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Re: new home wiring questions

On 14 Feb 2006 20:04:38 -0800, "vluke" <virtualluke@xxxxxxxxx>

> Hello everyone!
> We are having a 5 bedroom home built (basement + 2 floors, rectangular
> 28' X 48') and I have certain audio/computer plans and had some
> questions.  You guys seem to be very knowledgeable about so many
> things.  My wife has some very definite requirements and constraints
> (that may seem odd)  -  I aim to please her  :)  Hey it's Valentine's
> Day!

As WAF approaches unity, yin and yan become balanced and the
universe sings.  Well anyway, at least your coffee will be made
the way you like it.  :^)

> As far as computer networking - I think I have it understood okay
> except for a few points.  I got a great deal (someone I have dealt with
> needed to reduce his inventory quickly...long story) on some shielded
> cat6 cable (1000 ft spool).  I believe it to be pretty high quality
> cable.  I plan on wiring about 12 wall jacks in various places
> throughout the house...

Since the house is open, I'd install PC outlets in every bedroom,
the office, media center, kitchen work station (once you've
discovered www.epicurious.com you'll never want a kitchen without
space for a laptop), the exercise room and work room.

The most common approach is to install at each PC location (2)
CAT5 or better plus (2) RG6/Quad Shield cables.  Reality is you
can get by with just one CAT5 or better.  The RG6 comes in handy
for cable modems, TV and CCTV signal distribution.  Though you
can get by without it, IMO it's better to have it and not need it
than to need it and not have it.

> For Video I plan on streaming video over cat6 to/from
> media pcs.  We only have (and ever plan to have!) 2
> tvs so this seems pretty manageable...

You can do that but for over the air, satellite or CATV, you'll
find it easier if you include the coax.  Give yourself the
flexibility to change your approach in the future by wiring for
conventional distribution as well as WMS.

> Are there any special cat6 (vice cat5) concerns?

The only issue is that to accomplish CAT5 level performance
requires little skill, basic knowledge and simple tools.  CAT6
performance requires better tools, better skills using them and
greater knowledge.  However, if you use the CAT6 shielded and you
don't do a perfect job you won't be any worse off than if you did
the same using CAT5 UTP.  IOW, since you have the cable at a
bargain price, go for it.

> I have run a fair amount of cat5 before but never
> cat6.  I haven't unwound the cable yet but I expect
> it to be a lot more stiff than the cable I am used to
> since this is solid shielded 23awg cat6 cable.

It's a bit stiffer but not particularly difficult to run.  Mind
your bend radius and be careful not to crimp it.  Also, don't
exert too much pulling strength on it.  Doing so tends to undo
the twists a bit, causing reduced throughput.

> Should I run this cable before or after insulation is put
> in the walls?

You should run *all* types of cable before the insulation is
installed.  While you're at it, consider taking advantage of the
opportunity to wire for intercom, security, CCTV, etc.  Wire is
cheap and your own labor is free.

> Any suggestions on securing the cable?

I've used a rather unconventional technique that's inexpensive,
easy to use and easy to service later.  I hammer in a couple of
5/8" or larger drive rings (nails with metal open loops attached)
a couple of feet from the outside wall at each end of the
basement ceiling and attic rafters.  Snap a chalk line between
them and bang in additional drive rings on every third joist /

Then you can slip your cables into the loops to hold them in
place.  When you're finished, attach a long wire tie to the
bundle at one end, gently pull the cables straight from the other
end and attach another wire tie.  If you wrap the wire tie around
the bundle five or six times it will hold the cables straight
without being pulled tightly.  If you ever have to add or move a
cable, snip the wire ties, slip the new cable into the loops and
resecure it.  We did this with security system wiring for years.

> Anyone use some safe staple-like brackets that you like?

I've tried several of them.  They generally took too long and the
wiring began to look like rails in a freight yard.  I prefer a
few arrow-straight bundles.

> Things to avoid?  I plan on trying to stay at least 6
> inches away from the power line wherever I can.
> Is this enough?

With STP that's probably far enough, though I like to keep all
low voltage cables 12" from parallel 110VAC and 24" from 220VAC

> If I need them to go through the same whole in a
> floor joist somewhere how bad is that?

Very bad.  It's a code violation and it's extremely dangerous.
When pulling a new cable through the same hole as another cable
it is very easy for the friction to wear right through the outer
jacket and inner insulation, exposing your low voltage circuitry
to direct contact with 110 or 220 Volts.  That can not only fry
your hardware.  It can kill you.

> Anyone know of good cat6 modular jacks?  Should I definitely
> look for gold plated - I hear that the jacks need to be pretty
> high quality or you lose much of the advantage for cat6.

Copper works fine.

> okay for the requirement whole house audio.  My wife
> only wants 1 zone.  I have asked her a lot on this and
> she doesn't want more zones...

Give her one zone.  Wire for separate zones in every room.

> I am planning on having 8 sets of 2 speakers for the
> house and will be putting them in mostly sometime
> down the road.  I don't have a decent amplifier at all
> right now so this will be for the future.  (Any amplifier
> suggestions for driving 8 sets of speakers would be
> appreciated).

Any decent receiver will have A and B speaker outputs.  Connect
the B set to a speaker selector.  I like Russound (which I sell
online) but Niles (which I don't carry) is also very good.  In
each room install an impendence matching volume control.

