Get Wired: How to Make the Most of Home Technology
Enormous strides in technological advances are made daily, which can make preparing a new home or remodel for great technology a challenge. The latest innovation in homes, which is relatively inexpensive and can add considerable value to your home,is prewiring for home automation and “smart home” capabilities.
The term “prewiring,” sometimes called “structured cabling,” refers to the installation of the appropriate cables and wires during a new home’s construction or during a remodeling project. Each cable goes back to a central wiring location that allows for simple management and organization of your technology.
Sounds simple enough, right? But things can get in a tangle if certain considerations are overlooked before that last sheet of drywall is installed. Builders, designers, contractors and realtors have to work hard to stay abreast of the technology behind the technology—and it helps if homeowners know what to ask for. Here is a checklist to consider if you are building a new home or undergoing any type of renovation that might include the technology that makes your life functional and fun. Prewiring a home with these cables allows you the options to use when ready.
TV/SATELLITE/CABLE: These cables allow proper audio/video distribution throughout your property for televisions or projectors.
TELEPHONE: Many folks are moving away from traditional telephones; however, this cable can be used with new technologies like Magic Jack (www.magicjack.com) or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol; see http://transition.fcc.gov/voip/ for more information)—technologies that enable phone calls with a high-speed internet connection.
COMPUTER/DATA: This cable allows many functions related to your networking interest—computers to be linked, printers shared, TVs with network ports to use online applications such as NetFlix and Pandora Radio, and more. Category 5e or Category 6 cables are the base cable types used for telephone and computer/data technology, allowing so many technologies to communicate today and in the future. A recommended minimum standard for prewire should include two Category 5 or Category 6 cables and two coaxial cables at each television or computer location, all running to a central wiring panel.
This is more important than you may realize. Here’s one basic reason: If you purchase a new LED/LCD/plasma television, there is a good chance the TV will have an Ethernet connection (network port) to allow instant access to Netflix, Pandora, Hulu and all the other wonders that await through your home’s high-speed internet connection. That new home you just purchased may or may not have adequate cabling in place to allow you full use of your new TV without adding a wireless adapter or even an “Ethernet over Powerline” adapter, which adds cost and potential connection issues.
WIRELESS ACCESS POINTS: Proper prewire design provides wireless coverage to prevent dead spots.
SECURITY/CAMERA/DRIVEWAY SENSORS/GATE CONTROL: These cables allow you to add options that will help provide interior and exterior peace of mind to your property, even if your initial plans don’t include these features.
THEATER/MEDIA ROOM: Provisioning for a home theater allows for surround sound up to a 7.2 system (meaning 7 speakers and 2 subs) for the best movie experience.
DISTRIBUTED AUDIO/INTERCOM: Prewiring for music or intercom can give you capability to add equipment to play your favorite music from any source including any MP3 or “iProduct,” or to monitor a loved one over the home’s intercom system.
CLIMATE CONTROL: Adding prewire for climate control allows you to control your property’s temperature while at home or away.
LIGHTING CONTROL: Lighting control can be accomplished using the existing electrical wire in your home; no special electrical wiring is needed. These switches have the intelligence and use the electrical wire to communicate.
FLOOD PROTECTION: A well-designed system can include prewire to allow a device that can detect water line leaks from your refrigerator, washing machine, dishwasher, ice maker, or any plumbing fixture.
MOTORIZED BLINDS/SHADES: Ever thought of having your blinds on a schedule to open and close based on time of day? With prewire installed, the options are endless using motorized blinds or shades in conjunction with a home automation system.
Armed with these basics, you should also consider working with a forward-thinking builder as well as a qualified technology specialist. Custom technology integrators can develop a package with products that interest you now and prepare the home for future upgrades. A good technology integrator will work directly with you and coordinate all your technology needs with the builder and other tradesmen to ensure all prewire is installed out of the way of HVAC, electrical, and plumbing requirements.
Prewiring your home to suit your needs can vary in price. The size of the home determines the amount of wire needed. Working with a fully qualified technology specialist will allow budgets to determine the overall prewire design. Prewire can also give your home a competitive edge by giving options that many homes in the area do not offer as the standard. Today’s fast-moving families want baby-cams and pool-cams, and fire alarms that automatically shut down HVAC, turn on hallway lights and flash exterior lighting.
There are also longer-term cost savings involved with proper prewiring for smart home features. Heat, cooling, water and other natural resources can be conserved through smart scheduling and automation. Away from home, users can view video and control all systems using standard PCs or many of our popular handheld electronic devices. All of this is possible with adequate prewire.
Thank you to Integrated Technology Group for contributing this article.