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What is Structured Wiring?

A residential structured wiring system, essentially, networks voice and data, audio and video, along with home security and environmental control. A properly installed wiring system can support home theater with surround sound, whole-house audio, lighting automation, security requirements, appliance control, telephone, fax and other home office requirements and remote-access zoned environmental controls. Additional lifestyle options include driveway sensors, motion detection flood lights, automated drapes, pet doors and feeders, medical diagnostic monitoring, a wireless LAN, web cameras and voice telephony over an Internet protocol. In certain cases, stand-by power generators are also offered.

While some of these capabilities may seem like luxury items, structured wiring is also fast becoming a very real necessity for homes in the Austin area. To professionals who work from their homes, for example, structured wiring is a necessity for a sophisticated home office.


What are the components?

If you are familiar with commercial networks, you are well on your way to understanding a home installation. The components, including the distribution center, cables and wall outlets, are virtually identical, however, smaller in scale. The distribution center is a central panel or cabinet where services from outside the home (cable tv, telephone, satellite, high- speed Internet access, etc.) enter the house. The cabinets tend to be 14.5 inches wide so they can be recessed between wall studs on 16-inch centers. Typical cabinet heights range from 8 to 10 inches for condos, to 14 to 28 inches for standard homes and up to 40 inches for large homes. A minimum requirement for each cabinet is a telephone-connecting block for terminating the twisted pair, and a passive cable splitter for the coax. Room should be left for upgrade components, including patch panels for the voice and data lines, amplified splitters for cable, lighting controls, audio distribution panel, security panel, home automation components and data hubs and routers.

In larger homes, a stand-alone cabinet or rack can be used if there is room for a dedicated telecommunications facility. To meet the requirements of TIA-570A, every structured cabling system needs to have a distribution device or cabinet. It should be centrally located and be as close as possible to the entry and demarcation points of the telephone and cable television service providers. In no case can the furthest outlet be located more than 492 feet from the demarcation point. The cabinet should be properly grounded and be within 5 feet from a duplex power outlet.

What about wiring? Although individual Cat 5e and RG-6 cables will service the various outlet configurations, specifically designed “multimedia” cables are being recognized as better solutions. A dual cable, for example, consists of one Cat 5e and one RG-6 under a single jacket. Another “composite” construction could include 2 Cat 5e 24/4 UTP cables for voice and data and 2 RG6 Quad shielded satellite grade coax cables tested to 2.4 GHz. These cables speed installation time because multiple cables can be pulled at the same time. It also minimizes termination times since all ends are readily identifiable. It is very important that the installer test all cable runs from the cabinet to the information outlets at the completion of the pre-wire. Once the drywall is installed, it is very difficult and expensive to replace a marginal cable run. A basic test consists of continuity and wire map to T-568A on all four pairs of the Cat 5e, and continuity of the coax’s inner and outer conductors.