How to properly wire your smart home for security, cameras, audio and video

Planning your Smart Home

 
In this day and age of “the internet of things”, with more and more networked devices in our lives, It’s a good idea to consider the type of low voltage wiring you plan to have behind the walls to support it all .  I’ll give you some things you may want to think about if you are considering having security, cameras, speakers or home automation hardware in your smart home or business.
 

Security System considerations

For a security system, you’ll want to think about what devices you plan on having in your home.  Some common examples are:

– Door contacts on exterior doors, some people choose to put contacts on garage overhead and man doors as well.

– Motion detectors in common areas.  They should be installed pointing into the room away from windows.

– Smoke detectors.  Should be on each floor and 3 feet away from any ceiling corner due to “dead space” air not moving there.

– Keypads and their locations.  The main entry and exit door are standard, also if you have a door coming inside from the garage it’s not a bad idea to put another keypad there so you don’t have to rush across the house when arming/disarming. It’s not a bad idea to run a 2nd cable to one of your keypads as well, for redundancy.

If you only run one keypad cable, and it gets cut or nicked by a drywall screw, you are in a bit of a jam. In that case, you’ll have to install a battery-powered keypad and a transceiver near your panel to communicate with that keypad. That’s at least a few hundred dollars more because of a cut or faulty wire.

Some other less common, but very handy devices include flood detectors on sump pumps or near hot water tanks,  Carbon monoxide(CO) detectors, and glass breaks.  All of the devices above will have 22 gauge, 4 conductor(called station Z or alarm wire) run to them from the main security panel.

It’s also a good idea to run a CAT5E or CAT6 cable from your security system main panel to a port on your internet router or switch as well.  Most times they are both in a downstairs utility room but sometimes the service provider will place their equipment elsewhere. 

Most security systems nowadays can be connected to the internet to allow you control of your system remotely from your phone, tablet or PC.  Many people are getting rid of their landline, so this allows another form of communication to a central monitoring station if you chose to have the system monitored professionally.

Another great option nowadays is to self monitor your system, to eliminate monthly monitoring fees. Using an internet module like the EVL-4, from Eyez-on, you can get a text message or email from your system if there’s an emergency. At that point, you can contact the authorities if necessary. Check out our Security course for a full walkthrough on how to install and set-up these units.

Camera System considerations

There isn’t too much to think about with the camera system pre-wire.  Most camera systems nowadays are IP cameras that are POE, or Power Over Ethernet.  This means that all you have to bring to these cameras is an ethernet cable(CAT5E or CAT6). That cable will power the camera and also send the video data down the line to the video recorder.  Similar to the security system, you’ll want to bring an ethernet cable from the video recorder to a port on your router or switch as well for remote viewing purposes.

For outdoor cameras, underneath the soffit is a good place to mount cameras for typical residences.  This allows you to drill a 1-inch hole and put your connections in the soffit behind the camera, out of view and the weather.  This method also keeps the rain and snow off your camera so that you aren’t dealing with moisture on the dome or lens that is messing up the picture quality.

If you’d rather not drill a hole in your soffit, most cameras have matching back boxes that can house your connections. Going this route, you only have a couple of small screw holes into the soffit. The downside is that the camera does appear larger because of the back box that it’s attached to.

Home Automation considerations

There are so many different smart home automation options coming out lately that things can get a bit confusing sorting it all out. There are newer systems like Apple Homekit, Samsung Smart things, Google Home, and others that allow the end user to do some basic home automation in regards to their lighting, security, temperature control and music, among other options. 

Control 4, Crestron, and Savant are a few names that offer more robust systems.  These systems usually require a professional integrator to help with the install and programming as they are much more in-depth and often require different licenses to use and set-up.

I’ll just go over a few things you may want to do during your pre-wire so that you leave your networking/smart home automation options wide open for the future.

You’ll want to chose a location in your home, usually a utility closet or simply an A/V rack, to have all your networking/AV equipment in a central location.  This is where you’ll want your TV/internet/phone service provider to set up their router and other equipment.  From there, you’ll need to spread throughout the house to the TV, phone, wifi extender, or doorbell(if you want something like a “Ring” video doorbell) locations.

For TV’s, as a rule of thumb, its a good idea to bring at least 3 CAT6 cables to each location.  Using an HDMI extender like this, you can use a single CAT6 cable to bring 1080p or 4K video from a device(cable or satellite receiver/Bluray/AppleTV etc.) in your AV closet in the basement, to the back of your wall mounted upstairs bedroom TV, with no visible clutter. 

