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After rewiring our home on the electrical side of things we knew that we should take advantage of the holes in the house to also run network wiring. While this was rather a large pain in the posterior we wanted to be able to push all kinds of content throughout the house and wireless just wasn't up to the job (think recorded television shows, music, webcams, VoIP and whatever else the future might bring). So we set about wiring the house with Cat5e (for data and voice) and Coax (for television signals).

 

We decided not to use one wire for more than one jack (even though you could get two jacks off of a single Cat5e cable when using 10/100 mbps networking) because we were looking forward to having a Gigabit network one day (which uses all four pairs of wires inside the Cat5e cable). With a "server room / wiring closet" in the basement as our starting point for all of the wires we set about running two pairs of Cat5e and one Coax cable to the bedrooms and misc cables to just about every other room in the house. We spared the bathrooms (look if you really have to surf on the throne you're going to have to use wireless - okay) and the dining room but that was about it. The office and the living room got a few extra runs for good measure.

 

We used a good chunk of two 1000 foot rolls of Cat5e, Solid copper core RG6 Coax, Leviton wall jacks and mounting brackets and many, many drill bits and saw blades. For the server room we used old IBDN jacks that we had lying around with the plan being to replace them with a patch panel one day. All in all we have found the setup to be quite functional. We can patch analog or VoIP phone service, data connections and TV from just about any room to any other room simply by swapping a few cables down in the basement. We figure that by the time we're done we'll need an entire 48 port switch to keep all the jacks live.

 

Some notes on installing your own wiring:
Get at least as many spools / boxes of wiring as you are planning on running to each room. That way you are only pulling the wires along the same route once (I.e. pull both wires at the same time for two jacks). While pulling the wires try not to put too much strain on them and make sure that you don't bend them anywhere too sharply. Sharp bends will mess up their ability to transmit their signals without noise. You should also try not to run them too close to your main electrical wiring. When crossing electrical wiring make sure you do so at a 90 angle so as to reduce the chance of interference. Pick a wiring standard and stick with it. We use T568A for all of our wiring. If you mix and match your cables won't work and you brain is liable to explode.

 

Make sure you test your cables right away with a good quality network tester. We found a great tester at LANshack.com that has a really neat design. It comes with multiple remote units. That way you can run some wires, punch them down to the jacks and hook up the remote units. You go to the other end and terminate them as well. Then you just test each cable one after the other without having to go back and forth between the two ends. If you are running multiple cables to a single location this saves a ton of time. Since each remote has a unique number associated with it you can even tell the cables apart using this tool.

 

For actually terminating the cables we would highly recommend getting a real punch down tool with a cutting end. This is way easier to use compared to the cheap little plastic tool that Leviton includes with the Quick Port jacks. We would recommend using 110 style punch down components (the Quick Port jacks are 110 style) because it is by far the most common these days and you can get a good punch down tool without spending a fortune on it (unlike BIX style punch tools).

 

If you are using DSL you should make sure that you run your phone line directly to your splitter and then from there to whatever other phone wiring you have in your home. By going to the splitter first you make sure that you will get the least interference possible and will ensure the best speeds and stability from your modem. You may even get better sounding phone calls. Instead of having filters all over the house you just have one. If you have the added joy of an alarm system you want to make sure that the phone lines goes to the DSL splitter first. Then one line comes out from the splitter directly to the DSL modem. The other line goes to the alarm system disconnection jack and then to the rest of the phones in your house. This way your interent access won't be interrupted by the alarm system communicating with the monitoring station but you will still have the safety of the disconnection jack. The DSL splitter won't interfere with the alarm system. Most alarm system installers don't have a clue about this sort of thing.

Equipment

We are currently using the following equipment:
  • Switch: 3Com Baseline Switch 2848-SFP Plus - 48 port 10/100/1000 copper (3C16486)
  • Network Jacks / Wall plates: Leviton quick port series
  • UPS: Tripp-Lite SMART 900 LCD
  • Cabling Data/Voice: Cat5e twisted pair
  • Cabling TV: Solid copper core RG6 Coax
  • Wireless Access Point: Linksys WRT54G
  • TV Signal Amplifier: Some ancient old Radio Shack thing
  • DSL Signal Spliter / DSL Filter: Westel
  • Patch Panel: Trendnet 48 port Cat5e patch panel (TC-P48C5E)
  • DSL Modem: Alcatel Speedtouch Home
  • Firewall: Home built LINUX box running Debian
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