View Full Version : Home Networking

Hirka T'Bawa
03-30-2004, 08:25 PM
We are in the planning stages of getting a house built. I'm looking into getting the house pre-wired with ethernet cables so I can network computers around the house, and I have some questions.

I was thinking about having ethernet jacks on the walls, so I could just plug a regular ethernet cable into them and have it work. Who would do something like this? How do I tell the builder what exactly it is I want? Does anyone know around how much this will cost?

Would a better way to do this be wireless networking? How reliable is it now? Would it be as fast as regular ethernet?

Thank y'all for your help.

03-30-2004, 09:06 PM
Around here it's called structured wiring. I'm an installer and the place I contract to uses several different products. Essentially what happens is for each desired location we run 2 Cat 5e and 2 coaxial RG6 lines. You can mix and match however you like or just add single runs to other rooms also. All the lines run back to a panel in the basement. Each panel has several options as to what type of toys you want inside. You can have just a basic phone and cable set up or have an amplified video module and integrated network hub. Most people I've seen just get the builder's standard starter module and stick a Linksys hub in the panel.

Here are a couple of links to products I'm familiar with.



I like the Leviton stuff better than the Homedirector stuff. I also just saw some samples of a GE product and another that I can't remember the name of. I still like the Leviton gear better.

Your builder should know somebody that offers this type of wiring as an option package if they don't already include it as a standard.

03-30-2004, 09:15 PM
Wireless networking is really coming into its own now so I'd doubt that you'd find it more cost effective to pre-wire a home with ethernet. You'd need to anticpiate every place you'd want to use a PC in the design if you put wire in the walls and you'd need enough hub ports to accomidate moving around. You wouldn't want to have to go to your wiring closit and have to rejumper connections if you decide to take your laptop out to the patio.

I just saw a D-link 802.11G starter kit at Costco for about $110. It supports the highest current speed and includes a router and a PC card adapter for a laptop. It also has four wired ports so you don't have to get a wireless adapter for every machine. I've got a similar type B setup and even the slower speed was not a bottleneck when using cable modem with my laptop. Add an extended range antenna if you need to get through walls and you'll be setup with much less hassle.

03-31-2004, 12:09 AM
Go wireless. The hardware costs of a whole-house wired network and especially the labor charges would be more expensive. It would also result in more limited usage scenarios.

The only advantage offered by a wired network currently would be faster delivery of digital video but wireless standards will soon equal that. Other than that, a contemporary wireless "g" network is plenty fast for Internet access, LAN file sharing, and music serving.

Also consider the artifacts a wired network would burden your house with. A few friends live in late fifties and early sixties ultra modern houses that had a whole house intercom system. After the third glass of wine someone always manages to start making fun of the goofy looking wall boxes.

03-31-2004, 03:05 AM
Structured cabling is still a better option than wireless networking in some instances because you can run other things across the same cabling - phone lines, KVM extensions, intercoms etc.

Another alternative is LAN over mains wiring - I've seen a couple of relatively low-cost Network adaptors for this (here's (http://www.lindy.com/uk/productfolder/02/25120/index.php) one, but this is a UK model).

It depends what you want to do. Wireless may be simpler if you just want to network a few machines.

03-31-2004, 03:17 AM
We are in the planning stages of getting a house built. I'm looking into getting the house pre-wired with ethernet cables so I can network computers around the house, and I have some questions.

I was thinking about having ethernet jacks on the walls, so I could just plug a regular ethernet cable into them and have it work. Who would do something like this? How do I tell the builder what exactly it is I want? Does anyone know around how much this will cost?

Would a better way to do this be wireless networking? How reliable is it now? Would it be as fast as regular ethernet?

Thank y'all for your help.

When I worked for a home builder , the wiring was done at the same time as the electrical , since they , at least up here , went the same way. If the house is still at the foundation/stud stage , go hard wired, your builder should point you to the nearest contractor that does this.

If its past the stud stage , the house has already been drywalled , then yeah it probably would be less hassles to go wireless.


03-31-2004, 04:25 AM
Go wireless
I disagree.

The house is still being built. At this point would probably be trivial in both time and cost to run ethernet lines at the same time as power, coaxial, etc are being run.

