UPDATED: September 21, 2017
Are you building a new home? Wondering what to prewire? And what about all the new wireless technology? Do you worry if it’s worth it to prewire?
I love the analogy Steve Jobs used when asked about PCs, Laptops and Tablets. He said as good as cars are, we will always need trucks for heavy lifting.
The same is true when you build a home. There will always be heavy lifting to do in the home. For these applications, you want to use wire.
As a general rule, I like to prewire the following items in new construction and remodels:
A Quick Word About Wireless Technology
I’ve heard some incredible wireless demos for sound; for both home audio and surround sound. I’ve seen HDMI demos for Video that wowed me, and much more.
I want to be clear, I’m a huge fan of the emerging wireless technology, and think it provides phenomenal solutions for people already living in their homes.
But given the option, I prefer to prewire the items that follow.
1. TV’s, Projectors & Video Distribution
- TVs – Traditionally you run a RG6/Coaxial cable to each TV for Satellite/Cable services. Smart TV’s should be hardlined into the home network, and preferably with a Cat6.
- Projectors – I run flexible conduit to projectors wherever possible, and multiple Cat6 cables when it’s not. HDMI go bad or obsolete overtime, and this allows you to change HDMI as needed.
- Video Distribution – I wrote about prewiring for Video Distribution in detail here. What I’ll say here, is that even with all the chord cutting, I still believe you should prewire for Video Distribution.
2. Primary & Secondary Surround Sounds
Most people consider prewiring surround in their main media room or theater. You should also consider prewiring for Secondary Surrounds.
The goal here is simply to provide more volume in larger rooms where flatscreen TVs won’t have the speaker power to fill the room.
The applications are endless: Master, Covered Deck, Pool, Great Room, etc. If there’s a room where you could enjoy more sound, consider a soundbar or full surround.
You need to make a decision about where to locate your receiver. You can ‘localize’ the receiver in the room where it will be used, but if you’re doing Video Distribution you’ll want it in the Media Rack.
When I prewire a home personally, this is where I will be the most aggressive. I’ve been known to wire in multiple rooms of free audio.
Almost without question, once a Client experiences Home Audio, they want more of it. Showers, bathrooms, Covered Decks, Front Porch, Landscape Speakers, etc.
If you are going to spend any time at all in a room of the house, I would consider prewiring it for Audio. We even have clients prewire hallways, and walkways for parties.
Landscape speakers are designed so that you can hear the volume as loudly as you want, but without disturbing the neighbors.
If you’re thinking about landscape speakers, you need to decide how many zones you may want and prewire accordingly.
We typically pull wire to a junction box at the side of the home. Later when the landscaping is finished, we use that as a connection point and run the rest of the wire outside.
Cable, Satellite, & Internet Providers
- Point of Demarcation (also called the Demarc) – This is a location on the exterior of the home where Cable, Phone and Internet Service providers connect their services.
- Satellite Prewire – A satellite prewire prevents the home from being ‘wrapped’ where the Satellite company staples wire around the side of your home. Sat Prewires, are usually run to a location in the soffit nearest the Satellite location.
- Satellite Internet – Similar to the Satellite Prewire for TV, you can run wire to the attic or soffit if you plan to use Satellite Internet
- Satellite Heaters – If you live in a colder climate, you can run a low voltage wire to power a heater that can melt snow off the satellite.
Service Providers can be very particular about the wire used for these applications. Some will even provide their own cable for you to pull, and some even have approved lists of cable you can use.
If you’re planning to prewire yourself, I highly recommend contacting your local service providers to verify their cable requirements for these applications.
Surveillance Cameras should be prewired. A lot of clients ask about wireless cameras, but with few exceptions wireless cameras still need power.
If you’re going to run a cable for power anyway, it makes sense to run a Cat6. You can hardline it into the network, and send it power over the same wire.
With Home Security we like to prewire the keypads for power. This keeps the keypad installs clean and void of power adapters.
Beyond the keypads you can reliably cover the home with wireless sensors. Some larger homes struggle with the wireless range, and can benefit from hardwired sensors.
Likewise, if you’re using iron or metal doors and windows, those can cause interference with the wireless signals. We take the security prewire on a case by case basis.
Network & Wifi
- Hardwired Network – Wifi is great, but you still want to hardwire into the network where we can. It’s best to hardwire TVs, and Video sources into the network. Likewise Ethernet ports anywhere you may want a hardwired connection.
- Wifi Hotspots – I’ve learned that it’s best to leave yourself options for Wifi Hotspots. I usually prewire more locations than I actually believe I will need. This gives me the option to move Hot Spots around later, and find the maximum coverage.
Lets talk about a hardwired vs wireless network real quick. Wireless devices share the bandwidth. If you have 100 Mbps of bandwidth, all 10 wireless devices will be sharing the same 100 Mbps.
Additionally, wireless networks play to the lowest common denominator. So if you have an older wireless device on the network, it will slow down the whole wifi.
Imagine a freeway during rush hour, and all the cars fighting for inches. That’s your wireless network with too many wireless devices using it at the same moment.
In contrast, items hardline into a Gigabit Network switch, get 1,000 Mbps per device. That’s like each car in rush hour traffic getting the carpool lane to itself.
I should just call this Miscellaneous. There’s a number of things you can prewire in your home to give you greater control.
- iPad Mounts, Tablets & Wall Stations – Charging stations for your iPads are very popular. Systems like Control4 and Savant also have their own tablets that wall mount. We wire standard for these in common areas, and theaters, but you can wire them anywhere.
- Doorbells – Have the electrician wire the doorbell the same way it’s always done. Then add a Cat6, and a 22/4 wire for good measure. There’s so many Video Doorbell solutions, and they all integrate a little differently Smart Home platform, to platform. This keeps your options open.
- Fireplace – If you have a switched fireplace, you want to run a 22/4 wire to the Fireplace Switch box. Later this can be used to tie into the switch, and control your fireplace.
So What’s The Next Step?
If you’re thinking about prewiring your own home, or if you just want to understand it better we can help. We’ve put together 3 resources to help you feel like a Pro.
- ‘How To Prewire Your Home’ Blog Series
- How To Prewire Your Smart Home – ebook
- Our Prewire Design Services
Matt is a co-founder and lead systems designer for TYM LLC. His smart home and audio/visual designs have won three “Home of the Year Awards” from Electronic House & CE Pro magazine, and two awards from the Consumer Technology Association, including "Home Theater of the Year", and "Custom Smart Home of the Year".
Matt is a golden State fan.