Choosing a Home Network
With so many new products talking to you, and each other, selecting the right network for your home is more important than ever.
home network
November 19, 2007 by EH Staff

Good communication is a must in a home filled with electronics. Your remote needs to talk to your audio/video components, your wall switches need to speak with your lights, your media server needs to share its music with your family room loudspeakers, and, more recently, it’s become important that your computer be able to transmit photos, videos and other information to every display in the house.

There are several ways of getting information from one place to another. If you’re building a new home, high-speed cabling, including plenty of Category 5 (or higher) Ethernet wiring, is a fantastic medium for doing everything from distributing data between computers to pumping audio and video from a central rack of equipment to multiple speakers and TVs. Owners of existing homes might find wireless networking solutions easier to install than new cabling. Originally intended as a means of connecting multiple computers together, wireless networking systems are becoming a popular way to transport audio and video signals.

Last but not least, there are systems that can zip music, video and data over the existing electrical wiring in your home. These system are relatively new in the marketplace but are ideal for homeowners looking for something that’s easy to install but more reliable (in some cases) than wireless technology.

Structured Wiring Systems
Many builders offer structured wiring systems as standard amenities in their new home packages. Included are cabling, wall outlets and a hub. The cabling is usually made up of Category 5 (or 5e) or Category 6 Ethernet wiring (the kind that’s commonly used to network computers) and RG-6 cables for distributing video from security cameras and other devices throughout the home. More recently, Cat 5 cabling is being used to distribute all video sources. The number of outlets and amount of cabling you get generally depends on how your builder decides to package the system.

The hub is the component that contains the logic to transmit video, audio, data and control signals across the network of cabling. Each “module” within the hub is responsible for a certain task. For example, a phone module could enable multiple phone lines to enter the house and connect each line to a specified phone jack, while a router module could enable multiple computers to communicate with one another and access the Internet simultaneously.

Although you don’t need a structured wiring system to network the electronic devices in your home, it’s a clean, organized approach that’s easy to expand and modify.

IP-Enabled Networks
Now that structured wiring systems have become nearly standard in new homes, manufacturers have started to develop technologies that enable all sorts of devices to communicate over the network. In addition to linking computers together, Cat 5 cabling is becoming a popular transportation route for audio and video signals. The Category 5 cabling works like a mini Internet: Devices in the home are each assigned their own IP (Internet Protocol) address. You can find IP-enabled lighting systems, whole-house audio systems, video distribution systems and home automation systems.

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