Grant W. Sullivan is currently the Marketing Manager for Leviton Mfg. Co. He is a 19-year veteran of marketing residential systems with expertise in structured wiring and home automation technologies. Formally trained in broadcast sales and management, he’s shared his marketing skills with Leviton Manufacturing, the Z-Wave Alliance, X10 (USA), and Nintendo.

HomeToys Interview - Structured Wiring in 2010

Grant W. Sullivan

February 2010

HomeToys Interview - Structured Wiring in 2010

Grant W. Sullivan, Leviton


Grant W. Sullivan is currently the Marketing Manager for Leviton Mfg. Co. He is a 19-year veteran of marketing residential systems with expertise in structured wiring and home automation technologies. Formally trained in broadcast sales and management, he’s shared his marketing skills with Leviton Manufacturing, the Z-Wave Alliance, X10 (USA), and Nintendo.

1. Is structured wiring relevant in today's new home construction?

Definitely yes. It's common to hear end user refer to wireless as "good enough" because the Internet has become such an important center in our lives. But at the same time many of these users have not considered the important of the emerging technologies that have a mandatory reliance on a hard-wired structured wiring system in the home. Nothing is faster than a hard-wired home network today. Not 3G, not N, G or B Wi-Fi. If the end user wants the speeds and bandwidth necessary to support today's modern consumer electronics, make sure a wired-network is the backbone for the structured wiring system.

2. Does a home buyer pay more for a pre-wired home --- if so, approximately how much does it add to the cost?

The benchmark for a basic structured media system that includes telephone, video and data distributed network remain around 1% of the value of the home. The costs of basic structured wiring system in new construction remains relative to the cost of the home. The costs will always be lowest during the new construction phase, when the walls are open and the drywall has not been installed. This is a good time to consider stepping up to the Gigabit and HOME 6 data networks along with an active video distribution network, as these technologies will maintain the longest performance benefits to the homeowner. It took the market around three years to begin the transition from CAT 5e to CAT 6. Over the life of a new home, three years is a short amount of time.


3. What are the benefits to a home builder who pre-wires his homes?

Because the wires and cables reside in the walls, they are the most costly elements to upgrade after the drywall is up. If a contractor installs the fastest and most advanced cables available at the time of construction, then future upgrades become more profitable. For example, if a contractor installs CAT 6 cabling in a home, but terminates the data connectors with HOME 5e, then they have an upgrade path. They can come back to the homeowner in the future and provide a relatively low labor-cost upgrade by replacing the connectors with HOME 6 connectors.


4. With the growth of wireless technologies, such as Wi-Fi, is structured wiring still necessary?

Wireless networking is valuable because of its convenience factor. But, wireless remains a secondary system that retains a reliance on a hard-wired structured wiring system. The wireless needs to connect to something from the ISP, right? Nothing today is as fast as a wired Gigabit data network in the home. Likewise, nothing is more reliable. It certainly is convenient to access the Internet over Wi-Fi using a smartphone, laptop of netbook. It really is a trade-off between convenience and performance. Although an "N" router may appear to be "good enough" today, as more consumer electronic technologies place a reliance on Internet access, today's wireless technologies may not have the necessary bandwidth to support all the simultaneous connections. Wired networks do perform best today and have excessive bandwidth to continue to support advanced uses.


5. If a major renovation is planned is it worthwhile to include structured wiring or is this a case where wireless makes more sense?

Structured wiring is retrofit capable. When the in-wall wiring is accessible during the construction phase, it is the best time to update the network cabling. Use this time to also upgrade the components inside the structured media center. Replace the cabling to support CAT 6 speeds, and update the router for Gigabit performance. Typically today, the minimum coaxial cable installed for video is RG6. Combining that quality of cable with an active video switcher will increase the distributed signal quality through the system. Leviton's Active Video Distribution Module has a unique feature called unity gain which equally distributes a video signal quality throughout the system, matching the incoming video signal quality. This is preferred over passive video splitters that lose signal strength and degrade quality, especially on the long cable-length runs.


6. Are product manufacturers recommending structured wiring over wireless for their products in general?

Wireless is for convenience and not typically speed. Many consumer electronic technologies today are built to maximize a wired-network, and then offer an option to add wireless connectivity through attachments, dongles or USB adapters. For example, leading video game consoles contain Ethernet ports and the primary method connection to a network, while, wireless is secondary. Certainly. media servers such as AppleTV, Window's Media Server, the Roku/Netflix box, and storage servers such as Drobo and many more gain best performance when connected to a hard-wired network.


7. As 2010 begins, explain some of the newest innovations in the structured wiring industry.

The structured wiring industry is experiencing a flux due to the slow-down in the housing market. Leviton has take this as an opportunity to develop over 120 new products and increase innovation to be prepared when the market continues recent signs of improving. The patching connections inside the Structured Media Enclosure can now benefit from the revolutionary Ultra High Flex patch cables, and the new bootless patch cables. Both deliver affordable solutions to minimize the amount of cables inside the structured media enclosure. The Home 6 Ultra-High Flex can support full CAT 6 performance, in an amazingly slim cable.

The engineers at Leviton have been busy and created a line of residential connectors named HOME 5e and HOME 6, designed for optimum performance in a residential environment. These affordable data connectors come in either a tool-free design (no punch down tool required) or a standard punch-down styles.


8. Why does Leviton consider structured wiring important enough to reinvest heavily into the market?

Leviton is a leader in the structured wiring industry. With over 1100 products in the Leviton 2010 Connected Home Catalog, the company is demonstrating its leadership by introducing over 120 new products in 2010. Leviton believes that the market has been affected by the housing market which has experienced unprecedented changes. Throughout these challenging times, a company can either sink or swim, deciding to pull out of the market completely or invest into the future. Leviton chose to swim by investing in product development. In the second half of 2009, the housing market has began to show signs of coming back. Leviton wants to remain the top structured wiring provider today and when the home starts rise again. And there is no question that the market will return.

9. Is industry certification, such as UL, still necessary today? Have non UL products influenced the market?

The Internet is a wonderful place to shop. However, it is possible to get burned -- so to speak -- when the entire consideration for making a purchase if based on price alone. Leviton Connected Home products retain UL listing certification for the purpose of ensuring the customer can expect quality products. Be aware of low-cost import patch cables, jacks and other structured wiring components purchased online. Not all products from other less-known brand follow the same certification and quality guidelines that Leviton requires. The use of low-quality materials, plastics and thinner conductive surfaces may appear to be equal quality on a web page, but in performance they can lack quality and even result in being a hazard. Leviton's Connected Home products are available though selected reputable distributors throughout the world. Ask a professional contractor for Leviton products by name to be sure the best quality and company reputation is behind each product.

10. Do you see the new home market and hence the structured wiring market picking up in 2010?

Yes, economic indicators and reports are indicating small, positive gains are underway to start 2010. But the industry has changed. Many builders and developer have consolidated or simply gone away. The available inventory of new homes is beginning to dwindle, which will result in new construction starting.

The residential market is coming back smarter and more innovative than ever before. New homes that are ready to integrate modern consumer technologies are becoming a valuable differentiating feature for new home buyers. Homes built to support HDTV, next-generation high-speed Internet access, audio, video gaming and other popular consumer electronics products will all be more appealing in the re-emerging new home market.

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