Does Your Home Have the "Right Stuff" For Voice, Video and Data Transmission?

You may have all the equipment it takes to be connected in today's Information Age. But typical telephone and cable TV wiring is just not up to the task of handling the demand or meeting the potential of all the voice, video and data communication services you may want to use. If you have a home office, you're probably under-equipped and not fully ready to do business on the Web. You won't be able to access increasingly sophisticated Internet and cable TV services as they become available. Even the average home with average needs, like ordinary cable video and multiple phones, is sadly short of the "right stuff" when it comes to installed wiring.

The right stuff is, in fact, a communications cable called Category 5, or Cat 5.With four separate twisted pairs of high-quality copper wires enclosed in a slim plastic jacket, Cat 5 can handle multiple phone lines and support high-speed digital computer communications, including modem and fax transmissions. Sometimes mated or wrapped with new, improved RG6 coaxial cable for video signals, this "structured wiring" package is a potent carrier for all of your home's electronic needs, now and well into the foreseeable future. On the market today,at only a small additional cost, is even better-performing cable known as Cat 5E (for enhanced), and Cat 6 is just around the corner.

The sheer number of telephones, computers and fax machines in typical homes today necessitates new approaches to wiring. Installation of advanced copper telephone and coaxial cables can speed Internet service and other data transmissions, facilitate computer networking and improve reliability of voice and fax services.

Home builders and electronic equipment installers are already running this type of wiring in new homes and remodeling projects. New York builder Al Nonnandeau recently installed Cat 5 in a house with a home office. "In this case, my customer asked for it," he explained. "But it's something we'll be using in all of our homes, eventually."

Compared to the cost of installing separate telephone and cable runs, the "upcharge" for a structured wiring package is minimal. Most important, structured wiring not only serves today's needs, which often include networked computers, home security systems and faster Internet service, but it also prepares a home for tomorrow's interactive televisions and home automation systems.

For remodelers, Cat 5 offers similar benefits. And retrofit wiring runs are not as difficult to install as they might seem,even in older homes, due to the development of new tools and techniques for installers. "Home run" installations-where each outlet's wiring bundle runs to a central hub, instead of being wired in series—are essential. Installation tricks like using large-diameter plastic pipe for convenient wiring chases between floors make it even easier.

The point of all this is that structured wiring is the way homes will be wired in the future, and unlike other "smart" wiring schemes, it can be universally applied to all homes. It's a good idea whether you're planning to build, add-on or simply remodel. And it can't help but add to the resale value of your home. You don't have to wait until the next project comes along-any improvement in the way your home is wired now would be better than none at all.

For more information, tap into the Copper Development Association's Telecommunications section. If you can't do this from your home, it means your rewiring needs are immediate.