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ELECTRICAL TIMES: DOWN TO THE WIRE


Matt Nimmons, Operations Director for CEDIA® discusses the importance of installing an efficient residential cabling system into smart homes and how electricians can offer this service to their clients.

Hand a person an iPhone, iPad or smart device and they can do almost anything. Change the light settings, order their favourite takeaway or even run themselves a bath at the touch of a button. Technology is increasingly infiltrating the home, and consumers are embracing this feat. High-tech homes are no longer for the rich and famous and instead, a seamlessly integrated and controlled smart home system is a feasible reality for everyone. As a result, many homeowners are beginning to turn their attention towards the best ways to design a residential cabling system, as well as wiring a data network suitable for a smart home. In order to prevent opportunist smart home owners from ‘doing it themselves’, it’s crucial for electricians to offer a service that smart home owners can benefit from.

So, what are the benefits?

Firstly, the home technology sector presents a lucrative opportunity for electricians to expand their professional reach and create new business. By offering a more complete service for the home, including specialist services such as fitting reliable cabling infrastructure, electrical professionals can guarantee their businesses are more resilient to the tough times and pick up more work from existing and new customers.

A correctly wired infrastructure at the very first stage of building or renovating is fundamental to homeowners who want technology. A common term heard amongst the home technology industry is “the most expensive cable you have to install is the one that did not get installed in the first place”. The basis of a smart home is the infrastructure, the cables. Not all properties require the technology at this stage, but it is crucial for the correct wiring to be in place so that it is ready for the future. A high standard wired infrastructure can set up the home for Digital Healthcare applications in later life, whilst still preserving the décor of the home and adding value for future buyers.

Once this initial wiring is in place, the homeowner now has a robust wireless network, and is therefore given the ability to discretely integrate and distribute internet, entertainment, computer and communication systems across the home.

Making The Grade

To make sure installers are up to scratch, CEDIA is on hand with the best advice in the industry when it comes to wiring smart homes. Its popular Smart Home Recommended Wiring Guidelines whitepaper provides specific guidance on cabling a residential smart home.  Whether the project is a Grade 1, Grade 2 or Bespoke Grade, CEDIA’s wiring guidelines explains the best practice advice for any install.

A Grade 1 cabling infrastructure involves installing a combination of twisted pair data cable (Cat5e, Cat6 or Cat6a) in combination with TV & Satellite Coaxial cable (typically called CX100 or WF100). This will allow easy delivery of internet services such as entertainment and conferencing to the linked-up rooms.

A Grade 2 cabling infrastructure has additional cables designed to enable the installation of whole-house entertainment systems and tends to suit discreetly hidden speakers and in-wall control points. It is used to deliver high quality music and TV pictures around a home fed from a central equipment hub.

A bespoke system may encompass all the cables in Grades 1 and 2 in addition to cables designed

for Home Automation. This functionality can include a lighting control system, motorised curtains

and blinds, CCTV, heating control, as well as systems that allow all of the above to be controlled and integrated by a single control system using in-wall controls and hand-held remote controls. For homeowners to put a bespoke system in place, it is essential that a CEDIA member is hired.

Don’t Get Your Wires Crossed

At the heart of CEDIA is its commitment to providing individuals with high quality education and training at every level. CEDIA provides various courses and opportunities that are suitable for electrical contractors and smart home integration novices, as well as more experienced industry members to further a career path in AV.

CEDIA has a number of carefully designed courses for electricians who want to extend their cabling knowledge.

One of CEDIA’s most popular education programmes is its Smart Home Wiring course, set to take place on 4th October 2016. With virtually all household technologies part of the home network, a simple phone line and TV antenna is not adequate to support the technology now available to home owners. During the one day course, attendees will learn how to plan and install a wireless infrastructure that can withstand and integrate a range of modern technological demands. The course is based on CEDIA’s Smart Home Recommended Wiring Guidelines that was published to help electricians understand the comprehensive cabling infrastructure required for the modern home. The document is free to download via the CEDIA website. 

The dedicated publication sets out a plan for a far more integrated, and modern approach to wiring homes. This track is perfect for electricians, aerial installers and other construction professionals looking to move into home automation or gain a wider understanding of the subject and promises to leave attendees with a clear understanding of how a modern home should be cabled for new technologies, and future flexibility.

At the beginning of 2016, CEDIA launched two new training courses, Smart Home Technician and Smart Home Designer tracks, which have been recognised by City & Guilds. Combining a range of CEDIA courses, the programmes allow participants to develop a comprehensive knowledge across the industry. CEDIA’s Smart Home Technician features 12 courses from the CEDIA Boot Camp, ESC Technical and Networking schools. Attendees to the course undertake modules on Home Cinema & HD Video Distribution, Rack Building & Wiring Fundamentals, Smart Home Control & Lighting Systems and Wireless Residential Networking before sitting the certification examinations (ESC-T and ESC-N). 

For more information on CEDIA’s education courses, please visit www.cediaeducation.com.   

Glossary of Smart Home Technology Terms

4 CORE SPEAKER CABLE (16/4)

A high current, 4 core loudspeaker cable designed to carry “speaker level” audio from amplifier outputs to loudspeakers. Each core is 16 American Wire Gauge (AWG) in size.

AUDIO VIDEO HEAD END (AVHE)

A dedicated central location within the home where audio and video equipment is located alongside cable termination points connected to remote rooms.

CAT5E “Category 5 Enhanced”

Adata cable consisting of 4 twisted pair conductors used for home networks but can also be deployed for telephone and other low voltage communications.

CAT6 - “Category 6”

Similar to “Cat5e” but with additional physical spacing internally and thicker wire cores to allow faster data speed and /or longer cable lengths.

CAT6A  “Category 6 Augmented”

As “Cat6” but with additional physical spacing internally and thicker wire cores to allow faster data speed and/or longer cable lengths.

COAXIAL CABLE

A two-core cable comprising a central conductor surrounded by an insulator and “wrap around” braid which acts as shield and ground return and an overall insulating outer sheath. Used for radio frequency signals such as television, radio, satellite and CCTV or analogue audio and video. Various types and specifications are available dependant on intended use.

CROSSTALK

The amount of a signal in one wire or circuit that is unintentionally induced into an adjacent wire or circuit carrying a different signal.

CW1308

4 pair solid core telecoms cable. Cat5e is generally preferred for CEDIA installations.

DSSO

“Double Switched Socket Outlet” - a UK standard wall mounted mains power outlet for appliances.

FIBRE-OPTIC

A type of cable which uses light, rather than electricity, to pass data from one end to the other. Often made from a glass core surrounded by a protective covering, cheaper variants use a plastic material. Used for very high-speed data.

FM  “Frequency Modulation”

An electrical method of using a high frequency “carrier” frequency to move lower frequency content. Used as a generalized term to describe VHF analogue radio services in the frequency range of 88MHz to 108MHz. GBE “Giga Bit Ethernet” – the fastest form of Ethernet

network currently in use within homes. Offers a maximum data speed of 1Gb/s.

IDC “Insulation Displacement Connector”

A high bandwidth wire connection method for low power signal cables such as Cat5e. Used in computer network and telephone connections.

SIAMESE (“SHOTGUN”) CABLE

A combined cable construction where two independent cables are laid side-by-side and then moulded together during manufacturing. Although electrically separate, their combined form is designed to reduce time when running multiple cables around the home.

TRUNKING

Casing to enclose cabling when running on the exterior of an internal or external wall, external types are normally constructed to offer some weather proofing capabilities. Typically made from plastic or metal.