The Home Wiring and Computer Network System

Wiring closet picture

Photo of the wiring closet.  Only the "Cat 5 from house" connections use Keystone
jacks for termination on this end. 

I built a panel for the phone lines using a "66" punch block and loose RJ11 jacks.  The TV coax are loose cables plugged into the TV amps.

TV, phone, and computer cabling

Since I did not have the luxury of seeing my home being built, I could not specify the preinstallation of structured wiring. If you read many of the home automation magazines that are out there today, you would know that they suggest no intelligent home should be without one. This is where you have TV and computer network cabling installed 'home run' style to every room in the house. I would tend to agree only because I found that I needed to install conduit and cabling to accomplish my home automation goals.

My first installation occurred during the Central Vacuum project. In that case I was of course installing PVC piping for the vacuum line. I then later installed Cat 5 (computer) cabling during the Phone System project, and then RG6 (TV) cabling for the Whole House Video project. Despite the fact that it was a retrofit, I was able to completely hide the tubes and cables inside walls and closets so that none showed, leading to a very professional appearance. This was possible on one end of the home by using the chase for the furnace flue, and on the other end by using my garage.

The chase was a box that led from the basement to the attic and measured about two feet by two feet wide. It had of course fire blocks built into it which blocked air from going from one floor to the next, so these had to be drilled thru with a 2.5 inch hole saw. I then ran two vacuum pipes thru the holes of the chase, sealing the gap with caulking. One pipe was for the vacuum system and the other served as a conduit for cabling. I finished the installation of the vacuum system first, noting and thinking about how I would install the TV and computer cables. Since I was installing only two vacuum outlets per floor, but many more outlets per floor for the electrical connections, the latter was a bigger challenge.

Electrical connections from the second floor are routed as follows. A hole is drilled from the attic into the stud space above the new outlet. I then saw out a hole into the drywall and insert a new outlet box. The type of box is called 'old work box', and allows you to slide the box in and swing two tabs to secure the box in the drywall. Wire is then routed from the new box into the stud space, and then into the attic where it is led down into conduit to the basement. Here it is then run into the wiring closet.

Connections from the first floor are possible because my finished basement has a suspended ceiling. I drill a hole from the basement below into the stud space of the future box, and route the cabling down into the basement and wiring closet.

Connections from the basement are most simple since I can remove a ceiling panel and get access to the stud space of the basement wall.

Once at the wiring closet (see above), the wiring terminates in the appropriate type of block. For TV, I have a bank of splitters mounted on a plywood plank. I can then patch the right combination as needed. The Cat 5 is terminated into a 66 style block with RJ11 connectors if it is used for phone, and a panel of RJ45 style patch panel if used for computers. The phone connections are then patched into my 'phone hub' or phone system, and the computer connections go into a normal computer network switch.

The blank wall plate into which inserts
are snapped to customize its function.

One challenge was finding an attractive way to terminate the cabling in the lived in areas. I found a system that uses blank wall plates with square holes into which you can snap inserts to mix and match the type of connectors you need. I don't know the name of this technology as individual manufacturers have their own names. Examples are 'Quickport' (Leviton), 'TechWire' and 'Keystone'.

The result is a very professional looking wall plate.
One additional note, a regular Cat 5 cable has four twisted pairs. A phone connection uses two twisted pairs, and a 10BaseT (computer) connection uses two twisted pairs also. Since I don't use 100BaseT (requires four pair), I decided to have one Cat 5 cable do double duty and carry one phone and one computer connection to each room. By doing so, I needed only one Cat 5 per room. Although others may not recommend it, I have not had any problems. In certain instances I even have two computer connections per single Cat 5 cable.

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