Pre-wiring new construction for everything...

montekaySeptember 22, 2007


I have a new house under construction and Im trying to sort out the details of pre-wiring to make sure I donÂt forget anything. I'm currently working outside the US and will have only a three day window back home to get all the wiring done. After that the next time I see the house, sheet rock will already be in.

IÂll try to categorize the situationÂ

Lighting: Someone told me to run cat-5 to all the light switches, someone else told me this violates code. What should be done to prepare for automated light control? This is not a high priority, I might not ever use it but thought perhaps I should at least pre-wire for it.

Security & Cameras: The builder has a contractor pre-wiring for security but what about cameras? Cat-5 to each location? Power + RG-59 to each camera location? This is also not a high priority but thought it might be interesting to set up cameras I could log onto via internet while IÂm traveling for work. Just to see if the house is still there!

Home Theatre: IÂm putting low voltage lighting under the seat risers and will probably be in the market for some device to control the lighting for the theatre over all, probably one of these remotes that can dim the lights and control the audio video equipment etc. On this I have some time because the theatre is surrounded by attic space and wiring can be done after the fact.

Living Room TV: This will be a 60" TV with its own dedicated surround sound system. IÂm not sure if I need any interconnection between this system and the front projector based HT located above the living room. I would not expect to have a need to interconnect the two but perhaps in the future I might be getting all the source material from a HDD based central location. Maybe I should consider running a couple cat-5 lines from the theatre equipment closet and the TV down stairs?

Multi-room audio: The controller must have pre-amp out, no built in amplifiers unless these include loops for inserting signal processing. Most zones include ceiling mounted active sub-woofers so I can not use the typical "receiver" type controller due to an active crossover that must be placed prior to the amplifier. Also, all volume control must be done prior to the active crossover. IÂm currently looking for options on controllers. So far Home Theatre Direct seems to be the best choice. They seem inexpensive for what you get, I wonder about the quality.

Energy Management: Someone said route cat-5 to the thermostat. Is that it? This is also not high priority, might never use it.

What else do I need? What else would I want if I knew it existed or thought about it?


Monte Kay

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You might post on another section with more traffic like "Building a Home."

The trouble with prewiring for lighting control is that you need to know what system it will be and to have some kind of design. Running some Cat5 is way over simplified and the best brands of lighting control want you to use a more robust heavier stranded shieled cable. Another problem with only prewiring is that you give up one of the most requested features of lighting control which is to get rid of the big groups of switches and dimmers in exchange for small and much more attractive keypads. You can't do that in a prewire.

You don't mention size of house or budget. Most A/V & integration companies ask a lot of questions and listen to your needs to tailor a system for you. If you are DIY the 3 day time limit is probably not realistic for an "everything" prewire unless you have lots of experience, several handy friends or a small house. You may want to put in runs of empty ENT conduit from every possible extra outlet location up to the accessible attic. That could be done in a few days and give you lots of time to plan and design. Use at least 1" or larger.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 9:42PM
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Thanks for the response. It sounds like if I really want lighting control I need to contact a professional and let them deal with it. As for the house, it is 2500 sq ft down and 1300 sq ft up. It is essentially a single story house with a very over sized attic to accommodate the home theatre + lobby. Directly below the second floor square footage is the concern. Most of the rest will not be too difficult especially if, as you say, I drop conduit in the walls.

I dont know much about lighting control, not just in technical terms but also in terms of available features. I have no idea whats available! Actually, the technical aspect should not be difficult, its figuring out what I want that will be the challenge. Especially now that you mention the elimination of large banks of wall platesIm not even sure where to drop the conduit.

Given the short available time combined with being tired from jet lag from the trip home I think Im going to have to either give up on the idea of lighting control or get someone else to do it. Ill have my hands full just completing the whole house audio which I was fortunately able to start on before leaving on this trip.


    Bookmark   September 23, 2007 at 1:05AM
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At the top of the market are brands like Lutron HomeWorks, Vangage, Lite Touch. Crestron now does lighting control, too. At the low end of the market are some new wireless systems based on Zwave technology. Leviton is a big name in that. At the top of the market your imagination and budget are the only limits. At the lower end of the market the systems have issues that must be considered and designed around. It takes a lot of research to really understand the differences. To learn what's possible even if you choose something less the Lutron website is attractive and fairly easy to dig around in. If you don't require the elimination of the big dimmer groups a system can be retrofitted without tearing up the place.

