This is the sixth installment of a multi-part series covering all aspects of low voltage wiring in the home: entertainment, security, automation, and future planning.
Pre-Wire Your New Home: Chapter 7: Proper Terminations
David Feller | BOCS Company
Home Technology eMagazine Article
Pre-Wire Your New Home: Plan For The Future
Chapter 7: Proper Terminations
Author: David Feller, BOCS Company
This is the sixth installment of a multi-part series covering all aspects of low voltage wiring in the home: entertainment, security, automation, and future planning. A new section will be published every few weeks.
Table Of Contents:
- Chapter 1 - Seriously, Why bother?
- Chapter 2 - Can I actually get away with this?
- Chapter 3 - The Absolute Minimum – and Why…
- Chapter 4 - Future Proofing
- Chapter 5 - The Actual “Pull”
- Chapter 6 - Whole-Home Audio
- Chapter 7 - Proper Terminations
- Chapter 8 - Things to avoid
- Chapter 9 - Whole-Home Video
Chapter 7: Proper Terminations
Media Cabinet Organization:
Note that these instructions are given using a basic configuration of having coax, telephone, and Ethernet in a single media cabinet. Adjust your plans based on the layout that best fits your needs. For larger installations, a single cabinet or wall-mount for all the terminations is preferred, then use patch cords to individual cabinets or racks with equipment.
- Use only compression style connectors. Lowes and Home depot both have great connectors and all the tools to use them. An entire kit can be had for about $30.
- The actual termination process can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBX8_T-vFZA Please note that you should watch the videos and practice this before jumping in. While it looks easy, it is important that you get it right on EVERY cable. A poor connection can end up in a short between center conductor and outer braid or even a 3-4dB loss if not done correctly.
- Avoid the hex crimp, push on, and twist on connectors. You will absolutely hate yourself later if you use any other type of connector.
- Coax generally works better in the top third of a media cabinet since it is not as flexible and needs to keep minimum 8” bends.
- Stick with a single splitter that will feed your whole home instead of a daisy chain of 3 or 4 different kinds of splitters. Balance is important – the more outputs a splitter has, the more loss to each of the outputs. So if parts of the home are fed from a 3-way and parts from an 8-way they will have dramatically different signal levels. If you need more than 8 outputs, use a 2 way or a 3 way first and feed those outputs to identical 6 or 8 way splitters.
- If you have more than 8 outputs, consider using a distribution amplifier and a smaller splitter on each output.
- If you need a stand alone amplifier, get a good one (a 15dB amp with reverse channel runs about $35 online – an example HERE I like this one because it has a reverse channel, has two balanced outputs, and is small) Don’t just buy one at Radio Shack or Wal-Mart – you will be disappointed.
- If you only have 6 or 8 outputs, consider a combination amp and splitter that directly mounts in your media cabinet like the On-Q distribution module. This particular module also has un-amplified combiner inputs for security or other modulated systems and really tidies up the media cabinet.
- Label each coax within 2” of the connector for easy identification with a permanent label that will not fall off over time. Consider putting a small piece of clear heat shrink over whatever label you choose to apply.
- Terminate any unused inputs or outputs on a splitter or amplifier with a cap that includes a 75ohm load. http://www.computercablestore.com/Coaxial_Terminators_F_Typ_PID43691.aspx
- Bundle and organize any unused coax wires so they stay out of the way.
- For feeding the cable modem or voip system, use a tap as the first connection into your home to feed the cable modem with the main output from that going either to your splitter or to an amplifier. The line to the cable modem should only feed the modem and no other TVs.
- Bring all telephone lines down one side of the media cabinet bundled together
- Punch each line down to a termination block (available online or at lowes/home depot). These termination blocks, although a little scary at first, are very simple. For all of the field connections (to your rooms) it simply hooks all the same colored wires together horizontally. There are only a couple of special features: an option to insert a surge protection circuit, and an RJ31X jack. The RJ31X is a simple interrupt circuit that sits between the main phone-in connection and the rest of the house allowing the security system to take over the phone system. This allows it to disconnect a call in progress, get a dialtone, and call the police or monitoring company.
