Over the years I have been asked a number of times, “if this was your home what would you do differently?”
At first the question was hard to answer, but over time I realised that the way I would cable the home is for “me”, and that is the way I advise my clients they should have their own home cabled.
The important thing with any new house is the personalisation of the build to make it into YOUR home. Selecting the right cabling/security/automation requirements is just as important as the tiles, curtains, carpets or tapware. Never look to cable a house based upon what will get more with the resale; cable based upon the requirements of your family and what you will use on a daily basis, whilst still giving you the ability to grow if required.
For me, this is a mix of things. Adequate hard wired internet coverage, good wifi, multiroom audio, security and home theatre.
Technology is an every changing landscape, but there have always been some constants. Below are the four items which I believe are the most important to look at for a new home.
ACHIEVING GOOD WIFI
Let me explain
The National Broadband Network (NBN) has been one of the biggest overhauls of infrastructure in Australia in our Generation. Whilst the roll out hasn’t been smooth sailing – changes of government policy on what the NBN should be – it has changed the face of what we believe/want internet to be for our own homes.
There are a number of different methods NBN Fixed Line Infrastructure can be delivered to a home – Fibre to the Premise (FTTP), Fibre to the Curb (FTTC), Fibre to the Node (FTTN), Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) ….. confusing I know…. But all request the same thing. The house to be built “Fibre compliant”. Meaning that when the time comes that they wish to change FTTN/C into FTTP the owner can do so without recabling their home.
Fibre Compliancy isn’t just for NBN areas, but also for all Private Fibre Providers in WA – Telstra Fibre, Opticomm, LBNco etc.
Some of these Fibre Providers you may have never heard of, but they are in a number of estates around WA. It is important that your builder and cabler understand the requirements for your estate before cabling your home.
STRUCTURED CABLING AND ACHIEIVING GOOD WIFI
Now you will see here I haven’t called it smart wiring. Structured Cabling is the industry term for an organised form of cabling infrastructure within a home, typically back through a Cabling Enclosure – such as Clipsal’s StarServe Panel.
It can however, be as simple as data connections running back to a centralised location for where the home router is located.
The requirement for hardwired internet over the years has shifted from PC/Office locations, to Living, Theatre, Activity areas in the home. Why? Smart TV’s, Foxtel Now, Games Consoles, Streaming Services, Control Systems and so on. These devices are now more data hungry than your PC, and require a more stable internet connection than a strictly wireless setup can offer.
This being said, Wired and Wireless Networks BOTH have a place in a home. It’s just making sure that both sides of the network are Balanced. The devices that need hardwired internet get it, and the ones that can work fine wirelessly don’t. The general rule I follow is that if a device doesn’t move (ie. A TV) put a cable to it.
Wireless Internet is an unpredictable beast for any home, and even some of the smallest homes can suffer the same issues as the largest houses we deal with. Think of WiFI as a Golf Ball. When it first hit its carrying a lot of energy (data), but over distance the energy dissipates to where it eventually stops. WiFI does the same thing, it slows down over distance to where it is unusable. WiFI Standards have improved over the years to allow it to carry more data, however the better a WiFI Standard gets (eg. Changing from wireless G, to N, to AC) the less distance it can travel. The way you overcome bad wifi and improve range is by installing devices called Wireless Access Points. How do these devices work? They are plugged into a Data connection. So in essence, the way to improve wireless coverage in a home is to make sure there is a strong hardwired backbone to begin with.
One will never replace the other, they work in harmony together.
Smart Lighting is BIG. Automation and Lighting control has been around for a number of years, however it has typically been associated with high end builds due to the larger outlay cost for the control infrastructure for the home. This is now changing and becoming more affordable for the everyday person building a home.
Clipsal C-Bus is still the pinnacle of hardwired lighting control, and will always be the go to for larger scale projects due to its proven track record and hardwired stability, however there are new players on the market who are offering retrofittable solutions which are very scalable.
Clipsal’s new Iconic BLE Range, Fibaro, Environexus, Control4 and others are options that home owners can investigate AFTER the build has been completed as long as their Electrician has run a Neutral Wire to each switch location.
The way that these systems works is a module or “Puck” is installed in line with the lighting circuit and provides controllable lighting from an app, or, in some more advanced cables like Fibaro and Control4 Automation and Integrated control. Eg. When 6pm hits, turn on my night time welcome scene – front garden lights on, porch lights on etc.
What I do love about these systems is that they are modular and scalable. Clients can choose to do 1 room (The Theatre) or the whole house. They can choose to have some areas done in year 1, and the others in year 10. Its no longer a case of “do it now or forever hold your piece”
Some of the larger building groups in WA are now offering Neutral Wiring as a standard in their builds, make sure to ask the question of your builder as it isn’t an expensive upgrade to enable you to grow in lighting automation at a later time.
I have just completed a renovation at my home and I have had neutral wiring run into my Sunken Lounge room which will be a home theatre. What I am MOST excited about is the ability to dim the lights as my movie starts without having to get off the couch, lazy I know, but how cool is it to complete that movie feel at your own home!
New Technology always breeds healthy but confusing competition between the different offerings. We had Betamax and VHS, we had Bluray and HD-DVD, we now have Smart Fittings and Smart Modules. What happened in past will happen again. One rules out over to the other.
Where are we hedging out bets? Smart Modules.
Lighting Control has bread a number of new options for the home, and whilst some of these are a DIY style system which can be screwed into existing fittings (bayonets etc) others are LED’s with Smart’s built into the globe itself. These options do have merit as they provide a simple way to get app driven lighting into a home, however the issue we see with these options is that if the a Bulb/LED fails, and the company supplying the fittings has decided to stop making them, what happens? You can’t replace it with a different brand of LED/BULB as it won’t work with the platform. Your lighting automation falls over.
The advantage of Smart Modules or Pucks is that they are fitting agnostic. The Puck itself automates the switch and circuit. So you can basically have control over any type of fitting in the home. Bayonet, Blade Light, Halogen, LED, Oyster, Pendant and so on. If you chose to change from Oyster Lights to LED when you want to upgrade the look of your home you can do so without worrying if the automation will continue to work.
Z-Wave and Zigbee Automation are industry standards which means that, if say, a Fibaro Z-Wave Dimming Module Breaks, and you need to replace it, you could pick up a different brand of Z-Wave module and have it work with the same platform
Building your new home can be a daunting experience, but it doesn’t have to be. Your cabling professional (System Integrator) should be there for as much of your selections journey as your pre-start coordinator is for the tiles/finishing’s/styles for the home.
If you need any information on the complicated aspects just ask. There are no stupid questions.