I have a few people following my structured wiring project. And if you are reading this, then obviously a structured wiring project is at least of some interest to you. Let me give you some explanation of what I am doing, what I would be doing differently if I didn’t have my home IT lab setup, and what products I would be using and why for that setup.
To keep the discussion on an even keel, we are only going to discuss this in the frame of reference of a single story home, with fairly simple access to the wall headers where you want the cables run, and preferably pre-existing penetration holes for the cables. (where phone or coax ran before would be best).
Before we get too deep into the discussion, let’s lay out a shopping list of materials and tools you are going to need to get this job done.
So let’s make the assumption you are on Comcast / Xfinity cable, want your own modem, and we can make a shopping list. I am also making the assumption that you can manage the plywood, and any necessary screws on your own.
2. Monoprice 7u wall mount rack 12” deep. http://amzn.to/2ptJ6OK (This will allow you room to expand in the future.)
4. Cable Modem. This is to avoid cable modem rental fees, and keep control of YOUR network. Zoom 5370 DOCSIS 3.0 16x4 http://amzn.to/2qjv5jS
9. Extreme Broadband 1x8 splitter. (Port orientation front / top depending on mounting configuration) http://amzn.to/2oQ3bM2
12. 2 @ 6 inch extension cords. 5pk Outlet savers. These get wall wart transformers away from the surge suppressor. http://amzn.to/2p865yi
13. CyberPower RKBS15S2F8R 15A 10-Outlet 1U RM Rackbar Surge Suppressor. Provides power distribution and protection. http://amzn.to/2oB5yX0
19. 1PLUS HDTV Antenna Outdoor 150 Miles Range 360°Rotation Outdoor TV Antenna with Wireless Remote. MUCH better reviewed than the Polaroid I am using. http://amzn.to/2oNSmtb
20. Cable Matters (100-Pack) Cat 6 RJ45 Modular Plugs for Stranded UTP Cable. These will work for both Category 5e and Category 6 cable. http://amzn.to/2qkgpB0
21. Monoprice RJ11 6P4C Plug Round Stranded 50-Piece/Bag (107315) For custom making telephone cables. http://amzn.to/2pE672l
22. PPC Belden EX6PLUS RG-6 Snap & Seal Outdoor Compression Connector, Comcast, DTV & Dish Approved, 50 Piece http://amzn.to/2qbFezQ
24. Premium Cat5e Ethernet Network LAN Cable 1000ft UTP Bulk Pull Box ( GREY ) – WireShopper http://amzn.to/2pGjsHx
31. 5’ EMT Conduit for push pole / antenna mast. Choose your local home center. Shipping on something like this is insane.
Now that we have the supplies rounded up… You need to make sure you have the tools. And we are going to assume you have basic maintenance tools such as a level, straight edge, cordless drill, assortment of spade bits, and pencils.
5. TRENDnet Punch Down Impact Tool with 110 and Krone Blades, Spare Blade Storage, Interchangeable & Reversible Blades, TC-PDT http://amzn.to/2ptRYUn
First of all. We live in a world with WiFi all around us, yet we also live in a world of brick, concrete, metal and glass blocks. Crowded WiFi spectrum, and security concerns. I am a strong advocate for wired Ethernet where possible. We also live in a world with pay TV companies with constantly creeping fees and raising rates, while our paychecks are either staying at the same rate year after year, or shrinking.
The reality is that with broadband internet, fantastic streaming service offerings, and excellent digital over the air TV signals unlike the analog signal and rabbit ears our parents or grandparents had, Ethernet and TV signals should be distributed through the home. For security and logistics purposes, this should be done using a wired network. And while pretty much everyone has a cell phone, yet somewhat counter intuitively, almost everyone buying a home expects a home to be wired for telephone of one sort or another.
So we have determined we want a distributed video network, wired Ethernet network, and a telephone network. In the past the telephone, using a POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) line came into the house through a box on the outside, and was likely split in the attic. If it is like mine was, split badly. Somewhere with wires stripped bare, and twisted together to make the connection, you were lucky if the installer bothered to think of reliability and safety at all, they ran the split in a box, or at least taped the connections. Mine didn’t. TV signal, likewise typically came into the house via either Cable TV coax, or a coax off of a satellite dish from an overpriced pay TV service. And likewise, somewhere in the attic there was a splitter where the signal was distributed through the house. At least there weren’t bare wires up there for the TV… And now you want to add Ethernet, to keep from cooking your router and switch, typically you keep your IT gear inside, where the AC is.
Now picture a few years down the road. A splitter goes bad, or you want to upgrade your router, or switch, or have a signal problem with the telephone. Who wants to deal with these issues in the attic? Simply put, we are working hard, and investing on the front end, so that we can have it easier later on down the road. We want our entire communications infrastructure in one place, where it is easy to get to, and laid out where it is easy to maintain, upgrade, and repair when the time comes.
