3

I am completing my home remodel and have decided to wire CAT6 cables throughout the house with at least 2 sockets for the wall jacks in each room.

My subcontractor has already wired all of the rooms and we are in the process of finalizing the network closet.

My subcontractor is saying that I do not need to use a patch panel; but he is leaving me the final say in the matter. I am leaning towards using the patch panel but I also have several questions:

  1. Am I going overboard by using a patch panel for my home? Or will it save a few headaches in the future if I need to modify my home network closet?

  2. If I do, in fact use both the patch panel and switch - are there any helpful guides that diagram how the modem and router connects to the patch panel and switch? I want to ensure I have the proper setup to double check my subcontractor's work.

I purchased:

  • Cable Matters 24 Port Cat6a Shielded Patch Panel (link)
  • TP Link TL-SG1024 10/100/1000Mbps 24-Port Gigabit 19-inch Rackmountable Switch, 48Gbps Capacity (link)

I currently have and plan to use:

  • ASUS (RT-AC68U) Wireless-AC1900 Dual-Band Gigabit Router (for misc iPads)
  • ARRIS SURFboard SB6183 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem. My ISP is Time Warner Cable @ 300 mbs DL

Thank you.

  • This question seems to depend on personal preference, so I might vote to close as "Primarily opinion based". – Tester101 Oct 31 '15 at 13:47
8

Short answer, you definitely want the patch panel, especially if you ran shielded cable. (If you did not run shielded cable, you probably don't want a shielded patch panel.)

Male terminations are less reliable than punchdown connections. They tend to create marginal / intermittent failures in many cases, which can be particularly hard to track down. To make matters worse, they often work for a while, then fail after the cable has been tugged / flexed / inserted / removed a few times.

If you ran shielded cable, the patch panel should be grounded to ground the shield. You could try to ground the shileds of the modular plug terminated cables but it will be a mess.

Honestly nobody that does much datacom installation would suggest mod plugs over a patch panel.

  • In my experience shielded ethernet cable (STP) is relatively rare outside of specialty applications like industrial plants or radio stations. The only reason to use shielded cabling is if you expect an unusually high level of interference. On the other hand, in-wall cable is often solid (compared to patch cables which are stranded). – Hank Oct 31 '15 at 3:16
  • Presuming shielded cable was pulled, you seem to be saying that you shouldn't bother grounding the RJ45 plugs: "You could try to ground the shileds of the modular plug terminated cables but it will be a mess." If you actually do use shielded cable, then you definitely want to use shielded plugs, and you most definitely want to ground those plugs. If you don't, the shielded cable will probably cause more interference than it prevents. If the panel is shielded/groundable, ground it regardless of whether you ran shielded cable. Ground anything you plug shielded cable into. – Craig Oct 31 '15 at 8:28
  • @Craig - no, I agree that the shield should be grounded at least at one end, my point is the patch panel is the only practical way to achieve that. – batsplatsterson Oct 31 '15 at 10:06
  • 1
    @Henry Jackson - the most common place I see STP used just like the OP - people that thought they were buying something better, then later find out it's a lot harder to work with, and usually unnecessary. UTP is OK even in 99% of industrial applications. Rule of thumb: If you're not sure whether you need STP, just buy UTP. – batsplatsterson Oct 31 '15 at 10:10
  • 2
    @Henry Jackson - clarification, my remarks about unreliable DIY mod plug connections are based on the assumption the cable is solid core conductors, as any in-wall cable would be. Mod plugs work well with stranded core cable. – batsplatsterson Oct 31 '15 at 10:15
7

Couple of benefits of patch panels.

They make the install neater. You could have the entire bundle of cables going to each room just terminated and hanging lose until it is needed. Or you can terminate them into a panel where they are tucked away. Also labeling the bundle of cables is problematic. Labels fall off and then you spend 10 minutes trying to figure which cable is the one you want. On a patch panel, it is easy to label and they don't tend to fall off.

Patch cables are easier to work with. Patch cables are stranded core and bend easy. The cabling in your wall is solid core and really wants to go the way it wants to go.

Now for the switch and modem. Both can be installed next to the patch panel, but at least the switch needs to be installed there. Your switch(s) should be a couple of ports larger than what you plan on using. Patch the rooms you want to use to the switch from the panel. If you modem is with your switch, then use an ethernet cord to connect the switch to the modem. If your modem is in another room, just plug the modem into one of the network jacks in the room and then make sure that patch panel port is plugged into the switch.

