Wiring for Today’s High-Tech Homes
More and more home-builders are including control and communications cabling in new residences to attract forward-looking buyers. The low-voltage cabling, which adds from a few hundred to thousands of dollars to the cost of a single-family home, appeals especially to technically savvy professionals, says Jay Lippman. He's marketing director for the Bennett Corporation, which builds condominiums and single-family homes ranging in price from the low $100,000s to $800,000 and more. Bennett operates in the suburbs of Seattle where many hi-tech employees of Boeing and Microsoft reside. According to Lippman, many of his buyers have two and sometimes three PCs in their homes.
Bennett Corporation subcontracts installation of OnQ™ structured wiring packages to OnQ's local distributor, Smart Systems. The packages, which are made by AMP, Inc., employ a hub-and-spoke system emanating from a modular control panel. In addition to enhancing phone communications, Internet accessibility and cable TV, many other amenities can be controlled by cabling from this panel. Most common are security, air conditioning, indoor and outdoor lighting, music, intercoms, and tiny closed-circuit TV cameras aimed at visitors at entrance doors connected to every home TV. One homeowner actually controls the temperature of a fish tank from the panel, according to Lippman. The extra cabling also appeals to purchasers who want to install well-equipped home offices.
After they contract for their homes, many purchasers specify add-on features directly from Smart Systems. Cindy Dietz reports the same trend. She's an operations manager with Centex, one of the nation's largest builders. "Enhanced 'control/comm' cabling is now standard for more than half the 800 homes we will build in the Dallas area this year," says Dietz.
The Dallas division of Centex, called Centex North, subcontracts installation of enhanced "control/comm" cabling to Lanehart Electrical Contractors, Inc., Irving, Texas. Don Mickey, a vice president with Lanehart, notes that heavier-duty power cabling is often ordered to support all the devices served by the control/communications cabling. In addition to AMP, Lanehart obtains parts and cabling from a variety of sources, including Lucent Technologies.
According to Michael Avery, Smart Systems director of engineering, three quarters of the wiring in OnQ™ packages is Category 5 cabling. James D. Devin, national sales manager for AMP's Dallas-based Building Systems Division, says it offers a variety of OnQ™ cabling packages for smaller homes and ranging up to large apartment houses.
According to Gopal Ahlu-walia, director of research for the National Association of Home Builders, Washington, D.C., the last few recessions in home buying have created a fundamental shift: "Instead of building tract homes and then trying to sell them, builders now try to sell before building. This provides opportunities to include options like security systems and other enhancements requiring a lot of control cabling."
Retrofitting Existing Homes
It's obviously much easier and cheaper to install hundreds of feet of enhanced cabling at the time of construction rather than afterwards. Nevertheless, small local operators are now offering retrofit installation. For handy homeowners, there are even do-it-yourself packages to implement cabling enhancements. MicroWarehouse, a national mailorder vendor of cabling, offers "Category 5 Installation Kits" for $280. The kits include crimping and stripping tools, a test instrument and 1,000 feet of the cable - enough to wire a very large home or a small business. Mickey of Lanehart says that occasionally a frustrated homeowner hires his firm's professionals to finish the job after botching a do-it-yourself installation of "control/comm" cabling.
AMP Building Systems: 800/321-2343
Centex North: 972/221-5556
Linehart Electrical: 972/721-1004
Lucent Technologies: 888/458-2368
Smart Systems: 425/831-5922
Also in this Issue:
- Versatile Prepatinated Copper
- Copper Scales New Heights
- Copper Is Cooler for Cars
- Copper Contributes to Big Engines that Can
- Wiring for Today’s High-Tech Homes
- Undersea Oil Platforms Rigged with Copper