Structured Wiring Basics

What is Structured Wiring?

Structured wiring is the in-wall system of wiring that comprises all of a buildings cable, satellite, phone, and internet wiring. These are homerun back to a centralized panel, rather than looped throughout a home. All of this wire is Limited Energy or Low Voltage. It incorporates any wire that can be used for communication.

Local versus Centralized Audio-Video Distribution

We won’t get deep into this subject, but this is something you need to determine before you start thinking about any type of structured wiring. The most popular advantage to this type of system is that you no longer need a large, expensive Built-In to house all your components, the “Rack” can be tucked away into a closet. You can now “float” a Flat-Screen on a wall or above a fireplace, and not have to worry about where to house all the other equipment. The same goes for bedrooms, you don’t have to use a piece of furniture to hide a receiver or DVD player, or have them stacked up on top of a dresser collecting dust.

If you think you will use a central “Audio-Video Rack” system to house all of your components several of the items discussed below will change/vary. So keep that in mind as you read through the rest of the article. You will want a Multi Media Jack and a dedicated 15 amp circuit at a minimum for your rack. You will also probably want to distribute High Definition Video via HDMI wire.

Why use Structured Wiring?

In the good old days, phone and cable wires were run in series or daisy chained throughout a home. Usually if the home was even of an average size by the time you got to the last TV in the loop, the signal was weak if not severely compromised. Hopefully a drywall nail didn’t go through or cut a section of wire, because then a whole section of the home could be left without phone or cable.

Today it’s more common to have a centrally located Structured Wiring Cabinet that house the termination points for all the communication wires in the home. These include the wire from the service D-Mark and wires home-run from every jack in the home. By housing these in a structured wiring cabinet (SWC) you can be assured that the signals are consistent, and that if distances are too great the signal can be amplified.

Wiring your Home

The first thing you need to do is determine a general layout for your furniture. This will help determine where phone jacks, cable jacks and Ethernet/computer ports should be. The trend is to have multiple locations in any given room. You use to only see a single phone jack by the bed and a single cable jack by the dresser for the TV. It is more common now to use multi-media jacks on 2 sides of a room, which increases the flexibility of any given room.

Locating the Structured Wiring Cabinet (SWC)

Although it shortens wire runs, it is not always practical to locate the structured wiring cabinet in the center of a home. In more cases than not it is located in a laundry room or utility room. You do not want to place it in an area that gets to hot or too cold, or has high humidity, so it is better if it is located in your air-conditioned living space. You also want to make sure it is not too close to any high voltage electrical that might produce feed back on the wires and affect your signal.

Don’t undersize your SWC. This is often something that gets overlooked. If it is sized properly your wireless router, modem and battery back-up can also be placed inside. We would strongly recommend that your security company provide its own separate recessed cabinet. You should provide a dedicated 15 amp (minimum) electrical circuit to your panel. You will want at minimum a surge protector on the panel, if not also a battery back-up. This is where the D-Mark for the cable/satellite/phone wires needs to be run to.

Why you need to hire a professional:

As you can see above there are a lot of things to consider, and tons of new technology being introduced all the time. It’s important to hire a knowledgeable contractor who not only knows what common practice is, but also knows what questions to ask you about your lifestyle. Hire a contractor who goes to trade shows and has an interest in what is easy to use, not just what is new. Hire one with references from previous installations. When it comes to wiring the cheapest is not often the best, you pay for attention to detail and quality.