Not long ago, the only type of wire that really mattered in a new home was the electrical sort. High-voltage wiring was and still is necessary to carry electricity throughout your abode. However, with the dawn of home networking, there are many other types of wire that should be added to a house as well. Two of the most important are coaxial cabling and Ethernet cabling. Both are low-voltage wiring, meaning they carry very little current. The signals they do carry, however, are extremely important to any modern household.
Coaxial cabling mainly handles the distribution of video signals, such as cable and satellite TV programs. In the old days, your electrician ran one piece of coax to one TV, usually located in the family room. That approach isn’t going to fly today, given that most homes have at least three TVs. Naturally, you’ll want your home systems installer to route coax to every TV site. In main viewing areas like the home theater and family room, ask that your installer pull two individual runs of coax. Both of the coax cables could be used to feed video to a dual tuner satellite receiver. Another option is to have one wire carry cable programming while the other is used to carry video from a family room DVD player to other TVs in the house. If you’re a fan of pay-per-view movies, also be sure to run phone wire to these main viewing locations. It’s also a good idea to run coax to the front porch, back patio and kids’ rooms, in case you decide to install surveillance cameras.
Also think beyond what you plan to watch on your television when you’re outfitting your house with coax. If you’d like to use a cable modem for high-speed Internet access, for example, you’ll want a coax connection along with Ethernet wiring in at least one computer location. Ethernet wiring, which is commonly referred to as Category 5e (Cat 5e for short), is multifaceted in its capabilities. It can carry voice signals to your home’s telephones and content from the Internet to a computer, for example. In addition to delivering outside signals to the inside of your house, Ethernet cabling can form a powerful network that makes your home operate like a well-oiled machine. For example, it can connect every computer in the house. When all of your computers are hooked up to Ethernet jacks, they can share files and peripherals and allow multiple users to surf the Internet simultaneously. Ethernet cabling can also network your telephones, giving you the ability to transfer incoming calls between handsets. More recently, Ethernet cabling has been used to distribute music from stereo systems to self-amplified speakers.
A home office, family room, master bedroom and kitchen are obvious places to have at least a couple of Ethernet jacks installed. As long as you’re adding the wire, run it to every room, including places like the kids’ rooms, garage, patio and an unfinished basement. Don’t worry about high costs: Ethernet wiring costs less than 15 cents per foot. Even if your kids are too young to surf the Internet now, it won’t be long before they’ll want computers in their rooms.
In an effort to simplify the wiring process, a number of manufacturers have bundled Ethernet and coaxial wiring together. Instead of threading several individual pieces of wire behind the walls, a home systems installer can simply route this one bundle, which can save installation time and labor. This “structured wiring” approach is a popular, proven timesaver, but it isn’t the only way to skin this cat. Many installers are just as comfortable wiring a house one piece at a time. No matter which approach your installer takes, just be sure that the wire gets to all the right places.
By Lisa Montgomery, senior editor for Electronic House magazine. To see more articles from the editors of Electronic House magazine about the connected home visit www.electronichouse.com.
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