Guide to Cable Types

Learning Center
When building a new home or doing extensive remodeling, it is critical to get the right kind of cable installed the first time. Rewiring later is far more difficult and costly. The three types of cable that should be installed are:
  • speaker cable
  • video coaxial cable
  • twisted pair communication cable
Speaker and video cable are the most important because there are no wireless alternatives that provide good signal quality. The twisted pair cable is used for hardwired security sensors, HVAC system communication, A/V system control communication, computer networking, and phones. The number of conductors of twisted pair you need to run depends on how many of these systems you intend to install. Below is a rough guideline to the types of cable and how many you should run. You may need to modify these suggestions for your own application. Speaker Cable - You should install the best quality speaker cable you can afford. Although you may not be installing the best quality speakers and/or audio equipment right away, there may come a time when you want to upgrade and poor speaker cables can seriously affect the quality of sound produced. Remember that when running longer lengths of cable than normal and apart from resistance losses, long cables can act as antennas and are susceptible to interference. Our in-wall speaker cables feature a gentle twist of the individual conductors to help minimize outside electrical interference. Installing an instantly recognizable quality brand name like Monster Cable can also add to the value of your home. When using in-wall speakers, run the wire directly to the speakers. The Monster 4 Conductor Cable has a rip cord that makes it easy to strip the 4 conductors into 2 pairs. If you do not know what speakers you are going to use, terminate the cables at a pair of banana jacks. This allows you to easily plug in external speakers, and you can pull cable from the jacks to in-wall speakers later if necessary. Video Cable - Always use RG-6 or better coaxial cable. RG-59, which was commonly used in most residential construction years ago, does not have the required shielding to meet today's cable TV standards. We have heard of cases where RG-59 was installed in the walls of a new home and the cable company refused to connect the house to the cable system because it "leaked" CATV signals excessively. The cost difference between RG-59 and RG-6 is small and you will get better picture quality with RG-6. For new construction, make a twin coaxial cable run: One is the cable that distributes video signals from outside eg. cable company. The second set is independent from the first and is an interior distribution run. With the second cable you can send a signal from a VCR in one room to a TV in another room, distribute video camera signals, and transmit home automation communications. Both cables should be home run back to the distribution panel for maximum flexibility. On the interior distribution cable, make sure that you use good quality, full range splitter/combiners. Splitters only allow the signal to travel in one direction, and cheap splitters usually do not have a full frequency range. Computer Networking Cable -Today, computers are linked into a network using 4-pair unshielded twisted pair cable called 10Base T. An older method, 10Base 2, used coax cables daisy-chained form room to room and is being phased out. When you use 10BaseT, cables are home run from each computer back to the server where a hub is required to connect all the cables together. Inexpensive hubs for up to 8 computers can be purchased for about $150. The type of cable to use for 10 Base T is critical. Category 5e cable or better is required. Cat 5e cable is rated for up to 100Mbps data transfer speed which is the data transfer speed of Fast-Ethernet network cards. A new cable, Cat 6 is rated for 1000Mbps data transfer rate, which is the new Gigabit Ethernet speed. To be completely prepared for future standards use Cat 6 or higher, if you think you can live with current technology use Cat 5e cable. Wire your cables well away from AC wire and fluorescent lights. Telephone Cable - As for January 2000, the FCC has mandated that all new homes being built be wired for telephone service with Cat. 3 cable. In adopting Rule 99-405, the Commission, "recognized the need to establish minimum quality standards for telephone inside wiring to ensure consumer access to advanced broadband services." They also anticipated that this ruling would "be adopted by building industry organizations, and reflected in local building codes." In wiring the home, a single telephone cable should be home run from each room back to a central location to enable you to easily reconfigure incoming service to desired rooms and also allow you to easily add a phone system like the Panasonic Phone system featured on this website. We recommend running 24-gauge, 4-pair wire Cat 3. cable to each room. This gives each room the ability to have up to four separate incoming telephone lines or two separate phone system extensions on a typical phone controller like the Panasonic system. To economize on cable costs in a home with both phone and data networks, purchase a single roll of Cat 5 or better and install a line for the telephone and computer network. We do not recommend using the unused conductors of a networking cable for phone service, as there is a possibility that the telephone company ring signal could corrupt data on the network. Other Cables to consider installing:
  • Security Applications (22-gauge unshielded): Use 2-conductor cable for magnetic contacts on doors and windows, passive glass break sensors, and horns/strobe lights. Use 4-conductor cable for; motion sensors, smoke detectors (attached to the alarm panel), powered glass break sensors, security system keypads.
  • HVAC Applications (18-22-gauge): 4-8 conductor for thermostat communication, 2 conductor unshielded for damper control.
  • Audio/Video Control (22-gauge): 3 conductor (shielded) for infrared communication. For a whole-house audio system, like the Kustom series of amps and keypads, use Cat. 3 or Cat. 5 cable.
  • Intercom Systems:4-conductor (shielded) is generally recommended. Check the instructions with the system you are planning to install for specific details.
  • *Please note: that the information given above are only rough guidelines, requirements may vary depending on the specific brand and model of devices installed. Check with the vendor of equipment you are planning to use before placing your order.

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