Copper Structured Wiring in Canada - Builders

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Introduction

Throughout Canada, copper structured wiring is becoming a standard feature in new houses and condominiums. At an ever-increasing rate, builders and developers are including structured wiring in order to meet consumer demand. Whether building a house on spec or working with a client, it is important to stay current and understand the value of including copper structured wiring when designing the modern residence.


What Is Structured Wiring?
Also known as telecommunications cabling, copper structured wiring for the home or condo is an integrated system for telephone, Internet, data security and entertainment. Today, home theatres, home networks and home offices all require structured wiring.

Category 5e (or better) unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cable, together with RG-6 coaxial cable for video, forms what is known as a structured wiring system. These cables are run to at least one outlet in every room of the house or condo, depending on the number of access points required. They run back to a central distribution box or service centre fed by the services that come from the street. This is known as star configuration, or star wiring, and is a key component of a structured wiring system.


Demand for Copper Structured Wiring
A recent survey determined that 49% of Canadian homes now have high-speed Internet. This number is growing at a rapid pace. Clients who
use high-speed will want their system to be as up-to-date as possible in order to take advantage of all that new communications technology
has to offer. (Solutions Research Group, 2005)

Electrical contractors estimate that currently about half of all new single-family homes and condo suites in Canada have copper structured
wiring systems. By 2008, they estimate that more than 70% will be prewired for communications services.

Structured wiring no longer serves only a niche market. It is a standard that is looked for and expected by today's purchasers of houses and condos.


Profit and Marketability
The biggest potential for a builder is to make a basic copper structured wiring system a standard feature in the houses that they build and to
then offer upgrades. These upgrades include: high-speed Internet throughout the home, multiple phone and fax lines, home computer networks, home theatres (audio, video, speakers, surround sound), security systems, lighting and temperature control.

Whether a client is buying a new home built on spec, or designing their dream home, it is easier for them to invest in a communications network and automated home systems at an early stage, when they are in the process of negotiating a mortgage and borrowing for their home, rather
than having to invest in the system at a later date.

When high-level unshielded twisted pair wiring (UTP) and coaxial cable are installed while the house is being built, the cost is relatively minor.
To go back and install copper structured wiring at a later date is a hassle and additional expense for the new homeowner.


The Basics
To provide your client with the most modern and flexible communications system there are five rules to follow:

  • Use Category 5e (or better) UTP Copper Wiring
    Recommended for homes and home offices, this is the foundation of a structured wiring system, allowing for maximum speed and flexibility for phones, Internet, and networked computers throughout the house.
  • Use RG-6 Coaxial Cable
    Two cables should be run to each location: one downstream for TV distribution, and one upstream for such uses as internal security or a camera in a baby's room. An all-copper centre conductor permits the remote device to be powered over the coaxial cable itself.
  • Wire Every Room
    Flexibility is one of the clearest advantages of a copper structured wiring system. Guarantee flexibility for the buyer by providing multiple jacks in every room throughout the residence. Also, for true flexibility, it is recommended that two cable runs (an extra 4-pair UTP cable and an extra coaxial cable) go to each location, allowing for easy expansion and addition of upgrades.
  • Use a Star Wiring Pattern
    Star wiring is a key design concept for a structured wiring system. With star wiring, each outlet has its own individual "home run" of cabling extending back to a central distribution device. This allows for flexibility when changing or adding services, simple isolation of problems (or troubleshooting), and a high quality signal.
  • Use 8-Pin Modular (RJ-45) Jacks
    These devices provide connection points for all eight of the wires contained in the four twisted pairs.

Category 5e and 6 Wiring

Phone wiring of the past was referred to as "quad" wiring because it used four copper wires. This is now obsolete. Today Category 5e (or higher) wiring is used with four twisted pairs or eight wires in total. High tech twisted pair wiring is more reliable because of its tight accurate twist of wire pairs and the balanced mode of transmission. This design results in a cable that resists interference from common sources in the home, such as microwave ovens, vacuums and power tools.

The performance benefits of structured wiring mean that Category wiring can handle multiple phone lines and support high-speed digital communications efficiently and in a cost-effective manner. Transmission is faster and there is reduced static, crosstalk and degradation of
signals. These are all problems that were associated with a quad wiring system in the past. These problems were additionally exacerbated
when telephone wires were installed in close proximity to other wiring.

In Canada, the current minimum standard covering UTP (unshielded twisted pair) copper cable for new installations is Category 5e (e for enhanced). This meets the requirements of ANSI/TIA/EIA-568-A-5. Category 5e has 10x greater capacity than the earlier Category 3 cable
with a minimum increase in cost.

As the Category of copper communications wire is upgraded (from 5 to 5e to 6) the bandwidth, or speed and information carrying capacity, increases exponentially.

Category 5e with its 100 MHz Bandwidth is capable of handling not only present 10 BASE-T and 100BASE-T Ethernet, but also future Gigabit Ethernet (1000BASE-T).

Category 6 has more than twice the bandwidth or speed of Cat 5 or 5e. It provides an available bandwidth of 200 MHz and features a
significant improvement in the signal-to-noise ration (SNR) performance, resulting in more reliable transmission, fewer bit errors and higher
data throughput for existing applications.

