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Advice about new construction distributed A/V and cables to drop...

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
Hello All,

Long time lurker, first time poster. I've found this forum to be immensely helpful and would like to thank all contributors for their excellent input. Thank you.

I am in the process of planning for new construction, 5000 sqft 2 story house. My contractor wants to know about the low voltage wiring so I am designing that myself. I want to put all equipment in one closet in the media room, and use a matrix setup. This also includes my data. Here is what I have in mind, followed by my questions. Any help would be greatly appreciated:

Whole Home Audio:
I will use the HTD Mid-Range system and will wire accordingly for speakers in pretty much every room. Plan on using 16g speaker cable including 4 conductor cable as needed. Will have 6 zones but speakers in about 12 rooms. Don't plan on playing anything fancier than nice ambient music etc..

Distributed Video:
I will place all equipment in a rack in the media room, including 1-2 set top boxes, blu-ray, media player, etc. I will use a 4x4 matrix to distribute it to 4 viewing locations in the house. One of them will be the media room so that will be just HDMI. The other 3 will be HDMI over ethernet. I am not sure about the distance but should be around 200 feet for the farthest location.

The HDMI matrix I am planning on using is this:
http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=109&cp_id=10113&cs_id=1011310&p_id=8151&seq=1&format=2
This allows me to transmit IR as well to operate all the centrally located devices

For the wiring, I plan on using Cat6 cable only. For each room with a TV connection for now or in the future, I will drop 2 Cat6 cables. Will drop 1 cat6 cable for keypad locations for the home audio system. 1-2 cat 6 cables for Gigabit networking purposes depending on the room.

I did mention running conduits from the attic to every room, but was told that the price would be exorbitant... so I dropped that idea.

Finally, here are my questions:

1. Do I really need RG6 in this day and age? I know people have mentioned to drop it in all rooms for resale purposes, and possible cable TV usage in the future, but other than that, is it of any other use?

2. Do I need to drop more than 4 Cat6 cables in each connected room? This includes data, HDMI over ethernet, and keypad control.

3. Is this HDMI Matrix from monoprice a good option for me? I am on a budget, and am trying to avoid the more expensive ones. But any advice would be great on this aspect.
I could also use this one: http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=101&cp_id=10110&cs_id=1011002&p_id=5704&seq=1&format=2
and couple it with the HDBaseT Baluns from monoprice as well, but I think I will not be able to use the IR relay feature this way.

4. The IR relay on the HDMI device above is not that great. What other options do I have for transmitting IR reliably?

5. I have looked into home automation but find it overwhelming. I don't feel the need for it right now, but will I be future proof with running the cables as mentioned above?

Thanks for reading. I hope it wasn't too long!
post #2 of 17
Quote:
Do I really need RG6 in this day and age? I know people have mentioned to drop it in all rooms for resale purposes, and possible cable TV usage in the future, but other than that, is it of any other use?

Yes. You need it, don't get rid of it. Every bedroom and the living room should have it (and possibly the kitchen, etc.).

Quote:
Do I need to drop more than 4 Cat6 cables in each connected room? This includes data, HDMI over ethernet, and keypad control.

That should be sufficient.

Quote:
Is this HDMI Matrix from monoprice a good option for me?

Also look at this one: http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=109&cp_id=10113&cs_id=1011310&p_id=8151&seq=1&format=2

Quote:
The IR relay on the HDMI device above is not that great. What other options do I have for transmitting IR reliably?

If you've read any of my other posts, you've seen me mention iRule. You need something to control all of your equipment and iRule, which works over your IP network, is a great (and economical) option. And, you can use the Global Cache devices to control your matrix via IR instead of using the IR included with the matrix.

Quote:
I have looked into home automation but find it overwhelming. I don't feel the need for it right now, but will I be future proof with running the cables as mentioned above?

You should be good. Though it wouldn't hurt to drop runs in locations that you might install keypads throughout the entire home (hallways, kitchen, etc.). Four runs should be sufficient for most things, and these days, there's almost always a wireless solution. And again, look at iRule. It integrates very well with home automation equipment. It's a DIY solution, but has a very active support community. The iRule team and users are all very willing to help each other. I had a $17,000 quote for whole home audio and video using Control4 and have been able to get it down to $5,000 by doing it all on my own and using iRule.
post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the fast response!

I'll keep the RG6 in mind. I read your post on iRule. I have to explore this more. Thanks for the heads up!
post #4 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by samsway View Post

Will have 6 zones but speakers in about 12 rooms. Don't plan on playing anything fancier than nice ambient music etc..

