What You Should Prewire When Building a Smart Home

What You Should Prewire When Building a Smart Home

Are you in the process of building a new home?  Are you thinking about incorporating smart home technology into your new living space?  With so many devices supporting wi-fi, are you wondering what to wire, or if you need to wire anything at all?

First, do you even need to wire at all?

With most smart home technology having built in support for wi-fi, do you still need to run wires for the all the technology in your home?

The short answer is: it depends.  But before we go any further, it is worth understanding how wi-fi works, and how its advantages and disadvantages will affect your desired outcome.  Wireless devices are obviously more convenient in retrofit homes, but if you are building a new construction, seriously consider the advantages of prewiring.

Wireless networking is an evolution of radio transmission technology.  Just like radio broadcasts, wi-fi signals get noisy the farther they are from the source.  Also, certain obstacles, especially those made of metal can impede the signal and severely reduce its strength.

This does not happen with wired connections that are properly installed.  Wired connections do not suffer signal degradation like wi-fi.  Their transmission speeds remain consistent.  Wired connections always have higher speed and reliability when compared to wi-fi.

Any modern commercial network will contain a mix of wired and wireless devices.  The same is true for a smart home network.  It all depends on the application, but the general rule of thumb is that wired devices will perform better than wireless devices, especially when it comes to signal quality.

So here are the top 8 things we recommend wiring in your future smart home:

1. Video

  • TVs – TVs need wires for 3 things: Video inputs, network, and control.  Some specifics can be researched in the blog post How To Prewire A Smart Home’ from TYM Homes.
  • Projectors – For projectors, we typically run Cat6 Ethernet, Fiber Optic cable, and electrical power in conduit to the projector.  Keep in mind, HDMI tends to go bad or obsolete over time. Conduit and the Cat6 Ethernet allow you to change or upgrade HDMI cables as needed.
  • Conduit – Although it is overkill to run conduit to every TV, focus on running conduit to the primary TVs.
  • Fiber – If your budget allows, run Fiber Optic to TVs, especially those without conduit.  Fiber Optic cable is great because it allows for high bandwidth and it is not susceptible to magnetic interferences.

2. Surround Sound

When you’re wiring for surround sound, remember to consider both Primary and Secondary Surround locations. These don’t have to be elaborate or expensive setups. It could be a simple powered soundbar and sub, or a simple 5.1 surround system.

  • Primary Surround – Run wires for the Home Theater, media room, or any other primary viewing room.
  • Secondary Surround – You can expand your primary surround sound to other areas of the house.  Sometimes referred to as Whole Home Audio, areas like your dining room, covered patio, game room, bonus room, or outside areas can also play the primary source all over the house, or different sources in each room.

3. Home Audio

Once you experience the benefits of Whole Home Audio, you’ll want more.  The audio source can be anything you might listen to on your phone, not just for music.  If you think you might want music in a room, prewire it for audio.  Places like bathrooms; covered decks; front porch; pool speakers are great areas for listening to music.  There are speakers for just about any application you can imagine, the shower, the pool, the cold… they are even hidden speakers, which blend in seamlessly with the rest of your decor.

Don’t forget your outdoor Landscape Speakers!  Places like the pool, fire pit, sporting areas and gardens are ideal locations for outdoor audio.  If you’re going to spend time outside, or entertain guests on a nice spring day, wire for outdoor areas for landscape speakers.

4. Cable, Satellite, & Internet

  • Point of Demarcation (also called the Demarc) – This is a location on the exterior of the home where Cable, Phone and Internet Service providers connect their services.
  • Satellite Prewire – A satellite prewire prevents the home from being ‘wrapped’ where the Satellite company staples wire around the side of your home.  Satellite prewires, are usually run to a location in the soffit nearest the Satellite location.
  • Satellite Internet – Similar to the Satellite prewire for TV, you can run wire to the attic or soffit if you plan to use Satellite Internet.
  • Satellite Heaters – If you live in a colder climate, you can run a low voltage wire to power a heater that can melt snow off the satellite.
  • Cell Booster – A cell booster is almost a no brainer in a new build, especially if it’s a larger build.  You’ll thank yourself when your cell phone actually has service in your brand new dream home.

If you’re planning to do the prewire work yourself, we recommend contacting your local service providers to verify their cable requirements for their applications. Service Providers can be very particular about the wire used for these applications.  Some will provide their own cable for you to pull, and some even have approved lists of cable.  Some service providers, like Pembroke Telephone Company, will even offer to prewire your new build for their services.  However, don’t expect them to wire for anything other than their current services.

5. Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance Cameras should be prewired.  A lot of clients ask about wireless cameras, but with few exceptions wireless cameras still need power.  If you’re going to run a cable for power anyway, it makes sense to also run Cat6 Ethernet, which will save you time and money.

6. Home Security

With Home Security systems, prewire the keypads for power.  This keeps the keypad installs clean and void of visible power adapters.  Beyond the keypads you can reliably cover smaller homes with wireless sensors.  Larger homes struggle with the wireless range, and benefit from hardwired sensors.  Likewise, if you’re using iron or metal doors and windows, those can cause interference with the wireless signals.  It is best to prewire areas constructed with metal.

7. Home Network & Wi-Fi

  • Hardwired Network – If a device has a permanent location, hardwire it to the network.  This would include the TV, streaming device, Surround Sound Receiver, Printer, Desktop Computer, etc.
  • Wireless Access Points (Hotspots or WAPs) – Other than mesh wi-fi systems, wireless hotspots require an Ethernet connection back to the main router or network switch.  To be safe, you may want to consider wiring up more locations than you think you will need.  This ensures that you will be able to expand or improve the system with future growth in mind.

8. Shades

Motorized shades may not be standard in every home, but they are a nice feature to have.  If motorized shades are something that you want to invest in, it makes sense to go ahead and prewire them.  Keep in mind, motorized shades do not have universal wiring standards. There are similarities, but manufacturers all have different requirements.  If you’re thinking about installing motorized shades, it’s best to select the brand before you wire.

Extras

The items listed here are optional and vary from home-to-home.

  • iPad Mounts – Charging stations for your iPads are very popular and will need to be prewired.
  • Touchscreens  Systems like Control4 have tablet style touchscreens that mount to the wall.  Prewire for these in common areas, and in home theater rooms, but honestly you can wire them anywhere you think you might want a touchscreen to control your smart home.
  • Intercom Systems – Believe it or not, intercom systems are making a comeback, especially in larger homes.
  • Voice Control – There are options for all the voice control solutions, Amazon Alexa, Josh.ai, Google, that allow you to mount a node to the wall, or ceiling for easy voice control.  If you’re thinking about using voice control in your smart home, it may be worth considering prewiring locations in your home for these devices.
  • Video Doorbells – When prewiring for the doorbell, run the electrical the same way it’s always done, then add a Cat6 Ethernet cable, and a 22/4 wire for good measure.  You may only need Ethernet or 22/4, but by running both you will be able to install any brand of Video Doorbell that you wish without complications later on.
  • Fireplace – If you have a smart fireplace, you can run a 22/4 wire from the fireplace switch to your Smart Home Controller.  This will allow you to control the Fireplace along with the rest of your smart home tech.

So What’s The Next Step?

If you are already experienced in low voltage wiring, and can’t wait to get your hands dirty, then get to work building your new smart home!  Buit if you are not sure where to start, or just want to hire a good professional installation service to perform the work, contact us and learn about the process.  The experienced install technicians at Allegiance Technology Solutions will help you build the smart home of your dreams.

Automated Shades installation on Modena Island

Automated Shades installation on Modena Island

One of our clients, Adrian Savoie, has graciously allowed us to take pictures and video of our work at his residence on Modena Island, Ga.  Along with setting up home automation across this entire property, Adrian requested that we install a motorized shade system in the master bedroom that could be opened or closed with a button press, as well as integrated into home automation workflows.

Installing automated shades  Installing automated shades  Installing automated shades

Although Adrian’s bedroom has spectacular views of the marshlands around his home, there are times when he wants to darken the room to make it more comfortable for sleep.  Since his smart home system is built with Control4, the motorized shades needed to be compatible with the Control4 interface.  Our team selected Draper’s line of automated shades for the installation because of their variety of shade materials and colors, compatibility with Control4 and because Draper can manufacturer solutions to accommodate custom window sizes.

 

The master bedroom featured 5 large windows providing views of the surrounding marshland.  The client insisted on a single shade to cover all 5 windows, which ultimately gives the room an elevated touch of elegance and simplicity.  This required a custom shade measuring 184 inches.  The other windows in the room were able to use standard shade lengths.  Each automated shade is connected to the Control4 interface and programmed to work in concert with each other.

As you can see from the video above, watching this room transform from sleep mode to daylight mode in seconds is impressive!  The shades are also incorporated into home automation workflows and will close while the room lights turn on.

Installing automated shades increases the level of elegance of your living space.  If you are interested in installing automated shades in your home, contact us and one of our experienced install technicians will help you create the system of your dreams.