- Use a termination block with an RJ31X connector for security system override
- If you need more than one punch block, only one should have the RJ31X connector. Use a short piece of Cat5e to connect the two blocks using one connector on each block matching wire colors
- Label each wire with the room name within 2” of the punch-block for easy identification later.
- From the demarcation point outside the home (usually a grey box on an outside wall) a Cat5e is normally run to the media cabinet and will carry up to 4 phone lines. Use Blue/Blu-White as line #1, Orange/Orange-White as Line #2.
- Outside the home, Red/Green pair is line #1, Black/Yellow is line #2 (Further lines vary – you need to ask the installer or test each one to determine other lines)
- For telephone jacks, the lines begin in the center of the plug – if using RJ45 pins 4 and 5, if RJ11, pins 3 and 4 (as shown in the picture below) and radiate outward with line 2 being the next two from the center.
- With punch blocks in the media cabinet and keystones in the rooms, you never need to know which pins you are using – just follow the color code punching the orange and orange/white wires on either side of the orange colored tab (proceeding through the rest of the colors likewise)
- When punching use a proper punch tool to insure a good connection and be sure to cut the wires just past each punch. It is good practice to keep the twist going until right before the punch. Never punch more than one wire per connector.
- Use RJ11 for telephone (both plugs and jacks), so you do not get phone and data lines confused. Plugging one into the other can cause damage.
- Very similar to telephone in that you punch down all the field wires to “network termination blocks”. The difference is that with Ethernet, each field wire connects only to its corresponding RJ45 jack. This allows you to use short patch cords to connect each circuit to a switch or router. In the picture below, you would simply punch wires (remaining twisted as close to the punch blocks as possible and cutting them off short right on the right side of each punch block) into the colors indicated. Note that the color order of this block is brown, green, orange, blue. You would put White/brown just above the brown tab and brown/white just below and do that for each color pair.
- Generally, you should only be punching the keystones in the rooms and the field wires to network termination blocks. Buy patch cords both for the media cabinet and in the rooms pre-made. Pre-made patch cords have better stress relief, better connections, and will almost always result in faster connections than ones you make yourself.
- Note that the order of the colored wires can take one of two forms the “A” or the “B” order. Note that the only difference is that the orange and green wires are swapped. In the above termination block, the order is pre-chosen for you – notice that only colors are shown on the punch blocks with no hint as to which pin on the RJ45 female jack each goes to. This particular one uses the A format. So, you should also use the A format on the terminations in the rooms. It is common practice to pick one format and stick with that home wide. IF you need to make an exception (for instance you already wired all the rooms with the A standard), all you have to do on the termination block is swap the green and orange wires but make sure you make a label and explain exactly what you did and why so future techs don’t have to struggle with it.
- For this termination block, the colored triangles/squares described the wiring order. A Solid blue square means the mostly blue wire with the white stripe, the half blue/half white (triangle) square means the mostly white wire with the blue stripe. Where are the RJ45 jacks on this one? On the other side – you are looking at the back of a rack mount termination block.
- For a patch cord, looking at the end (plug) with the end facing away from you with the flat side toward you (the tang on the bottom) you should see from left to right for the “B” pattern: Orange/white, Orange, Green/White, Blue, Blue/White, Green, Brown/White, Brown.
- You can choose either the A pattern or the B pattern as long as you do it the same way on both ends of the wire (in the room and at the punch block). Even if you use the A pattern, a B pattern patch cord will still work.
- Some equipment is not well marked but if you buy the same brand for both ends (in-room keystone and the punchblock) you stand a better chance of getting the pattern right. Lots of cheap test tools are available – you punch both ends down, patch the punch block in the media cabinet over to a router or switch, and plugging the test tool in will immediately shows you if you have the wiring right. Most will also give you an indication if you have the pattern switched on one end.
- It is very important to keep the twist going for each wire color pair until right before it is punched down and then trim the excess wire off close to the punch.
- Be sure to use the right punch block and keystone jack for your wire type – A Cat6 wire should be terminated with Cat6 ends.
- Be sure to label each wire within 2” of the punch for easy identification.
- Ideally there should be no un-punched wires – everything should terminate.
- If you are running Cat5e for multiple applications, data, audio, video, security, IR… Separate each function to a different punch block so the functions are not confused. Plugging one system into another can be damaging. Preferrably Data UTP wires will be in a separate cabinet from other functions using the same wire types.
