Investigate the advantages and disadvantages of adding structured cable to your product mix. Start-u

The one word of financial advice given to Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate” is “plastics.” Today, the two words of financial advice for you might be “structured cable.”

Thanks to the explosive growth of home offices, the proliferation of enhanced entertainment services and the heightened awareness of home automation benefits, the demand for structured cable has increased. Structured cable is being used to facilitate the wiring of homes and apartments for voice, video and data.

“With more than 1.6 million new residential units being built each year, the residential structured cable market has the potential of doubling each year as we approach the millenium,” says John Pryma, vice president & general manager, structured cable division for Genesis Cable Systems in Pleasant Prairie, Wis.

Some security dealers have already seen and taken advantage of the potential. Tony Whitmer, installation supervisor for Honeywell in Celebration, Fla., says the company has tripled its revenues since it added structured cable to its product mix of sound and security systems.

A number of manufacturers offer the cable, hardware, tools and test equipment required for a residential structured cable installation. All of these items should be available from most security product distributors.

In addition to the cable, information outlets and cabinet, installers will need a punch-down tool for terminating the unshielded, twisted- pair cable, a coaxial cable stripping and crimping tool, and a tester with which to verify that the connections are made correctly.

The total cost should be no more than $500. However, if doing commercial installations, plan on purchasing a Category 5 tester, which completely characterizes the installation up to 100MHz. These testers range from $3,000 to $5,000.

Structured Cable Consists of 3 Elements

Commercial building structured cable consists of three elements for voice and data: the cable, which is 4-pair unshielded, twisted-pair; the connector, which is an eight-position modular plug; and the allowable distance, which is limited to 100 meters (328 feet). This distance consists of 90 meters (295 feet) of solid cable and 10 meters (33 feet) of stranded patch cord at both ends.

Residential structured cable follows the same rules, but coaxial cable is added to accommodate video. In business applications, the maximum cable drop distance is from the wiring closet on each floor to the information outlet in each office. In the home, this distance is from the telecommunications cabinet or panel, usually located in the basement, garage or utility room, to the information outlet.

Commercial structured cable installations are governed by ANSI/TIA/EIA-568A, which was first issued in 1991 and updated in 1995. This standard recommends installing a minimum of one voice cable (Category 3 or better), and one data cable (Category 5) to each information outlet. In an office building, there is usually one outlet per 100 square feet of floor space, the size of a typical 10-foot X 10-foot modular furniture cubicle.

Installs Help ‘Future-Proof’ Homes

Already many homeowners want to connect to satellite and receive pay-per-view channels. Also, many corporations are putting their salespeople into home offices; a move that helps salespeople by eliminating their commute to headquarters.

As a result, when these salespeople bring home a computer, fax machine and other equipment, they often find that the wiring in their homes is inadequate. A house with structured cable could easily handle the demands of that type of environment.

An updated residential wiring standard, ANSI/TIA/IEA-570A will be published later this year. It will recommend two runs of Category 5 cable to each information outlet (one for voice and the other for data) and two quad-shielded RG-6 coaxial cables (one for satellite and the other for local programming).

A typical home will have one or two information outlets in each room, for a total of six to 12 outlets. Regardless of what protocols are developed in the future, this type of infrastructure assures consumers that their homes are “future-proofed.”

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