Why not stream art or photos on your TV when not watching it?

Many of us have a TV screen in our living rooms and other living spaces, but often it’s left as a black void when we’re not watching it. Today’s 4K TVs are thin, have very tiny frames and consume less power, so they open up other possibilities. For those who have Samsung’s Frame TV, they may already have photos or art showing on it, but what can the rest of us do to stream art?

Devices to stream art

If you have an Apple TV or other streaming device like a Roku (available both as a separate device or pre-installed in some TVs), then you have options to show photos and stream art. For example, Apple TVs have built in photo viewing for your photos and cool aerial screensaver videos. Otherwise, you can look for other services to let your arty side show.

Apps to stream art

There are third party art apps, such as Art Authority, artcast, LANKA, loupe and Mochi. These range from classic museum paintings to modern art. Some are free, and some have ads or require a paid subscription to stream art collections. There are many options, so you can search for one that matches your taste and style. Currently it looks like the Apple TV has the most options, but some TVs like Sony TVs allow for these apps via the Google Play Store.

If you want stream art or show off your photos, then your TV might be just the tool you need. If you don’t already have a media streaming device like an Apple TV, you can add one relatively affordably. These devices consume power, but they’re low enough to guiltlessly stream art when you want to get arty.

How to stream vinyl records at home

We’re a family of music lovers – we go to a fair amount of live shows, and music is always playing in our home. But I wanted to add vinyl records back into the mix. It was super easy to stream vinyl records in our home, and it sounds great! Let me explain. 

Our home is sometimes a bit of a home tech laboratory, as one might expect. For the most part though, we use Sonos for most of our day to day listening. We use a mixture of Sonos Connects, Connect:Amps, Play:1 wireless speakers, and even a Sub. Deezer is our go to streaming service as it offers high bitrate music for improved sound quality. Streaming radio is also frequently played as well. We find that the lower bitrates of streaming radio does tend to be a bit fatiguing after a while though.

Setting up a system to stream vinyl

I decided to try out a Rega turntable as they are well known for offering high-end sound at affordable prices. When the Rega RP1 arrived, I temporarily set it up in our living room using the living room Sonos Connect:Amp system. I used a Rega Fono Mini A2D phone stage to mate the phono levels for the Sonos Connect:Amp.

Set streaming system input to high quality

You should set the streaming system input to its high quality setting if available. In my case, I set the Connect:Amp to Uncompressed Line-In. I have a rock solid home data network (of course!), so I’ll take higher network traffic for better sound quality. 

Enjoy

Honestly I wasn’t expecting much, as the living room gear is good, but it’s not ‘audiophile’ by any means. When I started playing records though, it was immediately obvious that the sound was amazing. The Rega RP1 and Fono Mini A2D are widely well reviewed, and our’s showed why. They are just simple, great sounding audiophile components for value minded people. Not to kick off another debate about vinyl sounding better than CDs, digital music, etc., but our records sound great. As a bonus, we’ve been listening to whole albums again. Another great thing with the wireless streaming systems like our Sonos system, is that you can also group in other rooms if you don’t want to stay in one room. Manufacturers like Rega recognize people may want to stream vinyl in their homes, so they also offer turntables like the Rega Planar 1 PLUS. Its an all in one unit (turnable & photo pre-amp) that mates well with streaming systems, computers, etc.

Audiophiles may be put off by our system, but for regular music lovers (and ones on more modest budgets), it’s a great way to get the best of both worlds: you can dust off those vinyl records and play them with the simplicity of streaming music systems. Really, whatever level of music lover you are, its about enjoying music. In the end, our turntable has become a permanent fixture in our living room. While we still stream digital music often, its fun to put on albums too, especially on the weekends when we have a bit more time.

Tip for great home music systems: subwoofers

small subwoofers like sub air help home music systems sound better

People are listening to more music, often using streaming music. Many have music (and surround) speakers discreetly installed in their living spaces. Frequently this involves installing ceiling speakers. While they can sound great and are hidden in plain sight in the ceiling, there’s something missing,.. true low-end bass. This includes the low-end dance beat or the rumble from a movie explosion. These low-end sounds require subwoofers. But, there are ways to hide subwoofers too.

