The high-tech old house

By The Old House Web
Virtual Nanny
Structured wiring makes it possible for this work-at-home mom to balance personal and professional duties by monitoring her baby's crib via her computer.

A "connected home" is a living environment that empowers the consumer to maximize the potential of technology to satisfy personal lifestyle needs.

It gives the homeowner control to integrate two or more home systems to realize the benefits most desirable for their lives. Those systems could include communications, computers, audio/visual, entertainment, security, lighting controls, utilities and environmental controls.


While a "connected home" adds security, peace of mind and convenience to day-to-day activities, the applications to simplify life are nearly endless. There are many advantages and conveniences of a "connected home" including:

  • Connect to the Internet

    Advanced wiring systems allow consumers to "plug-in" personal computers anywhere in the home to access Internet services, as well as send and receive e-mail and faxes.
Multiple computers, printers, fax machines and other devices can be connected to create a cost-effective and convenient "home area network" that allows for sharing of files, printers, games, etc.

Single phone lines can share Internet access for multiple, simultaneous users without tying up phones for emergency or other needs.

Families can enjoy high-speed Internet access and multiple email accounts while maintaining a single access/service provider.

  • Home Office

    Professionals can work at home with the same convenience as at the office. Home offices can accommodate multiple communication technologies, so the computer, fax machine, modem and telephone can function simultaneously while providing the efficiency of the latest in high-speed Internet access.
  • Home Entertainment

    Homes are equipped to readily accept all entertainment systems/distribution services (including: direct broadcast satellite, DVD, cable, etc.). Homeowners have maximum freedom and flexibility to direct audio and video services on demand to all or one outlet in the home?from the bedroom to the home theater.
  • Environmental Controls/Energy Management

    Access to sophisticated heating and cooling controls offers maximum comfort and efficiency. This allows the homeowner the flexibility to control HVAC, the water heater and other appliances to work more efficiently when necessary and automatically shut down/turn down when not needed to save on overall heating and cooling costs.
  • Security and Property Protection

    A "connected home" can contribute to numerous security protection applications including the use of intelligent lighting controls, monitoring systems and motion detectors. Security systems can be linked with PCs, intercoms, HVAC controls and lighting systems to give the homeowner optimum control and flexibility.

Front Door Security
Structured wiring gives users added security by offering the convenience of using the television to view who's at the door.

Components of a Home Wiring System

The wiring infrastructure in most homes has not changed in 50 years and is unable to fully support the technologies that are available to consumers today. However, today's wiring systems are created to handle today's technologies and provide the electronic foundation for a "connected home." This advanced infrastructure is necessary to ensure that your family can be connected to today's services and prepared for new technologies. An advanced home wiring system is usually comprised of three main components:

  • The service center. This service center is the part where all outside services enter the home, including cable TV, telephone, DSS satellite, Internet, etc. This central hub distributes these services to locations throughout the house in a way similar to how the electrical breaker panel controls electricity flow.
  • High-performance cables. Certain services like digital satellite, high-speed Internet, and digital TV require high performance cables to allow full access throughout the home.

    Most systems include RG-6 coaxial cable for TV and video, and Category 5 or better twisted-pair cable for telephone and data. Coaxial cable provides maximum protection from interference with your TV picture. Category 5 or better cable provides high-speed access to multiple phone lines without cross-talk. These cables deliver all the performance you need today, while providing the capacity to handle tomorrow's technology.
  • Outlets. The outlets in each room determine which services are available in that room. Each outlet can be customized to a consumer's specific needs based on which services are desired in each room (cable, Internet access, telephone, etc.). Without the proper outlets, the high-performance wiring behind the wall is of little value.

Structured Wiring vs.Conventional Wiring

Think of wiring as a pipeline for information. Conventional wiring has the data capacity of a squirt gun. By comparison, structured wiring, using Category 5 cables, has the capacity of a fire hose. Structured wiring can transmit more information, faster.

Conventional wiring, which is found in most homes, consists of one or two twisted pairs of wires, and is adequate for basic voice, fax or data communications.

Structured wiring is more advanced wiring. Not only can it handle traditional telephone, fax and data communications, but also sophisticated video and data signals from computers.

The Investment

Regardless of size, location or cost of a home, incorporating minimum wiring standards can add value to the home at resale and effectively ensure optimum access to all developing home communication, entertainment, security and control technologies.

A "connected home" can be achieved today with minimal investment and is not limited to custom construction. In most cases, prices for structured wiring solutions range from approximately $750 to $2,000, installed. The initial investment varies depending on the scope of an installation, with a range of upgrade and home control options available to consumers who want maximum control.

In addition, to ensure that your home is "future-proofed" and your investment secured, it is recommended that a 2" PVC pipe be installed from the basement to the attic. This will enable new wires to be pulled, if ever necessary, between floors without having to replace walls or ceilings.

This story was based on material supplied by Wiring Americas' Homes, a consumer educational campaign of the Home Automation Association.

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