Wired networks are vastly superior to wireless. With wired you will have full throughput throughout the house. With wireless throughput is limited by distance and obstructions between the node and access point. Also, with wireless the available bandwidth is shared by all nodes. On a wired, switched network two pairs of nodes can converse and not affect the throughput of each other.

With wired you don't have to worry about wireless channel availability. With 802.11b/g networks, there are really only three usable channels (1, 6, 11; North America). If three nearby neighbors happen to already have wireless set up it's quite likely that you'll have trouble with interference from one. You can reduce the likelihood of this by using 802.11a equipment, but it's generally more expensive and range is more of an issue.

There's also the security issue. Given a little effort someone could snoop your activities (not a huge deal if all you're doing is Internet browsing, but still). Also, if you set up the access point incorrectly it's possible that someone could leech off of your internet connection or screw around with your systems.

Also consider equipment costs. Wireless access points, NICs, etc. can cost up to 2-3 times more than the equivalent wired setup. I think it's almost impossible anymore to buy a PC/Mac that doesn't already have ethernet built in, further reducing cost. I'd also venture to way the wireless equipment will be outdated sooner as well.

Wireless ethernet comes in 11 Mb/s (802.11b) and 54 Mb/s (802.11a/g) flavors. In theory, you can get wireless at up to just over half as fast as common 100 Mb/s wired ethernet. From my experience, I would expect wireless to have only about 25-33% of the throughput of a wired 100 Mb/s setup. Also, 1 Gb/s (1000 Mb/s) is becoming quite common and is no longer horribly expensive, making wired even more attractive. Many PCs and all but the cheapest Macs come with 1 Gb/s NICs already on the mainboard (which is backwards-compatible to 10/100 Mb/s networks of course). All this throughput info is relatively meaningless if all you are doing is Internet surfing. Most consumer broadband connections top out at 1.5-3.0 Mb/s. However, if you are constantly moving things around between your computers, then it is an important issue to consider.

And of course, later you can always add on a wireless access point onto the wired network if you desire. With the whole house wired, you have the advantage of placing the access point where you can get the best possible signal for the devices using it.

FWIW, I'm currently installing wired ethernet in the place I'm moving to in a couple days. The place is easily small enough to be thoroughly covered by a single wireless access point, the wiring isn't pretty (I had to run it along the outside), and installing the wiring took up a good chunk of time (did it myself, had to work around existing structure etc.). I still think the advantages of wired far outweigh these drawbacks, and you don't have to worry about those last two issues.

If you do go with wired ethernet, accept no less that category 6 cable, connectors, etc. Such wiring should be useful for a good, long time. Also, consider running the cabling in such a way that it can easily be supplemented or replaced with whatever the future brings. That way you can upgrade without tearing out walls. (How to go about this, I'm not so sure. I haven't studied it much.)

Mort Furd
03-31-2004, 04:29 AM
I don't LIKE wireless. The security is too iffy for my taste. If you must go wireless, get someone who really knows his stuff to set it up for you and get the security done right. You'll still not be as secure as wired, but much safer than using the default settings.

The german computer magazine C'T did a test with freely available software and wireless lan equipment to see how secure WLAN really is. With security set as high and tight as they could get it, it took the software they had less than 24 hours to recover (decipher) enough data to get access to the WLAN. If you have neighbors within range of your WLAN, then I'd really consider the WLAN system carefully.

I use powerline LAN my self. It only runs inside of my house, and the power meter blocks the signal from getting out into the rest of the world. The data are encrypted on the line anyway, but it is very unlikely that anyone can pick them up to attempt to decode the stuff and get access.

I'd go hard wired if you have the option. You'll get better performance, and it is a damned sight harder for someone to break into your network if they have to come to your house and connect to cable.

Powerline is great, but relatively slow - about on level with the older versions of WLAN - and not due to get faster. There's not enough market for the system because so many people want wireless.

Wireless has the mentioned security problems, but is really good for certain jobs. To be able to manufacture the devices cheap enough, however, the manufacturers are pushing it to hell and gone and pushing it into markets where it doesn't need to be so that they can build and sell enough stuff to get the prices down.

Hardwire is best, use powerline if you need flexibility and security but not much speed, and wireless if you don't give a rat's ass about security and/or want to be able to take your laptop into the shithouse and continue playing quake while dropping a turd.