Now considering that when I worked with a consulting firm doing network installations, we were charging $150.00 per line installation, and we were very competitive in our market, costs could have only gone up over the years, you can see how it would be better if you could DIY this job. And hopefully I am able to effectively show you how. For the project at hand, we are talking about pulling 16 ethernet, 6 telephone, and 7 TV / Coax drops for a total of 33 drops. At $150.00 each, that runs into $4950.00 for just running and terminating the cables. Mounting antenna, configuring routers and modems etc… add to that cost. So basically speaking, we are looking at an approximate $7,000.00 datacom job for this conversion. We can DIY for far, far less and save money in the long run…
You will have aside from your broadband modem, the following major components of any home communications network. They are.
1. Broadband / WiFi router.
2. Gigabit Ethernet switch with sufficient port capacity to cover every port you could potentially desire. It is best to get one with an internal power supply instead of an external transformer. To determine your port count, figure out how many devices could potentially be in any given location, and then number of locations, then do the math. In my case 16 ports off of the switch to cover everything. I can squeeze by with a 16 port switch. A 24 port will offer expandability down the road.
a. Office. 6 1 for crossover between router and switch, 1 for VoIP adapter, and 4 for wired computers. TV will be via a USB TV Tuner, so no need for extra drop there. Most people can reduce this number by 3. My home IT lab precludes this though.
b. Guest bedroom. 1 for SmartTV
c. Kids room / Father In Law suite. 1 for Android TV Box.
d. Living room. 4. 1 for Android TV Box, 1 for Wii, 1 for PS3, 1 for Xbox One.
e. Master Bedroom. 2. 1 for Android TV box, 1 for PC.
f. Kitchen. 1 for Android TV box. (No joke. They make it super easy to pull up recipes online!)
g. Garage Workshop. 1 for Android TV box. (You might see a pattern here).
3. Coaxial TV cable splitter with sufficient ports to cover every area you want cable in.
4. VoIP adapter unless you are running POTS into your home. Without 911 service, VoIP service can actually be free after the cost of the adapter… More on that later. IF you are planning on running a fax on a separate line, I highly recommend you getting a dual line VoIP adapter instead of 2 single line VoIP adapters. VoIP really doesn’t take that much bandwidth, you will save yourself money in the long run, not to mention the power supply and Ethernet cable space saved.
5. Telephone hub. In my case I opted for a Steren FastHome 4x6 meaning 4 potential lines x 6 outlets telephone hub. Most hubs support 4 lines, in most residential applications, that isn’t really useful, but oh well. IF I had to do it over again, I would have opted for the Leviton 1x9 Telephone Module. This is designed for a structured wiring cabinet instead of a panel, but can be panel mounted, and has the port capacity I really needed without having to select a room to leave without wired telephone.
With all of that long winded stuff behind us now, and knowing what I know now, I would have chosen…
1. Router. I would have stayed with TRENDNet, I have had great luck with their gear over the years in many applications, and they are reasonable cost wise. Nowhere near as TP Link, but I am more comfortable with the reliability of their stuff… I would pony up the extra bucks for the AC3200 model TEW-828DRU. I am not impressed by the array of external antennae, but I do like the higher bandwidth afforded by it, and it does tend to future proof us somewhat. And it is in the price range of the Netgear AC1750 model. If you are pinching every penny though, go for the AC1900 model as a minimum. We have the AC1750 model, and love it, but wish we had the USB 3.0 port of the AC1900 model.
2. Switch. We have the TRENDNet TEG-S16DG 16 port gigabit switch, which is great, we should have gone with the TEG-S24DG 24 port. The extra ports afford room for expansion which we do not have. Any additions down the road, and I need to replace the switch. Lesson learned.
3. Coaxial TV Splitter. So far we are happy beyond words with the Extreme Broadband Engineering 1x8 bi directional digital coaxial splitter. Stick with a proven winner.
4. VoIP adapter. We presently have 2 @ Obi100 VoIP adapters that work with Google Voice. It is a good setup, but in the world of do it over again, I would have opted for the Obi202 dual line adapter, saved myself one Ethernet port, and one power port. Another lesson learned. FWIW, when we got the first Obi100, we were not planning on a fax, but so many businesses, most specifically medical related, still rely heavily on fax. Try dealing with your health insurance or FSA provider without a fax these days and see how that goes…
5. Telephone hub. Like I mentioned above. I would have gone with a Leviton 1x9. I only need the second line distributed to the office fax, and I need more phone outlets through the house. I would have liked to have been able to have… Phone #7 Father In Law suite, and Phone #8 Dining Room.
Now you need to decide how to contain your stuff, and this generally requires more stuff. Many installations use an in wall structured wiring enclosure, and you can certainly do that, but the metal enclosure can, and often does interfere with the WiFi signal, to some extremity. Or you can panel mount your installation. Your needs will again, vary depending on your desires, and of course, how you get a TV signal. In my case we opted for an over the air antenna, with a rotator. The rotator has a power control box that needs to be contained as well. So in my situation, and again, bypassing the fact I have the lab so no need to include things like the iSCSI SAN or KVM switch, I have the following that needs to be contained.
