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Building a new house...Wiring? (long)


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#1 of 14 Ian C

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Posted January 04 2005 - 12:34 AM

Okay...so my wife and I just put money down on a lot for a new house. I've been thinking through everything I would want to have them do and wiring is a big issue with me. Most cosmetic things can be changed later (flooring, paint, etc), but I would like to "nail down" the wiring issue before they put walls up.

Assuming they start building in two to three weeks and they say it takes them six months, we are still a few months away from even having to worry about wiring...but what's the fun in not thinking about it and getting prepared. Posted Image

I want to go ahead and pre-wire the house for anything I might need (cable in every room, phone, etc.) I've done a little research, but most of the articles I've found are three years and older. I figure with advances in technology, these might already be outdated.

One thing mentioned was structured wiring where it sounds like each outlet has its own wire running to a box in the garage or something. That sounds like a good idea. What about electrical stuff?

What about satellite/cable. With HDTV, are they still going to continue using the regular old coaxial cable?...or should I have some new cable put in just in case. I'm also wanting to pre-wire for my speaker system, but that seems to be a little more straighforward (just heavy-duty in-wall 12-gauge, right?).

I'm obviously going to need to consult a professional to get their opinion. Would a standard electrician know all this stuff?

One last thing...Our house is going to be a two-story/2800-2900 square foot job...Anybody build a house recently that can give me a rough estimate of how much it would cost to "upgrade" the wiring? I wouldn't think it would be much. I figure the major cost of wiring a house comes when the sheetrock is already up...but if I can get the wiring in place before then the extra cost should be miniscule, right?

To summarize, I'm wondering about wiring for:

- electricity (I want heavy-duty stuff...so when I'm rockin to some action movie while doing laundry, running the dishwasher, and running others TVs I don't blow a fuse Posted Image )

- phone (I don't think I would ever need more than two phones, but would it cost much more to wire for say...four?)

- cable/satellite (anything coming down the pipe that would change the wiring over standard coaxial?)

- computer network (do wireless networks negate this need?)

- speaker (just standard 12-gauge/in-wall, right?)

- future things I might need


I would much rather get all this stuff taken care of while the house is being built then have to spend even more money to tear into the walls later on (and have wirings snaking around the outside of the house). Any help is appreciated. Also, if anybody in the Dallas, Texas, area has consulted somebody about this stuff, I would also appreciate being pointed in their direction. Any good websites that deal with this would also be much appreciated.

Thanks for bearing with me.

Ian

#2 of 14 Philip Hamm

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Posted January 04 2005 - 01:06 AM

Your builder should have a contractor that will do structured wiring for you. If you're waiting until 3 weeks before the dig starts you're already starting late. If you're building a tract house the chances are about one in a million that your builder will let you in there to run your own wires anywhere.

I recently had a house built with lots of great stuff like an in-wall equipment rack, conduit for a projector, in-ceiling speakers in key places, multimedia drops, pre-wired rear speaker drops in the ceiling of my audio room, extra coax to the attic for HDTV antennas, etc. etc. I had to have the builder's contractor do the work, and they did a great job.

For our house (about the size of yours) it was about $3000 which included
  • Phone
  • cable/coax
  • cat5 network
  • speaker wires
  • in-wall Mid-Atlantic rack for HT gear
  • in-ceiling speaker wiring (x2)
  • patch bay and rack for all low-voltage wiring
Easily worth the money. I installed all my volume controls and speaker jacks myself using mostly stuff from www.partxexpress.com . Quite easy since they installed the wire and wall plates. Plus I spent an extra $300 for a dedicated outlet in the ceiling with its own breaker for the projector.

Get the high efficiency HVAC system, it will pay for itself in the first year.

Wireless networks are not as secure and not as fast as a cat5 cabled network, and the hardware is more expensive. If the Cat5 cabling for network is available, get it.
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#3 of 14 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted January 04 2005 - 04:56 AM

Quote:
What about satellite/cable. With HDTV, are they still going to continue using the regular old coaxial cable?...or should I have some new cable put in just in case.
As long as they use antennas for sat, broadcast TV and radio, they’ll be using coaxial cable to carry the signals. As long as you use RG-6 everywhere you’ll be fine.

Quote:
I'm also wanting to pre-wire for my speaker system, but that seems to be a little more straighforward (just heavy-duty in-wall 12-gauge, right?).
Yes, 12 gauge. For anything run inside walls you’ll need cable specifically designated for that.

