What cabling do you need to install in your Smart Home?

If you have read our blog on wireless, hopefully you can appreciate there is a need for smart home cabling and our preference to install cabling but what cabling do you need to install in your smart home?

When we discuss smart home cabling we mean placing cables used for lighting, heating, security, audio/visual, automation and control into the fabric of the building i.e. in walls, ceilings, floors, etc. so they are not seen after decoration. No one one likes to see cables in their living spaces so they need to be permanently hidden but this also means there is only one opportunity to select the correct type of cable, appropriately sized for the function, choosing where the cables need to be installed and the route to comply with safety and building standards and installing them correctly so as not to damage or impact the cable’s performance.

The challenge is that there is no simple answer to what smart home cabling you should install.

Take lighting as example. Whether you’ve had your lighting layout designed by a lighting designer or whether you’ve designed the layout yourself you have a number of lighting circuits to cable for power and control.

There are different methods to cable lighting:

Traditional Wiring – Electrical power cable (twin & earth) is installed starting from the main electrical consumer board which goes to the ceiling of the first room, then onto the next room, and the next, etc. In each room the same electrical power cable (twin & earth) is also installed between the ceiling and the switch position. A ceiling rose or similar, is then wired to divert the electrical power via the switch position for each independent group of lights (pendant light, a set of spots, LED strip, exterior lights). An on/off switch is used to cut the power to the group of lights or a rotary style dimmer switch is used to intermittently cut the power to dim the group of lights.

Star Wiring – For each independent group of lights an electrical power cable (and a dimming control cable, if applicable) is installed back to a lighting panel(s). The location and quantity of the lighting panels is determined on project by project basis. There could be one individual panel for the whole property, several panels, say, one per floor or a small panel for each room. So, for example, if you had 50 light circuits around the property using one main central panel there would be 50 individual electrical power cables (and a dimming control cable, if applicable).

Digital Lighting – we refer here to two lighting technologies, Digital Lighting Addressable Interface (DALI) and Digital Multi-pleXing (DMX) which are technically different but follow a similar cabling topology. DALI and DMX use a “Daisy Chain” topology where the power and control cable connects each light fitting/driver in a chain. At the beginning of the chain is a DALI or DMX interface device used to control the chain. Essentially the power to the chain is always energised but the lights only turn on or dim based on a digital signal sent along the control cable. Each technology has limits which need to be carefully considered.

So as you can see there are different ways to cable just the power for the lighting, each requiring different cables installed using different topologies. Often there isn’t just one method used and frequently there will be a mixture.

Now when we consider how to cable the light switches we see the decisions are further increased. Unfortunately, not all lighting control manufacturers recommend the same cable so you would need to decide on a particular system before knowing the cabling required. An alternative approach would be to adopt the KNX standard for cabling. Over 300 manufactures are members of the KNX association and their products have to adopt and adhere to the minimum KNX standards a non proprietary system. So in theory, products from different manufacturers could be interchangeable and still operate together on the same cabling.

This has just been lighting! When we consider the cabling required for Heating, Security, Audio/Visual and Control we hope you can appreciate it is well worth investing in a Home Technology Professional like Automated Smart Homes to design the complete cabling infrastructure for your project.