Structured wiring is a general term that refers to a whole-house network of audio, video, data, telephone, television, home automation or security signals. Structured wiring begins with a structured networking panel (SNP), which accepts cables from outside providers and distributes the signals directly to each room in your home. These direct lines, called “home runs”, ensure the strongest possible connection and signal to each of your electronic devices.
Structured wiring can be installed while a home is under construction, retrofitted during a remodel or added on its own. This buying guide will explain what to look for in structured wiring systems and networking panels, so you can feel confident you’ll receive the highest level of performance from your electronics.
Factors to Consider
• Advantages – Speed, configurability, troubleshooting, consistent signal quality
• Components – Structured networking panels, high-performance cabling, multi-port wallplates, connectors
• Accessories – Video amplifiers, blank inserts, furniture hole covers
Advantages of Structured Wiring
• Speed – Ethernet speed is currently much faster than wireless. If you download or share large files you may want an Ethernet connection to a desktop computer and use wireless for your laptop or other device.
• Configurability – If you run two cables of each type to each room, you can configure the wires in a number of ways. For example, you can play a DVD in one room and watch it on a TV in another room or share one printer among several computers located throughout your house.
• Troubleshooting – Because the cables in a home run configuration all run directly from the SNP to the outlet, it’s easy to isolate problems in a specific wire.
• Consistent signal quality – Splicing cables together can lead to loss of signal quality. Running all cable directly from the SNP to the termination points eliminates splices and keeps signal quality strong on each cable.
Components of Structured Wiring
Pre-fabricated SNPs are available in a variety of sizes and configurations that include the devices necessary to distribute the signals you need throughout your home. These may include punch down blocks for telephone wires, signal amplifiers, routers, modems and an electrical power source to power the different devices in the panel. You can also configure your own panel. Before buying or configuring an SNP, consider the components you’ll want to include in your networking system, both now and in the future, and select a panel that can grow as your needs increase or as technology changes.
From the SNP, you can run different types of cables depending on the signals you plan to distribute.
If you are installing a network yourself, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of connectors on hand.
||Twisted-Pair Cable ConnectorsThe ends of CAT-5e cables are terminated in connectors known as RJ-45 jacks, which look like common RJ-11 (phone) jacks, only wider.|
||Coaxial Cable ConnectorsF connectors are often used with coax in broadcast and cable television equipment. F connectors provide an inexpensive and stable connection to these communications devices and other cables.|
Fiber Optic Cable Connectors
Fiber optic cables require different types of connectors from those used with coax or CAT-5e cables. If you choose to use fiber optic cable in your home, you may need to install a special adapter in your computer to utilize a fiber optic connector.
• Video Amplifier Module – Boosts the strength of CATV signals, eliminates FM interference, and is ideal for longer cable runs or when splitting to multiple locations
• Blank inserts – Cover up unused housing openings and preserve extra ports for future applications.
• Furniture hole covers – Organize your cables and wires on your desktop.
Home Depot, “Structured Wiring and Network Panels.” Buyers Guide: How-To. September 5, 2013. http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/catalog/servlet/ContentView?pn=structured_wiring_consider_these_factors_before_selecting_wiring_and_network_panel_for_your_home_HT_BG_EL&storeId=10051&langId=-1&catalogId=10053