There is a healthy DIY group at debating all of the home automation and AV gear and how to get it all done.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2007 at 8:23AM
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unless you are superman, 3 days is really not that much time to do all of the wiring you have on your list. i pre-wired my house and it took longer than that. but i learned a few things that might help you out.

i would suggest running conduit instead of wires, except in selected spots. you can buy 100 or 200 ft spools of the stuff at home depot or lowes for about 30 bucks or so. the conduit is very easy to work with - 1 person can do the pulling. you will also need a supply of ENT boxes and snap connectors. if you go this route - get your parts early because the big box stores do not stock that much - i cleaned out two HD stores for my parts. you will also need a good drill, plenty of battteries, and sharp drill bits to drill holes for the conduit runs. make sure you clamp the tubes against the studs to prvent kinking when you do your wire pulls later. also - in the basement make sure you leave plenty of excess conduit so that if they put spray foam in the joist cavities, they won't cover up the tubes.

for whole house audio the key right now are the speaker wires. you need to get CL3 rated wire if you want to bury that into the walls. i ordered mine from MidSouth cable - it was 16 guage 64 stand wire - very good stuff. you can choose to either put in the speaker boxes now or just run the wires and cut in the speakers later. if you cut in later - make sure you make a good treasure map so you can locate the wires later. to install - just place an ENT box where you want the contoller to go. run conduit from that box down into the basement - run the speaker wire from that same box to the locations for the speakers. once that is done, you can add in whatever digital or analog audio distribution you want.

for lighting control, you can put conduit in the locations where you want the controllers to go. Or you can use a wireless system. warning - these systems are not cheap and i would not rush into buying anything until you have really researched the product. again - i suggest conduit.

for CCTV - you need to have power & ground plus the cable for the video signal. MidSouth sells a siamese cable that has both integrated into one cable to make pulling easier.

i did run some cat5e for voice and data. you probably don't need too many drops becuase of wireless products.

you did not mention antenna drops for over the wire HD and radio signals. I put two antennas in my attic and then ran RG-6 from the attic to the basement so I could distribute these signals to any room in the house.

my overall strategy was to run wires only to the places that I new I would need connectivity the day we move in. to all other locations i ran conduit. i think you would easily finish that in 3 days if you go this route. and then you can take your time and put in whatever you want - whenever you want. i suggest using 1 inch conduit tubing for structured wires, and 3/4 inch for audio and light controls. use single gang ENT boxes for audio and light contols, use dual gang ENT boxes for multi-media sturctured wires.

best of luck

    Bookmark   September 24, 2007 at 8:00AM
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I like the conduit idea. I can think of several locations where I should use this. BTW, down in Texas we don't usually have basements and my house is no exception. All this has to be done in the attic! Good news is I have a big attic with the 12/12 pitch roof.

Yes, I did run an RG6 from the control closet to the attic and one from the back of the living room TV to the attic for adding an over the air HD antenna later. I thought of that spare of the moment while I was running the other RG6. This is one of the few things I got done before leaving on this trip.

As for lighting, I like the idea of eliminating multi switch banks on the wall. I believe this has to require low voltage lighting control and should require a completely different approach to the electrical wiring. I've just sent an e-mail to my builder asking him if it will be possible to just have the electrician wire it for this.

I doubt I will get it all done in three days so I have assigned priorities to my list. Things that will be most difficult after the fact have the highest priority. I think by doing this and by using the conduit I should be able to make it possible to eventually have it all done.

thanks for all the tips and advice,


    Bookmark   September 25, 2007 at 6:51AM
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FWIW, a fair amount of this can be accomplished later with wireless. For example, if you decide you want internet cameras, you can get a wireless one or two. It will be cheaper than wiring everywhere for the possibility (which, btw, would need to be only cat-5; don't need rg-59 for internet cams).

I would do a run between the TVs, since you might have something like Tivo, which allows you to network the boxes and get programs off of either one.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2007 at 10:07AM
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The one thing to consider with wireless, though, is bandwidth -- especially for high-definition color video. A wireless system built to Wi-Fi standards most likely could not handle more than one signal at a time with any fidelity (if that). Maybe 802.11n or a proprietary protocol could do it, but it remains to be seen whether n will be more resistant to interference and/or won't be compromised by non-n devices on the same network.

Wireless is a real alternative if the walls are not coming down any time soon. But on new construction, conduit rules.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 4:35PM
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