Sorry. Can you tell I really don't like wireless?

03-31-2004, 08:18 AM
Get the structured wire package.

It will be a structural improvement to your home, raising the resale value.

There are several modules that you can pop into the main can that allow you to do more than just computer networking too. You can place a camera in the baby's nursery, and distribute the signal through the can to every room in the house. You can play a DVD in one room and send it to every room in the house.

Basically, you can send high speed video, fax, phone, computer, etc. data back and forth throughout your house. It is typically sold as a package and listed like this- 6/6 structured wire or 4/3 structured wire.

the first number is number of phone outlets, second is video. You will get one price for the base package, as well as a price for each additional outlet that you want to add.

I'm director of marketing for a company here in FL that does low voltage work (security, structured wire, intercom, central vac, etc)...for a 6/6 we would charge around $600 to a volume home builder, and the package generally goes for $800-1200 as an upgrade from the builder to the homeowner. You would want an outlet group in each BR, the LR, perhaps the FR, and I would put one in the kitchen(with the new smart appliances coming out, you may need a network connection there in the future). I know that labor prices vary WILDLY in our field, so these prices may be alot higher, or even much lower than other areas in the country. Some companies here pay the techs to run wire by the hour, their labor cost is much cheaper than ours, as we pay our techs for each wire they run.

Hirka T'Bawa
03-31-2004, 08:28 PM
Thank you all for the advice, I think I'm going to go with the wire option instead of wireless. The price is less then I thought. We'll have to talk to the builder to find out if he has someone or if we'll have to find someone else to do it.

Oh, and if it makes any diffrence, we are still in the planning stages, we just found a lot that we are intreasted in and put a good faith deposit down on it.

03-31-2004, 10:26 PM
What about just running empty conduits through the walls as part of the house construction? They can be plugged off until required to run cable.

As the need presents itself you can run cabling into various parts of the house.

As different wire technology becomes available new cabling can be installed. You might wan to run fibre in 5 years time, or when we run out of photons you can run hamsters along the conduits with messages stuck up their arses.

When you leave the house you leave the options available for new tennants.

04-01-2004, 05:33 AM
I'm in complete agreement with spiralscratch here. Allow me to add a couple of points.

First, wireless networking is much less reliable than wired networking is. You may not consider your network all that critical, but when "digital media receivers" become ubiquitous (as they are going to real soon now) and you are able to buy a $100 device that plugs into your stereo and gives you instant access to your whole music library on your PC, you'll be kicking yourself if the music croaks every time the microwave is turned on or you get a call on the cordless phone.

Second, performance is not nearly as good as wired nets (real-world stats for "54mbps" wireless are more like 18mbps). Fact is, wired networks will always be a leap ahead in performance (and security, for obvious reasons).

And third, the point about neighbor interference bears repeating. At the moment, you may think it's unlikely, but as wireless networks become more common, you run the risk of collisions. At my old house, I got my wireless LAN set up and working great, and then a few months later, all of my neighbors ended up with access points, and my connectivity went in the toilet. It sucks to have problems (which are a bitch for most people to diagnose, and I am speaking as someone who writes 802.11a/b/g configuration software for a living here) caused by factors out of your control, and using a wire for your network eliminates some big uncontrollable factors.

04-02-2004, 01:53 AM
I'd say hard wired is much better (faster, more secure, more reliable) and also cheaper, if you are building the house. Especially because you can easily wire the whole house for computers, multiple phone lines, cable TV, whole house stereo, etc. all at the same time.

Here's a good link describing structured house wiring (http://www.swhowto.com/). Targeted mainly for do-it-yourselfers, but good overall info.

04-02-2004, 12:30 PM
If you have the option go with wired - and this is from a guy who LOVES his wireless network (802.11g)

I can watch a dvd on my daughters computer thats playing on the dvd dive on my computer 2 rooms away with no degredation.

However, for all of the reasons pointed out, wired will ALWAYS be a superior option. I just wasn't about to rip out all of the walls in my 100 year old house to run wire. But I also stronly agree that you should run sufficient conduit in anticipation of the inevitable day you decide to fish new cablin (fiber-optic or what ever new-fangled stuff they come up with).