Demand for smart homes is a strong trend in new and renovation construction today. Last year, it was estimated that 80 million devices for smart home automation were delivered around the world. This represented a 64% increase in the market compared to the previous year. Though the focus of these figures is on the devices that are used for home automation, it's projected that home construction is currently in a phase between early adopters and mass market adoption of smart home technology. As this trend continues, you can expect to see strong demand for changes in wiring and electrical design to support these trends. Here's the basics of house smart home wiring and design are different than traditional methodology used in electrical design.
How are Smart Home Wiring and Electrical Design Different?
But how is a smart home different than current wiring and design? To avoid having a wiring job that looks like an Escher painting, here are some of the aspects of smart home design to keep in mind when working with customers who want a smart home. With good design, customers who want a new home or renovation can have strong smart home performance.
Bring in a Strong Central Core
When outside contractors from a communications company bring in cable, whether it's cable, DSL, satellite or some other option, their focus is on getting you online while lowering their expenses. This means it's easiest for them to install the wire to a port on an exterior wall. When you're setting up a smart home, you need to plan for that cable to come as close to the center of the home, both in terms of distance from exterior walls as well as floors, as is possible. This allows a wireless router to more easily reach all corners of your home and all your devices.
Build Connectivity Throughout
If the project is a large or long home, you may notice that you have problems reaching all the corners of the structure with a single router. At that time, you may want to plan for additional cabling for a second router or, at a minimum, a WiFi repeater to improve reception throughout the structure.
Keep Lighting Neutral
One hot new technology in smart homes is lighting automation. Whether it's switching a few lights on and off remotely while they're on vacation or turning off the light they know their daughter left on in her room for the fifth time this week, it's important to ask customers whether they want to have the option for lighting automation. Many systems like this require a neutral wire to connect, even though they're often left out of some wiring schemes.
Deepen the Service Boxes
Sure, you can run a lot of items off of WiFi, but some just work better with a hardwired connection. You'll also notice that some smart controls, such as lighting or control panels, will require additional wiring than you have noticed in traditional wiring schemes. This extra wire takes up more space than typical wiring and will be much easier to connect if you work with a larger service box to begin with.
Make Significant Plans for Com Wire
As with service boxes, planing on adding communications wire to other areas of the home is important to the entire system. You'll at a minimum want to include it for computers, especially one that is being used to run the IoT technology in the house. Don't expect to just run a few lengths of CAT5 cable either, as some advanced smart home systems will require telephone, audio-visual, HVAC and security wiring to bring everything together. At the same time, don't forget to label the wires to make changes easier in the future. As a pro tip from a networking pro, those little tape labelers work like a charm for popping out labels and keeping everything neat.
Plan for ExpansionIt’s interesting how wiring had changed over the past few decades. In the 1950’s, a normal home was wired with a 60-amp service. By the 1970’s, 100 amps was standard. Most homes today are wired for a 200-amp service. Today’s smart home may require only a small amount of wiring, but planning for the future helps your customers avoid having to make expensive expansions in the future. Even if it’s just running a bit of extra conduit, installing a few more junction boxes or similar allowance for future growth, it will make expansion much easier down the road.
Don't Forget Environmental!
A contributor to Fine Homebuilding recently mentioned a problem he'd run into with his newly wired smart home. He'd installed the system computer in a closet on the third floor of his home. His family then went on vacation, happy with their ability to manage their home on the road. When a heat wave struck and his AC unit flipped the breaker, the computer overheated and he came home to a dead house. The final solution? Installing a larger AC unit that would better deal with the heat and prevent the heat-producing electronics from shutting down from the heat.
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