Is Your Home Wired for the 21st Century?

Do You Know What You Need?
Are you getting peak performance?
Who do you call for service or installation?

10 Questions to Ask Yourself About Communication Wiring

Are you an active Internet user?

If the Internet is important to your home lifestyle, or if you rely on the Internet for a home business, your need for data-transmission speed will only increase in the future. Be aware, however, that computers connected to old-fashioned communications wiring often experience poor Internet performance.

Do you own more than one computer, and are they networked?

A structured wiring system can help link computers in a home network and is critical to error-free, high-speed connections between them. Structured wiring can also connect your computers with printers, scanners, telephones, fax machines and even home-security systems and home-entertainment equipment. Networked computers can also share a high-speed Internet connection simultaneously.

Does your computer operate in slow motion when interacting with the Internet?

If you have to wait every time your computer dials up your Internet provider or downloads programs, you're probably using an "old-fashioned" slow-speed modem rather than modern high-speed technology. Obsolete communications wiring only makes this problem worse.

Do you have, or have you applied for, a high-speed Internet connection, such as DSL, cable modem or satellite?

These services are, or soon will be, available in most residential areas. They provide a high-speed data highway into and out of your home. If you don't have structured wiring for it to connect to, this highway could become a cowpath when it reaches you.

Are poor connections ruining your calls and Internet sessions?

Although "party lines" are a thing of the past, virtually all telephone lines today share voice and data calls simultaneously. Crosstalk, static interference, inaudible signals and interrupted service are common problems with outdated wiring.

Is structured wiring needed when adding new computer or phone lines?

The law now requires that all new or replacement copper telecom wiring be "Category 3" or better, a long-surpassed standard. Today Category 5e, 6 or better yet 6A wiring, properly installed, is the foundation of most structured wiring systems, along with RG-6 coaxial cable. You'd be smart to use it to replace all of the phone lines in your home, so you'll be ready for all future communications needs.

Do you have old-style phone wiring in your home now?

If you don't know the answer to this one, you probably have obsolete wiring. Structured wiring is a general term for today's high-capacity telephone, video, data-transmission, security, control and entertainment wiring systems. Installations usually include a central distribution panel where all connections are made, as well as outlets with dedicated connections for phone, data, TV and audio jacks.

Do you think rewiring an existing home is too difficult or expensive?

This job can be done quickly and affordably in most cases, and homes with attic and basement space make it even easier. To an installer with the proper tools and training, no obstacle is insurmountable. A new video, Infrastructure Wiring for Existing Homes, shows how.

Is structured wiring superior to wireless communications systems?

The problems described above are typical with old-style communications wiring, but are not necessarily improved upon by the new wireless systems. Certain geographic areas and some buildings are simply unsuitable for wireless installations. Many incompatibilities exist with various wireless systems, forcing you to choose among them. Now and for the forseeable future, structured wiring will be the best system.

Will you be selling your home anytime soon?

Even if you're not an Internet or computer user, chances are your potential buyers will be. As more new homes are built with structured wiring, these systems will be required in existing homes as well. Without such a system you could be at a competitive disadvantage at resale.

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Communications Wiring Installer

Find out if your installer is fully qualified and likely to do reliable work at a reasonable price.

Are you trained in communications wiring installation?

Phone companies have withdrawn from wiring customers' homes, so finding a qualified installer can be a challenge. Tradesmen who advertise themselves as communications specialists are usually serious about their business. Other positive signs: workmen who are presentably neat, knowledgeable about their work and drive vehicles with a company name or logo.

What do communications wiring installations typically include?

Although there are similarities between structured wiring and old-style telephone wiring, they have very different installation requirements. Your installer should discuss how and where the new wiring will run (inside walls is recommended with structured wiring- stapled along baseboards is not), and where outlets and junctions will be located. You also get to choose among a variety of multi-feature receptacles for connecting computer and phone lines, cable jacks and audio and other equipment.

Are you affiliated with, or a member of, any professional organizations?

There are several organizations dedicated in part to teaching installers of communications, security and entertainment systems. Membership in one of these groups enables installers to keep up with current or changing technologies.

Can you explain the new FCC ruling on telephone wiring?

For the record, in July 2000, the Federal Communications Commission implemented a new minimum standard, requiring Category 3 or better wiring for all new or retrofit home and commercial communications wiring installations. However, This standard is now outdated. Look for Category 5e or better wiring, with Category 6A being the latest technology.

Can you provide references from recent customers?

Professional installers should be proud to provide the names of satisfied customers, at the very least. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and call a few of them to ask what they thought of the work performed. Was the home left neat and were all the systems all connected and ready to use? It's also not a bad idea to check out any company with the local Better Business Bureau.

What do you charge for your services?

Once a skilled installer examines the construction of your house, he or she should be able to provide a written estimate of the cost to wire it. After the work has begun, changes or additions to this estimate also should be presented in writing. You have the option to accept the changes or pay only for work performed under the original estimate.

How do I know what kind of structured wiring system and equipment I'll need?

Your installer should provide a straightforward explanation of the options that meet your needs. The most important terms you'll hear include Category wiring (Category 5e minimum is recommended for homes and home offices, with Category 6 and 6A now available and recommended for commercial use or for those demanding the latest technology).

Will you guarantee your work and certify that it meets manufacturers' warranties?

Having the right wiring is only half the battle. It must be installed correctly and tested to industry standards in order to function well. Each structured wiring run should be checked with circuit-testing equipment after installation, and installers should guarantee that their work will perform properly.