So you’ve purchased a home, now what? You keep hearing the latest buzzwords about home networking, home technology, and home theatre. What does that mean for you? Times are changing as technology becomes deeply integrated into our lives. Just as your office has become reliant on computers, so will your home.
As with anything, you’ll want a solid foundation to build on the future. Wiring your home is a wise investment towards supporting current and future technology. Even if you have no intention of using a home theatre or home network, you may be wise to prepare your home if you ever plan to sell. Technology is becoming a large part of new homes in construction today. Preparing your home now will not only make it more valuable, but will provide you the capability to have a more convenient, secure, and satisfying home life.
Integrating computers and electronics into your home, can be handled as either wireless, or hard-wired. Hardwiring your home is easy and convenient, IF your home is not yet finished. Running wires throughout a finished home is an expensive and time-consuming task. If your home is finished, you may want to consider wireless technology, but be wary of the downfalls of wireless systems.
Some of you may wonder why I frown on wireless home technology when everywhere you look you see cell phones, cordless phones, satellite television and handheld computers. My reasons are small, but important. As a homeowner, I value my home as one of my most precious possessions. I’m sure you do to. Allow me to list some of the reasons I prefer wired or over wireless.
Disadvantages of wireless technology:
Communication speeds are typically slower than a hard-wired system.
Wireless systems are less secure. Signals from a wireless device can easily be intercepted. It may even cause a problem if your neighbor is also running the same device.
Wireless systems are less reliable. Just ask anyone who owns a cell phone or a satellite television about his or her reception during bad weather. Imagine running your security system with wireless devices.
Advantages or wireless technology:
Integrating new devices and technology is simple.
You can prepare your finished home without disrupting walls and installing cables.
Structured Wiring. What Is it?
To put it simply, structured wiring is a method (commonly found in office buildings) of wiring various electronics together to make it simple to upgrade, and as failure free as possible. If you have owned an older home, a good example of non-structured wiring is your telephone. Each jack is most likely wired in series from one telephone to the next.
The problem here is when your cabling fails at point A. ALL of your phones suddenly become disabled, and tracking the problem would take time to troubleshoot the failure point.
Also, imagine your phones are wired as pictured above. You have now bought yourself a new computer and want to have internet access. Of course, you need a phone line and a modem, but you don’t want your computer to disrupt your existing phone service when you are online. What do you do? Easy. Add a second line to your house. But now you have a problem getting that line to the appropriate phone jack for your computer. Examine the star schema below to envision how easy it would be to modify one phone jack to support a second phone line entering your home.
Structured wiring uses a star scheme of wiring. The line in to the home is wired to a central location, and each telephone has its own wire to the central location or hub. If one line fails, the others will continue working.
Wiring computers with a star schema works exactly the same way. Companies have been wiring their office buildings this way for years.
Homes are now beginning to wire other devices (home theatre, etc) in the same structured method. This structured wiring method allows for easy configuration of your home setup no matter where you want to locate certain devices.
Advantages of structured wiring:
If one cable fails, the others will continue to work correctly.
Re-routing a connection is as simple as plugging in the correct cable in your wiring hub. Picture a DVD Player located in your wiring hub. Using a cable switcher, you can send the video signal to any room of your house at the touch of a button. There’s no need for multiple DVD Players, just route the signal to whichever room you desire.
As you may have guessed, you don’t need audio and video equipment for every room of your house. Install a monitor (television) and speakers, and by using the structured wiring, you can send any audio or video signal to any room.
Disadvantages of structured wiring:
More actual cable is needed, which causes a higher expense for wiring your home. Don’t be fooled by the cost though, CAT5 cable, which can be used for computers, telephones, and other devices, only costs about 6 cents per foot. Adding an additional 1000 feet of wiring in your home should only add about $100.
Have I convinced you yet? If so, here are my suggestions when cabling your home for technology.
First, choose a central location to terminate all your cabling. This can be a closet, an empty room, or any other location you choose. A central location in your home works best by keeping cable runs as short as possible. In my home, I use the closet beneath my staircase.
Second, layout a plan for those devices you desire, where your jacks and connectors will be located. If possible, have the architect add your ideas to the plans.
Don’t forget to think ahead, it’s much easier to run extra cable in an unfinished home.
Type of Cable
Computer Network Jacks
Minimum 2 for each room. If your room is an office, make it 4 jacks. Add an additional 2 jacks behind every television. Satellites or set top boxes will both need a connection
Run 2 cables per room, each in a different location.