Keystone plates like this can be easily configured to accept any combination of data, phone, cable, or RCA connectors and is a good choice as a standard plate. Follow the same wiring color codes for the A or B you chose for your home.
So, even though you heard us recommend you to buy patch cables, you want to make our own?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=482VtesZwZ8 Terminating an Ethernet cable with RJ45 plug. Please note that there are many different styles, I prefer the type that has a small (2mm thick “wedge” ) clear plastic insert that you feed onto all the wires first, cut them off to length, and then slide the whole thing into the actual plug. That allows you to really get all the wires where they belong and insures that the right length between the end of the cut wire and the start of the insulation is achieved so the Jack gets a good grip on the insulation. OR the kind where the wires are pulled all the way through the plug and then cut off.
http://www.lanshack.com/cat5e-tutorial.aspx Cat5e tutorial online - if you want to read more on dos and don’ts as well as technical specs on Catx cables.
Generally, a run of Cat6 cable will take care of component video and digital audio when you add a balun, but that is not always the best option. If you already know where you need component A/V runs and especially within a home theater (for instance from the media cabinet up to the projector), it is frequently a better choice to run dedicated mini-coax. You can get R/B/G mini coax from a number of sources and that allows you to also skip the expensive baluns – one less thing to break is usually a good idea. This is not a common item at Home Depot but can easily be found online. If you are a really good planner, you can buy pre-made cables in just about any length from companies like monoproce online.
Crimping on ends is straightforward but takes a special set of tools. Ther are detailed pictures on that process HERE
Generally, they will all terminate directly to screw posts directly on the security board. If you are combining multiple sensors into a group circuit, there will be room in the lower half of the security panel to joint those wires (serial or parallel according to the loop type) and run a single set of wires to the security panel. Never put multiple wires under a single screw.
Typically, speaker wires will go directly to the distribution amp or switch and terminate under screw posts on the amp. If you want to terminate the field wires then the normal process is to use a screw block.
It is good practice to put a spade lug on the wire before securing it under the screw. A Crimped spade lug will provide a better connection than just compressing it under the screw especially for stranded wire.
If you really want to get fancy, you can put in a patch panel, but avoid using the semi-obvious headphone plugs and go for a connector not prone to poor connections from tarnish like a Speakon connector system. They provide a solid connection and can be purchased in 4 pole plugs meaning it is a stereo connection.
Appendix A: Links to sources, references, and products:
Other good how-to and pre-wire guides:
- http://www.crutchfield.com/learn/learningcenter/home/mrintro.html Crutchfield on multiroom systems
- http://www.smarthomeusa.com/info/prewire/#pre Prewiring basics from smarthome
- http://www.crutchfield.com/Learn/learningcenter/home/multiroom_remote.html remote control systems from crutchfield
- http://www.hometech.com/learn/audio1.htm home tech solutions whole home audio intro. There are some more detailed speaker placement guidelines and some good ideas for combining home theater and whole-home audio/video room/plans.
- http://www.xantech.com/Downloads/Training/ Xantech IR training powerpoints
Products referenced in this guide:
- http://www.audioauthority.com/product_details/scp-11 Baluns – single Cat5 for component plus digital audio
- http://www.cepro.com/article/review_russound_c_series_multiroom_audio_system A review of the Russound C5 by CEPro
- http://www.russound.com/cseries_system.htm The Russound C-series (Search on internet for good direct pricing)
- http://www.nilesaudio.com/products_niles.php Niles audio products - multizone systems, multizone amps, wall controls etc.
- http://www.nuvotechnologies.com/ The main nuvo website with a nice selection of systems
- http://www.provantage.com/tripp-lite-p568-050-ez~7TRPA1T6.htm HDMI cable specifically made for pulling through conduit – circular pull off ends.
- http://www.bocsco.com BOCS Whole-Home Audio/Video distribution over COAX
With 20 years in the Consumer Electronics space, David pioneered wireless LAN for home use in partnership with Linksys, rotating storage for portable electronics at Cornice, and is most recently a founder and chief marketing officer of BOCS Inc, the manufacturer of a new whole home A/V distribution system for retrofit applications
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