Speakers need to be physically large to create proper bass – blame physics. Even with the technical sorcery that manufactures build into their products to make small speakers produce surprising bass, they just can’t hit the true low notes. Its not just for dance music aficionados or action movie fans, good bass helps better fill sound in the room and is more pleasing to listen to (often without specifically noticing ‘bass’). We always encourage people to consider a discreet subwoofer (or completely hidden) whenever possible.

Standard subwoofers

A standard subwoofer needs to be large to properly produce proper bass – especially if you want explosion feeling bass. A true audiophile or cinephile will require a ‘proper’, read very large, subwoofer. In these cases, aesthetics often lose to sound. It doesn’t always have to be the case though. If you’re building or renovating, often some planning can greatly minimize impact to your living space. For example, its sometimes possible to cloak subwoofers with end tables or cabinetry. Often this doesn’t work for a room though, so we have to look to the next two categories.

In-wall or in-ceiling subwoofers

In-wall and in-ceiling subwoofers only need the speaker itself exposed. All the electronics can be hidden in some other part of the home. Some in-wall subwoofers use the space in the wall as part of the speaker to create great sound. Others like in-ceiling subs have the speaker cabinets hidden in the ceiling. Our ears can’t perceive where bass is coming from, so we often ‘hide’ speakers low to the ground behind furniture. Even if exposed, they’re usually barely noticed – like a vent cover. While you can get audiophile or cinephile grade in-wall subwoofers, even a reasonably priced setup can really open up the musicality and sound of a room.

Alternative subwoofers

Sometimes you’re in a bind – perhaps you want to more bass, but you can’t plan for a standard or in-wall/in-ceiling sub. Here you can look at clever subwoofers that are either small or non-standard shaped. While this category of subs can’t play as low as the others, they definitely improve the sound without a large visible presense. For example a small sub can easy be placed under an end table. You can also consider one like the Focal Sub Air that is just over 6” deep. If you’re a Sonos fan, their Sonos Sub is also just over 6” deep. These and others are wireless if you can’t run cables. Some are available in black or white to help blend into your decor as well. These can be  placed under or behind furniture as still sound great.

The addition of a good subwoofer will help improve the sound of home music systems. Depending on your situation and budget, from building to simply adding a wireless music streaming system, there are many subwoofer options available. With some planning, you shouldn’t have to compromise your home’s sound system.

Top home tech ideas for renters

Renters often feel left out when its comes to home tech. Much of it is very custom and is often permanently installed. It doesn’t matter if you live in an apartment or a house, there are many things that can be done that are both non-permanent, and more importantly, easily repurposed in your next place. Here are some home tech ideas for your rental space.

Wireless Music (easy)

Wireless music systems are everywhere, so if you don’t already have one, its likely time that you jump on board. There are lots of great systems from Sonos to Heos to Bluesound. Just check your needs; i.e. wireless speakers, sound bar and/or components. Also, how do you want to stream music? By Bluetooth, Airplay 2, propriety (e.g. Sonos) – or a combination of these? For example, Sonos supports its own streaming system (of course), and it also recently added support for AirPlay 2.

Voice Control (easy)

If you want to layer on voice control to your home tech, there are basically three families – Alexa, Google and Siri. Be aware which your device supports – e.g. Sonos currently supports Alex and Siri on some of their speakers while Sony supports Google on TVs, etc.

Surround Sound (easy)

Most of us already have some pretty killer, large smart TVs. The next step is to update the sound systems in your viewing room. The good news is that there are more and more companies providing great sound systems to take your system to the next level. These usually consist of a sound bar and wireless surround speakers and subwoofer. If you’re already hooked on Sonos, then you can start with something like their Beam surround set, or go bigger with the Playbar set or Playbase set. Other manufactures like Sony even have startlingly good Dolby Atmos systems that will rock your world (and possibly your neighbours).

