Structured wiring is the latest and greatest thing for the homeowner. Without rehashing all of the excellent information published in previous articles on this site, let’s suffice to say that the ability to install Local Area Network (LAN) lines, Cable TV (CATV) and Satellite connections, security, whole house audio systems to name a few is a wonderful option for the home owner. While this eMagazine has described whole house automation and many ‘Home Toys’ available, I will be discussing the more simplistic solutions such as the Structured Media Centers (see Bob’s review in the February 2003 edition) with phone, LAN, CATV and satellite, security camera and audio solutions. The problem I see is a lack of support from builders of lower cost new homes. Not only do many of the builders not offer low-voltage wiring beyond the standard phone and CATV lines; in many cases they do not allow the prospective homeowner to do the work themselves or contract it out. Granted, some states require licenses to install low voltage wiring, but some such as my state of Texas do not. Some of the arguments include: “The prospective buyers of the low-end houses have barely scraped enough money to buy the house; they cannot afford extras,” and “The people buying houses in this area do not have computers.” I beg to differ. The prospective homeowner who has barely scraped enough money together for a down payment will welcome the opportunity to add these options into the price of the house, as it will fall under the umbrella of the loan. And, (Note: shameless plug coming) if the builder works with a company like mine, or any of the other fine home wiring companies, we both make money. A builder can add their margin to the cost we installers provide, and we both make money. Even if one in ten prospective homeowners wants the options, we both make money. Notice the key phrase from the last paragraph; we both make money. Now, let’s tackle the observation that people buying these low-end houses do not have computers. The percentage of people with computers grows every day. As the kids get older, the kids get computers when mom and dad get tired of sharing theirs. Telecommuting is up, as is simply bringing home the laptop to finish the proposal for the meeting the next day. Even the mass marketers we all hate send out thousands of emails, often from their home office. More and more neighborhoods are gaining high speed broadband access such as DSL and Cable Broadband. Even if a new subdivision does not have this access yet, it will. With the ability to share the high speed access on a home LAN, pre-wiring of a house becomes even more important. While houses can be wired after construction, the ability to get to outside walls, and place the connections where the homeowner may want is more difficult, and definitely more costly to the homeowner. Now, let’s go beyond the LAN and computer faction of structured wiring. Some simple but creative extra wiring for CATV and satellite allows all kinds of flexibility. For instance, the homeowner may have a satellite dish receiver in the living room. With a little extra wiring and a splitter, they can run the signal to the bedroom to watch TV in bed. Or they can route the second receiver in the family room to the kids room, using the parental controls on that receiver to limit the accessibility or certain channels to the kids. Speakers can be placed in various rooms of the house and controlled from a central location. Video cameras can be installed on the front and back porch, and monitored from the TV. Got a daughter about to start dating? Check out the suitors before opening the door. Planning a bunch of kids? Have a camera in the nursery. I could write about options and advantages for hours; however you would stop reading. So, let me close with the following advice to builders and homeowners. Builders, talk to your vendors about structured wiring. When you are approached by one of the fine structured wiring companies, listen to them. When a prospective homeowner asks you about structured wiring, either find a reputable company to work with them or allow them to do it themselves. Prospective homeowners, ask your builder if they offer structured wiring options. If they don’t, ask if you can contract it yourself. If they say no, say thank you and find another builder. It is a lot cheaper and easier to do it during construction. Good luck! Maury French, owner of CMF Networks, spent 19 years in the telecommunications industry before being caught up in the telecom crunch, and brought his network skills to CMF Networks in order to bring structured and low-voltage wiring solutions to the homes and small businesses in the DFW area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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