Why so Many Wires?
So far, the structured wiring system described does not offer much beyond a house’s standard wiring. This is where the second cable and phone lines become important. The first cable line carries a signal from the control box to the wall plate —for example, a satellite TV signal. The second cable line can then be used to carry a signal back to the control box — for example, the output from your DVD player. With the appropriate module inserted in the control box, this DVD signal could then be amplified and sent back over all outgoing cable lines on an unused channel number. You could then watch the DVD on any TV in your house simply by tuning to the previously unused channel.
Where this technology really shines is when setting up a home computer network. For example, you can use a single CAT-5 twisted pair line to both send and receive computer data. An advanced control box will be able to decipher the data, and send it to the correct location. Thus, data coming in over an ISP connection will be sent to the correct computer, allowing for multiple users to share a single broadband ISP connection with no interference.
Similarly, data can be sent from one computer and correctly routed by the control box, whether it is an e-mail message to be sent to a friend overseas, a file to be printed on your color printer in the upstairs office, or simply an instant message to your spouse working downstairs.
Do I Need to Buy Everything Now?
No. Many structured wiring packages come in different “feature levels.” If you are on a budget, you can install a basic system that will provide simple cable TV and telephone distribution. At a later date, you can add control box modules to enable additional features such as computer networking. The key is to make sure you have the bundles of wires running to every important room in your house. Since these bundles run through your walls, they are difficult and expensive to add at a later date.
Building a new house, or conducting major renovations, provides an ideal time to consider installing at least a basic structured wiring package. Installation costs are significantly reduced when your walls are open (i.e. before the drywall is attached to the wall studs). Even if you are not interested in computer networking or whole-home video, it is useful to think of how the housing market will evolve, and to consider that the future buyer of your house may desire such features.
How Much Will It Cost?
In many parts of the country, a basic structured wiring system can be purchased and installed in a new home construction for about $1 per square foot of living space. This system would consist of a control box capable of simple video and telephone distribution and four wire bundles running to wall plates in each bedroom, the living room, the garage, and kitchen. The total cost to purchase and install the same system in an existing home can cost up to twice as much, or $2 per square foot of living space. Of course, as these are rough estimates only, actual prices may vary dramatically due to factors such as local labor costs, house floor plans, and features selected.
How Do You Find a Manufacturer and Installer?
There are numerous manufacturers of structured wiring packages, Local installers can often be located through the manufacturers.