Projectors (easy)

A projection TV system is not as outrageous as it sounds. The easiest option is to use an ultra short throw projector (like this basic one or this 4K one from Sony) that sits next to your wall. These can be pricey, so you could consider a regular projector. If you can’t run an HDMI cable to the back of you room for the projector, you may be able to use a wireless HDMI converter – not ideal vs. a wire, but will often work for short distances. Of course its best to project on to a screen (fixed or motorized), but you can get reasonable results onto a regular wall if its in good shape (and colour) and you don’t want a screen in your living space (especially if it doubles as a your living room).

Mesh Wi-Fi (easy)

Unless you have a small place, its likely that you can benefit from better Wi-Fi coverage. If you’re renting a place that doesn’t have ethernet wiring, you can get a lot of mileage from a mesh Wi-Fi system.

Smart Lighting (easy to moderate)

There are many smart lighting products that don’t require re-wiring. These include Philips’ Hue, Belkin’s Wemo and even some of the Lutron’s Caseta products. These are either lightbulbs, lights or plug-in module that you can control with a smartphone or optional remote controls. Depending on the device, it may require a hub and/or work with various platforms such as Apple’s HomeKit or Samsung’s SmartThings.

If you’re looking for something with a bit more control, and you’ve got the clearance from your landlord, then you can look at in-wall devices such as ones from Lutron and Leviton. Just be aware that its recommended to have an electrician do the install of the in-wall devices (and replace the old switches again when you want to move out).

But wait, there’s more (easy to moderate)

These just start to scratch the surface of what’s available. There are other devices like surveillance cameras (like from Nest), Z-Wave sensors (like from Fibaro) and vacuums (like from iRobot). From fun to security, there seems to be almost everything available.

There are more devices coming almost daily that is reasonably priced and easy to use. Choose what you want to do, choose your home tech ecosystem, and then have fun!

Home tech pro observations

A home tech pro is like other professionals – we notice certain issues (with technology) that others might not see. Like a mechanic that hears that your car isn’t right, or a physiotherapist that notices poor posture, or a singer that hears off notes when it sounds good to the rest of us. We’re often pulled into new homes that we were not involved with where things were missed because home tech was an afterthought. Here are some of our observations from the field.  

Exposed wires and tech

We’re surprised when we see easy (and inexpensive) details missed in new builds. You should use recessed wiring boxes for wall mounted TVs locations. Recessed boxes allow mounting TVs closer to the wall to help minimize impact on room aesthetics.

Exposed TV wiring is another issue. If a TV is to be over a fireplace, there should be a conduit (pipe for wires) in the wall to hide the wires. Most home owners or designers have decided where a TV is going to go, so make it ready to hide the wiring.

The other piece of the puzzle is where to put the cable box, Apple TV, Blu-ray player, etc. These can sometimes be hidden behind the TV, but otherwise plan out where to put these boxes. If you’re not sure, talk to a home tech pro. It will make a big difference in the look and feel of your home.

Table of remotes

If your system is just a cable box and a TV, then you’ll likely be OK with just the cable box remote to use them. The issue is that every time you add a piece of gear, e.g. an media steamer like an Apple TV, all of a sudden you’re juggling multiple remotes depending on what device you’re watching. Often it’s only one or two people in the house that actually know which remote controls what device.

Not everyone has the desire or budget to spend their money on audio/visual equipment. For those who do, budget in for a universal remote control. There is no point in spending lots of money on an amazing system if its hard to use. Depending on your needs, a universal remote can start under $100. A proper remote should be part of the mix and budget if your system involves more than two or three devices. You can talk with a home tech pro for assistance for more complicated systems.

Proper networking wiring

People expect Wi-Fi to work everywhere in their home. Unless the home is small or you’re lucky, this can’t happen with just the Internet Service Providers Wi-Fi router. You need to use separate access points to make Wi-Fi grace every corner of a home (and outside!). Although we’re advocates of using Ethernet wiring everywhere you can, you must at least have in-wall wiring for Wi-Fi access points as needed.