1. Cable modem.
2. Broadband router
3. NAS disk attached to router.
4. VoIP adapter(s)
5. TV Antenna rotator control box.
6. 1x8 coaxial splitter
7. Telephone Distribution hub.
8. Ethernet switch.
9. Power conditioner / surge suppressor.
In my preferred method we would do that with a wall mounting board, wall mount bracket, and rack mount shelves. The arrangement would be thus.
1. First shelf.
a. Modem, router, NAS disk all in vertical orientation. VoIP adapter, and TV box on shelf.
2. Ethernet switch.
3. Gap for allowing cable to run through, OR patch panel and jumpers. I prefer patch panels as it is more professional, however they are not required.
4. Power conditioner / surge suppressor. These typically can not accommodate the typical wall wart transformers of your modem, router, VoIP adapter etc… So we use short extension cords (6”) and then those rest on.
5. Second shelf to hold the transformers and keep tension off of the plugs on the power conditioner / surge suppressor.
This would mean you would need a 4u wall mount rack.
This rack would in turn be mounted to a mount board, sized sufficiently to be 24” wide x at least 18” tall. Preferably at least ½” thick with a rounded / relieved edge so you don’t mash yourself into it accidentally. I like mine painted, YMMV.
The mount board would be mounted to the studs providing a solid surface to mount to. The rack mounts to the wall, and the telephone module / hub and coax splitter mount to the board above the rack.
You will of course need cable. I like to use different cable for Ethernet and telephone, although technically using Category 5 / 5e cable IS Ethernet, I use cat 5e cable for phone, and Category 6 cable for Ethernet. 1000’ pull boxes are inexpensive, and readily available. And while I would like to recommend Amazon for video coaxial cable, I can’t. They just aren’t competitive. Go to your local Lowes, or Home Depot and pick up a 500’ pull box of RG6. I got 500’ of Southwire RG6 for $32.00 at my local Home Depot.
You will also need keystones, the socket ends, for telephone, data, and video. They typically come in 10 packs. In my case I needed 2 10 packs of Category 6 RJ46 keystones in white, 1 pack of RJ11 telephone keystones in white, and 1 pack of Type F coaxial keystones in white.
Along with your keystones, you will need plug ends for each to make the coax cables, and jumpers for telephone and Ethernet. A bag of 50pcs of Category 6 RJ45s, RJ11s, and RG6 Compression fittings will do the trick and leave some leftovers for later work.
There is no need for a contained box for the wall as this is all low voltage and merely requires low voltage brackets.
You will then need suitable keystone faceplates, 2, 3, 4 and 6 outlet face plates.
And lastly you would need a suitable wall penetration faceplate. I opted to go with a triple gang bracket, 3 brush plates, and a triple gang decora wall plate to finish it off. There are other types out there, and you could most likely squeeze it all into a single gang opening, but I didn’t want to . Simply put, I like being able to reach into the wall and grab the cable as need be.
Now assuming you are doing the same thing I am, and adding an external TV antenna for over the air TV signals, you will need the following.
1. Over the air TV antenna. We opted for a Polaroid AMA-1850p, with its 150 mile range and remote control power rotator, it is easy to dial in the strongest, cleanest signal, even with my neighbors pecan tree in the way. I have concerns for the function of my antenna rotator while isolated behind a ground block, but I am pending a reply from Tuff Manufacturing / Polaroid on how to properly ground this antenna. IF they fail to provide a solution that is compliant with the NEC, and has everything still working, I WILL report that back on my blog.
2. Pole mount for your antenna. My long term intent is to reutilize the DirecTV dish mount on my roof, but until my wife is satisfied with OTA / streaming, I have to leave it there. I do have the ¾” EMT conduit to do the job, just not doing it yet. BUT… At least 5’ of EMT conduit as a mount pole, and some sort of mounting mechanism / surface. I am temporarily mounted to the fence post. The bottom of the conduit is 5’ off the ground, so my total height of my antenna mount is 10’ currently. This WILL go up with the DirecTV dish mount. I created mounting blocks for the EMT by cutting off short sections of 2x4, drilling a 7/8” hole through them, and then drilling pilot holes for the mounting screws. Simple, crude, but effective enough for now.
3. Ground rod.
4. Coaxial ground block.
5. Sufficient sold conductor 10ga wire to connect splitter to ground.
6. Coaxial surge suppressor / lightning arrestor.
Tools to get the job done.
1. Cordless Drill and 1” spade bit for boring cable penetration holes assuming none already exist.
2. Ethernet cable tester / tone generator.
3. Ethernet cable tone probe.
4. RJ45 / RJ11 crimp tool
5. Ethernet cable stripping tool
6. Krone / 110 punch down tool
7. Coaxial cable installation kit including.
a. Coaxial Cable stripping tool
b. Coaxial Cable cutters
c. Coaxial Cable crimp tool
8. A coaxial cable test tool was not something I had in my tool kit ahead of time, but after running 2 dead cables, I found the cable test tool a critical tool.
9. Fish tape / rod set
10. Tape measure
11. Drywall saw
13. Polypropylene pull cord.