Published In October 2000
Having specialized in residential electrical wiring design and installation for many years, I felt excited about the opportunity to jump into the residential communications wiring game. This additional revenue stream could significantly increase electrical contractors’ bottom line. The combination of voice/data/video (VDV), audio, energy management, environmental control, security, and specialized applications being used within the home environment is a great opportunity and challenge that will change the residential defacto standard of infrastructure. You may want to enter the VDV market slowly by joining the residential market and getting some first-hand experience with standards-based techniques. This approach works well to “hone” the craftsmanship needed to comply with the extensive certification requirements of modern telecommunications infrastructure systems. Commercial telecommunications system markets require significant training, education, and financial commitments to be successful. To provide the right infrastructure (copper-and-fiber cable compliment and associated hardware) for builders and homeowners, I design an “electronic profile” of clients’ needs. Using the same menu-driven rules as I do for commercial infrastructure designs, the electronic profile creates the appropriate configurations based upon the occupants’ needs. Rewiring homes for plug-and-play, application-independent, and structured wiring means overlaying much of which is involved in electrical designs with additional considerations and methods of cable distribution. Very often the cable trunks are large and require sterile pathways to operate with electronic integrity. The National Electrical Code (NEC) dictates separate pathways and spaces that require planning relative to cable routes. Another important consideration is the main telecommunications room and cross-connect location; choose an environmentally friendly location with minimal dust and water vapor. The exact location of the interactive multimedia outlet (IMO) should be well thought out and approved by the builder and the homeowner. Generally, the IMO should be located on the longest wall opposite of the entrance to the room. Strategically placing the IMO in the room will serve the connection of the room over the life span for moves, adds, and changes. Larger rooms or specific needs in the room will add additional IMOs and augment the structured wiring design. Telephone- and/or television-only receptacles will inevitably come into play. Centrally locating the main communication cross connect (patch panels and some active equipment), yields much benefit for dynamic reconfigurations of existing and new interactive multimedia devices. It is imperative that you implement systems using the Standards-based approach (EIA/TIA-570-A), because it offers a universal approach to connectivity. Soon Building Industry Consulting Service International (BICSI) will offer additional guidelines for designing and installing telecommunications in the residence. The Standards-based (570-A), universal approach lends itself to worry-free use that directly correlates to application independence, plug-and-play-type connectivity, and ease of use for the homeowner. After all, what good is a sports car without the tires? In several cases, we have achieved more efficiency and profit by retrofitting existing homes than we have by wiring new homes. This method requires fewer trips to ruff, trim, label, test, and certify the infrastructure. Naturally, access to attics and basement ceilings is required for this approach to be successful. Additionally, the “art of snaking” works well within interior walls and is very efficient. A favorite approach of ours is a compliment of wiring consisting of two Category 5 unshielded twisted pair (UTP), two RG-6 Coax, and two strands of fiber (left unterminated) to each major room in the house, also known as the futureproofing concept. We have designed interface patch cords that adapt common consumer electronic connectors to standard RJ-45-style UTP plugs. These are really helpful to easily connect video cassette recorders (VCRs), headphones, speakers, low-voltage power, and RCA jacks throughout the home. An enhanced network interface is also added to daisy-chain patch panels and hubs, and telephone lines to provide community antenna television (CATV) distribution and distribute 12VDC to power remote devices. In our installations, we have added provisions for future IMOs in the main panel, because they are frequently added. Installations performed in winter require special consideration of the temperature during cable pulling. In the Northeast, we often encounter below-freezing conditions that may prevent cable installation due to manufacturers recommendations. Typically, portable, forced-warm-air heaters are used to bring temperatures up to acceptable limits and allow the installation to be performed in concert with the build out of the home. Clearly, the residential VDV industry and subsequent additional revenue stream generated by becoming involved in this emerging market will allow you to offer additional services to your clients. DONELAN is president/owner of Telecom Infrastructure Corp., and is Region 1 Director of BICSI. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at (800) 3-WIRING.