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Thread: Which approach for the mains wiring?

  1. #1
    Automated Home Ninja Andrew Millne's Avatar
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    Default Which approach for the mains wiring?

    I am starting to see the light at the end of the planning tunnel and I'm about ready to start the actual installation. Before I get there I was looking for some advice regarding the actual mains wiring side of things if possible. I have a limited understanding of the anatomy of a typical domestic wiring installation but my ambitions are now beyond "typical"

    The existing electrical wiring in the house is dated but still in full working order so what I would like to do is rather than completely re-wire immediately, tackle things in stages.

    At the moment following the meter there is 2 old fusewire consumer units (one for upstairs and one for downstairs) What I would like to do is have an electrician install an isolator and a new consumer unit in tandem with the existing consumer units and slowly upgrade the wiring over the course of a couple of years as the different parts of the house are decorated. The kitchen is currently in the design stage so this would be first with the wiring installed at the same time as the new consumer unit. Will I be allowed to do this legally in accordance with "the regs"?

    Also, throughout the house the floor skirting is quite high and in one of the rooms the pattress boxes have been flush mounted behind the skirting. Is this OK according to the regs? the reason I ask is it leaves it very easy to install additional pattresses in the future very easily avoiding further chasing out of the walls.

    My final query is in relation to suggested circuits connected to the consumer unit. In my old house the consumer unit was very basic. It consisted of MCB's for...

    • Upstairs Lighting
    • Downstairs Lighting
    • Upstairs Sockets
    • Downstairs Sockets
    • Kitchen
    • Central Heating


    What I can't work out is why some of the pictures of node zero's on here have several CU's. Is this because ALL INDIVIDUAL lights are star wired back to relays/dimmers in node zero? This to me seems like an open invitation for any electrician installing to ask for a blank cheque! Is there really any advantage to this? I am planning on installing an Idratek based system so can I not simply replace the typical light switches with Idratek button/relay modules to achieve the same thing?

    Thanks in advance and apologies for the lengthy post.

  2. #2
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    Default Another Wiring Question

    I am building a new wooden frame house. First fix wiring is underway and I have the oportunity to wire extensively for home automation inexpensively. I would like to buy a decent AV package in a few months but for now I want to spend my money on the best possible wiring. I'm thinking of running CAT5E & COAX to 4 or 5 areas of the house with speaker wiring in each area too. I'd also like to investigate mood lighting and wire for that too. Heating control interests me too. I'd like the cool factor of a touch screen remote that controls AV, heat, lights, camera inputs too possibly.

    I want to spend up to 1k now on the most comprehensive wiring solution available. I have read about CAT5E & CAT6 and the consensus seems to be that CAT5E will be good enough for most domestic AV purposes. I have also read that 2 runs of CAT5E (and perhaps coax) is wise to allow flexibility in future.

    I am looking at AV MCU systems like OPUS 500. This seems to be fairly highly recommended. I've also looked at NUVO SIMPLESE but can't find a lot of info.

    So, my questions are:

    Can anyone recommend either of these systems?
    Would you recommend CAT5E *2 per zone?
    I have been reading in this forum about wiring solutions (such as abitana & britishhome network higher-grade-than-CAT5 wiring)which seem to be more costly but more flexible too. I'm not sure how this wiring works along with a packaged AV system. If I wanted to go with a simple to use AV system with nice faceplates would this simply replace the CAT5E wiring? AM struggling to get my head around this.


    Sorry for the long list of questions from a first time poster. I hope you won't mind helping me.

    Thanks.
    Last edited by total novice; 17th December 2007 at 11:33 PM. Reason: clarity

  3. #3
    Automated Home Legend TimH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Millne View Post
    I am starting to see the light at the end of the planning tunnel and I'm about ready to start the actual installation. Before I get there I was looking for some advice regarding the actual mains wiring side of things if possible. I have a limited understanding of the anatomy of a typical domestic wiring installation but my ambitions are now beyond "typical"
    There are quite a few books on UK wiring, one of the best general ones is the Collins Guide to DIY (I'll post the Amazon link when I find it on their site...)

