Structured Wiring Supports the Systems in your Home
As 21st century technology continues to evolve, it is increasingly necessary to have your home properly wired. “Structured Wiring” refers to running wires through the walls of your home to organize and integrate the various systems in your home. Cable or satellite TV, telephone, security, climate control, Ethernet and audio/video systems all rely upon and support each other in an advanced structured wiring system. It is important to note that even wireless technology can perform poorly or even fail without a well thought out structured wiring system, designed to support and extend the wireless devices and their capabilities to communicate. Many people, including builders and electricians can be unfamiliar with the newest products and technologies available for low voltage systems. At Stereo East we often say that we “back into” the wiring scheme based on the proposed system requirements or capabilities. You have to understand the systems to get the wiring right!
Low voltage contractor or electrician?
Whether you're re-wiring your home or simply installing a home entertainment system or computer network, it's important to hire a low voltage contractor who will get the job done properly. It is more often a good idea to hire a dedicated low voltage contractor rather than an electrician. These low voltage contractors will be up to date on all the latest changes in whole house and related technology. In many construction trades most people, including electricians, are unfamiliar with the new products and technologies that are available for a low voltage system or technologies outside their core expertise.
The following several paragraphs will help you to understand some of the “need-to-knows” when it comes to wiring your home:
The first concern with our infrastructural wiring relates to electrical codes. The National Electrical Code (NEC) prescribes the following properties of the wire to be used in your walls:
- Reduce the spread of fire and smoke.
- Prevent shock
- Comply with other requirements of the NEC
All wiring used behind walls, under floors or otherwise installed as a structural component of the building must be properly rated. Even speaker wires that go inside the walls have to be rated as either Class 2 or Class 3.
Next we need to decide on wire gauge and conductor count. How do we know what's right for the job? Well let's look at the speaker wire for instance. The distance from the audio amplifier to the speaker location is a major factor in deciding which wire is the right wire for the installation. Every foot of speaker wire adds more resistance, capacitance, and inductance to the performance equation. Shorter runs of wire that are twisted and shielded a certain way yield better sound quality.
The trick in any structured wire system is to minimize the effects of the wiring, here are some tips for doing just that:
- For runs up to 100 feet to the speakers or volume control, 16AWG (gauge) works fine
- From 100 feet to 500 feet use 12AWG
Some additional good things to remember are:
- For a primary sound where dynamic range is at a premium, use more copper
- If you are wiring main speakers use heavier gauge
- Don't underestimate the value of shielding for reducing noise
Many of these systems can be extremely sophisticated and require professional installation and proprietary wiring. Our most consistent recommendation is to use at least CAT5e wiring for the control system. You should always consider 16/4 & Dual CAT-5e or CAT-6 for more sophisticated systems or in instances where you want to distribute telecommunications as well as IR (infrared) and speaker level audio.
Remember to wire bathrooms, hallways and outdoor areas. There is no reason that whole-house audio/video should not extend to these often overlooked areas. Even if you don't plan on installing equipment at every location right away, make sure you run the cables to that location. It will save you money and time in the long run.