> I mostly just want the infrastructure in place.  My
> wife's point about 1 zone is that if anyone for example
> in their own room wants something different then
> they can play it on their personal sound system...

She has a valid point, though I like the ability to use one set
of source components and one media collection anywhere and
everywhere I want.  That's the difference with a multi-zone
system.  Since she only wants one zone, just home run the wire
for speakers and volume controls in each room.  Also pull a CAT5
cable from each volume control location back to the media room.
That way if she changes her mind later all you'll need to do is
swap out the volume controls for system keypads, install the main
unit in the media room and you're done.

> I am thinking of a spool of 250' of 14/4 speaker wire to run
> to the various impdedance volume controls for each of the
> pairs of speakers and 14/2 speaker wire to the actual speakers
> (from the volume controls). How does this sound?

Buy 500 feet of 14/4 at a minimum.  Eight runs will use up 250'
in no time.  Depending on the room sizes, you might get away with
500 feet of 14/2 for the v/c to speaker runs.

> I believe almost all of the speakers will be either wall or
> ceiling speakers - I still need to price and look at these.
> Any suggestions?

There are a plethora of architectural speakers on the market.
I've tried numerous brands.  In my home I use Proficient Audio
(they're actually Speaker Craft).  They make excellent in-ceiling
and in-wall speakers and their prices are pretty decent.

Russound also make some good ones but stay away from their
"contractor grade" series -- sound like elevator speakers.

> What wattage rating speakers should I be considering
> for such a system?  I know it depends on cost a lot.  I
> hope to spend <$500 on an amplifier.  Two of the pairs
> of speakers will be outside (1 in front and 1 in back).

Outside speakers need more power than inside ones.  I use 8-inch
Proficient C800 speakers on my lanai (Florida-speak for covered
patio).  The screened in area is roughly 85' by 60' and I get
good sound everywhere with about 40-Watts.  During major parties
I sometimes turn up the outside sound to about 100-Watts per
channel.  It stays clean and clear.

Inside I use a combination of C800, C870 and C660 models.  Our
living / dining room is one space about 40' by 25' with a 12'
ceiling.  I've never needed more than about 25-30 Watts per
channel there.  All other rooms except the family room are fine
with no more than about 20-30 Watts.

As for amplifiers, or rather receivers, until recently I was
using a Yamaha RXV-3000.  That was more than enough to power all

Our new (to us) home is currently serviced by a single zone but I
plan to install either a Russound CAA66L or depending on how good
sales are this quarter) a Xantech MRC88.  Only the lanai and the
family room will have separate amps.  All other rooms will be
serviced with 25-35 Watts per channel from the distribution

I've installed a fair number of multi-room systems over the
years.  Most homeowners grossly overestimate the amplifier power
they'll need.  I've found that 15 Watts per room is plenty of
power because you almost never drive all rooms at once.

> Again most of the work will be many months after the house
> is done (probably parts will be over a year away.)  I am just
> trying to get done what makes the most sense to get done
> that will be very hard to change after the house is built.  Does
> anyone have good suggestions for volume controls?

Yep.  Russound ALTX2 impendence matching volume controls work
very well and they'll last as long the house unless you hit them
with lightning or a baseball bat.  :^)

> I plan on having a media/computer rack in a storage room
> on the first floor to be a control point for all my audio and
> ethernet needs.  Do I need special power run to this rack
> or just a few power strips plugged into the wall outlet?

As long as everything is connected to the same phase (same side
of the split phase for purists out there) and everything is
properly grounded to a single ground or a bonded ground system,
you'll be fine.  Don't waste a dime on "power conditioners" --
they're about as useful as "high end" audio cable.

> Are there any concerns I need to be worried about when
> I run my speaker wire?  Should I run it before or after the
> insulation is put in place?

Before.  As noted above, you should also consider running CAT5
along with the 14/4 to each volume control location.  That will
leave your options open if you ever decide to upgrade.

> How much separation do I need to try and keep from any
> power lines?  How about separation from the cat6 cable I
> am putting in place?

Stay 1 foot from 110VAC and 2 feet from 220VAC.

> Is there any places I should think to use conduit?

Some folks believe you should run conduit or flex tubing to every
conceivable location.  I'd place conduit where it will be very
difficult to drop a new cable later.  Also, run at least three
separate 2" conduits from the basement to the attic and 1 tube
from each to the media room rack.  Don't forget to leave a pull
string inside the conduit.

When running conduit, make as few bends as possible.  At every
180º of bends install a pulling elbow or a junction box.

> Okay, this may be a mistake but right now I am not
> running coax anywhere except from the outside box
> to the media/computer rack...

I think it's a mistake.  See above.

> I don't see the need since I really really like the streaming
> video idea...

What about all those other PC's controlling local media?

> (I used to use mythTV server and client and really liked the
> results).  If no coax seems grossly a mistake let me know.

It's very cheap and really easy to run the coax now.  If you
decide on satellite service later (as CATV becomes worse and
worse) you'll be glad you did.  Furthermore, if you ever want to
run CCTV, conventional cams are cheaper than TCP/IP cams.


Robert L Bass

Bass Burglar Alarms
The Online DIY Store


Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large

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