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New Home With "Structured Wiring Package" - What Do I Ask?


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#1 EmagSamurai

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 03:49 PM

I was pointed to this forum by Neurorad from the AVSforum, and after reading through the site for a couple of days, I'm a bit overwhelmed. I am in the process of building a new home that will be approximately 2900 s.f. above ground with another 1800 s.f. of basement to be finished in the not too distant future. The house will include a basic structured wiring package, but after spending some time here, I'm starting to wonder about just what should be included, and what I should try to pre-wire for future installation. I've got a million questions, but I'll start with these.

1) What should I expect to come in a "basic" structured wiring package. I'm working on getting the specs from our contractor, but I'd like to be educated as to whether I'm getting what I'm paying for.
2) This may be covered by 1), but does a simple structured wiring package come with a controller, or should I just be expecting a centralized location for all of my low voltage wiring to terminate?

Until recently, I'd heard of ELK and HAI, but I just assumed they were sophisticated security alarm systems. Now I'm beginning to get a glimpse as to what they can do, and I'm wondering how much I should try to fit in with our initial construction. I'd decided home automation was out of my reach after looking at the Crestron and Control 4 type systems, but now I'm wondering if it might be affordable and doable for a DIY person like myself.

#2 pete_c

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 04:45 PM

Welcome to the forum EmagSamurai.

The forum has more than enough information related to your endeavor.

The forum is actually a "gold mine" of information for someone that wants do automate in a DIY fashion.

Everyone here is very friendly.

Around 1999 or so had a contractor do a tear down and build a new home in Florida. The alarm, telephone, TV and some network cabling was included in the original cost for the build.

I did not pay for any more as it would have been cost prohibitive.

Instead over 1 weekend wired the home for automation. I wired audio, TV, network, more electric, etc cabling. The up front costs of the cabling was negligent (maybe less than like $2000 or so).

Here's a picture of the house from the 1950's. Its the house with the boat docked in front of it.

We purchased it around the middle 1980's. Did the teardown around 1999.

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#3 EmagSamurai

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 06:46 PM

I appreciate the warm welcome, that's really cool to have a picture of your house from the 50's!

There certainly is a wealth of information here. It's a little like drinking from a fire hose :) I hate being the guy that shows up and says, "we're starting tomorrow, can you tell me everything I need." but I really had written off most of the automation as being too expensive, and I really didn't care for the idea of having to pay someone to come in and change every little thing I decided to do differently.



#4 wuench

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 06:50 PM

Typically a structure wiring package would be Phone/Network/Coax wired to some rooms all terminated all in one place. That's it, no controller or smarts. I would make sure they are using RG6 and not RG59 for the coax and have them run CAT5e or CAT6 terminated with RJ45's for the Phone/Network. You should also make sure they pick a good spot for the main termination room, make sure it you can reach all areas you may want to expand wiring to in the future. You'll want to be able to run wire from this room to any attic spaces, HVAC, an outside wall, etc. If you are getting prewired for security you should get it terminated to this room, also you need power for this room and the ability to expand it. Hopefully the room is located next to your breaker box, if not you may want to consider a subpanel in this room or at the very least a couple of dedicated circuits to the termination room.

So i'll give you an example in my house. My house is 1 story with a finished basement. The basement has 4 unfinished rooms also. The first thing I did was structured wiring. I picked one of the unfinished rooms to terminate everything. From there I ran 4 2" conduits to the attic to run wire in for the upstairs. I also ran conduit to all the other unfinished areas in the basement so I could reach all windows/doors. I pulled 2 RG6/2Cat 5 to each room where I wanted a TV/Phone/Network. I ran 4 RG6 to the soffit for my SAT dish. I ran 2 CAT5 to the phone companies phone box. With the addition of my Elk I have now run security wires for motion detectors, windows/doors, garage door, irrigation system, HVAC control, etc. All through the conduit I setup at the beginning.

Also make sure to have surge protection on all lines coming into your home and that all of your grounds are bonded. By that I mean all grounds must be tied together with a good wire. My electrical panel was grounded to my water pipe, and my telephone was grounded to a separate ground rod. I connected the together with an 8ga wire as well as grounded my termination panel too it.

Edited by wuench, 17 December 2011 - 06:53 PM.


#5 EmagSamurai

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 10:19 PM

Great info! I appreciate you taking the time to post your reply! I think I've got a pretty good spot picked out in the center of the basement. It's a storage closet in the middle of the basement. We're also using an engineered flooring system with open webs, so once I get the wiring to the basement, it shouldn't be much trouble to get it to the equipment room. Thanks for the recommendation on the types of wiring as well. Looking through monoprice price was giving me a headache just trying to decide which type cable to use.

I suspected the structured wiring would not include anything fancy, but just getting everything to a central location will be a good start.

#6 rismoney

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 10:42 PM

Determine if you are interested in any automation related to lighting. If so, look into lighting technologies because you will want to engage the electrician as early as possible to ensure what you want to do is feasible.

#7 Work2Play

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 11:03 PM

As rismoney was touching on - to keep all your options open in the future, you should specify deep switch boxes with a neutral in every box - that'll give the option to easily automate later. If you have locations with light/fan combos, ensure there's 3-wire run there.

The structured wiring will be useful - you may want to specify the number of jacks; like a minimum of 2 Catx per room, etc. I got to wire my last home, so it had 2 plates in each room; each plate had 3x Coax & 3x Cat6 - way overkill but there was nothing I couldn't do.

A basic security pre-wire will go pretty far; but if you want an Elk or HAI, there may be some additional non-standard wires that are needed as well; if you pick a system we can guide you a bit there (I'm an elk person so I learned a lot of tips related to elk).

#8 EmagSamurai

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 11:05 PM

I would love to automate the lighting, but I don't think it's in the budget now. I don't know a lot about it, but I can't see how it would be possible to pre-wire for lighting automation and complete it later once the budget allows, or am I over looking something?

#9 EmagSamurai

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 11:10 PM

I should have read Work2Play's post before I hit the post button myself. Looks like he answered my question. i'm going to ask about the deep boxes. Is control wiring to each switch box necessary, or do they operate wirelessly. The only lighting controller I'm even remotely familiar with is the Lutron Grafik eye, and my understanding of it is all the lights are wired back to it.

I've been trying to read up on the ELK and HAI systems, but there's so much information that I'm not even sure where to start. I don't know all the things they can do, so I don't know how to compare the two. I've looked at the spreadsheet in the sticky, but without more background information I'm not sure which features are important, and which are not.

Any suggestions on where to start?

Edited by EmagSamurai, 17 December 2011 - 11:12 PM.


#10 wuench

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 09:17 AM

UPB, ZWave, and Insteon are all wireless. But you need to make sure you get neutrals to every switch location. This is code in some places now, but you should insist on it. I would also get a whole house surge protector installed (unless you want to do it yourself later) to protect your investment in your HA switches.

#11 EmagSamurai

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 04:11 PM

Great info! I've added notes to mention both the deep boxes and the neutrals to my contractor. Hopefully the boxes will not add any significant cost to the project.

Could someone point me to a thread that discusses the pros and cons of the two systems (ELK and HAI), and what is important in choosing between the two. I can't do a forum search because I'm limited to strings greater than 3 characters.

Edited by EmagSamurai, 18 December 2011 - 04:14 PM.


#12 Photon

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 05:15 PM

I had a meeting with my builder and his electrician before I signed the contract for the new house. I mentioned I need a neutral in every box, and the electrician replied that it is required now. Silly me; I took that to mean I would get a neutral in every box. A couple years later I discovered there were a few boxes, those with just three-way switches, that had no neutral. Too late to do anything about it then.

I would insist on the neutrals, have the builder write a note requiring that on the drawings, and check for myself when the rough wiring is finished. Maybe then the builder would make good on my request.

#13 EmagSamurai

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 09:01 PM

I actually gave my contractor a spreadsheet with all the things that I wanted. The deep boxes were on the list, but not the neutrals. When we signed the contract, he said we would sit down the with electrician and make sure we had everything like I wanted. Hopefully this will not turn into an issue. So far our contractor has been great about fixing things that have come up without any issue, and if having neutrals in the box is a code requirement, they'll definitely be in there!

This is the first house we've built, so there is a lot we're learning. We don't plan to build anymore either, so we've got to get this one right :D

#14 jaydubb1

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 10:34 AM


Could someone point me to a thread that discusses the pros and cons of the two systems (ELK and HAI), and what is important in choosing between the two. I can't do a forum search because I'm limited to strings greater than 3 characters.


I was exactly where you are now about 2 weeks ago. :)

http://cocoontech.com/forums/topic/20439-elk-m1-gold-vs-hai-thoughts

This thread will also give you some good tips:

http://cocoontech.com/forums/topic/20355-about-to-pull-the-trigger-hai-vs-control4

(I started off looking at control4 vs HAI, but a lot of the members here are more familiar with ELK and gave responses accordingly.)

I ended up going with HAI and Z-Wave simply because they seem to be more mainstream, and therefore more supported.

Of course... I'm still installing, I don't have them working yet, and I could have made a horrible choice. :rofl:

#15 EmagSamurai

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Posted 19 December 2011 - 01:47 PM

Thanks for the links! I'll read through those! Glad to know I'm not alone in trying to figure this out.

EDIT: I tried to post a proposed pre-wiring layout, but it did not embed well. The pictures get resized for some reason, and they are too hard to read. I'll have to see if I can figure that out. In the mean time, here's a link to the thread over at AVS where the pictures are big enough to read.

Edited by EmagSamurai, 19 December 2011 - 02:22 PM.





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