Quad Shield cable is recommended for satellite television
First, I would run two to every room. You never know where you may want a television. (Don?t forget the garage) Then, choose your main viewing areas, and run five cables to these locations.
Why do I recommend five cable runs? You always want a minimum of two, one for video signal coming in, and one for a video signal going out.
Ok, so what are the extra three cable runs for? Good question?I run an additional three cables for each ?main? viewing area to handle component video (one cable per signal, and component requires three ? Y, Pr, Pb), or other ?temporary? devices such as video cameras, digital cameras, video games, etc, which require three cables. You might consider RG6 to be a little overkill in some situations, but that leaves you the flexibility to use the cable however you want, just run the cable, and put the appropriate jacks on the wall plates.
You may also want to run an S-Video cable to each room that may have a television. An S-Video cable will provide a slightly better picture for those of you looking for the ultimate home theatre experience.
Minimum 14 Gauge Shielded Audio Cable
The surround sound experience is one you don?t want to miss. I would recommend wiring your main television viewing areas with 5.1 surround sound, or better yet, 7.1 surround sound. I won?t get into the details about surround sound setup, as I could easily write a book, but 5.1 means 5 separate audio channels and 1 sub woofer. (5 speakers, each with their own signal, and a subwoofer to handle the lows). Consult an expert on how to get the best sound from your system.
For every other room in your home, and yes, I said ?every? room, run two pairs of audio cables for stereo audio. Cabling your home in this way will provide whole-house audio, allowing you to listen to any audio signal in any room of your house. This is a great advantage over having a separate stereo in each room.
Make a cable run to every door and window to allow for security sensors and motion sensors.
If you plan any home automation system, you may want to run a few cables to an outdoor location for sensing the weather conditions, rainfall, etc.
Yes, the rumors are true. There may soon be a smart refrigerator in your home, ready and willing to order your groceries as soon as they are needed. Run a Cat5E cable to prepare for this convenience.
Fiber optic backbone
Fiber Optic Cable
Fiber optic cable, while expensive, is a good choice for supporting all sorts of signals, from audio/video, to computers and other devices. Fiber optic is still quite expensive, and connectors for various components are hard to find. If money is no object, fiber optic cable is the best solution to replace many other wiring needs. Consult an expert for more information regarding fiber optic cabling.
CAT5E cable can be used for control panels to control a security system, home automation system, etc. Run a CAT5E cable to each location you might want a wall panel. I suggest the front and rear entries, and master bedroom.
Control panels can also be used for home theatre functions. Run one cable to a convenient location in each room in which you plan audio or video. Control panels such as these, allow you to run whole house audio, by piping an audio signal to various rooms. The control panels can be used as volume controls for each room. Home automation systems, designed to integrate your technology, may provide an LCD touch panel for access to your smart home system.
Don?t forget to run a cable to your kitchen. With the appropriate system, and a control panel, you could have convenient access to shopping lists, recipe lists, etc, right where you need them.
To allow your doorbell to be connected to your in-home speakers, or to provide a visual doorbell notification, run the doorbell cable to your wiring closet. Once there, you can integrate the doorbell into your existing system, or wire a stand-alone speaker.
Thermostat (HVAC Vent Controls)
Run a thermostat control cable, and any additional cables to be used for automatic control of venting, to your wiring closet. Most home automation systems will allow control of your HVAC system.
Most lighting can be conveniently controlled through your existing electrical wiring using the X10 Protocol.
Automatic Door Locks, Entry Pads
Run a cable to each door to allow for automatic door locks and electronic entry options such as a keypad, fingerprint entry, remote control entry, etc.
Run an RG6 cable to each location you may want a video camera for security systems. Don?t forget to have a power outlet available near the camera location, as many cameras need a separate power line to operate.
As you may realize, preparing your home for technology requires some thought and planning. Take a little time now to layout your plans according to your needs and lifestyle, and you will save yourself headaches as technology changes. If needed, consult an expert to help you determine your needs and provide a plan that suits your lifestyle.
Intellanet is a leader in home automation technology. Founded by Stefan Willmert and based in Minnesota, Intellanet has taken the next step in providing an intelligent, self-learning home automation system, integrating all your electronic systems into one easy-to-control device, accessible from anywhere in the world. For more information, please visit our website at www.intellanet.com . Intellanet welcomes all questions and comments regarding home automation and related technologies.