Published In July 2001
Finally! Structured wiring has come home to America. Anticipating this increasingly attractive market, electrical contractor Tom Lowry made the move full swing into residential structured wiring systems. Lowry, a principle and founder of Structured Wiring Systems Inc. (SWS) in Joliet, Ill., is committed to educating builders, developers, and the community about the benefits of these systems. Lowry predicts that the single greatest area of growth for voice/data/video (VDV) contracting in the next five years will be the integration of data services and the installation of structured cabling packages. “What may seem excessive today in a structured cabling package may be the standard tomorrow,” he said. Lowry’s company installs about 40 structured wiring packages per month and expects to nearly double that this year, thanks to partnering with local builders, such as high-profile giant Pulte Homes and others. SWS recently signed an agreement with Pulte to provide residential structured wiring systems in hundreds of new homes in Plainfield, Ill., and other developments. “Industry analysts report that home buyers should budget 1 percent of the purchase price of their home to the low-voltage infrastructure. This being the case, VDV contractors engaged in structured cabling solutions must devote a tremendous amount of attention to their relationship with the builder. Builders are not going to change their entire way of thinking without a solid foundation and ample trust in their contractor,” he said. Lowry has gained that trust through his expertise and professionalism. He has been in business since 1996, but spun off Structured Wiring Systems in 2000 to concentrate solely on the VDV market. Now, any structured cabling activity is handled through SWS. He cautions that pulling data cable requires tremendous care and forethought. “Any minor infraction in distribution procedures can impair or disable a network,” Lowry said. Here’s a look at a structured wiring package he installs for Pulte Homes: • The heart of the system is the Leviton SMC 140 panel and Advanced Home Telephone Unit. The standard package includes a control panel, telephone control unit with a six-port voice/data module and four-line modular telephone distribution capability. This allows the homeowner to distribute telephone lines to select rooms in the house and through patch cables, easily reconfiguring line-to-room assignments without the need for rewiring. • Telephone system wiring includes one 1 x 6 1GHz-rated coaxial splitter. Other standard components include: two Category 5 telephone outlets, two RG6 coaxial outlets, one RG6 feed from the exterior cable box to the panel, and two Category 5 feeds from the demarcation point to the panel. (This is an example of a typical standard installation. SWS will customize any installation based on the specific requirements and desires of the builder.) • All cabling is homerun to a common location in a basement or utility closet as specified in Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA)-570-A Residential Wiring. • Cabling for residential telephone systems is a minimum of Category 5 and Category 5e for all telephone and data applications and allows for future expansion and upgrades. Lowry said that the FCC has specified Category 3 as the minimum standard in residential telecommunications, but Structured Wiring plans for the future with Categories 5 and 5e cabling. These drops are always homerun to a common panel. Any video feed is installed with RG6 quad shielded coaxial cable. This run provides the bandwidth required by data applications, satellite, digital television, and cable. Three upgrade option packages include a Home Entertainment Package, Home Office Package, and Advanced Home Office Network Package. These optional offerings add possible capabilities via wiring and cabling. For example, the Home Entertainment Package option includes an upgraded panel; enhanced bi-directional video amplifier; three RG6 connections for satellite, cable or antenna; and a return path to the panel for video distribution. It also features two Category 5 connections for satellite and future interactive television and two RG6 feeds to the attic for a digital subscriber system (DSS) connection. Leviton and other manufacturers are as excited as SWS about the potential—the here and now—of structured wiring. Said Bill Marshall, Leviton’s vice president of marketing and product management: “Leviton’s expertise in residential markets may be just what’s needed to finally allow home networking to live up to its promise. This industry has been taking baby steps until now. We think we can help it grow up.” For today’s homeowner, especially in new construction but also in retrofit applications, it’s foolish not to pre-wire for the future. There’s video, telephone systems, home controls, security, and more to consider. Installing for these capabilities as they exist today and preparing for how they will exist in the next several years is what structured wiring solutions are about. O’MARA is the president of DLO Communications in Chicago and contributing editor of security for EC magazine. She may be reached at (773) 775-1816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.