We were recently called in to a new home where there were no in-wall Ethernet wires installed for anything, Wi-Fi or otherwise. This was unfortunate as we had use expensive adapters to allow Internet over TV coax cables for Wi-Fi Access Points. The Wi-Fi coverage is much better now, but not ideal due to coax cable location limitations. Now everything has to use Wi-Fi. TVs, computers, printers, etc, can’t be wired and are slowing down Wi-Fi only devices like smartphones. Take a look at your living space, and make sure there are network wires for things like TVs, computers and Wi-Fi access points.

Video/sound quality 

It may sound snobby, but we really notice when things look or sound off. You don’t have to spend massive amounts of money for decent equipment. Yes, high end stuff can be expensive, but riding the value curve gives impressive results with a reasonable price tag. People may try to ‘save’ money by installing less quality gear like ceiling speakers. Some may not immediately notice that their system sounds bad, but they use it less and less as its fatiguing. Often when they walk into someone else’s home, they’re wowed and wonder why it sounds better. Balance your budget for all components – a cheap TV or cheap set of speakers will limit the performance of the rest of your equipment. 

Make sure these kind of issues are addressed when you’re building or renovating. If you feel its out of your comfort zone, then reach out to a home tech pro to get some help.

Top five simple home technology upgrades

We often get asked about what smart home technology upgrades are possible without major or costly renovations. Thankfully there is much that home owners and renters can do that doesn’t involve costly or messy construction work. Here is an overview of simple-to-implement home tech that our clients are most interested in.

Smart TVs

Many of our clients last upgraded their TVs when the original flat TVs dropped in price and these TVs are getting to the point that they need to be replaced. The timing works out as the next generation TVs, 4K TVs, are great value. They also come with smart features for watching streaming services like Netflix or showing pictures from your smartphone. While our clients are updating their TVs, they want the wiring and remotes cleaned up and simplified. We help them update and organize their digital audio/video worlds by determining which smart TV features work for them and provide programmed universal remotes to make it all easy to use.

Wireless and streaming music

Our clients are often curious about wireless speakers or have gotten the wireless speaker bug and want help expanding on it. Wireless speakers like Sonos and Bluesound, and streaming music services like Spotify and Deezer have revolutionized the way we listen to music. These great sounding speakers require a Wi-Fi network and power. You can also use them to augment that new 4K TV for updated sound for TV shows and movies.

Smart lighting

There is a lot of interest in updating light switches to smart dimmers and switches. Companies like Lutron and Leviton have very functional dimmers and switches at reasonable prices. They are also inter-compatible with other home technology upgrades such as wireless speakers and thermostats. While most devices replace your current light switches, there are also plug models that allow you to smarten up lights like floor lamps without any re-wiring required. From then on, you can control your rights from your smart phone or on smart timers when you’re away. These are not only convenient for everyone with features like lights that come on when you near your home, but may also be and asset for seniors and disabled people to simplify lighting control for them.

Automated shading

Automated shading is also growing in popularity. There are reliable battery powered options, so you don’t have to have your windows wired for power. People want these shades for privacy, light blocking and energy savings. Sometimes clients want convenient shades that open and close timed with sunrise and sunset. Maybe its to keep a bedroom dark when enjoying a sleep in. Sometimes it helps block out the afternoon sun before it heats their home like an oven. Whatever the reason, they can have great looking shades that are smart and easy to use. Plus, you will never have to worry about operating them in difficult to reach places like high windows.

Better Wi-Fi

It seems that everything in our lives these days requires Wi-Fi. When your building or renovating, you can make sure all the right wires get put into your walls to help create the perfect Wi-Fi system. For older homes or condos, you sometimes have to look for another way. As mentioned in the past, mesh Wi-Fi products provide a decent Wi-Fi system to use in these tricky situations.

There are many simple home technology upgrades available for those who want to smarten up their homes but are not building a new home or doing an involved home renovation. We’re always happy to help them, and its rewarding when we get to see their faces light up like kids on Christmas morning when they first use their new upgrades.

Tips for planning home tech

Integrated home tech
The perfect time to include some affordable home tech touches is when you’re building or renovating your home. Home technology adds to your comfort and lifestyle, and with some thought it doesn’t have to greatly impact the aesthetics or floor space in your home. Here are a few tips for great home tech.

