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We have run CAT6a cable throughout our house and will be placing the network switches in a closet. The wiring will enter the closet from a wall backing to the attic space (we aren't coming down from the ceiling). Currently the cable is running through conduit within the wall.

Should we run the cables to a patch panel in the network cabinet OR I was considering placing a patch panel on the wall so the front facing into the closet and the back is the attic space?

I like the idea of a patch panel in the wall as I can simply plug from there into the switches (seems convenient enough) but interested in validation if this is really prudent or not. Another consideration would be the heat exchange from the attic space to the closet (via the patch panel).

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My standard procedure:

  • Put a big piece of plywood on the wall - in this case, the wall shared between the closet and the attic. Make sure you get screws through the plywood into two studs.
  • Mount patch panel(s) on the plywood.
  • Feel free to mount other small things, as appropriate, directly on the plywood.
  • Bring all your cables around one side (top, bottom, left or right - whatever works for your particular setup) of the plywood and into the patch panel(s).
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In my experience with a small inexpensive patch panel (something like this: https://www.amazon.com/Dshot-network-Mount-Surface-Patch/dp/B00NUXCHE6/), there wasn't really space to bring the cables into it from "behind" where it's mounted on the wall. It's somewhat flexible, but it seems designed to have a bundle of cables enter from one or both ends.

So given that, since you have a network cabinet, I would bring the cables through the wall in a bundle, into the cabinet, and put the patch panel in there.

That way you will have plenty of slack to work with, when setting up or working with the panel, and you won't have to push/pull cables through the wall for slack. Your wall penetration can be set up in whatever way works best for you, and seal it up around the cables to reduce heat leakage.

(I can't quite tell what you're proposing when you say "in the wall", but I definitely would not cut a hole big enough for the entire patch panel to be accessed from behind. I agree that would be a big problem for heat leakage.)

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It's not the heat escape that really matters, but the vapour

Keep holes to an absolute minimum to prevent moisture entering your attic space. A patch panel in the drywall would mean a large, significant air leaky hole and therefore the cables only would be much better for your home's vapour control.

What's vapour control and why does it matter?

Humans produce absolutely loads of water vapour in a home - through the obvious methods like using a shower, cooking or sweating, but also simply breathing and talking puts water vapour into the air. When this vapour gets in contact with a cold surface, it condenses and eventually causes rotting and mold.

Traditional home construction involves using outside air to blow that condensation and moisture out of parts of the house that are vulnerable to significant amounts of it, like your attic space. Using air in this way though is not at all efficient - it means a notable chunk of your house is drafty by design, routinely blowing warmth out, and moisture is still fundamentally contacting the structure of your house.

So, more recent construction techniques involve a continuous vapour barrier just above the ceiling and behind the drywall of your exterior walls. Its goal is to completely prevent moisture contacting the timbers of your home, meaning that the old school air technique isn't necessary anymore. But there's a catch - "continuous" really, really matters. Small holes through your vapour control layers allow lots of moisture carrying air through.

TLDR: Keep moisture out of your attic space by minimising holes to give your timbers a healthy lifespan. Any holes that do penetrate into the attic space are best being taped up with some form of vapour proof tape.

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  • Was this intended for a different question? – whatsisname Apr 10 at 1:53
  • @whatsisname the question is asking if it's ok to embed a network patch panel in drywall with an attic on the other side. The OP correctly identifies that heat will escape through the hole, but it's primarily water vapour that is an issue with such a hole. Patch panels are large. It's better to route the (significantly smaller) cables only through the wall, rather than the whole panel. – Luke Briggs Apr 10 at 2:05

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