4

My own opinion on the pros and cons of a patch panel:

Pros:

  • Cleaner look
  • Easier to locate a specific room's connection
  • Easier to deal with non-connected rooms (think of a 5 port switch in a 10 room home with only needing to connect 3 of those rooms)

Cons:

  • Extra piece of equipment to install and clutter a tight networking space
  • Extra possible failure point or signal degradation

To me the deciding point is if you intend to connect every single room and how important a clean look is to you. If every room will be connected to the switch and you don't mind a bit of mess, then skip the patch panel. But if you plan to leave some connections disconnected until needed to save space on the switch, or just like the clean look, then go for the patch panel.

For the modem and router, I don't connect those to the patch panel, that's just for the wires to the rooms in the house. You'd plug the modem into the router and the router into the switch. Then the switch would be connected to every port on the patch panel that you want to have active.

As an aside, I did use a patch panel in my home network, and not every connection goes to the switch in my setup. On the UPS powering the network equipment, only the modem, router (with 4 ports), and voip equipment is on the battery backup, and the switch is only protected from surges. Rooms that have UPS powered equipment are connected directly to the router, along with another room that I wanted to prioritize traffic separately.

4

Personally, I find little use or benefit to a patch panel in a home install.

If using the correct connectors (ones rated for solid wires, or more typically for both solid and stranded wires, rather than the ones rated only for stranded wires) plug connections are quick and easy, and there's two fewer places to fail (the patch panel jack and the patch panel end of the patch cable.) I've seen enough patch panel jack failures to be wary of them when I don't need them.

However, I own and use an RJ-45 crimper (and I can prepare and crimp a cable about as fast as I can punch one down.) If you do NOT own and use a crimper, you might prefer to be able to replace patch cables rather than having to re-terminate a wall cable, in the event that a cable did fail. Cheesy plastic punch-down tools are typically thrown in in for free with jacks, and a decent quality punch-down tool is cheaper than a decent quality crimper if you want to have better tools to fix your own network if it breaks.

In the vast majority of home installs, nothing moves in the network closet, so the arguments based on "cable movement, cable flexing, cables breaking at the wall due to flexing" are based mostly on imagination. Likewise with repatching - it pretty much never happens in a home. The only time I've seen cable damage not right at the connector is when a cable is run out of the wall to an end-user computer. Otherwise it's nearly always within 4" of the end of the cable, and usually right at the plug - and only for plugs that are actually moved on a frequent basis. I have seen "a bundle of cables run right into a switch" break "at the wall" exactly... never - but I've only been in this line of work for 30-odd years.

As for aesthetics, I find no real benefit - first, it's in a closet, not in the center of the living room wall. If you don't have to look at it, looks don't count. Second, a whole cluster of patch cables is ultimately about as messy as a whole bundle of cables coming from the wall. Labeling is easily managed with wire labels directly on the wires.

I'm with your subcontractor - if you'd rather have it, more profit to her or him. And kudos to him or her for not simply trying to hard sell you on it so as to gain the profit. And if you really, really want to make it fancy and nice looking, consider the living room wall, rather than hiding it in a closet...

Additional Note: With the advent of 5GHz wireless, which goes through walls poorly, and wireless devices proliferating, a jack in/near the center of the ceiling is often beneficial in each room.

  • Extra points for the comment about the jack(s) in the ceiling(s), for things like PoE wireless access points and whatever makes sense there. Even 2.4Ghz wireless can encounter serious issues in certain older-construction homes where there is a wire mesh on the walls helping hold the mortar to the slats in lathe-and-plaster finished walls. My one minor niggle with you disparaging "a neat look" is that neat looks often also coincide with things being buttoned up so that they're less susceptible to accidental damage. – Craig Oct 31 '15 at 21:54
  • Excessive neatness can actually increase alien crosstalk (too much neat parallel routing/bundling of cables) though it's unlikely to be an issue in a most home installs, either. A certain amount of hipty-dipty is better than military precision... – Ecnerwal Oct 31 '15 at 22:51
  • Well, yes, but... given the reality that people can and routinely do button things up like this without NEXT bringing their networks to the ground, I'd hazard a guess that a home user installing a nice, tidy patch panel is unlikely to experience network failure. ;-) – Craig Nov 1 '15 at 1:25
  • Of course, do observe requirements keeping the wire twisted up to within about 1/4" (Cat6 or 7) to 1/2" (Cat 5e) of termination and so on. If you undo too much of the twists in your twisted pairs, then you'll really start to experience objectionable near end and far end crosstalk (which is signals near the ends of the wires mingling with the signals on neighboring wires). thenetworkencyclopedia.com/entry/near-end-crosstalk-next – Craig Nov 1 '15 at 1:29
1

