wiring closet. I recommend a color-coding scheme for your patch cables. The following is usually what I use:
- Red: Critical cables, things that affect multiple devices (uplinks between hubs, alarm phone line, etc)
- Yellow: Important cables, but things I can live without (ISDN router to hub connection, etc)
- Green: Standard LAN connections
- Blue: Standard Phone connections
- Black: PBX to patch panel connections
- Grey: Custom connections (IR routing, remote sensors, etc)
If you haven't used them by now, velcro cable ties are a great way to keep cables neat, and allow for easy reconfigurations later.
A 3" screw makes a great cable routing point.
Try to separate the cables by type when they come into the wiring closet area. This will make things neater and easier to manage later.
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