April 23, 2019

Low Voltage and the Wired Home

Jeremiah Marchand-Simons, Austin Studio Manager

I find myself thinking about ways to save money but still keep up with technology. It can be very challenging at times to do both. First you have to prioritize what’s going to be important to you, what you live without, and how much you want to spend in order to achieve the desired outcome. All this to help determine what the builder should do, what you could do on your own, and at the end of the day, how much does it really matter.

Off the bat, there are things better left to the professionals, especially when you are in the building process and the accessibility is available. Things to think about are security, TVs, surround sound and automation. For a lot of people, security is important. Whether it is pre-wiring for cameras, adding motion-detectors or glass-break sensors at the windows.

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You want to think about where the key pad will be located. Most will choose the utility room as you enter from the garage. A lot of times buyers elect to add an additional key pad in the master bedroom. Which leads to other options to add to your security system. For example, if you are going to be installing cameras, I would recommend at a minimum having the builder pre-wire for the cameras.

When it comes to deciding on locating and mounting your TVs, be sure to know the number of TVs you will have in the house. It is equally important to ensure the electrical, cable and/or data is on the correct walls at the correct height. A lot of buyers are mounting their TVs on the wall, so be sure to also have an electrical outlet that is hidden behind the TV when mounted. You will likely also want a conduit for cords to be run from your device/s to the TV behind the sheet rock so cords aren’t hanging from the bottom of your TV. It is a lot less invasive to have the outlet added along with the conduit while your home is being built, otherwise doing it after the fact is going to cost a lot more, be a lot more disruptive and also require additional trades to get your house back together.

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As far as surround sound goes, it is all a preference and there are a lot of different ways to have really good sound quality in your home. You’ll want to think about how your room is set up: do you have volume ceilings, are the surfaces going work well with the deflection or absorption of sound, and are you buying or using existing equipment. Typically with a surround sound system, you will either be thinking of a 5.1 or 7.1 system. The 5 is for 2 rear speakers + 2 front speakers + 1 center channel, the .1 is the sub-woofer. For a 7.1, it is all the same speaker but they add 2 speakers that are to the sides of the listener, basically splitting the difference between the rear and front speakers which help to completely surround the listener. Equipment will typically be a receiver, speakers that can be in the ceiling, wall-mounted and stand on the floor. The sub-woofer will sit on the floor and most of the time it is out of sight.

Automation is getting more and more popular and will only continue to be an area that will be evolving over time. Bluetooth is poplar when it comes to connecting your device to your car radio, but in a home the use of Z-Waze is where most manufactures are turning to. Z-Wave allows you to control almost everything your home can turn on and off, all from a smartphone or device. With your smartphone, tablet or PC, you can control and access your Z-Wave devices at home. You can control your lights, thermostat, garage door, front door lock and many other things from the palm of your hand either while in the house or on the road.

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Depending on how involved you want to get, internet speed and connection can affect all of these things if the infrastructure isn’t there. Think about upgrading from CAT5e to Cat6, but make sure you have CAT6 coming from the street into the home, otherwise you’re wasting your money. Cat6 is able to handle transmission of bandwidth up to 200 MHz, where CAT5e is half at only 100 MHz. There are lots of things to consider when it comes to low voltage and how you set up your home, but it can be as simple or complex as you choose it to be. 

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