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Whole-house broadband wiring


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K. R.'s Forum Posts: 5
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By K. R. in Plano, TX on 5/29/2010



In my new house I want to centralize computer, storage, and wifi. I plan to house all my computing needs in a small control room (size of a closet) and home-run Ethernet cables to almost all rooms in the house. In addition, I plan to have wifi access points, one per floor and one in my back porch. This is to ensure a good wireless coverage in the house and the backyard.

Has anyone done anything similar in their homes? Any dos or don'ts? Any documentation? What routers, storage, server equipment did you all use?

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By Kathleen in Anahuac, TX on 5/30/2010


We are doing new construction and also are in real need of this information for PC, wireless, DIRECTV, phone and Bose system. A local general contractor advised us to use PVC conduit to run all these  cables. We are using Celbar insulation. Is this PVC conduit necessary? We are very interested in the response regarding type of equipment and location in a two-story home because we too want to have good reception for wireless inside and out.


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By Mike in Bonham, TX on 5/31/2010


As a builder and an IT pro of 25+ years, why run any cable if you're going wireless? The only cable you'll need is the main feed to the house (either cable or satellite hookups) to the main modem that is then attached to your wireless router. As long as all your computer and printers have wireless connections, you are free to have computer and video anywhere in the house and with your hotspots.

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By Mike in Bonham, TX on 5/31/2010


Any conduit is useful if you will be pulling wire through the walls once they're totally enclosed.

Check the NEC for the proper type of conduit to run. PVC can be rated for different electrical applications. You can also consider smurf tubing. If you are in a municipality, you will be subject to building codes and inspections, so it is vital to have the proper conduit installed, or they will tag it.

See my comments above about wireless. You may not need any wiring except for the main data feed to the house, from cable or satellite.

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By Gregory in New Braunfels, TX on 5/31/2010


Nothing wrong with using wireless. More and more devices are available and the wireless speed is getting faster all the time.

I designed and wired all the low-voltage (phone-data-cable) for my house. I have two Cat5E (with RJ45 connectors) and one RG6/U quad-shielded coax in a single wall plate in every room... Some rooms have more than one wall plate location to allow flexible furniture location. All of this wiring runs to two structured-wiring panels in an upstairs closet. One panel terminates all the Cat5E wire and the other panel terminates the coax cable. Both panels have two 110V outlets for all the gadgets to plug into (modem/router, LAN Switches, etc). I use a telephone punch-down block in the panel to terminate the phone wiring going to each room.

I was at that decision point much like you... wired? or wireless? Regardless of which approach I ultimately used, I finally decided that I could wire the house during construction for a small fraction of the cost of wiring it later after sheetrock and insulation is installed. And for the locations that were either questionable or would be virtually impossible to reach later, I ran cheap and flexible low-voltage conduit to an outlet box and covered it with a blank cover plate.

Today, I use both wired and wireless.

One thing to consider for your central equipment closet is the heat from the equipment. Consider adding an exhaust fan (perhaps, thermal controlled to come on at a certain temp) to draw out the hot air.


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By Gregory in New Braunfels, TX on 5/31/2010


(Sorry for the long post)

Kathleen,

Here's a some of thoughts to consider:

The conduit is a good idea. As someone else posted, check your location building codes; however, there is relatively cheap flexible conduit for low-voltage applications. They come in a large roll of 50-100 ft. and are easy to cut with a knife or box-cutter. If you've ever been up in the attic trying to reach an outside wall, where the roofline comes down to meet the outer wall at the top plate, you'll immediately appreciate having conduit pre-run down those walls. I run that outer-wall conduit high into the attic (out of the insulation), so I can just stand up in the attic and feed the cable down the conduit all the way to the first floor... piece of cake.

Here's some design features to consider for a wired solution:

  1. Design for a Structured Wiring system, including the following features:
    1. Structured Wiring distribution panel
    2. Structured wire to and from the distribution panel to the demarcation point on the outside of the home
    3. Structured wire to and from the distribution panel to each designated network wall outlet plate
    4. Structured wire to and from the distribution panel to a satellite dish location (with southern sky exposure)
    5. The connectors (RJ45, coax, etc) for all cables and multimedia wall outlet plates
    6. Wiring types:

                                                        i.      Broadband wiring, Cat 5E (with some consideration for Cat6)