For 4K video transmission which we are seeing more of now, there are some options, but they are a bit pricier.  In my opinion, its better to spend the few extra dollars for the added bandwidth that Cat6 can handle to future proof the home as much as possible.  There’s no shortage of uses for the other CAT6 cables, including:

– Hardwiring one into the back of your Smart TV for a faster connection than wireless(good for Netflix, Youtube, etc.).

– Hardwiring your XBOX, PS4, AppleTV, or Android box for faster speeds and less buffering.

– hooking up a wifi extender for better coverage in the home.

– Plugging one into a switch to allow even more ethernet ports at that location.

As you can see, there are a lot of positives to setting up your home electronics in a central location like this.  For your other devices, a single CAT 6 cable to that location will work fine.  This includes: land line phone locations through the home, wifi extender locations, and video doorbell locations.

For most other Home automation devices, wifi is all that is required.  Many of the systems I mentioned above use standard wifi or a wireless technology called Zigbee which connects the devices to the main brains of the system.  Have a look at some of these systems and whatever extent you’d like to bring your home automation project to, there will be a solution that should work for you.

Speaker System considerations

Even with the newer wireless, wifi and Bluetooth speakers on the market, having hardwired speakers throughout the house gives you many options with great sound quality.  This isn’t always possible if your home is completely finished. If you are dealing with a finished home, it’s not impossible, but it is more challenging and can involve running wires in a stifling attic. Been there, done that, not a lot of fun. This is why when the walls are open, it’s a good idea to take advantage of the situation and install some in-ceiling or exterior patio speakers.

In the video at the beginning of his post, I go over the pre-wire of a multi-room, whole home audio system.  Russound is a big name in this space, with great hardware and ease of use, although they require the installer to be certified through them to activate the equipment.  These systems can range from 4 zone(speaker pairs), 6 zone, 8 zone or more. 

Each speaker pair(or zone) runs back to a central location, to the brains of the system.  There are many different options for the control of these systems, from keypads on the wall in each zones room to cell phone or tablet control.  There are many options for music sources as well, including:

– Hooking an AppleTV up to the system so that you can air play the audio from your iphone/ipad through the home speakers(music library, youtube, netflix, etc.)

– Using the Russound app to stream music online(Spotify, pandora, SiriusXM, Airplay, etc.)

– Connecting the system to your TV/Satellite box to hear the audio through the overhead speakers throughout the house.

– Connecting a 1/8″ pin into the port on your phone or tablet to listen to the audio throughout the house.

If your home is already finished, there are some great wireless/wifi options available.  Sonos is the big name in this space and although I don’t own one, I have used this system.  I was impressed with the sound quality and there were no wifi connection drops in the hours I was listening. 

If your aim is to have something that will be staying put, these Sonos set-ups may be right for you.  Keep in mind that if you are looking for something more portable, you may want to choose an option with battery, Bluetooth capabilities, and an auxiliary port as well.  My wife and I own one of these Bose Bluetooth speakers and use it all the time.

To re-cap:

SECURITY SYSTEMS –

– All devices get 22 guage/4 conductor wiring to them, wired back to security panel.

– Cat5e or Cat 6 from panel to internet port on router.

CAMERA SYSTEMS –

– All Cameras get Cat5e or Cat6 to them if you’re going with an IP system. These are wired back to the video recorder.

– Cat5e or Cat6 from video recorder to internet port on router.

SMART HOME AUTOMATION –

– Three runs of Cat6 from AV rack to TV locations if you are going with a centralized area for AV equipment.

– Cat6 will work for land line phone locations through the home, wifi extender locations, and video doorbell locations.

SPEAKERS –

– If you’re going with a multi room system, a pair of speaker cables to each zone in the home, run back to the AV rack.

– Cables to the sources you want feeding the system(appletv, 1/8″ jack, radio, tv, etc).  Check video below for more info on these.

– Cat5e or Cat 6 to internet port from main audio system to access internet radio, streaming, etc.

 

Check out our training videos and articles that go over many different aspects of home security to help keep your belongings safe.

Also, check out our Shop, where we have the equipment you’ll need to get a professional system set-up for a fraction of the price.

Let me know below if you have any questions or comments!

Kyle

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *