HA Wiring Guide and Tips


Hi all,

Since there seems to be a few people (including myself) who are looking for info on wiring a new house for HA, I thought I would start a thread to capture the best tips and info on how to get it right the first time.

So far, I have seen tips about using metal boxes that are extra deep. Making sure that there is a neutral wire as well as hot and ground in every box. Using Cat-5E for everything from Ethernet to IR to audio.

What is your favorite tip or thing to look out for?

Here are a few questions I have:
What do you think about 'future proof wire'?
What is the best online store for buying wire?
Would you run the wire yourself or have the electrician do it?
What would you use to run wire to speakers (amplified)? Gauge?
Do you recommend running line level audio with local amplification instead?
What would you run to a location where you want to install a camera?
What about wiring to a video touch-pad?
How about wiring an HDTV that is remote from your home theatre (like in a bedroom)?
What books or online resources did you use to learn how to do this the right way?

I'm sure there are other questions out there. Please post yours to this thread. If we get enough good info, maybe they will pin this thread as a FAQ on wiring.

One thing to keep in mind about the metal boxes. They are good for disapating heat for PLC controlled switches but if you ever decide to go to an RF solution, you might be asking for trouble. I would use the deep boxes but to keep future options a little more open, I would probably stick to the plastic boxes.
I will answer some of your questions.

- I like homeruns for audio - much easier to share components, use IR control, etc. Plus you should avoid using low level signals as much as possible for the best sound quality.

- For audio wiring, I recommend 14/4 and 14/2 (I personally use Monster). Make sure it is CL3 rated for in-wall wiring. I run 14/4 from the amp to the volume knobs (I put one in each room for max flexibility) (14 is the guage, 4 means there is 4 wires - 2 for each channel). From the volume knobs, I run two runs of 14/2 to where I may put a subwoofer (futureproofing), and then off to each speaker location.

- I buy my audio wires (including interconnects) from SJgreatdeals.com. I've had excellent success with them and their prices seem very good.

- Futureproof wiring - I'm not an expert (just a hobbyist), but I would make sure you have multiple coax wires and Cat5 wires where you may want a HDTV located back to your homerun location. This should give you flexiblity to make any connections you might need to support HDTV (might be overkill, but it's easier/cheaper now). I haven't researched this topic yet... it's coming soon for me though.

- Consider network jacks where kids/grandkids will want video game consoles. They are all online now... they have wireless adapters, but I like wired.

- If you are centralizing your audio/video hardware, don't forget to plan for your IR needs. Wire cat5 anywhere you want IR receivers. This gives you extra wires in case you need local emitters (such as to control a local tv with your HA equipment).
Hmmm... I've never considered the effect of metal boxes on wireless systems. You'd think that manufacturers would consider it in terms of potential revenue loss if they developed a system that wouldn't work with metal boxes though. Heck, the potential HA customer base is small enough as it is. I myself have 3 double gang boxes with 1000 watt dimmers in them and I'm sure glad they're metal. Anybody got any experience with this? Inquiring minds would like to know.....
I am also interested in the answer to this. My house is over 100 years old, and I have one of the newer structures in town. I don't think I have ever even seen a house that did not use metal electrical boxes (since everything around here was wired before plastic was invented). Metal boxes were the only kind used anywhere for decades and are still in common use today. How can a technology aimed at the retrofit market not work well with metal electrical boxes and expect to survive?
Well, keep in mind that this may or may not be an issue. I suggested non-metal just to keep the options open. From what I understand, the Zwave RF switches have the antenna on the ourside where the rocker is so shouldn't be an issue.

Who knows though how future RF switches will be designed though....
Anyone know where the antena is on the Insteon switches? I am seriously considering them for my new house. The metal box could create a faraday cage, but if the switch face is plastic, then the signals should get through. I'm not sure, but I think Insteon wall switches would only use the PL signal for control and not the RF.

What about other wiring options? What would you run to a touch panael location?


You are right about the SmartLinc Version 2 (INSTEON) switches using PL only. the Only INSTEON device that has been release that uses the RF is the SignaLinc

I would run CAT5e to touchscreen locations and 2 conducter shielded with a drain to mic locations