Hide your media room in your living space

A family room or living room is often a home’s entertainment focal point. It can be a great place to connect with your family or provide a safe hangout for your kids and their friends. With some forethought, your space can service all these needs without tech clutter and still provide an engaging media room. The incremental costs can be low, but you get a big payback when your tech isn’t an eyesore.

  • Think about your seating and TV location. You can wall mount and/or hide your TV screen with creative cabinetry, e.g. behind cabinet doors or a sliding panel. If you’re planning to use a sound bar with your TV, make sure you plan its placement too. There are also affordable options for projection systems with retractable screens.
  • In-wall and in-ceiling speakers are available right up to audiophile grade, so they are a Music in the Dengreat way to get impressive sound without impacting the aesthetics of the room. Think about speakers in the other rooms where you’d like to listen to music as well. Bass can be a bit tricky though, so plan out the acoustics of your room when using in-wall subwoofers.
  • Plan cabinetry to hide equipment like TV cable boxes, media players and AV receivers, and then you can use a control system that operate these behind cabinet doors. (As a bonus, you’ll have one easy to use remote instead of a coffee table full of them!)
  • Build recessed wiring boxers, cabling or conduits into the walls to hide the cables to the TV and gear. Where possible, plan for wiring to allow for the transition from current HDTV signals to 4K TV, 8K TV and beyond. In addition, don’t forget to ensure there is plenty of power and ventilation for all your gear.

Consider smart home products

A smart home doesn’t mean a complicated or expensive home. There are great products available that provide positive impacts in our lives. Here are some of the more popular ones.

  • Lighting automation and control: Lighting automation may be something that might simple lighting automationmake you wonder how you lived without it. There are affordable solutions like Lutron’s Caseta that are accessible for new or retrofit applications. You can dabble with a room or two and build on it as you wish. You can start with setting up a lighting ‘scene’ (e.g. relax, entertain and watch TV), set your lights on timers, or have them automatically come on when you’re near your home. Products are also increasingly compatible with other products like Apple’s HomeKit and Sonos music systems.
  • Smart lock: Smart locks allow your family (and selected friends!) access to your home without physical keys. There are many options that include keypads, smartphone access, smart home control integration, or combinations of these.
  • Smart doorbell: Smart doorbells work with your smartphone to allow you to know when someone’s at your door regardless of whether you’re in your room, in the backyard or at the market. They give you a video feed of the visitor and often you can talk back. This can be good for deterring opportunistic intruders or even ignoring unwelcome solicitors. Some smart lock options can interact with your smart lock to allow you to let someone in as well.

Networking

While networking may not be as sexy as other tech like media rooms, streaming music and smart home gear, its the backbone of all that good stuff. Its important to give networking careful thought and attention so it can work for you.

  • Wire everything you can: Other than portable devices like mobile phones and tablets, most home tech gear can and should be wired to your network. Don’t make devices like TVs, Apple TVs, desktop computers, printers, etc. fight for Wi-Fi – they will work better when physically connected to a solid network. Think of the future too, as a few extra networking wires won’t cost much at build time, but will come in handy when and where you need them.
  • Ensure good Wi-Fi where you want it (inside or outside): Think about where you want to good wi-fiuse Wi-Fi and make sure you can put a Wi-Fi access point close enough for a good Wi-Fi signal there. For example, one router in a basement most likely will not cover a whole home. Consider a home’s layout and building material, and run network wire so you can install Wi-Fi points where needed.
  • Use professional quality equipment and cabling: A home’s network is no longer just for checking the odd email or cat video – its now major infrastructure asset for your entertainment, work, automation and more. When you consider how much you will use and rely on it, the investment is very reasonable.

Well architected home tech can add enjoyment and value to your home while still allowing it to feel like a home. Some up front planning can balance your home tech needs with your style and aesthetics.

How to hide technology gear like TV components

hide technology

Most people want to hide technology so they don’t see their home’s audio and video gear. You need to see the TV while you’re watching it, but other gear can be hidden in a cabinet or closet. The good news is that there are ways to control the hidden gear – these include IR repeaters, universal remotes with hubs, and control systems.

