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Currently saving to build a new home and I'm going over wiring options in my mind. My current home has too few sockets, cable connections and LAN ports (yes I still like wired LAN, wireless is good but wired is faster).

I'd like to solicit some recommendations for pros and cons of multicables (I.E. cables that have power, telephone, network, and TV cable all bundled into one). Has anyone used a multicable bundle and if so, what are the ups and downs of them?

I'd also like to get some good recommendations of a brand to use. Cables and wall plates if you have come across them before.

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I was always told to run power and data separately due to interference, but I guess maybe the makers have overcome that problem. but +1 for wired networks. –  Tester101 Jul 23 '10 at 12:05
    
@Tester101 I was thinking the same thing. Wasn't sure if they'd developed better shielding for power or data. I'm hoping they did. I like organized wiring and to have just 1 "bundle" of cables running through the walls instead of several cables would make me a happy camper. –  Scott Vercuski Jul 23 '10 at 12:07
    
Are you sure power is even an option in these cables? A lot of the answers you've gotten have focused on this, but I don't believe it typically is, probably for the same reasons given in your other answers. –  Mike Powell Sep 8 '10 at 20:18
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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I would not recommend these. I researched them a few years ago when building and opted to just do them all individually. Coax (Quad shield RG6), cat 5e, cat 3, and speaker wire. It was actually more cost effective to buy them all in 500-1000' spools individually, than to buy a lot of multicable. Plus, the interference can be an issue. You could combine the phone and network use cat 5/6 for the phones, but again, it was more cost effective to buy them separately.

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interesting, thank you! Guess the shielding tech hasn't quite caught up yet. –  Scott Vercuski Jul 23 '10 at 12:33
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Whether shielding is strong enough to protect your data or not (I've not heard it is) I would think it's rare that EVERYTHING in a multi-cable is going between the exact same points A & B in the same order. Lights connect switch-to-fixture, power outlets can run a loop while network needs to take each jack back to the closet. I wired co-ax through a room in series once, and got in trouble with the cable installer due to signal loss. While the idea of combined cable may sound nice from an organizational standpoint, I'd think it would only be good for about 20 feet of distance in an entire house. And it's frightfully expensive.

On the other hand, with a bit of organization all you need to run is power, Cat 5/6 and Coax. Cat 5/6 & RJ45 technically includes 2 phone lines, and even leaves Pins 4 and 5 as line 1 for RJ11 compatibility. (Although never use a single wire for both phone and data, the ring voltage will kill your data.) If you wire the entire house with Cat 5/6 and RJ45 plugs, you can use any cable as a phone line by just plugging an RJ11 into the existing outlet. Very handy.

After all that, a few multi-cables can be handy. For example, something bundling Component Video, HDMI, and a few channels of audio can be very handy to connect an A/V stack in a closet to a theater room. But you're still talking very short runs, as you'll just need a single trunk from point A to B.

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Cat5/5e/6 have 4 pairs. A phone line takes 1 pair (so you can run 4), 10/100Mbit ethernet takes 2 pairs, and Gigabit ethernet takes 4 pairs (and requires Cat5e or Cat6). A common practice commercially is to use RJ45 + Cat5e/6 for all voice/data (an RJ11 phone can plug into an RJ45 connector just fine), and then use a patch panel to either connect a jack to a switch (for ethernet) or a phone line. Reading again, I think you meant the same thing, it's just worded confusingly. –  gregmac Jul 23 '10 at 22:14
    
Happens some days, especially when you're not sure what level of detail you're trying to express. >_< –  Scivitri Jul 24 '10 at 18:20
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I have not used the multi-cables but I don't think they're a good idea because I suspect you'll end up abandoning half of the cables in the bundle a few years down the road, and needing to pull some other type of cable.

Running 110 AC in the same bundle and to the same electrical boxes as your low-voltage data/telecom/AV stuff sounds like an invitation to interference.

Unless you're seriously overengineering your electrical system, you're not going to end up with a "home run" configuration between the electrical panel and your outlets/switches/lamps; you'll probably end up with a few outlets or lamps daisy-chained on the same wire run from the circuit breaker. That's fine for 110; but it's not how people wire Ethernet these days, and I would suggest the "home run" or star topology for your data and AV, too, just to maximize flexibility in the future.

I'd also be concerned about combination 110 and low voltage in the same bundle in the event there were some sort of failure/penetration of the bundle - you might end up shorting the 110 right into the low voltage wiring, which would probably be the end of whatever nice equipment you had hooked up to the low voltage (network, phone, CATV) stuff. I wouldn't want to have to turn off electrical circuits because I wanted to monkey with network/speaker wiring - but I wouldn't want to work with knives/diagonal cutters/etc on a cable bundle with live 110 in it, either.

If I were specifying new construction, I'd ask for several home runs of the blue "smurf tube" low voltage conduit to each room - my personal preference is to use Cat 6 for everything (LAN + telephone + CCTV) that doesn't absolutely require coax, but I'm not a big CATV/satellite watcher so my tastes may be relatively unsophisticated in that regard.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that it's impossible to anticipate what you'll want/need in the future, and how technology will change, so you should set things up so you can run new cabling without tearing up walls, or being forced to rip out your entire existing installation.

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+1 for conduit of some sort - network and TV technology is still changing quite rapidly. I can easily forsee replacing the CATV coax with more network traffic in the next few years, so if I were building new, I'd try REALLY hard to make it easy to change. –  Michael Kohne Aug 26 '10 at 5:02
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Power wires are not supposed to be run parallel to low-voltage wires within 12". The only time they should get closer is if they are crossing over each other at a right angle (to cut down on interference). They are not allowed to run in the same conduit or terminate in the same box as each other. Otherwise the power cable could short to the much smaller data cable and turn it into a nice long heating filament.

I've run nothing but Cat5 and RG6 coax in my house, with Leviton QuickPort wall plates & inserts. They have jacks with almost anything on the front that connect to Cat5 on the back (think binding posts for speakers, RCA jacks for audio or composite/component video, S-video, RJ45, RJ11, ...) I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet when I get a display with HDMI input, though.

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Consider that the world is moving towards having only two types of wiring:

  • Electricity (120VAC or whatever your local standard is)
  • Data (IP over Ethernet over Cat5e)

Coax will be increasingly useless as video is delivered to a receiver over IP. Speaker wire will be only be used within a single room, with each room having its own amp and IP-based music receiver. Phones are increasingly IP-based (and even POTS phones can use Cat5e runs in the interim).

Wired data will always have an advantage over wireless, especially in densely populated areas like condos. It's likely that Cat5e will eventually be replaced by something though. For that reason, try to build in such a way that it's possible to retrofit other cable later on.

So to answer your question: No, don't bother running lots of different physical media to each room. Run lots of data and power, and run only as much of the other stuff as you actually need today. My bet is that you won't need more of it as time goes on, you'll need less of it.

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