Just make sure you home-run all those rooms - you want to be able to separate the rooms into their own zones in the future. Won't matter for most things, though...
Quote:
I will place all equipment in a rack in the media room, including 1-2 set top boxes, blu-ray, media player, etc. I will use a 4x4 matrix to distribute it to 4 viewing locations in the house. One of them will be the media room so that will be just HDMI. The other 3 will be HDMI over ethernet. I am not sure about the distance but should be around 200 feet for the farthest location.

200 feet would be a pretty long run for a 2-story house of that size. Mine is similar and longest runs are like 125ft.

It's not HDMI "over Ethernet", but rather "over cat5e / cat6 cable". Distinction used for clarity in the forum - these are point-to-point connections that have nothing to do with Ethernet or TCP/IP.

If you're going to put all of your equipment in a rack in the media room, is that where all your structured wiring (networking, phone, etc.) will terminate? If not, you'll want to plan some more to link those two locations together, and figure out what cable(s) will run to which location. I placed all my distribution equipment in a rack in a closet with the structured wiring enclosure, and linked it to the theater as another zone.
Quote:
I did mention running conduits from the attic to every room, but was told that the price would be exorbitant... so I dropped that idea.

Try again with flex conduit dropped from the attic down to key locations (e.g. theater, family room, office). You don't need point-to-point continuous conduit, just enough to access first floor rooms from an attic / basement space... (you don't mention your location, put that in your profile and you might get some better 'local' advice)
Quote:
1. Do I really need RG6 in this day and age? I know people have mentioned to drop it in all rooms for resale purposes, and possible cable TV usage in the future, but other than that, is it of any other use?

Gramin covered this, but +1 on running RG6. You don't want to "be weird" and NOT have basic cable TV outlets in the house. If only for resale. Coax is the other ubiquitous residential low-volt cable type, and can be used for lots of A/V purposes.
Quote:
2. Do I need to drop more than 4 Cat6 cables in each connected room? This includes data, HDMI over ethernet, and keypad control.

Probably enough for most spaces, I'd add some in key A/V areas. Pre-wiring is so cheap compared to later, it's much better to have too much.
Quote:
I am on a budget, and am trying to avoid the more expensive ones. But any advice would be great on this aspect.

5000 sqft definitely screams Monoprice budget biggrin.gifwink.gif

You say you've only got 4 locations - I assume you're wiring for more than that for a house that size. Unless your bedrooms are all 25x25... biggrin.gif

Don't worry too much about the equipment now - you're probably 4-6 months away from needing it, and there will certainly be new products in that time. Hopefully we'll see a Monoprice HDBaseT matrix before then.
Quote:
I have looked into home automation but find it overwhelming. I don't feel the need for it right now, but will I be future proof with running the cables as mentioned above?

Assume you'll have security pre-wiring. I'd pre-wire for external cameras, wall-mount automation keypad locations (bury the wires behind the drywall instead of exposing a bunch of empty plates), and pre-wire speaker and TV locations in most rooms. Don't forget the garage, back yard / patio, utility room, kitchen, and so forth...

Jeff
post #5 of 17
Each location definitely does need at least 1 RG6 cable -- preferably 2. You just don't know what you might want to do a couple of years down the road. Plus, as was mentioned earlier, there's the resale factor. Who wants a house that doesn't have a cable outlet in each bedroom?

A second on the question on the number of outlets. A house that size having only 4 outlets? Every room that could be a bedroom or office or workout room needs to be cabled. Four outlets may work for you at this time, but your needs may change in the future. Several years ago, I cabled my son's new 6 bedroom house. They were going to be fine with the electrician's bid for TV in the master bedroom and living room, and telephone in the master bedroom and kitchen. I cabled all rooms as grade 2 outlets, which calls for 2 RG 6 and 2 CAT5e cables. In the smaller bedrooms, I just installed a TV wallplate, leaving the other cables in the wallbox. A couple of years ago, she asked me how hard it would be to get internet into the older daughter's bedroom. Just a matter of changing faceplates.

Plus, again, there's the resale factor. Nobody wants a house that has a bunch of rooms with no communications outlets.

Make sure you document what you do -- exactly where each outlet is and what cabling it has. Especially if you just pull cable to a location and don't install an outlet (intended for possible future use).
post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks a lot for all your input. This really helps. I'm not a techie (not even close) but an Emergency Physician. I enjoy educating myself, so everything I've learnt has been through reading.

