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post #1 of 17 Old 07-18-2018, 07:56 PM - Thread Starter
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Future proof whole home audio pre-wire / remodel work

I am in the process of remodel work to my home and running a lot of wire for smart home / automation / av dist/ network / and whole home audio. I was wondering what the "preferred" and realistically future proof wire is for someone who plans on eventually having a matrix switch to run AV in every room and support 4k + future technology as it comes out.

I have been looking a lot at netstreams older products, for some reason I just really like the Ethernet + 16/2 or 16/4 design, and more so because I don't have to "centralize" and run RCA wires for every speaker in the home to one panel, instead netstreams design runs inline to the touch panels in every room while you just have an output for cat5e + 16/4 + RG6 to the controller.

I understand netstreams got bought out and they will no longer support the technology with clearone coming into the fold now, however, I noticed that a lot of distribution controllers like control4's 16 channel audio switch (and others) are still using RCA. What is the best approach for home audio wiring these days? Is good old RCA still the best future proof method by doing long runs all going to a central location from the speakers scattered throughout the home? Or is Ethernet (such as netstreams) and the way they layout the digilinX products a really promising approach?
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post #2 of 17 Old 07-19-2018, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by cheezefrog View Post
I am in the process of remodel work to my home and running a lot of wire for smart home / automation / av dist/ network / and whole home audio. I was wondering what the "preferred" and realistically future proof wire is for someone who plans on eventually having a matrix switch to run AV in every room and support 4k + future technology as it comes out.

I have been looking a lot at netstreams older products, for some reason I just really like the Ethernet + 16/2 or 16/4 design, and more so because I don't have to "centralize" and run RCA wires for every speaker in the home to one panel, instead netstreams design runs inline to the touch panels in every room while you just have an output for cat5e + 16/4 + RG6 to the controller.

I understand netstreams got bought out and they will no longer support the technology with clearone coming into the fold now, however, I noticed that a lot of distribution controllers like control4's 16 channel audio switch (and others) are still using RCA. What is the best approach for home audio wiring these days? Is good old RCA still the best future proof method by doing long runs all going to a central location from the speakers scattered throughout the home? Or is Ethernet (such as netstreams) and the way they layout the digilinX products a really promising approach?
If you haven't already, you should post your question in the Home Automation subforum at https://www.avsforum.com/forum/162-home-automation/ You'll get more comprehensive answers there.

Always run more cabling than you think you'll need. Also, run it in conduits so that replacing or adding cabling will be relatively easy. In general, Cat 6 (network) cables are likely to be more useful in the long run than analog (RCA) cables if you can afford to install the appropriate digital-to-analog decoders and amps in every room. Those types of cables can be used to carry HDMI or ethernet, although fiber optic cables are going to be more reliable in the long run as video and network speeds increase. Also, don't forget that you need to use plenum-rated cables so as not to invalidate your home insurance policy.

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post #3 of 17 Old 07-19-2018, 04:08 PM - Thread Starter
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thanks a ton for that info! If it says LSZH (low smoke zero halogen) is this the same as plenum-rated?
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post #4 of 17 Old 07-19-2018, 06:46 PM
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thanks a ton for that info! If it says LSZH (low smoke zero halogen) is this the same as plenum-rated?
Unfortunately, no. Underwriters' Laboratory provides plenum cable certifications. Those certifications are what are required by insurance companies and building codes. Some cables might be "LSZH" but not be certified. For a discussion of plenum ratings by one of the better known cable manufacturing companies, see https://sewelldirect.com/learning-center/plenum-space
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post #5 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post
Also, don't forget that you need to use plenum-rated cables so as not to invalidate your home insurance policy.
Huh? Why would he need plenum-rated cables for a residential install - unless he has an actual plenum? In-wall rated cables (CL2/CL3) yes, but his wires will not be in active circulated air space...

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post #6 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 09:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheezefrog View Post
I am in the process of remodel work to my home and running a lot of wire for smart home / automation / av dist/ network / and whole home audio. I was wondering what the "preferred" and realistically future proof wire is for someone who plans on eventually having a matrix switch to run AV in every room and support 4k + future technology as it comes out.
A consistent wiring pattern in each room/zone is the important baseline. Then add more wire runs for more AV-heavy areas, and additional runs intended for specific use cases above that...

