Considerations when Pre-Wiring a Home/Business
Don’t believe it when people tell you that everything will be wireless in a few years. You still need solid wire to carry stable signal a lot of the distance. The best way to integrate electronics into your home or business at any time in the future, is to install cables that are dedicated to the data transfer required, BEFORE the drywall goes up. Whether you are talking about audio, video, cameras, intercom or security. There is no one best way to pre-wire; it depends on what you want to allow for. This quick point-form guide tells you what to think about first when considering the pre-wiring of a project. Secondly, we also will touch on acoustic considerations that will go a long way into making your home or business nicer to live or work in.
Remember that just because it is wired for it doesn’t mean you need to spring for the cost of all the electronics at the start. As long as the correct cables are in place before you close up the walls and ceilings, the premises will be ready for electronic upgrades at any time in the future. What you want is to be able to easily access whatever cables may be required to meet future needs as they arise. You can never put in too much Cat 5 (or Cat 6, if you want to spend the extra) and if you pre-wire with fibre optics, even without connections on the end, you’ll be up to speed for most of what’s coming.
Ignoring putting at least a basic fundamental backbone in in the attempt to save a few dollars, will mean heartache and bigger total cost later on, as contractors having to McGuyver their way around closed up walls can, and often does, result in higher labour costs, more technology to mitigate closed structures, than it would have cost just getting the foundation pre wire done in the first place!
No one is saying one should plump for the most amount of pre wiring imaginable, however, even a basic 1 ethernet & coax socket in each room, coupled with a starter control box in the mechanical room allows a new home owner a multitude of potential easier expand-ability and superior equipment possibilities in the future, that can be purchased at whatever pace or budget one desires.
The best part? All of this can be controlled from anywhere in the world, from your smartphone. Realize you forgot to close the garage door when you get to work? Need to check that the kids got home safe? No problem. See all, control all.
#1 – STRUCTURED CABLING
Structured cabling means feeds for telephone, televisions and networking are home run from each room to a central hub. External feeds for services are brought to a demarcation point, where the hub panel contains splitters, amplifiers and modems. Most modern homes now have at least one (usually white) skinny metal box, not unlike looking like a medicine cabinet on the outside, with your cables clearly labelled, it’s a neat installation easy to access for future changes or troubleshooting. The cables in this box can then typically be passed along to and squared away neatly in a metal rack in the furnace room, where we recommend at least one master controller, the ‘brains’ of the house, that can be used to expand everything later on.
#2 – INTERCOM
Pre-wire to suit the intercom you want. Some systems interface with multi-room audio, to mute the music when the intercom rings or play your sources through keypads. Others have proprietary cabling requirements. Cable runs from the doorbell locations to the central hub allow for a video intercom using your TV’s and phones. Add a wire run for an electric door latch.
#3 – SECURITY
The best protection is a monitored system including smoke and gas detectors. A variety of sensors are available, including flood, glass break, power outage, motion detectors. A properly designed system goes beyond intrusion detection to interact with other systems to control basic operations, provide personal safety and future monitoring for independent living.
#4- MULTI-ROOM AUDIO
Cover all options with 2-Cat 5’s & one 4-conductor speaker cable from a central hub to the Volume Control Location in each room,2-conductor speaker cable from there to each speaker in that room. Install any system to this wiring configuration: volume control of a central source; keypads with control of sources; full colour touchscreens accessing Internet radio.
#5 – MULTI-ROOM VIDEO
Cover all bases by sending 2-RG6 coax cables and 2-Cat5 cables from a central location to each room where you want a TV. This means you can put a satellite or cable receiver in each room, locate just one receiver centrally and distribute its output to each room, or connect your TV to the Internet to receive IP delivered content such as Netflix or Apple TV.
#6 – LIGHTING SYSTEM
A lighting system responds to sensors, timers or push buttons and can control security, heating, and window coverings. Attractive keypads with programmable buttons replace multiple light switches. Pre-programmed buttons set lighting scenes for different moods. Different systems use different cabling so it’s best to decide on the system before prewiring.
#7 – WINDOW SHADES, CURTAINS, BLINDS.
Blinds or draperies powered by quiet motors can be tied into a lighting system, respond to light sensors, timers or a remote. There’s even ‘instant’ LCD windows available, where glass can be totally ‘frosted’ in a fraction of a second, on and off. In addition to addressing privacy issues they save energy by governing the sun’s access. Advance planning ensures that the necessary power and control wires will be in place at each window.
#8 – CCTV
Outside cameras provide a view from any TV screen or computer. Interior cameras let you check the baby or see the house on your laptop when you’re away. Link cameras to your security system. Analog cameras cost less but require more hardware. Digital cameras provide better resolution and flexibility. Specific cabling is required by each so decide before you build.
#9 – OUTSIDE
Consider your gardens, yards and drives when you pre-wire. Run conduit with speaker wire for speakers outside in the garden, or cables to include outdoor dimmable lights as part of your lighting system. Cat 5 cables to the front gate can be used in the future for a gate opener, intercom, video or automated lights. The days of cheesy looking ‘rock’ speakers being the only ones available are long gone. There is such a thing as audiophile grade outside speakers now, as well as weatherproof TV – Just ask us.
#10 – Acoustic Mitigation
We’ve all been there. Lived in a home where one can hear everything between walls and rooms, or been to a commercial premises that give you a headache. The food court at Cross Iron Mills in Calgary is a great example of how NOT to do a large open area.
This, is because, a traditional 2×4 stud wall with drywall each side, is terrible at blocking sound. A wall made of 3/8″ chalkboard with an air cavity is the bare minimum unless you ask your builder for more. Couple this with the trend of ever bigger builds, hard, reflective swathes of flooring, glass walls and larger open plan areas, it’s a challenge to make that sound calm – theres not much to stop sound from bouncing around.
Now, builders are great at constructing homes and businesses. There are some fantastic looking and built places in Calgary. However, just like you wouldn’t have a mechanic pull your teeth, you don’t ask a home builder to mitigate sound.
Just like the mechanic not pulling teeth, it’s not something he specializes in, even if he does have similar tools! Just like a home builder will sub contract specialists like plumbers and electricians, so he should consult and hire acoustic specialists.
There’s easy ways to acoustically calm and deaden a house or business pre & post construction. Special sound blocking drywall, Roxul’safe n sound’ insulation, acoustic putty, sealant and glue, for example. The builder can also use heavy, solid core doors with small floor gaps and seals/sweeps. Once drywall is up and the project is near completion, there’s also wall/ceiling hung diffusion panels, down to good old heavy rugs, heavy velvet curtains, even hung tapestries and full bookshelves all help.
#11 – FUTURE-PROOFING
The Internet is evolving toward becoming the main road in the delivery of entertainment. Wireless transmission works for short distances but to ensure enough bandwidth for future needs pre-wire a web of data cables from a central location, specifically to entertainment centres. Networks of Cat 5E, Cat 6 cables or fibre optics provide the capacity for future needs.