The house has 4 bedrooms (2 masters), 2 secondaries. One gameroom, one media room, one sunroom. Plus the usual study, dining, living, breakfast, kitchen. 2 stories.

Here is what I understand:
1. Atleast one RG6 quadshieled in each room.
2. I will have volume control in each of the 6 rooms without a keypad. i believe that requires the speaker cable to be home run. Is that what you meant? I will be able to add a keypad by removing the volume control in the future.
3. All my structured wiring will be in the same room (audio, video, networking). What do you recommend for phone in this day and age, when people don't really use home phones anymore?
4. i probably overestimated on the distance. 125ft seems more reasonable.
5. Thanks for correcting me on the ethernet tcp/ip. I looked at the product provided by justaddpower.com It seems like a good idea, but the price is just too high right now.
6. I'll mention the flex conduit again. I'm in Houston, TX... just like you smile.gif
7. Will keep the keypad locations in mind for future home automation... including garage etc. One Cat6 enough for each of these places?

Thanks again for all the help!
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by samsway View Post

1. Atleast one RG6 quadshieled in each room.

At least one. Two is the "gold standard" and opens up a lot of other potential uses. Though not required of satellite systems any longer.
Quote:
2. I will have volume control in each of the 6 rooms without a keypad. i believe that requires the speaker cable to be home run. Is that what you meant? I will be able to add a keypad by removing the volume control in the future.

Yes, home run the speaker wire. Typical install method is to home run a 4-conductor cable to the keypad / VC location, then 2x 2-conductor wires from there to the speakers. Cat5e/cat6 home run from the keypad location.
Quote:
3. All my structured wiring will be in the same room (audio, video, networking). What do you recommend for phone in this day and age, when people don't really use home phones anymore?

Still wire for it. I'm using VoIP and a bluetooth bridge to enable both to work on the wired / wireless house phones. Much easier to answer those calls without running to get the cell phone.
Quote:
5. Thanks for correcting me on the ethernet tcp/ip. I looked at the product provided by justaddpower.com It seems like a good idea, but the price is just too high right now.

JustAddPower is the exception - that *IS* TCP/IP over Ethernet. None of the "HDMI matrix" products are, though.
Quote:
6. I'll mention the flex conduit again. I'm in Houston, TX... just like you smile.gif

See!
Quote:
7. Will keep the keypad locations in mind for future home automation... including garage etc. One Cat6 enough for each of these places?

Yes, we should expect that any future devices will be Ethernet-based or would otherwise be able to get power/signal over a cat5e cable.

Jeff
post #8 of 17
A second coax could be used for OTA distribution.

Definitely cable for analog phones. While you may use a VoIP service, it is VoIP only to the ATA. After that it is analog.

Bottom line is that you just can't have too much cabling.
post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Awesome... Thanks a lot! I'll keep y'all updated on what i do and how much it came out to.
post #10 of 17
Thread Starter 
Here's another question: Instead of using HDMI over Cat5e/Cat6, how about if I use long runs of HDMI 22 or 24 AWG cables with an inline signal repeater? Will I be able to get 1080p @60Hz with this?
post #11 of 17
Save some money. You do NOT need "quadshield RG6", rather standard dual shield will more than suffice...but regardless the type used, cable drops into every room (yes, even the bathroom) is a standard requirement for you and for resale. It can also be used for speaker/subwoofer runs and antenna connections...should you ever decide to venture that way. wink.gif

EDIT...Personally, I would run HDMI over cat6 and be done with it. cool.gif
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Since you guys have been so helpful, here are a couple more questions:

1. What do you think about siamese cable available in the various combinations? I'm thinking more along the lines of quality, cost of material, and cost of installation during construction?

2. Thinking ahead, I would also like to prewire for outdoor security cameras... What locations do people generally place cameras in and how many? What kind of cable is most commonly used?

3. Should I also prewire for indoor security cameras? I think that would be a lot.....

Thanks again!
post #13 of 17
If, by siamese cables, you mean 2 CAT5e or 2 coax bonded together, that'd be alright. Just stay away from the bundled multimedia cables that have several coax and CAT5e, etc., all under the same jacket. They are difficult to work with and cost more than individual cables.