Quote:
Would a standard electrician know all this stuff?
Roll the dice. Most of them are only vaguely informed when it comes to the needs of A/V equipment.

Quote:
- electricity (I want heavy-duty stuff...so when I'm rockin to some action movie while doing laundry, running the dishwasher, and running others TVs I don't blow a fuse
You’ll want at least one dedicated circuit for the home theater equipment; if you’re planning a sophisticated system with lots of gear and amplifiers, you’ll probably want two circuits. If you use two circuits they should both be on the same phase. Have them put plenty of outlets at the equipment location, perhaps a couple of quad boxes, so you don’t have to fool with a plug strip.

If you know where the subwoofer is going to be located, have them put an outlet there too, and another box with a signal cable from the equipment location. That way you won’t have cables draped across your floor between the equipment and the subwoofer.

At the equipment location, I’d have them drop three or four RG-6 coaxial cables, a phone and network line. For instance, a dual LVN satellites dish, a TV antenna and attic-mounted FM antenna (highly recommended) would use up all four coaxial feeds.

Quote:
- phone (I don't think I would ever need more than two phones, but would it cost much more to wire for say...four?)
Ask for four-pair phone cable and you’ll be wired for the future. Also, the Cat-5 cable they use for networking works fine for phone.

Quote:
- computer network (do wireless networks negate this need?
I’m with Philip, hard wired is the way to go if you have the capability to do it – which you do.

Quote:
Get the high efficiency HVAC system, it will pay for itself in the first year.
Good advice for anyone living in Texas. Posted Image

Quote:
I want to go ahead and pre-wire the house for anything I might need (cable in every room, phone, etc.)
In the bedrooms you might want to drop phone, network and cable in two locations (they can all go in the same box). That gives you more options for arranging furniture.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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#4 of 14 Ian C

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Posted January 04 2005 - 10:54 AM

Thanks both of you for your help. My wife contacted the builder today and they have an outside firm (On-Q Home) do the "structured wiring." Apparently, it's already standard on the house I've chosen. There will just be small additional costs for the extra outlets and stuff I want ($30 for each extra outlet, sound reasonable?).

So...From the advice given, the extras I'm going to ask them for are:

- Additional electrical outlets behind the TV center in the gameroom/theater with a dedicated circuit.

- Four extra phone/network/cable jacks (total of seven).

- Speaker cable and jacks in walls for the gameroom (total of eight for 7.1), with an extra electrical outlet in the corner where the subwoofer will go.

- Speaker cable and jacks in walls for the family room (total of 6 for 5.1 - too small for 7.1).

- Coax cable running into the attic for eventual HDTV antenna.

Quote:
Get the high efficiency HVAC system, it will pay for itself in the first year.


Yep...It comes standard. I was pretty happy about that myself.

Thanks again!

#5 of 14 Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 04 2005 - 01:52 PM

The $30 for an extra outlet sounds reasonable from a builder. The dedicated circuit will probably cost extra.

If your sub is going to be across the room from your equipment, I would also run an extra coax from where your equipment is to where your sub is going to be since most subs have an internal amp.

Depending on radio reception in your area, you may want to run a second coax to the attic for a future radio or sat radio antenna.

As to the high efficiency HVAC system, get the specs and check it out yourself. Most of the $600K houses being build around me have only an 85% efficiency furnace, which I'm sure the builder claimed was high efficiency (after all it's better than a 70%). If you are more concerned with Air cond, you want to look at the SEER rating. The highest (that I know of) is a Trane with a SEER of 19.5. When looking at this you need to figure out how long the payback is to see what the best upgrade for you is.

How many jacks does the builder include with the On-Q system?

#6 of 14 John S Smith

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Posted January 04 2005 - 06:13 PM

Run all your cabling back to a central location, this location should be easy to access and have at least one dedicated circuit available for the multitude of power supplies for phone, Cable and Data hubs, I'd run conduit rather than wire, who knows what is coming down the pipe? (pun not intended). If you have attic access simply run lengths of 3/4" flex up through the wall top plates and far enough into attic so you can get to the end. Take PLENTY of digital photo's of what is located where, before the drywall goes on. Run more conduit than you can possibly think of a reason for, one mistake here will cost a minimum of a couple hundred bucks later on, flex is cheap by comparison.
Good Luck.

..john
It isn't F..... up, untill you can't fix it!

#7 of 14 Ian C

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Posted January 04 2005 - 10:31 PM

Quote:
How many jacks does the builder include with the On-Q system?


