Solutions How to Wire Your Home for Automation

Building a new home or remodeling? One of the most common questions our tech support department receives is how to cable a home for automation. Since the popular X10 and Insteon protocols send your commands over standard electrical wiring, adding various additional cable runs isn't necessary, but automated lighting and appliances aren't the only convenience to keep in mind when planning your cabling. There are a number of different theories on how automation wiring should be done and what type of cables should be used. The following is probably the most widely accepted and most practical method based on the Smarthome team's experience and industry knowledge.

Wiring for Powerline Control Protocols

By design, equipment controlled over powerlines does not need much in the way of special wiring. However, for maximum reliability, it's a good idea to install the following in homes with Insteon, X10, or UPB installations.

Neutral Wire at Each Wall Switch

Ask your builder/electrician to run the neutral wire to each wall switch location (the neutral cable is optional in many light switch wiring schemes and unless you specify it explicitly, it may get omitted). Insteon switches, dimmers, and keypads and most enhanced X10 wall switches require a 3-wire (hot, neutral and load) connection.

In-Wall Transmitters

You are likely to want a number of In-Wall Remote Control Panels throughout the house.

These In-Wall transmitters can control groups of lights or execute complex lighting macros. With one touch, you can quickly adjust all the lights in a room to match the occasion or mood.

Plan these locations and have a hot and neutral wire run to a J-box at these locations.

Use Deep Junction Boxes

Insteon switches and keypads feature a slim design, making installation easy even in small junction boxes, but if you're not yet decided on an automation protocol, it's a good idea to specify the installation of deep junction boxes to accommodate any switch size. The deep models have extra working space and make the installation a little easier. Deep boxes only cost a few cents more than normal depth models. Look for single-gang boxes that are 22cu (cubic inches) or higher and double-gang boxes that are 36cu or higher.

Whole-House Surge Protection

Install a Whole-House Surge Suppressor to protect your electrical appliances and home entertainment products. If you are going to be using a significant number of powerline automation components in your home, adding just one whole-house surge protector will give you a good insurance policy against costly damage to both your X10 or Insteon system as well as other delicate electrical equipment in your house.

Isolate Non-Automation Loads

Work with your electrician to isolate non-automation loads. Having the kitchen and laundry appliances plus the heating systems on one phase of your electrical system will help keep potential noise off the X10- or Insteon-carrying lines.

Wiring for Data

Data cabling will include more than the cat. 5 or cat. 5e you'll use to use for your Ethernet network. This section provides the information you'll need to install your A/V, telephone, HVAC, and security systems. The first stage in planning is to select the location of a central wiring hub location. This is where all the cables from all the different rooms come in and where all the external cabling (cable TV, phone, antenna, satellite, etc.) feeds into the house. Ideally this should be located next to your audio/video equipment since the speaker cable and video cable will feed to the other rooms from here.

The equipment housed in this location usually includes:

  • Video Distribution Panel
  • Telephone System
  • Intelligent Home Automation Controller
  • Multi-Zone HVAC Controller
  • Security Panel and any other home automation-related central controllers/hubs

When adding a home theater system, creating dedicated home theater space, the possibilities are endless. Seating will have a huge influence on the overall comfort and Appeal of your home theater system.

The Equipment Rack will usually house not only your home theater equipment but all the amplifiers, DVD players and DSS receivers for the entire house. Before you could just stack all equipment on top of each other. That was fine, unit the equipments started having more energy processors and other components generate lots of heat. If the equipments are stack nowadays, it may burn out components. You will need space for the equipment and cooling strategy for the your gears.

Picking the right configuration for the home theater system:

Cooling Fan

Don’t buy an equipment rack without a cooling system. Some offer the ability to daisy-chain fans in one system so it can be automatically turned on and off based on temperature.


Your racking system should have a way to connect to multiple output power bars so that all your power cables can be managed nicely. The best power bars have slide-on stabilizing clips that make sure your power plugs don’t come out of the power bar.