Part two of structured wiring options for home and business connectivity

In our last post we described the ‘home run’ or ‘star wiring’ method of installing a structured wiring network in a home or business. Other common methods include WiFi networking and daisy chain wiring.

Over the years many home and small business networks have evolved ad hoc systems with cables strung from room-to-room or office-to-office in a daisy chain fashion. To continue the signal to the next room, equipment must be connected directly or plugged into a hub, switch or router.

As the network grows cables are added to connect new components. For example, flat panel TVs have dropped considerably in price and added smart features. As a result, these sleek entertainment panels are becoming a must have in boardrooms, kitchens and rec rooms.

Connecting them with a daisy chain approach can be a challenge as these components may require coaxial, HDMI as well as Ethernet cables. Keep in mind that home run wiring can handle this with configurable media distribution hubs, which can accept the various cable types as well as the option of fiber.

Sometimes daisy chain cabling is run through walls, which requires multi-port wall plates.  But, more often they are run across drop ceilings or along walls and floors making it complicated and messy.

Troubleshooting daisy chain wiring

The more connections there are, the harder it becomes to isolate cables. These cause more problems than would be present in a home run type network where most work can be done at the network panel.

Daisy chaining can often include legacy products, even old CAT3 cabling, 10baseT hubs and switches, and older computers. As the network is connected in series, the speed is reduced to the slowest bottleneck in the network. In home run wiring, each connection is dedicated ensuring speed and bandwidth are not challenged.

Sometimes daisy chaining is combined with a WiFi hub, which can reduce the clutter of cables and works well with portable devices like tablets and laptops. WiFi does have the potential of being intercepted from the outside and, even with newer standards has the disadvantages of limited speed as well as drops in signal strength with increased distance from the hub and wall thickness. Distance is a non-issue with home run wiring as well as having the option of using the fastest cabling.

Another daisy chain option is powerline networking, which uses the copper wires running AC power through walls. The powerline adapter is plugged directly into a wall socket. Next, a port in the adapter is connected to your device. Other adapters are plugged into the AC outlets of rooms you wish to add to the network. This can be used as a standalone system or in conjunction with the other methods. It is often used to extend WiFi by adding a wireless hub in a far off room.

Like home run wiring this system can work quite well and support high speeds but has disadvantages. The adapters are quite large and can make the outlet unusable for powering anything else. Usually, they can’t be used in conjunction with a surge protector or power bar.

Also, the powerline network depends on the integrity of the electrical wiring and can be affected by other electrical devices plugged in, particularly high drawing appliances. Signal noise and power surges in the electrical wiring can greatly reduce the reliability of the network.

If a powerline approach is used in an apartment or office building, security can become an issue as other occupants could, in theory, hack into the network. In contrast, home run wiring ensures a secure connection with consistent signal quality.

So there you have it. If you’re beginning a new project and wish to ensure a secure network with the best speed and signal quality, the home run method of structured wiring wins hands down.