It is important to remember that although Category 5e and higher cable can easily handle 100 Mbps speeds, the overall capability of a system
also depends on the network interface in the computer, the hub or switch at the other end of the cable, and by items such a patch cords and connectors. For this reason, it is essential that all cable, patch cords and connectors in the system are of the same Category.

The TIA/EIA-570-A standard specifies that the length of each cable run should not exceed 90 metres (295ft). This guideline should determine where the central distribution device is located within the star wiring system. In most homes, this length is well within the design parameters.

For future flexibility, it is recommended that two cable runs go to each location. This allows for easy expansion and addition of upgrades. Two Category wires are recommended for the phone and computer network and two coaxial cables in every room, for internal and external video.


RG-6 Coaxial Cable

Copper coaxial cable is a part of the structured wiring system. By providing two RG-6 coaxial cables to every room, you provide a path for
video signals to travel to and from each room. This gives the occupant the ability to watch digital cable, satellite, or DVD signals anywhere in
the residence. It also provides the wiring needed for external or internal cameras used for security, and for monitoring doors and rooms (for example, a baby's room).

RG-6 Coaxial Cable comes in two versions: either a solid copper centre conductor or copper-clad steel centre conductor. The solid copper
centre conductor is the preferred choice as it is able to carry power in addition to the high-frequency data signals.

For internal communications an increasing number of homes can access high-speed Internet service either over their telephone line or from
their cable provider. Although the bandwidth capacity of coaxial cable is large and downstream Internet services can easily be accommodated along with many television channels, there is a downside to using coaxial cable for the Internet. In a typical neighbourhood, many homes share
the coax loop. As a result, during busy periods of Internet use, transmission speed can decrease exponentially. This sharing can also result in security concerns, with the possibility of Internet communication being intercepted.

Coaxial systems work best as a one-way system, for television, video technology and home theatres. For Internet and networking, the advantages clearly lie with phone lines and DSL.


DSL & ADSL

DSL is the Digital Subscriber Line. Using copper telephone wires, DSL delivers high bandwidth data, packed video and voice transmission at
fibre optic quality, over copper lines, by using the available frequencies above the 4 kilohertz voice band.

For residential use, the most common permutation of DSL is ADSL. ADSL stands for Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line. This version of DSL
was developed as a way to make copper competitive with fibre optics and has been successfully targeted to the residential market.

ADSL is a technology that allows copper telephone wires to also carry high-speed data, providing broadband access to information
resources such as the Internet. With ADSL, phone companies are able to compete with cable providers, offering the same services with significantly better quality and reliability than one is used to with cable TV.

ADSL transmits voice, data, and up to 4 video channels downstream, into the home, or up to 8 Mega-bits per second (Mbps) of information
and voice and data back to the telephone company (upstream) using copper telecommunications wires. ADSL has higher speeds downstream than upstream.


Cable Modems & Wireless Technology

Cable modems use cable television lines (coaxial cable) to carry high-capacity data signals up to 10 Mbps to home computers and home entertainment systems.

Wireless technology, the use of radio frequency signals to transmit data, is a growing competitor to ADSL and to cable modems, but it still
lags far behind in many ways.

While wireless systems offer mobility to move computers around the house and to access the Internet anywhere in the home, there are
several downsides that must be considered:

  • Interference is much more common with a wireless system.
  • Not reliable – a wireless system may work one day throughout the house but not the next.
  • Not as secure as a hardwired system.
  • Inability to send as much data.
  • Inability to transmit television signals. (Coaxial cable can send 100 TV signals, wireless at most can send one).
  • More expensive.


Ultimately, a hardwired structured wiring system, is more reliable, more secure and gives the best flexibility for upgrading a home system with new electronics and technology.


Bundled Cables
Bundled cables usually combine 2 UTP and 2 coaxial cables for the convenience of installation. There is no performance difference between
using individual cables or a bundled cable. The choice often comes down to a matter of convenience for most installers. Bundled cables reduce the number of cable pulls, therefore reducing labour time. In addition, the outer sheath of bundled cables may provide some additional protection during the installation process.


Basic Wire Care
Proper and careful installation, by a professional installer is the key to having a reliable structured wiring system. The key rules concerning
pulling force, handling, bending radius, and so forth are covered in the Contractors/Remodelers section of this web site.


Installation, Trim-Out and Testing
When looking for a contractor, one can use an electrician who will pull the wires during rough-in, or an installer who specializes in individual systems (security, home entertainment, office networking), or, preferably, a systems integrator. This person will take all of the communications systems in the home, install them and tie them together professionally and efficiently. Often an electrician will pull the wires and then a systems integrator will be brought in to complete the work.

Structured wiring rough-in generally occurs right after the electrical rough-in and before the insulation is installed. Trim-out is the final phase of installation and occurs after the drywall and painting are complete. Usually this happens at the same time or right after electrical trim-out. In
each of the rooms the cable runs are attached to jacks and faceplates are attached to the wall. At the central distribution box, each of the
cables are properly connected and the services are brought in from the outside.

Each structured wiring run should be checked with circuit testing equipment after installation and installers should guarantee that their work
will perform properly.


Conclusion
The wiring that you install in today's homes should serve your clients for many, many years. Structured wiring allows builders to stay on the cutting edge of communications systems technology and to have a market advantage over other builders who may not be keeping up with the times. Keep your customers happy and secure your reputation by making copper structured wiring a standard feature in every house that you build.