The idea of smart homes has been around for a while but they have really started to come into their own in the last couple of years. With the Internet of Things (IoT) we are seeing ever greater numbers of connected devices coming onto the market. As well as a range of controllable thermostats, security and lighting systems you can now also get internet enabled fridges, cookers and washing machines. Smart home systems can be used to control many of these devices from a tablet or smart phone giving you greater control over how your house operates.
Although control of many smart home elements will be done via wifi physical cabling will be needed to actually connect everything together and make it work reliably. This is especially true where you intend to have a lot of audio visual equipment connected to the system which will use a lot of bandwidth.
In most smart homes the wiring will be buried in the walls and cannot be easily accessed. It is therefore important to make sure that the cabling for your smart home is carefully thought out before you start and that extra capacity has been built in wherever possible. When we are designing the cabling for a smart home system there are a number of areas that we focus on.
Central server and switches
To power all of your media and connect everything together you are going to need some kind of centralised server, a router and at least one switch to terminate all of the wires to. We generally use structured cabling principles for smart homes so when possible we will place this equipment close to the entry point for the broadband connection into the house. Although home servers and switches can now be bought which are very quiet, and don’t need a lot of cooling, they are not especially pretty so most people will want to conceal them in a cabinet or utility room. It makes sense to leave some extra space wherever you place this equipment so that an extra server, switch or second broadband connection can be added if needed.
You are going to need to run cables to pretty much every room of the house. They will be used to connect TVs, speakers, thermostats, phones, security systems and everything else. For many of these applications there will be relatively little data being sent back and forth so standard Cat 5 or Cat 6 cabling will do the job. However, as this cabling will be buried in your walls it often makes sense to put in the highest capacity cabling you can to future proof yourself. You may, therefore, want to consider Cat 7 or fibre cabling for some of your applications.
One of the big changes in smart homes has been the moved from wired connections to wifi. A lot of the devices that will connect to your smart home system will now be using wifi rather than plugging into a physical line. Dependent on the layout and size of your home it may be necessary to put in repeaters to boost the wifi signal so that you can get a solid connection in every room (and out into the garden).
Control panels and hard wired terminals
Although many smart home applications can now be managed from a tablet or smart phone you will probably want at least one hard wired terminal or control panel in the house. Often these are placed in the hallway to allow you to turn off the alarm and switch on the lights and heating as soon as you come through the door. If you are going to have any security cameras then you may want to have specific screens placed around your home for them. You will need to think carefully about where these terminals and screens are going to be placed so that the appropriate cabling can be put in place.
Isolate vital systems
As more and more aspects of a smart home get connected it is worth thinking about how much you want on the same network and same power supplies. It is common for people to have a separate broadband line put in for the their home office and to run that on a separate standalone network. Similarly you may want to isolate your security systems from the rest of your network and have that run over separate cabling so that if the rest of the network fails you can still unlock your doors and control your alarms. Isolating some aspects of your home network can also make it easier to do upgrades in the future.
Design and Documentation
Carefully thinking through these issues when designing your smart home network is vital to ensuring you get a system which will last you for years to come. Documenting that network is equally as important so that if you do need to upgrade in the future it is easy to see what cabling runs where.
At GW Electrical Services all of our smart home cabling work is carried out by qualified and experienced electricians. We will provide you with detailed designs and documentation to ensure that your smart home networking solution will last you for years to come. To find out more, or to get a quote, please give us a call on 01275 331742.