We first need to understand how audio and video gear is controlled. Most devices like TVs, cable boxes, AV receivers and blu-ray players use IR remotes. IR, or infrared, is light that we can’t see that is used to carry control signals. Some higher end devices like TVs and AV receivers can also be controlled with a serial port. This is a special communication port that gives full control of the device. More and more devices are also including control using your home’s computer network as well. Some devices can also be controlled with wireless technologies like Bluetooth. For example, Sony only allows the PS4 to be controlled by their Bluetooth remote or game controllers.

An IR repeater is a simple and affordable way to get the IR signals into a cabinet. These require a sensor somewhere outside the cabinet that receives the signal, and then the signal is sent to one or more IR transmitters (IR LED lights) inside the cabinet. Usually these work best for a simple system like just a cable box hidden away. Not all IR signals are the same, so some may not be properly repeated IR repeater receiverinside the cabinet. The gear can’t be too far away either, as repeaters aren’t made to cover long distances. Although quite small, you also need to find a place to put the sensor that isn’t an eyesore in the room. Finally, of course, these will only work with IR controlled devices.

The next step up is to use a universal remote that includes a hub or base station that is placed inside the cabinet. With these remotes, such as the Harmony Ellite, the remote uses a wireless radio signal to talk to the hub, and the hub then sends the IR signals. These systems will allow for equipment placed a bit further way, but its best to keep harmony remotecomponents within the same room. It should be noted that IR is one-way control. An IR remote has no knowledge if your TV has turned on or is set to the right input for example, so some of these remotes have help features to fix issues when hiccups like these happen. These types of remotes often include control for smart home products like Sonos and Lutron Caseta as well.

If you want complete control, then you can choose a home control system such as an RTI system. These powerful systems can take the complication out of a TV room, an elabourate home theatre or smart home to make it easy to operate. You can choose to use hand-held remotes, smartphone or tablet apps, wall touchpads, or any combination of these controllers. These offer two-way control of custom home controlmany devices using a serial port or network connection, so it can determine if devices (like your TV) are on, and all the components are set to the right input, etc. While IR repeaters and many universal remotes are good for a do-it-yourselfer, you’ll need a professional to set up a home control system. It can even be setup to run things like lights and heat without you needing to do anything.

You have options if you’d like to hide technology out of sight. Tech is always changing, so not all control options will control all devices. If you’re handy, maybe you can set up a IR repeater or universal remote yourself, or maybe your want a professional to figure out what will work and set one of these up for you, Whatever you choose, make sure that there is adequate ventilation or fans to keep your gear cool as electronics can get hot. As always, let us know if you’d like a hand getting the right solution set up for you.

How to secure your home tech

home tech hackerThere seems to be a scary news article every month or so that makes it seem like home tech is particularly vulnerable to evil hackers. The truth is that anything – be it your home, car or home tech – can be vulnerable if you don’t take precautions. You likely don’t leave your car unlocked with the keys in the ignition, but this unfortunately is essentially what sometimes happens with home technology.

The biggest issue is that people often don’t change the default passwords that come with their home tech gear. The classic example is a network camera from a big box store. These are often just plugged in right out the box and used with the defaults. Sure its easy, but its also foolish. Some hackers find it fun to scour the Internet looking for network cameras with default passwords so they can log in and link to your video. It gets really creepy when they log into a camera with two-way communications and they start talking to you! The same goes with consumer automation packages – someone can jump onto your system and start turning your lights on and off. The good news is that most hackers are harmless, and some even are trying to warn you before a real thug logs into your system. Most of these types of issues can be avoided by simply changing the default password. And while you’re at it, make it a good password that is hard to hack!

Humans make errors, and humans write the programs for home tech. Occasionally there is a bug in the code that may be security related. Most companies are open and transparently admit to the issue and provide a timely software or firmware update for their products. That’s why its always a good idea to immediately check the manufacturer’s website to see if there is new software or firmware to update when you install a device. You should also regularly check for updates in case new issues are found.

