Unfortunately most existing homes aren't likely to have installed the wiring required to run advanced home automation systems. As such, one of the most important things that you need to do to prepare your home to be a smart home is to run the necessary cables. This may sound like a daunting task, but don't fret as during our design process we take care of all of this for you! This article will give you an insight into the four main cable types that we use and what they do.
This is often referred to as Coax cable and has a couple of main uses. Classically it is used to carry TV signal and will be seen at the back of your TV and running up the side of your house to your Freeview aerial or your satellite dish. The other time where you may see coaxial cable is when it is used to deliver audio signal to a Subwoofer (this is the big speaker that produces the low-pitched audio frequencies). There is nothing wrong with this even though normally phono cable is used. You will often hear coax referred to as RG6, CT100 or WF100. This cable is made up of a centre copper core which is surrounded by a dielectric insulator, a metallic shield (commonly a copper foil tape wrapped in a copper clad braid) and then plastic sheath.
In terms of connectors there are two types that you will see.
1. The F type. This is commonly used as a satellite connector
2. The coaxial plug (male and female). This is commonly used to connect your TV to the wall socket
This is the real workhorse of the smart home cable and can be known as Ethernet cable, data cable or Cat5/Cat6. It is normally seen connecting into computers, laptops, IP telephones and will deliver large amounts of data at high speed. It is also used in the 'background' of home automation systems, connecting touch screens, TVs, CCTV cameras, home automation processors and many more. All of the current 'Cat' cables are made up or 8 individual thin copper wires, which are twisted into pairs and then enclosed into an insulating jacket. Cat6 is the current preferred choice as it has increase protection from interference due to its construction and is capable of data speeds for up to 10 Gigabit Ethernet.
Most Cat cables that you by will have the RJ45 module (this end bit which plugs into your data socket!) already connected so you don't need to worry about fitting one which can be tricky if you don't know what you're doing.
HDMI or High-Definition Multimedia Interface cables are designed to carry high definition signal, primarily over short distances. They are normally found in the back of the TV connecting a high definition source, say a Blu Ray player or Sky HD/ SkyQ box to the high definition television. The two cable options, for the majority of users, are HDMI standard and HDMI high speed*. In short use HDMI standard for standard HD picture and the high speed cable for any 4K/UHD content. It is also worth noting that you do not need to spend a fortune on HDMI cabling. A quick search on the internet will highlight how expensive this cable can be for no additional benefit. As long as it is HDMI certified then you will be fine.
This is the cable that connects your speakers to the source that you are playing music from. It is normally a twin cable and comes in a variety of colours and styles, which are largely irrelevant in terms of choosing the correct cable. It can be overwhelming when looking at speakers and cables as the terminology can be confusing, however I will try and make it as simple as possible for you. Resistance, is by far the most important consideration when choosing a speaker cable, and the easy way to understand it is the thicker the cable, the lower the resistance and the lower resistance the better. Wire thickness is identified by its American Wire Gauge (AWG) number and the lower the number the thicker the wire. So what does all that mean? 16 or 14 AWG cable is usually fine for a speaker with an impedance of 8 ohms (this will be given on the speaker packaging) which is the most common for domestic installations. That said if the speakers impedance is different to 8ohm remember; the lower the speaker impedance, the lower the gauge is needed to prevent degradation.
Most speaker cable that you buy at the shops will have the connectors already attached but if the cable doesn't then you can attach a banana plug to the end which in turn will plug into the vast majority of speakers or amplifier. There are many styles of banana plug but again you don't need to spend a fortune to get the results.
Although a quick canter through the cables that you will likely come across when installing an AV or home automation system, hopefully this article will have taken some of the mystery away and given you a basic understanding of what is used, where and why. Clearly technology does evolve, however the principles that apply to cables haven't and although we have much superior data speeds from even five years ago, the basic makeup of the cables still remain the same and there is no indication that this is due to change in the near future.
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