Most smart home systems today consist of devices homeowners buy separately and install themselves. However, as these technologies become more popular, demand for houses with built-in home automation is rising. Consequently, it’s becoming increasingly important to understand smart home wiring’s unique requirements.
As of 2019, 57% of homes in Britain have some smart device to control appliances and 45% plan on making their homes smarter. As these trends grow, learning to wire a smart home will become an essential skill for electrical contractors. Here’s a closer look at the necessary considerations.
Smart Home Wiring Requirements
While it’s possible to retrofit existing houses with home automation technology, it’s better to lay the appropriate foundation from the start. Smart home wiring isn’t dramatically different from conventional electrical systems, but some of its needs vary. Here are the most important factors.
Home automation requires a central point where homeowners can control the rest of the smart home network. Every smart home system must connect to this control centre, so electricians must choose its location carefully. Despite being a central spot, the centre of the home is not necessarily the best location for it.
Pick a location with plenty of space for control panels and equipment racks and is easy to access. That includes access for homeowners and service wires like internet and TV cabling. All of this equipment and wiring in one place may generate a lot of heat, so keep temperature and dust in mind, too.
Smart home wiring also includes different types of cables than traditional homes. While there are at least 21 different connectivity standards, one of the most important connections is ethernet cabling.
Ethernet cables and outlets will help reduce strain on wireless networks and keep the smart home functional. Use either CAT-5e or CAT-6 cables to provide sufficient support for multiple devices. Ethernet outlets should be available throughout the house, likely in every room, unlike conventional homes where there may only be one.
Another unique consideration for wiring a smart home is to include neutral wires. Many home automation systems like smart lights require three-wire connections instead of the traditional two. All outlets, switches and lighting fixtures in a smart home should have a hot, load and neutral wire.
Keep in mind that some outlets may need different wiring systems entirely. Some products use serial buses and data transfer wires like CAT-6 instead of traditional cables. Review what devices the home will feature and plan to meet those specific needs.
Since smart homes feature more connected electrical infrastructure, they have higher surge protection needs. Whole-house surge protector systems are ideal and should handle up to 40,000 amps or more.
Smart home wiring also requires more attention to cross-talk and insulation. Since 56% of electrical failures come from insulation damage, only use cables with strong insulation and cover them with additional layers to be safe. Using shielded twisted pair (STP) cables will help prevent signal mixing between devices.
Helpful Tips to Wire a Smart Home
If electrical contractors consider those factors, they can wire a smart home successfully. However, wiring a smart home as effectively as possible requires more than just understanding the specific requirements. With that in mind, here are some tips for how to best wire a smart home.
Since smart home technology is continually advancing, plan to accommodate future upgrades. Prewire the house for multiple touchscreen controls, video, speakers, security systems and robust computer networks even if the home won’t feature all these systems from the start. The more robust the foundation, the easier it will be to add components in the future.
Serial bus systems enable users to replace various unit types in the future without changing the wiring. Consequently, it’s a good idea to wire the home for serial bus devices to accommodate future upgrades or changes.
Run conduits wherever possible to protect wires and make it easier to change them later if necessary. Similarly, wiring closets should be deeper than what they immediately need, as homeowners may want to rearrange or add infrastructure in the future.
Smart Home Wiring Is Unique but Advantageous
Smart home wiring poses some challenges for electricians used to conventional systems. However, learning how to work with these newer technologies will help contractors better serve upcoming markets.
Before long, smart homes will likely become standard. If electrical contractors don’t learn to wire a smart home, they may quickly fall behind the competition.