For CCTV cabling, it would depend on the type of cameras being used. I.P. cameras provide more detail than analog, but typically cost 2-3 times more. I.P. cameras use CAT5e or better cable, while analog cameras need a coax for video and a single pair cable for power. Being undecided, and for maximum flexibility, pull in cabling for both (1 RG 59 solid copper core and copper-braid coax and a #18 speaker wire for analog, and a CAT5e cable for i.p.) to each location. At a bare minimum, you want to have a camera cover each entryway. I would recommend one to look out along the driveway as well. Make sure that they can see in really low light levels (.001 lux), and that they are made for outdoors. They should be vandalproof and have an IP rating (such as IP66). It might also be a good idea to have at least 1 indoor camera. Again to cover the entryways. I've seen DVRs that have inputs for both analog and i.p. cameras. Look at places such as http://www.cctvsecuritypros.com, http://www.worldeyecam.com/store/, and http://www.homesecurity361.com/.

CCTV can be a very useful tool for yourself and also potentially for law enforcement. I put up a few cameras last summer and we were instrumental in getting a drug house next door to us shut down and the people evicted. Last month, a salesman was at our house. He went out to his car to get something. When he came back in, he asked if our cameras saw out into the street, and if they recorded. Both answers were yes. He said that someone had run into his car. We pulled up that camera, backed up the DVR, and watched as the guy that was working on the house next door (the former drug house) backed into his car as he was leaving. We're often seeing stories on the news where someone's surveillance system provided very useful information to a crime. And, that includes indoor cameras. The detective who worked on the house next door said that they wished that more people had surveillance systems in their homes.
Edited by egnlsn - 1/9/13 at 7:21am
post #14 of 17
Agreed on the "You do NOT need "quadshield RG6"" post. Quadshield is helpful only if you are in a large, metropolitan area or you are close to transmitting towers.
post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the info on the siamese cable. I was thinkin of using the cable which has 2 x Cat6 and 2 x RG6 bundled together. Also, planning for the Cat5e bundled with the 4 conductor speaker cable to the keypad locations. My understanding is that the builder will charge me by the number of runs of cables he has to make. So, it'll have to be a balance between number of cables to run, vs cost of the different cables.

For the CCTV, I like your idea about monitoring all entrances... I'm thinking front door, garage entrance and driveway, covered patio and likely backyard as well. Indoors, I would think foyer and living room. I will have a full security system installed anyways... I will likely go with the cheaper option for cameras...

Here are a couple more questions... since we are talking about future proofing:

1. What should I do for setting up a future wifi or network controlled sprinkler system? Or do I even need to think about it right now because it can be retrofitted for cheap?
2. How should I wire for controlling 2 HVAC thermostats? The builder will install regular touchscreen honeywell thermos, but I might upgrade to network or wifi based controls in the future.

Thanks!
post #16 of 17
Quote:
1. What should I do for setting up a future wifi or network controlled sprinkler system? Or do I even need to think about it right now because it can be retrofitted for cheap?
2. How should I wire for controlling 2 HVAC thermostats? The builder will install regular touchscreen honeywell thermos, but I might upgrade to network or wifi based controls in the future.

Insteon can get the job done. http://www.insteon.net/
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by samsway View Post

Thanks for the info on the siamese cable. I was thinkin of using the cable which has 2 x Cat6 and 2 x RG6 bundled together. Also, planning for the Cat5e bundled with the 4 conductor speaker cable to the keypad locations. My understanding is that the builder will charge me by the number of runs of cables he has to make. So, it'll have to be a balance between number of cables to run, vs cost of the different cables.

Ask the contractor. If he's buying the wire and he's doing the work, I don't think you care which choice he makes. If he wants to charge per cable, not per drop, and you're supplying the wire, then the choice will be a bit of algebra... But I'd go into that with the contractor knowing what he's signing up for - he may balk at the huge bundles as "one wire" and change his definition - you don't want to be surprised by that and find out you're going to pay more to use more expensive wire...
Quote:
1. What should I do for setting up a future wifi or network controlled sprinkler system? Or do I even need to think about it right now because it can be retrofitted for cheap?
2. How should I wire for controlling 2 HVAC thermostats? The builder will install regular touchscreen honeywell thermos, but I might upgrade to network or wifi based controls in the

Run a cat5e to all those locations in addition to the normal thermostat wiring. Cat5e to the sprinkler timer location, too. Although in both of those cases, WiFi will probably be the likely solution as most folks will need wireless networking for those devices, since pre-wiring Ethernet to those locations is certainly not common. But the wire is cheap to do now just in case. The cat5e could always be used for something else that happens to land at the same location (other control panel, iPad charging dock, etc.)

Jeff
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