Quote:
I have been looking a lot at netstreams older products, for some reason I just really like the Ethernet + 16/2 or 16/4 design, and more so because I don't have to "centralize" and run RCA wires for every speaker in the home to one panel, instead netstreams design runs inline to the touch panels in every room while you just have an output for cat5e + 16/4 + RG6 to the controller.
Home run wires allow for centralizing gear, but are also needed for switching infrastructures since you have to get all the wires to one place. I would home run at least 2Cat6 and 16/4+cat5/6 for each room at a minimum, and go up from there. Skip the 16/4+cat obviously for rooms that have no need for WHA now or in the future, but remember that $50/zone of wire cost turns into hundreds to do it later...

I would not assume that you'll use a 4K matrix "in the future". With the Internet streaming services and the general "IP-based distribution of content" becoming more and more prevalent, the very likely future case is we just have a 1Gbps Ethernet link to every display/device and the real decoding is done in the last 6 feet. That doesn't remove needs for HDMI runs to projectors or from an AVR to a display, but the use cases for a matrix are no longer mainstream.

Quote:
I understand netstreams got bought out and they will no longer support the technology with clearone coming into the fold now, however, I noticed that a lot of distribution controllers like control4's 16 channel audio switch (and others) are still using RCA. What is the best approach for home audio wiring these days? Is good old RCA still the best future proof method by doing long runs all going to a central location from the speakers scattered throughout the home? Or is Ethernet (such as netstreams) and the way they layout the digilinX products a really promising approach?
Stereo RCA out from audio switches are assuming they go to a multizone amp nearby. Yes, you can place zone streamer boxes all over the house - but that's really a feature for folks that don't have the wiring centralized. The gear still needs to be housed somewhere, and hiding a stack of streamer boxes in a rack is, IMO, better than having one sitting on a dresser in each room. Now, that said, when you home run your speaker wire, there's nothing wrong with having those wires loop through an outlet-height wall plate in the same room as the speakers, so that you could intercept those wires to connect them to a local streamer box (or other source) if that makes sense for that zone.

Hope that helps,

Jeff
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post #7 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 10:00 AM
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Huh? Why would he need plenum-rated cables for a residential install - unless he has an actual plenum? In-wall rated cables (CL2/CL3) yes, but his wires will not be in active circulated air space...
Very briefly, any time cables are run where they cannot be seen (e.g. inside walls, in a conduit or above a dropped ceiling), they must be plenum rated. When they catch fire, cables which are not so rated give off toxic fumes. If they're out in the open where you can see them, though, you have a chance to put out the fire before you've been incapacitated by the fumes.

Check with your local building code and your insurance company for details.

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post #8 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post
Very briefly, any time cables are run where they cannot be seen (e.g. inside walls, in a conduit or above a dropped ceiling), they must be plenum rated. When they catch fire, cables which are not so rated give off toxic fumes. If they're out in the open where you can see them, though, you have a chance to put out the fire before you've been incapacitated by the fumes.

Check with your local building code and your insurance company for details.
There's a big difference between wire requirements in-wall vs. in the 'plenum' air spaces... Certainly check your local codes, but I would be shocked to hear that plenum ratings were required for any residential, non-plenum uses...

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post #9 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 10:09 AM
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There's a big difference between wire requirements in-wall vs. in the 'plenum' air spaces... Certainly check your local codes, but I would be shocked to hear that plenum ratings were required for any residential, non-plenum uses...
You especially need to check with your insurance company. If, God forbid, you should actually have a fire, it'd be unfortunate if they voided your policy because you used un-approved cables.

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post #10 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 10:20 AM
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You especially need to check with your insurance company. If, God forbid, you should actually have a fire, it'd be unfortunate if they voided your policy because you used un-approved cables.
Ok, sure, but are there actually cases of this? I mean, PVC-jacketed Romex is everywhere (how could that possibly be ok? If there's a fire in the wall, certainly the romex is more likely to be "involved" than a cat5 wire), and why would PVC-jacketed (non-plenum-rated) "in wall rated" cables even be on the market if that was the case???

Huge difference in the price of plenum-rated materials, I'd hate for folks to spend 2x or more on wire and likely cut back on the number of runs they get (or just waste a lot of money). I'm sorry, but this is an pretty big claim and I'd like to hear some evidence. If it's true, then a lot of people need to be educated!

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post #11 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by jautor View Post
Ok, sure, but are there actually cases of this? I mean, PVC-jacketed Romex is everywhere (how could that possibly be ok? If there's a fire in the wall, certainly the romex is more likely to be "involved" than a cat5 wire), and why would PVC-jacketed (non-plenum-rated) "in wall rated" cables even be on the market if that was the case???

