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Should you install low

Jan 25, 2024

June 8, 2023 by Kevin C. Tofel 5 Comments

On a recent Internet of Things podcast episode, we took a voicemail question left on our podcast hotline. The caller is doing a home renovation and will have access inside the walls. He's trying to plan ahead for his smart home and wants to know what he should do from a low-voltage and high-voltage wiring standpoint. From a future growth standpoint, he's also interested in planning his network.

The latter part of that question has a shorter answer, so I’ll start with this one. If you have access to add wiring throughout a home, I’d definitely recommend running at least CAT-6 cables. And I’d aim for at least one ethernet port for bedroom or living area. This will allow wired transfer speeds at up to 1 Gb per second. A nice upgrade would be to use CAT-7 cables for a massive 10 GBps throughput boost.

And I’d supplement that network cabling with WiFi 6E mesh routers for wireless access. Make sure you realize that expected mesh Wi-Fi coverage areas are typically optimistic. Every home is designed and built with different materials that can adversely affect your wireless network coverage. Most mesh Wi-Fi routers don't yet support wired speeds above 2.5 Gbps either, although that's likely to change in the next few years.

Now on to the low-voltage wiring question. These days, there's really less need to have low-voltage wires throughout the smart home. I’ve actually never used a low-voltage product in the decade-plus time of having a smart home. Stacey has for some very specific use cases, such as home audio speakers and large automated shades.

Aside from any professional audio/visual scenarios or very large shades, there's little use for low-voltage systems in the smart home. Stacey notes that she spoke with some industry contacts at a recent IoT event and those who used to push for and support low-voltage solutions simply aren't.

Part of this is because you need a very specific product type to use it. And part of it is because of the proprietary nature of most low-voltage smart home solutions. Given that the Matter standard is rolling out (maybe not as fast as I might like), the more universal approach of Matter is where the industry is headed. And there aren't any low-voltage Matter devices available today. So unless you have a very specific product need that requires low-voltage wiring, we say skip it in your 2023 smart home.

To hear the voicemail question in full, as well as our discussion on the topic, tune in to the Internet of Things podcast below:

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Filed Under: Featured, How-To Tagged With: electrical wiring, low-voltage, Matter, mesh networking, multi-room audio, smart home, WiFi

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