Structured wiring is a general term that refers to a whole-house network of audio, video, data, telephone, television, home automation or security signals. Structured wiring begins with a structured networking panel (SNP), which accepts cables from outside providers and distributes the signals directly to each room in your home. These direct lines are called “home runs” and they ensure the strongest possible connection and signal to each of your electronic devices.
Structured wiring can be installed while a home is under construction, retrofitted during a remodel or added on its own. This buying guide will explain what to look for in structured wiring systems and networking panels, so you can feel confident you’ll receive the highest level of performance from your electronics.
Wire your home with high-performance cabling such as CAT-5e (Ethernet) or coaxial cables.
Tip: Splicing cables together can lead to loss of signal quality. Running all cables directly from the SNP to the termination points eliminates splices and keeps signal quality strong on each cable.
Pre-fabricated SNPs are available in a variety of sizes and configurations that include the devices necessary to distribute the signals you need throughout your home. These may include punch down blocks for telephone wires, signal amplifiers, routers, modems and an electrical power source to power the different devices in the panel.
From the SNP, you can run different types of cables depending on the signals you plan to distribute.
- CAT-5e (Ethernet) and CAT-6 cables connect telephones, computer networks, home automation networks and audio/video distribution systems and are the most common method of wiring a home.
- CAT-5e cables consist of four pairs of wire (eight total conductors) with an Ethernet capability of up to 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps). They terminate in RJ-45 plugs which look like wider versions of common telephone plugs.
- CAT-6 cables offer up to twice the bandwidth of CAT-5e cables.
- A RG6 Quad Shield coaxial cable, usually called coax, is most often used to carry television signals and cable-based broadband Internet signals to connect video equipment.
- CAT-5e and coaxial cables are the backbone of a structured cabling system that organizes and distributes connectivity throughout your home.
- For a structured media setup, you can buy bundles of wiring with two runs each of CAT-5e and coaxial cables.
Fiber Optic Cables
Fiber optic cable is less common in residential applications than coax and CAT-5e, but it holds tremendous potential for delivering massive amounts of data, video and audio at very high speeds. Fiber optic cables use glass or plastic threads to efficiently transmit data.
Wall Plates, Connectors and Accessories
Use twisted-pair or coaxial cable connectors to keep your home wired, and keep it looking stylish and cutting edge with hole covers and video amplifiers.
- Multi-port wall plates allow you to run different types of cables from the SNP to each room and terminate them all in a single wall plate. The ports accommodate snap-in connectors for coaxial, Cat-5e/6 and telephone terminations. Blanks are available to close off unused ports.
- Twisted-pair cable connectors (aka RJ-45 jacks), look like wider versions of common RJ-11 phone jacks. These fit the ends of CAT-5e cables.
- F connectors, or coaxial cable connectors, are often used with coax in broadcast and cable television equipment. F connectors provide an inexpensive and stable connection to these communications devices and other cables.
- Fiber optic cables require different types of connectors from those used with coax or CAT-5e cables. If you choose to use a fiber optic cable in your home, you may need to install a special adapter in your computer to utilize a fiber optic connector.
- Video amplifier modules boost the strength of CATV signals and eliminate FM interference and are ideal for longer cable runs or when splitting to multiple locations.
- Blank inserts cover up unused housing openings and preserve extra ports for future applications.
- Furniture hole covers organize your cables and wires on your desktop.