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Is Your Home Ready for the Future?

Structured Wiring – What Is It and Why Do I Need It?

Michael Tangora, President, HTI+, Tangora Technologies, Inc. Lisa DeGroff, Executive Assistant, Tangora Technologies, Inc.

New homes are being built at an astonishing rate these days and structured wiring should be standard in all homes. Many perceived luxuries of the past are regular features today, including electricity, indoor plumbing, air conditioning, and dishwashers. New homebuyers don’t want their primary investment to be technologically obsolete from day one and should select a certified home technology integrator to install a structured wiring system.

​More than 50% of US households have a least two or more computers while one in every three people in the US use the Internet. Over 80% of new homebuyers want home office space. Today’s consumers are demanding more services: digital satellite, HDTV, digital cable, Internet TV and Movies on Demand. Homeowners are using their Internet for communication, shopping, research, managing financial portfolios and news. Households with cable TV service equal 70%. These numbers substantiate the need for a structured wiring system as a standard feature.

A Structured Wiring System consists of three main components; a central hub, wire and wall plates. The Central Hub, also called Service Center or Network Connection Center is the point that accepts incoming services and distributes them throughout the home. This Central Hub is housed in a panel box and should be clearly labeled. The structured wiring system consists of star wiring, which means instead of wall plate to wall plate or “daisy chaining”, all cables are “home-run” to the central hub. High quality wall plates – also called terminations – ensure a high performance end-to-end system. With cable management, services can easily be redirected as the homeowner’s family grows and their needs change. By using high quality copper phone wire and high quality coaxial cable homeowners are ready for several options: Digital Cable, Satellite, HDTV signal, an Integrated Services Digital Network – ISDN, a Digital Subscriber Line Service – DSL or Cable Modem Technology (Roadrunner) which will transmit high speed data anywhere from 50 to 270 times faster than today’s standard phone lines.

In the past, home telephone wiring was designed for voice only and second lines were a luxury. Since 1910, telephone outlets have been “daisy chained” together with low-grade Bell wire. Poor quality wire and bad connections are subject to noise interference and “cross talk” – hearing other conversations. A single problem can corrupt the entire system. The technology solution of today and the future is Category 5 (CAT5) wire consisting of 4 twisted pairs of high quality copper wire enclosed in an outer jacket as opposed to Bell Wire with only two pairs of copper wires only capable of voice communication. A structured wiring system uses a wider bandwidth wiring system – typically CAT5. More bandwidth means more information can pass through the wire. The amount of bandwidth is critical for current and future information services. CAT5 wire is used for phone, fax and high-speed digital computer transmissions and IR control. The CAT5 wire is capable of up to 4 separate incoming lines at a single phone jack and eliminates noise interference. CAT5 wire installed and connected at a central location can be configured to enable every computer location to share files and printers. It can also allow for simultaneous Internet usage.

The previously installed rooftop antenna broadcasts had poor television reception and were very susceptible to interference from weather. The introduction of cable TV around 1975 improved the picture quality and added more channels, but still had low picture quality. Today, certified installers use RG6 Quad Shield for cable TV, digital satellite, cable modem and high-speed interactive video services. This cable enables a high degree of immunity to interference and can support hundreds of channels and digital data. RG6 is a coaxial cable with an insulated center wire and four layers of shielding. Installed and connected to a central hub this type of cabling can be enabled to distribute a video signal from a single DVD player to any cable outlet in the house. Cameras located at the front door, in the nursery or on the backyard pool can distribute their signal to any television.

With these features in mind many new homeowners are opting to install a “Structured Wiring System.” It is no longer acceptable or up to today’s standard for the electrician to just run Cat 5 and RG6 cable to the basement and connect them with splitters. Homeowners should seek out certified installers. These installers should be specially trained to install such systems and should have a significant amount of experience doing so. While most states still do not require a “license” to install these systems, there is a non-brand specific, nationally recognized industry standard by which systems should be installed. CompTIA administers such an evaluation for structured wiring installers and those who pass are HTI+ certified. (Home Technology Integrator). Installers are evaluated on all phases of installation, troubleshooting, problem solving and reconfiguration of wiring systems including structured wiring, security, networking, multi-room audio systems, home theaters and electronics. A good installer will evaluate each homeowners needs and recommend a system best for them, keeping in mind current and future needs. Furthermore, a qualified installer should work with the homeowner and builder every step of the way, from design, rough in and trim out to customer orientation. Additionally, structured wiring installers should be readily available to the homeowner for upgrades and changes later.

The installation of a structured wiring system in a home will allow a family to be future compatible. This technology will also allow for the sharing of high-speed Internet connections, computer files and printers. It eliminates having costly high speed data lines to every computer. Consumers can set up a whole house video system, allowing them to view a single video source, a nursery and a front door camera on specific channels on every TV in the home. Today’s homeowners can enjoy a separate phone for business and home as well as a dedicated fax line at each phone location. Such systems, installed by certified home technology integrators are a cost-effective solution to upgrade current phone and TV wiring. A standards – based, advanced technology system ensures modifiable configurations and future readiness. A structured wiring panel installed in any new or existing home will prevent technical obsolescence and is essential in today’s ever-changing world of technology.