Now that you’ve changed the password and updated the software, don’t stop there. Make sure you’re network is safe too. What’s the point of locking down a fancy new home automation system if it uses your insecure Wi-FI? A common problem is that people make their Wi-Fi passcode something easy to remember (like their phone number), but this is easy for hackers too. Use a strong password – even a moderately stronger one is better than something simple that anyone off the street or behind a computer on the other side of the world could figure out.

You can dig a lot deeper on home tech and network security including closing or blocking open ports and MAC filtering, but a balanced approach will get you started in the right direction. Like anything from a car to home tech, if there is perceived value and its easy enough, someone will figure out a way to break in. There is nothing special about home tech in this regard. Your job is make hacker’s jobs hard enough so they’d rather choose an easier target.

Help your Wi-Fi – how to build a great wired home network

robust network equipment

It seems that everything we do these days from checking Instagram to streaming Netflix relies on good network connections within the home and to the Internet. We talked about how to build a great home Wi-Fi network, but there is a lot more to the story for a home network – its the wired network that does the heavy lifting. A great wired home network requires proper cabling in the walls, planning where to run the cabling, and the proper equipment.

The first part to get right is what cabling to put into your home’s walls to get all your data moving around with ease. Our go to is Cat 6 networking cable, as it offers good data rates, reasonable cost, and good workability for electricians to pull through a home. It offers 1 Gbps data rates (current top speed of consumer gear), and for lengths of up to around 30-50 meters, it should be able get up to 10 Gbps. The next step up in network cabling is Cat 6a. It allows up to 10 Gbps up to the max 100 meters. Cat 6a can run higher data bandwidths because its eight wires are twisted together with more careful spacing than Cat 6. But this makes Cat 6a more expensive, thicker and harder to install. These Category (“Cat”) cables can also be be shielded with aluminum foil to help keep electrical interference away. This ensures data rates can be as fast as possible. Cat 7 takes it to another level and cost. Its also worth looking atCleerline fibre optic cable fibre optic cable, as fibre can allow 10 Gbps, isn’t bothered by electrical interference, and costs are coming down. Fibre is also getting easier to work with as companies like Cleerline are making more rugged optical cable.

Next, you have to think about where to run cabling to. Run it to all the places that need data: AV media rooms, Wi-Fi access points, computers, printers, etc. Basically run to anywhere you would conceivably have home tech that can be plugged into the network. This way your Wi-Fi is left for devices like smart phones and tablets. Although running cables isn’t free, its way more cost effective and convenient to run wires during construction than after the fact. To mitigate costs and maximize future proofing, you can have a dual strategy: run Cat 6 as usual, and double up runs to places like AV media centres with something like shielded Cat 6 or optical cable. As devices like media streamers will likely be increasingly data hungry, especially with 4K UHDTV, this should help cover you for the future.

Finally there is the networking equipment like routers and IP switches that actually enable your home’s network. As mentioned earlier when focusing on the Wi-Fi part of your network, cheap gear is, well, cheap. If you and you family use and value your home network for activities like work, streaming media, and playing video games, then there is likely a lot of data pumping through your home. Even an average family home uses more data and Internet bandwidth than most people realize. Imagine what happens when you layer on even more home tech like 4K TV content, lighting automation and video surveillance, This is why your network gear needs to be well thought out for functionality, performance and reliability. You need to choose all network routers and switches to handle your home data load without bottlenecks. Fast equipment like 1 Gbps is common now, but gear must also be trustworthy. It may be tempting to try save money and buy equipment that is less expensive, but you need gear that is designed to be robust and run pain free for years. You end up paying for it one way or another. Some professional home tech equipment allows for remote fixes as well – a nice feature so you don’t have to wait for a scheduled service appointed if something does go wrong.

Planning a home network may be a lot to think about, but the reality is that technology in the home is only growing and needs the right foundation. It will be well worth the cost and effort to get it right when you’re building or renovating – use the right cable, to the right places, and with the right equipment. As with anything in your home, from painting to hot water tanks, some maintenance is expected, but its minor when your network infrastructure is solid. With a well designed network, you and your family can just focus on doing the things you enjoy.