Huge difference in the price of plenum-rated materials, I'd hate for folks to spend 2x or more on wire and likely cut back on the number of runs they get (or just waste a lot of money). I'm sorry, but this is an pretty big claim and I'd like to hear some evidence. If it's true, then a lot of people need to be educated!

Jeff
I am neither an insurance salesman nor a lawyer. Consult with appropriate professionals. My personal opinion is that the cost of appropriate cabling is far less than the cost of repairs.

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post #12 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 10:39 AM
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I am neither an insurance salesman nor a lawyer. Consult with appropriate professionals. My personal opinion is that the cost of appropriate cabling is far less than the cost of repairs.
Agreed. And IMO the appropriate cables are those rated for in-wall use, which is about damage protection and flammability... Unless those wires are going in a plenum, then plenum rated is an absolute requirement. Any toxic gases released by PVC jacketed low-volt wiring in the walls of our houses is going to be dwarfed by the same gases from the PVC plumbing and PVC-jacketed romex in the same walls. And I don't know how any of that could be the basis of an insurance denial, as it would have zero to do with flammability...

But yes, consulting with appropriate professionals in your locale is always the best answer for anything regulatory-related.

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post #13 of 17 Old 07-21-2018, 10:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Selden Ball View Post
Very briefly, any time cables are run where they cannot be seen (e.g. inside walls, in a conduit or above a dropped ceiling), they must be plenum rated. When they catch fire, cables which are not so rated give off toxic fumes. If they're out in the open where you can see them, though, you have a chance to put out the fire before you've been incapacitated by the fumes.

Check with your local building code and your insurance company for details.
Plenum rated is for when in a plenum, not just in a wall.
It's so the ducting doesn't immediately distribute the toxic gasses to living quarters in time of fire.
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post #14 of 17 Old 07-22-2018, 08:08 PM - Thread Starter
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I appreciate the input from everyone.

I have been doing a lot of research on the type of wiring to go with. As I will be going with a centralized C4 system. I hate to buy plenum as it is looking pricey, but I will for sure contact my insurance and obtain local code and see what the deal is. A great deal of the runs are going to be through tie beams, but my basement does have a drop ceiling that has large ceiling panels for access to electrical/water/gas, etc. I don't know if it would be "considered" a plenum air flow space, I have no central A/C but it does make me curious if plenum would be ideal for that location and situation (i.e. the basement home theater).
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post #15 of 17 Old 07-23-2018, 01:08 PM - Thread Starter
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I did some further research and I suspect ETL "listed" wiring would be fine, but I did read up on the part about wire manufactures playing somewhat loose with the words, "UL listed" obviously is not the same as "UL certified". All I am finding from my sources locally and online like Amazon and ebay is "UL Listed" wire, but I did find this stuff by True Cable on Amazon CAT6A ETA Listed - AMAZON.COM

It says "ETL Listed" I don't know really what to make of this grey area between ETL Listed, UL Listed and UL Certified, because as I understand it after reading the info on the link below, UL listed and ETL listed are identical.


Info on UL vs ETL: http://info.triadmagnetics.com/blog/...-certification

I am still waiting to hear back from my insurance agent about any potential problems with respect to home owners insurance in case of fire. I can't for the life of me find much UL "certified" rated CAT6A cable, especially under $350-400+ a 1000ft. I was almost going to run CAT7A, but if plenum is going to be a requirement its going to change my budget due to the costs, so CAT6A is what I think I'll be looking at now regardless.

With all that said, is it just wise to only buy CAT, RG6, 16/2, 16/4, 12/2 wiring that only has official UL or ETL markings on the cabling now?
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post #16 of 17 Old 07-23-2018, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by cheezefrog View Post
A great deal of the runs are going to be through tie beams, but my basement does have a drop ceiling that has large ceiling panels for access to electrical/water/gas, etc. I don't know if it would be "considered" a plenum air flow space, I have no central A/C but it does make me curious if plenum would be ideal for that location and situation (i.e. the basement home theater).
Unless the HVAC system is drawing air from that space, it's not a plenum. And it would be very unlikely that your system would be doing that in any residential construction.

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post #17 of 17 Old 07-23-2018, 05:58 PM - Thread Starter
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I spoke with a local inspector that is in charge of all oversight for my county. He told me that plenum is not required and hes mostly only seen it used in commercial. He said riser is just fine. As soon as I get all my wiring purchased I will post a link here when my build thread has started. thanks again everyone!
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