It all Starts with Wire

Integrated Homes — Wireless, Wired, or Both?

Michael Tangora, President, HTI+, Tangora Technologies, Inc.

Homes today have wireless phones, wireless light switches, wireless printers, wireless computers, wireless security cameras, and even wireless TVs. Wireless is in and wires are passé. Does this mean that homes with integrated phone, computer, and video systems will go totally wireless? No. The reason is that information and communications technology in the home always starts with a wire. It may not be sexy, but it is necessary. Understanding where wireless works and where wired applies will make a significant difference in how well we enjoy and make the most use of our single largest investment — our homes.

​We shop, bank, pay bills, run small businesses, stay connected with the office, learn, watch, play, and communicate from our homes. Phone systems, cable and satellite TV, and high speed Internet access enable these activities. These services enter the home via a wire or cable, and each is distributed separately throughout the structure mainly by wire.

What most homeowners do not realize is that these “separate” systems are all part of the same 21st century home utility — information and communication — the home’s fourth utility after heat, power, and water. The “fourth utility” includes among other things telecommunications, internet connectivity, video, security, and home automation.

The basics — a primer on the fourth utility

Go into a recently constructed office building, and in each employee workspace you will find a peculiar wall plate that looks like a cross between a phone jack, the back plate on a computer, and a cable TV hookup. This funny looking faceplate is called a data port, and it has the capacity to carry telephone, data, and video signals. Data ports feature plug-in receptacles for phones, computers, fax machines, printers, network copiers, and televisions. Data ports are the wall outlets for the information and communication utility.

Leading new home builders today offer standard packages for data port installation. With this system, homeowners have the flexibility of plugging a phone, computer, TV, security camera, printer — any number of products — wherever there is a data port. Every data port is wired directly to a central control panel. Phone lines, cable and satellite TV, and high speed internet wires from the outside are routed into the control panel and then are distributed throughout the home. It’s basically the same idea as electrical service being wired into a circuit breaker and then out to wall plugs. The difference is that wall plugs are in a daisy chain configuration, while each data port has a direct connection to the control panel. The information and communication control panel is the heart of an integrated telecommunications, data, and video, security system, and home automation system.

Using the integrated information and communication system, computers throughout the home can share files, cruise the internet, and access printers and fax machines. Cable or satellite TV control boxes, DVD players, and security cameras can be accessed from any television in the home. Want a separate phone line for the home office or the resident teenager? That’s not a problem. Each data port can carry up to four separate phone lines. Tired of where the home theater, stand alone TV, or computer is situated? Just plug the product into a different data port and away you go. With the right set up, the homeowner can access security and home automation systems from computers or TVs. Wireless computers and wireless phones offer flexibility and are a wonderful add-on to a basic data port system.

The point is that instead of having a phone system, a cable system, a computer system, a security system, and a home automation system, the data port/control panel strategy presents the homeowner with a unified information and communication utility — as fundamental within a 21st century home as heat, water, and power. Information and communication technology represent the most advanced systems in the dwelling and these systems should be installed and maintained as such — certainly not as an after thought or as a Rube Goldberg jumble of wires and radio waves.

There are three obstacles holding back the information and communication utility from fast, widespread adoption. The first is education. Currently, the majority of homeowners and a segment of homebuilders do not have a firm grasp of the basics of information and communication as a home utility. Builders are notorious for not offering extra features unless people demand them. What we have now is a “Catch 22” situation in which homeowners don’t know the questions to ask and builders are waiting for consumer demand. This situation is gradually changing. Consumers are beginning to ask for the same fast and reliable connectivity they have at work, and builders are catching on to the competitive advantage of offering the fourth utility as a package.

The second obstacle is the expense of retrofitting existing homes. The cost of an eight-data-port system for 3,000 to 6,000 square feet of living area in a new home averages $3,000. Because it is more expensive to install data ports after the walls are up, the cost for a comparable set up in an existing home averages $7,000.

Homeowners tend to limp along with the minor irritations in the home rather than spend the money, fix the deficiency, and enjoy the outcome. If a homeowner is going to be in a dwelling for more than five years, then the usefulness and satisfaction with the integrated information and communication system will justify the cost of the retrofit, and it will be one more positive feature when the property goes on the market.

The third obstacle is infrastructure related — the relatively small number of men and women who are skilled in the fundamentals of installation, set up, and service of the information and communication utility. This situation is also changing gradually as increasing numbers of people are seeing this as a viable career path and educational organizations are developing appropriate curricula. While there are as yet no state licensing requirements, the information and communication industry is behind certification of home technology integrators so that consumers have an identifying trust mark such as the Home Technology Integrator, HTI+, designation.

In the beginning was the wire. It may not be sexy, but it is necessary.

Mike Tangora is a certified, award winning home technology integrator in Delmar, New York.


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