: Installation and Wall Mounting
The Importance Of Pre-Wiring
by Ron Goldberg/Electronic House
One of the most vital cornerstones of your own electronic house is the interior cabling that will deliver your entertainment, information and communications throughout the home. If you’re building a new residence or overseeing completion of a semi-custom tract house, it makes absolute financial and technical sense to “pre-wire” your home to accommodate these technologies. You’ll get maximum flexibility and a minimum of additional cabling hassles once the construction is complete.
What is it And Why Do I Care?
Pre-wire is the installation of “structured wiring” inside the home’s walls and floors that can pass low-voltage electronic signals to devices that you’ll eventually install, like TVs, multiroom audio setups and security/home monitoring systems. Until recently, each of these device types required their own specific kinds of wire, like coaxial cables, HDMI cables and twisted pair copper for telephones. Many of them still do. However, the latest structured wiring solutions are capable of running many of these signal types over Ethernet — a digital cable technology that’s fast, easy and economical. The specific types of cable you’ll need will depend on the home systems you’re thinking of and where you’re going to put them, but the best pre-wiring strategies will leave you with plenty of flexibility to make those decisions when it’s convenient for you, and not for the contractors.
DIY vs. Professional
Can you pre-wire your home yourself? Frankly speaking, unless you’re pretty experienced with this sort of thing, you’re probably (much) better off leaving this job to a professional. Low-voltage wiring doesn’t require a certified electrician, but a pro who has done this before (many times before) is usually licensed, insured, has seen it all and will anticipate many more “what-ifs” than you will. They also know where to install the connection junctions for maximum reliability, how to isolate signal wires from electrical interference, and how to code the different cables for easy identification later on. They’ll also usually have experience scheduling (and sometimes stalling) the contractors who will be chomping at the bit to finish your home construction so they can get paid and move to the next job.
Why Not Wireless Instead?
Simply put, wireless signal transmission is not as robust or reliable as a hard-wired connection. In the case of data-intensive signals like HDTV, most wireless systems are (so far) barely up to the task in a small space, and in a larger house they will disappoint. If your home has plaster walls, stone interior facades or other common residential obstructions, the performance from wireless systems can be sketchy or even non-existent. Trust us on this one — if you really want whole-home technology, you’ll wish you had put wires in the walls before they were sealed up.
The beauty of structured wiring is that a good scheme gives you plenty of versatility to place your components (TVs, audio systems, etc.) wherever in the house you want whenever you want, instead of having to lock everything down at the outset. Still, it pays to have a plan in mind when you hire someone to do your pre-wiring; the job will go faster and the installer will be able to do better work knowing your anticipated needs. Here are a few tips to think about and talk over before the job starts:
• Will there be a main entertainment room (home theater, etc.?) More than one? Let the installer know where you’d like these to be; shorter, more direct signal runs in the wall are more effective than longer ones. Also, knowing these locations will also allow dedicated electrical runs to the house’s main AC circuit box, which are desirable.
• Do you want distributed audio throughout the house? It will be better to run speaker wires and in-wall keypads now than later. In-wall speakers? In-ceiling? Free-standing? Now is the time to think these things over.
• Will you be installing a monitoring home security system? Have a good idea of where on your property the cameras will go so the installer can include them in the wiring plan.
• Will you be integrating — now or later — home control technologies, such as intelligent lighting, motorized shades or remote home monitoring? Even if it’s a thought for down the road, let the installer know. A little expense now in the form of a few extra wire runs is better than a lot of expense and work later.
• Ask your integrator about evolving technologies like Ethernet to your thermostat placements. With energy policies changing (and in many states de-regulating), a little wiring now will give you the flexibility to upgrade to these “smart” climate controls, a strategy that can pay for itself in reduced energy costs.
With an effective pre-wiring strategy, your home will always be ready for the additional gear that you might be adding over the years — including technologies which aren’t even on the drawing board yet. Pre-wire is one of the truest examples of how a little bit now saves a lot later.
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