Copper Structured Wiring in Canada - Contractors/Remodelers


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Introduction

Historically, houses have been built so that structurally they will stay standing for decades, but residential communications wiring has not had
the same kind of longevity. Today, by installing high tech copper structured wiring systems it is increasingly easier for remodelers to bring
existing homes up-to-date, in order to meet the demands of current and future technologies.


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.

Remodelers are not just replacing the kind of cable in the residence. They are adding more cable connections to every room in the home.
This ensures flexibility, which is a central feature of a structured wire system.


Demand

Trends show that most new technologies appear first in new houses and then gradually find their way to existing homes. A large proportion
of new houses are being built with some level of structured wiring. As an increasing number of consumers experience the benefits that structured wiring has to offer, the demand for retrofit installations will increase rapidly.

According to a recent survey by the Remodelers Council of the National Association of Home Builders in the United States, structured wiring is among the top three requested amenities during major remodeling projects.


A Perfect Time to Add Structured Wiring

A 2005 Ipsos Reid survey found that three-quarters (76%) of Canadian homeowners are planning renovations/home improvements in the next
two years. It is clearly the time to introduce structured wiring to your business.

People remodel their homes because their home does not work for them anymore. During a remodel, homeowners are typically investing substantial sums of money to improve and bring some aspect of their home up to current standards. It makes sense to bring wiring and communications systems up-to-date at this time as well.

Also, during renovations, sub-contractors are already on-site, the homeowner is prepared for their home to be disrupted for the period of
the renovation, and the walls and ceilings are often opened up, with readily available wiring paths. In addition, homeowners are investing substantial sums of money to modernize their home and to maximize their home's value; structured wiring should be a natural part of these upgrades.


Selling Structured Wiring

While many homeowners may not ask for structured wiring, this is often because they are not familiar with the terminology, or they are
intimidated by the technology. Once they understand the benefits that structured wiring will bring to their home it is an easy sell. It is the job
of the contractor or remodeler to give the homeowner the option, and clearly lead them through what they might need and what they can
expect from a structured wiring system. Educating your customer about structured wiring often gives you the opportunity to sell up,
increasing revenue.

If structured wiring is addressed at the beginning of the design process, it is easy to integrate it into the renovation plans, budget and
schedule. Structured wiring adds very little time to the schedule if it is done while the trades are already on site.


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.

When installing cables care must be taken. There are 5 key rules to keep in mind:

  • Pulling force: Category 5e cable, for example, should not be pulled at a force of more than 25 pounds. Using higher pulling force risks deforming the wires inside, which will harm performance.
  • Stepping on the cable, rolling a handtruck over it, or doing anything else that can damage the wires will affect performance.
  • Category 5e has a minimum bending radius, usually about 2 inches (50 mm). This means you should not jam it into electrical boxes or bend it sharply because you risk not having the full bandwidth when you are done. Another recommendation to go by is that the bend radius that can be tolerated is usually about ten times the cable's diameter.
  • Do not untwist the wire pairs too much. The wire pairs in the cable are twisted together because doing so provides a balanced transmission channel and it also helps the cable reject electromagnetic interference, sometimes called noise. The general rule of thumb is you do not untwist the wire pairs more than about 1/2 inch (13 mm) (or 3/8 inch (10 mm) is even better) where the cable connects to a wall outlet or a distribution device.
  • Avoid fixtures such as fluorescent lights.

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.

Important Wiring Guidelines to Remember!

  • Once in the residence, the low-voltage wiring needs to be separated from the high-voltage wiring in order that there is not any interference put into the system from the power.
  • Signals from electrical wires can interfere with the signals in the structured wiring cables if they are not separated. Structured wiring cables should be run through their own holes and pathways and cross electrical wiring at a 90o angle. Although faceplates may combine both high-voltage (electrical) and low-voltage (communication) outlets, under no circumstances should electrical and communications share a gang box.
  • To ensure maximum performance, it is essential that all connecting devices (e.g. central distribution device, plugs on the ends of cables, outlets, etc.) should be rated for the cable used. For example, if Category 5e cable is used, all devices must be at least Category 5e rated. The same goes for RG-6 coaxial cable.
  • 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.
  • Inability to transmit television signals. (Coaxial cable can send 100 TV signals, wireless at most can send one).
  • More expensive.

Conclusion

Contractors and remodelers have the opportunity to help homebuyers and homeowners realize the full potential of the technologies that are available to the modern residence. Copper structured wiring can even bring an older home up to the forefront with the latest technologies.
It should be included in all construction and renovation packages.