                                                      ii.      Telephone wiring, Cat 5E

                                                    iii.      Video wiring, RG6/U quad-shielded coax

  1. The Structured Wiring distribution panel shall be located inside the conditioned space of the house (study closet). At least two 110v A.C. electrical outlets shall be located at the distribution panel.
  2. Distribution panel shall include:
    1. Phone module (four input lines)
    2. Ethernet LAN hub/switch
    3. WAN router/NAT
    4. Reverse video feed capability
    5. Surge Protector
    6. Option Video:
      1. Video amplifier module
      2. Security video camera module & power supply
      3. Audio/video modulator to broadcast on any home TV
  3. Two category 5E wires and two RG6/U quad shielded coax wires shall be run from the distribution panel to the demarcation point on the outside of the house.
    1. One category 5E for data  (really just an extra for contingency)
    2. One category 5E for telephone
    3. One category RG6/U for data  (really just an extra for contingency)
    4. One category RG6/U for cable TV
  4. Category 5E wire and RG6 coax shall be run directly from each multimedia wall outlet plate (or other outlet location; e.g., outside security cameras and/or satellite dish) directly back to the distribution panel. This method is commonly referred to as “home-run” configuration, which will not contain any splices of cables.
    1. Multimedia wall outlet plates will generally be a quad-plate outlets, capable of any combination of one-to-four RJ-45 (for phone or data) or one-to-four RG6 outlets.
  5. Three RG6 coax wires shall be run from the central distribution panel to the southern area of the attic for a satellite dish. Allow an adequate length of coax wire in the attic to properly locate the satellite dish.
    1. One RG6 coax wire for the satellite antenna
    2. Two RG6 coax wires for dual satellite receivers
  6. All wiring will be terminated with the proper connector at the distribution panel and outlet.
  7. Structured wire shall not be bent beyond a 90° angle.
  8. Structured wire shall not be bent beyond a 4” radius.
  9. Structured wire shall not be pulled with a force greater than 25 lbs.
  10. Structured wire and A.C. electrical wire shall cross at a 90° angle only.

 

As for your Dish Network, (I know the satellite box technology is changing all the time) consider that some of the sat boxes (for example) will control two TVs independently. Let's call them TV1 and TV2. Usually the sat box is sitting next to and connects directly to TV1. TV2 could be on the other side of the house. Therefore, the location where the sat box will sit will need minimum of 2 or 3 coax feeds from your distribution panel. One feed will come from your sat antenna to the sat box. There is an output from your sat box for TV2 and it will use the second coax cable and go back (thru the wall plate) to the distribution panel. There, the TV2 feed will connect (at the distribution panel) to the coax going to the room for TV2, and Bingo!, TV2 has it own TV signal on the other side of the house. Depending on the sat company, some need only two coaxes, some need three coax feeds next to the sat box. By the way, TV2 sat-remote controller will use RF (radio frequency) signal to talk to the sat box (not an IR signal). And, don't forget, most satellite companies want their sat boxes to "phone home", so, make sure you have a phone jack close to the sat box.

 

 

As for speakers, I pre-wired for surround sound in my family room, master bedroom, and the upstairs game room. I only pre-wired for front left and right and rear left and right. I assumed the center channel would sit very near the TV and the sound system. I didn't think about the subwoofer. However, in my case, where my LCD TV is sitting, there is enough room right behind the TV for the subwoofer (out of sight). However, you should consider your center-channel speaker and subwoofer locations.

 

 

Ultimately, I used a three-outlet approach in most rooms (multiples in some rooms for flexibility). One RJ45 for the phone, one RJ45 for data, and one coax for the TV (used three coaxes in the family room and game room, because I knew the sat Boxes would sit there). And by the way, an RJ11 connector (the smaller ones used on phones) will fit into an RJ45 jack.

 

As for wireless, using this wired approach described above, you can connect a wireless access point (WAP) at a location in this wired design and connect back to the Structured Wiring panel where you can connect the WAP to your house-wide LAN switch or router.

 

 

One final thing; check with your cable provider. Some are bring fiber-optic cabling to the home and they want your inside-the-house wiring scheme to meet their wiring standards.

 

Good luck,

Greg


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DCG's Forum Posts: 159

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By DCG in Lago Vista, TX on 5/31/2010


Like you, I had a great plan.

My thoughts:

These days there really is no reason to have wired Ethernet unless you're doing at-home hosting or require extremely high-speed (data center) internal connectivity. A modern wireless G router or wireless N router can easily stream media in HD quality.

I gave up on "cheap" routers years ago after designing parabolic dish antennas, using multiple access points, etc. If I buy a new router now, I simply go online and find the one with the best range-test results...  I've never had a problem since.

Nothing wrong with running Cat5e or Cat6 in the house, especially if you're doing it yourself. I have wired connections in every room, but use none of them.

I would:

1) Run redundant coax and Cat5 from the outside of the house in. We don't know what communications medium will be required for tomorrow. I ran three coax cables to outside. Only two survived the build process. I also have two Cat5e pairs to the outside. Of those wires, I use only one pair total for DSL.

2) I'd encourage you to run two pairs of Cat5e or Cat6 to your A/V locations. This stuff can be used to carry HD signals (like HDMI to Cat5e) long distances, and in a pinch almost any AV connection can use Cat5e. Shielding is appropriate for A/V. Two pairs are required for HD A/V signals these days.

3) I ran HDMI. HDMI is a bit of a bugger, because it doesn't like long runs and if you decide to "chain" HDMI devices, you need to make sure they are compatible up front. There is no way to check, other than buy, wire, and test... To me, HDMI is much more impacted by interference - especially general electrical, so choose carefully where you run it. HDMI cannot be split (generally speaking) - it uses a copy-protection interface that is encrypted and doesn't like too much monkey business in terms of source and destination.

4) I also wired every room with simple component (red, blue, green + red/white) - from monoprice.com. This stuff is just under HDMI quality in terms of video resolution. Its advantage is that it can be split, amplified, etc. So you can play the "game" in all rooms of your home from a single video source. HDMI can't do this.

5) All rooms have RG6 (coax) also... Just for grins... Again, it's cheap.

6) For places where I might have to replace A/V in the future, I ran "smurf tube" - basically conduit that will allow me to replace cables if I ever need to do that in the future.

7) Speaker wires. Again, easy to do, inexpensive.

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