Home Technology Demonstration Project

Part 5: The Lab

by Bob Hetherington, Editor, HomeToys

Home Toys Home Demo Project Part 5: The Lab

In many cases the hub may be located in a closet or utility room. Planning is extremely important for this location. Bigger is much better. As your system expands and changes ... more room will be required at the hub. Depending on the types of systems and equipment you install ... you may need to provide for working space, ventilation etc.

This is the final article for phase 1 of our demonstration project. If you have any ideas to for this project please let me know. That way we can all learn from each other. As we expand and test new equipment I'll add short articles and reviews to this feature so stay tuned.

The heart of a wired home is where all of the wiring terminates ... the hub if you like. In our case we ran everything back to "The Lab". In many cases the hub may be located in a closet or utility room. Planning is extremely important for this location. Bigger is much better. As your system expands and changes ... more room will be required at the hub. Depending on the types of systems and equipment you install ... you may need to provide for working space, ventilation etc.

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Essentially the hub is where all the wires terminate but it is also where switching and redirection equipment, auxiliary control panels and devices, security panels etc. are located. In our case we also located the multiroom audio components and our home office server and printer here. By the time we were done ... about 8 feet of wall space in the lab is used up ... which includes a desk for working on the server etc. The wiring hubs (structured wiring and audio) are mounted on the wall and the sever sits on the floor beside the desk. At one time I had planned to run the wires to a centrally located closet. I'm glad that didn't go ahead ... there's no way we could have managed with so little space.

Let's break down the systems that are served from the hub. The multi room audio system was discussed in part 4 of this series. An amazing amount of wiring and equipment go into that system as you can see from the photo there.

For our structured wiring system we installed a "42" Leviton Stuctured Media Center. Again ... I was tempted to use a smaller panel ... but fortunately decided to allow for future expansion. Guess what ... it's already almost full and we're not quite finished yet.

Cable Panel

At the top of the box is our structured wiring distribution module. This is where all of the CAT5 and RG6 wires from our room outlets connects with the telephone, cablevision and computer networks. In our case we have 2 incoming phone lines, cable TV, cable Internet and a computer network distributed to 6 remote outlets located in various rooms. Simply shifting jumper cables in this panel allows us to modify the distribution layout if we wish.

Below this is the ethernet router for the computer network. The unit we are using has a built in firewall and 8 ports ... one for each of the 6 room outlets (red wires) plus one for the home theater (>Imerge SoundServer) and one spare (which is currently being used to test a HomePlug Powerline Network (an awesome new line of products).

Below the router is the HAI Omni LT security panel. This is a special panel made specifically to fit into the Leviton box. This panel is wired with all of the inputs and outputs from sensors, keypads etc. The backup battery for this system is the black cube at the very bottom of the box.

To the right of the Omni is the only spare space we have. Currently we've coiled up some extra wire in case we need to move things down the road). The small black box in the middle of the coil is one end of the Pragmatic ECAV which is receiving the audio and video signals from the SoundServer in the Home Theater rack via CAT5 and outputting to the multi room audio system.

The big black box below this is our cable modem and below that is an IR connecting block which is a core element of our Xantech IR Control Network . This block sends and receives IR from a similar block in the Home Theater and distributes to the multi room equipment and HomeVision Home Controller.

As you can see ... this box fills up quickly ... but can you imagine what the wall would look like if you didn't have an organized system.

The Lab

So, here's what the whole lab looks like (right image). The computer network server is on the floor below the leviton panel. The homevision unit sits on top of it. On the right is the audio wiring panel and all of the multi room equipment.

One important factor to consider is that each of the bits of equipment you see here needs electricity. One duplex outlet is not sufficient. We're using 3 power bars (one for the computer equipment and 2 for the audio components) as well as a 6 outlet adapter on one of our 2 duplex outlets. Don't forget, if you are using X10 equipment you need at least one outlet for the powerline modem.

What have we learned?

This project has allowed me to get my hands and mind on the details involved in installing a home networking system. There are a few general things that I feel are at the top of the list for you to consider if you plan to follow in our footsteps.

  1. Spend more time planning and investigating than you think you need.
  2. Build the infrastructure for more systems than you can afford now.
  3. Hire expertise where you need it. If it's just advice you want ... pay for that too.
  4. When you think you've covered everything ... add a few more wires.
  5. Leave lots of space for the wiring hub.
  6. Be prepared for big dusty messes ... even in a new home.
  7. When you think you're done ... a new product will entice you to carry on.
  8. Have fun with this project ... the journey is just as entertaining as the home theater system :-)

Where do we go from here?

I'd like to say that we are finished here and can just sit back and enjoy the systems. Gracie would like that too :-) But unfortunately for her ... HomeToys is all about new technology ... and until progress grinds to a halt ... we'll be installing and testing new things. The challenge we had was to install a backbone system of wires and equipment that will allow us to incorporate more in the future. I think we've achieved that. Here are a few things that I want to set up in the future:

  1. PC audio and video distribution.

    I'd like to be able to display and control the computer (server) on Home Theater system ... both for entertainment and presentation purposes. This will involve sending the audio and video over CAT5. For control ... I'm open to suggestions if you have any.

  2. Multi Room Video Distribution

    For demonstration purposes mainly. I'd like to incorporate a few video cameras and connect another TV to the entertainment system.

  3. Multi Room Audio Enhancements

    The system could be used to announce visitors, phone callers etc. We may also include PC audio as an input zone in order to broadcast internet radio etc. Satellite radio is another source to test.

  4. Whole House Control

    Additional programming will add control features to the Elan Via Panel. In addition we will test and review remote and touchpanel systems for the home theater system that incorporate home control and wireless network features.

  5. Home Networks

    We've already added a wireless network hub in the home theater room and a powerline control network as well. In the future we intend to explore the strengths and weakness of these systems and determine which systems are best served with them.

That's it for phase 1 of our demonstration project. If you have any ideas to for the future please let me know. As we expand and test new equipment I'll add short articles and reviews to this feature so stay tuned.

Part 6: Weather Station and Network Additions