From the information I have (and I don't have everything yet), they mention three cable and three phone. I figure I'll need a total of seven for each of those, along with the network connections. Since they don't mention network connections, I assume that would be a total of seven for those.

So I would need to ask for an additional four phone jacks, four cable jacks, and seven network jacks...in addition to the other stuff I'm doing. Of course, we haven't for sure done the deal yet...so we don't know what else we can get them throw in.

My wife and I are going to make the decision on the house by this weekend...though it's looking like this is what we are going to do. We've been looking at other builders in the same area, and this seems to be the best of them so far for our price range (with no outstanding issues with the BBB, as in the first builder we liked).

This is not only our first build, but our first house period...so we want to make sure we've planned for things properly, and go into the building process knowing exactly what we want.

Thanks,
Ian

#8 of 14 Philip Hamm

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Posted January 05 2005 - 01:33 AM

Ian,

You're not going to need our help, the builder's structured wiring people are going to set up everything we are suggesting. The wall jacks and stuff will be extra, but they will set you up good. Enjoy!
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#9 of 14 vince simonetti

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Posted January 07 2005 - 11:52 PM

Quote:
...if you’re planning a sophisticated system with lots of gear and amplifiers, you’ll probably want two circuits. If you use two circuits they should both be on the same phase.


Is a single run of 12/3 Romex an adequate way of accomplishing this?

#10 of 14 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted January 08 2005 - 04:25 AM

No – without going into a technical explanation of the “whys” and “wherefores,” code says that 12-3 Romex can only be used when the two circuits are on opposite phases. For two circuits on the same phase, there must be two independent runs of 12-2.

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#11 of 14 MacLean

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Posted January 08 2005 - 05:41 AM

Just make sure your networing cable supports gigabit ethernet. You may have a media server one day that will stream music/movies/audio.

#12 of 14 vince simonetti

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Posted January 08 2005 - 11:02 PM

Forgive my naivety, but what problem does out of phase circuits cause?

#13 of 14 Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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Posted January 09 2005 - 12:50 PM

There is a better chance of getting hum and noise from ground loops when the circuits are on opposing phases – primarily, when the audio gear is using circuits on opposite phases.

Plus, lighting dimmers can cause noise in power lines, which can infiltrate the system. Putting the HT gear on the opposite phase from that stuff virtually assures noise-free operation.

Regards,
Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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#14 of 14 Elijah

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Posted January 11 2005 - 04:21 AM

Quote:
Just make sure your networing cable supports gigabit ethernet. You may have a media server one day that will stream music/movies/audio.

The only thing that I feel qualified to comment on in this post is on the networking side.

From what I have read from MANY media server/HTPC users in various forums, the 54Mbps you get from a Wireless 802.11G setup is more than enough to "stream" video/audio/whatever across your house to multiple locations. If you are looking for future upgradeability or to set your system up with a lot of overhead for future use, then you could go with a wired 100Mbps. I would more classify Gigabit Ethernet as overkill (not that that is always a bad thing : ), I just wanted to point out that a Media Server which streams recorded HDTV content, full quality DVD rips, and music, will not be bottlenecked by 54Mbps, let alone 100Mbps.

The way that computers cache the information being "streamed" is one thing that that you might not consider when thinking of needed bandwidth in your network infrastructure. The computer which is "pulling" the data off of the media server, first caches a big chunk of the info be it a DVD, Music, Divx, whatever, and then it starts to play the part that it has cached. Then while you are watching the movie/listening to the music it is progressively getting more information off of the server for a couple of minutes down the road when that part is needed for playback.

The limiting factor that you will encounter is more of an underrun problem than an overrun problem. And that is that your hard drives on the media server not being able to get the information fast enough for many connections from different points (like watching a recorded HDTV program in the living room, listening to music in the bedroom, and pulling pictures off for a slideshow on your PC). This problem would be fixed by setting up your server correctly with multiple hard drives, and getting the raid configuration correct.

All of that being said, I would have no problem in recommending you use a 100Mbps wired ethernet using CAT5 cable and a good 100Mbps switch for all your data needs. You can use it for your Internet/Intranet/and Phone wiring without worrying about running out of "bandwidth". Plus as mentioned above the costs for hardware on this type of setup definitely shine in comparison to a wireless setup, and for wireless access, you can always use a wireless bridge to gain access from wireless devices to the rest of the wired network.

**EDIT**
Changed MBps to Mbps for clarity.
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