I put in a patch panel because I was doing it myself, and I though it looked cool, but it's not really going to get you any extra functionality if your switch and router are in the same location. I don't see a "need" for it.

Basically what you're going to have is 24 CAT6 cables coming out of the wall, terminating into your patch panel, and then 24 12" CAT6 patch cables going between the panel and the switch. You could just put some RJ45 connectors on your cables coming out of the wall and plug them right into the switch.

Where it can help is if you ever need to make any room-to-room connections. It also "cleans up" the install and makes it look fancy and professional. If you have to terminate the wires yourself, I'd rather punch them down to a patch panel rather than trying to terminate everything with RJ-45s (depending on the number).

I think it looks nice, so if you want it, do it. I just see it as a preference.

  • 1
    There is the big issue regarding the solid versus stranded wire connections. Most often the long runs of wire in walls is solid and this stuff is just not very good with the modular jacks on the ends as many of the other answers have pointed out. So it is only just a preference if stranded wire was used in the walls. – Michael Karas Oct 31 '15 at 10:43
  • I'm not sure that I would call it a big issue. It's a technical issue, but "solid" Ethernet cable is still quite flexible, and tends to be plugged in during an install and never touched after that. If you like to fiddle around with your network, then get a patch panel, by all means, but if you want to save some money, I have a hard time saying its "required" even in light of all the additional comment. – JPhi1618 Nov 2 '15 at 14:34
  • The cable itself is indeed quite flexible. But that is not the issue here. It is the modular connector itself that uses eight flat metal pieces at have insulation piercing points on one side. These are pressed into place via the crimping tool and are meant to each go through the insulation of a conductor and contact with the wire inside. This termination method works very well with stranded wire and not so well with solid wire. In similar manner solid wire works very well in the type of contacts found in punch down blocks whereas stranded wire not so well. – Michael Karas Nov 2 '15 at 15:35
  • No arguing your point, but wanted to comment to other readers - There are different modular plugs for solid and stranded cable, so read the packaging carefully and don't attempt to "get by" with the wrong type which is asking for trouble. – JPhi1618 Nov 2 '15 at 15:44
  • Actually there are, it turns out, two different classes of the modular connector. There are those made specifically for stranded wire (common in my experience) and those of solid wire (less common from what I've seen). See here for more info. cableorganizer.com/articles/… – Michael Karas Nov 2 '15 at 15:45
1

Are you talking about using a patch panel as opposed to just pulling a bundle of cables out of your wall into your switch?

This is much more than an issue of convenience or cosmetics. The reason that permanently installed wiring is always terminated in outlets or patch panels is to protect it from flexing or bending when in use. (This is true of all wiring: power, phone, co-ax, cat-5, whatever.) Bending a wire will cause it to eventually break.

If you leave your network cable just protruding from the wall, when it breaks it will be at the most inconvenient place -- where it comes out of the wall. And it will break at the most inconvenient time -- when you're unplugging and replugging things in the midst of troubleshooting.

If you install a patch panel, then your patch cords will do all the bending. You can replace a patch cord without damaging any walls.

I'm a little worried that your subcontractor doesn't seem to understand this. I would never allow permanent wiring of any stripe to be installed where it would normally be moved, flexed, or bent during its lifetime.

0

Presumably your in-wall wires are solid. In that case, it is far easier to wire a jack than a mod plug; in my experience it is 1 minute vs 5+ minutes, and I don't do this much. Patch cables are mass-produced and very cheap.

It will take you far less time to wire the patch panel than to wire the individual mod plugs, and your setup will look far neater.

Additionally, it is much easier to diagnose a bad cable connection with a jack than with a mod plug; with the jack a wire is usually loose or not attached.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.