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Millne View Post
    The existing electrical wiring in the house is dated but still in full working order so what I would like to do is rather than completely re-wire immediately, tackle things in stages.

    At the moment following the meter there is 2 old fusewire consumer units (one for upstairs and one for downstairs) What I would like to do is have an electrician install an isolator and a new consumer unit in tandem with the existing consumer units and slowly upgrade the wiring over the course of a couple of years as the different parts of the house are decorated. The kitchen is currently in the design stage so this would be first with the wiring installed at the same time as the new consumer unit. Will I be allowed to do this legally in accordance with "the regs"?
    Yes, this should be fine. You may find it easier to replace the consumer unit (aka fuse box) and reconnect the old circuits and upgrade those stage by stage, rather than put in a separate box etc (you'd have to find space for the separate box(es) etc. in addition to the existing boards. A separate isolator switch after the supply company's fuse is a good idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Millne View Post
    Also, throughout the house the floor skirting is quite high and in one of the rooms the pattress boxes have been flush mounted behind the skirting. Is this OK according to the regs? the reason I ask is it leaves it very easy to install additional pattresses in the future very easily avoiding further chasing out of the walls.
    Regulations for new-build specify that sockets must be no closer to the floor than 450mm (IIRC) and that light switches must be no higher than 1200mm (again, IIRC). You don't, however, have to change any existing wiring to meet the new regs (phew...)

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Millne View Post
    My final query is in relation to suggested circuits connected to the consumer unit. In my old house the consumer unit was very basic. It consisted of MCB's for...

    • Upstairs Lighting
    • Downstairs Lighting
    • Upstairs Sockets
    • Downstairs Sockets
    • Kitchen
    • Central Heating
    Perhaps add "outside lights", "outside sockets"

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Millne View Post
    What I can't work out is why some of the pictures of node zero's on here have several CU's. Is this because ALL INDIVIDUAL lights are star wired back to relays/dimmers in node zero?
    In short, Yes
    Lights *and* sockets are often wired back to one or two central locations.
    It is possible to distribute the control modules around the house but then fault finding is more protracted and there are issues regarding the "hiding" of modules. All racked-up in a few consumer units is quite a neat way of installing things. If your consumer units then look like rats nests its time to find a new electrician

    The X10 (and others) plug-in modules allow you to keep your existing wiring circuits (rings, usually) and the control is moved out to the devices plugged in through the modules. The big advantage here is if you're in a rented property, or are not planning to stay to long where you are and can then take your automation with you. It's also a cheap and easy way to dip your toe into the automation waters.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Millne View Post
    This to me seems like an open invitation for any electrician installing to ask for a blank cheque! Is there really any advantage to this? I am planning on installing an Idratek based system so can I not simply replace the typical light switches with Idratek button/relay modules to achieve the same thing?

    Thanks in advance and apologies for the lengthy post.
    I'm not up to speed on how Idratek works but I understand it is a bus-type system. AFAIK you have the option to wire it centrally or a distributed fashion but you should check with the guys at Idratek to be sure.

    HTH,

    Tim.

  4. #4
    Automated Home Legend TimH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by total novice View Post
    I am building a new wooden frame house. First fix wiring is underway and I have the oportunity to wire extensively for home automation inexpensively. I would like to buy a decent AV package in a few months but for now I want to spend my money on the best possible wiring. I'm thinking of running CAT5E & COAX to 4 or 5 areas of the house with speaker wiring in each area too. I'd also like to investigate mood lighting and wire for that too. Heating control interests me too. I'd like the cool factor of a touch screen remote that controls AV, heat, lights, camera inputs too possibly.

    I want to spend up to 1k now on the most comprehensive wiring solution available. I have read about CAT5E & CAT6 and the consensus seems to be that CAT5E will be good enough for most domestic AV purposes. I have also read that 2 runs of CAT5E (and perhaps coax) is wise to allow flexibility in future.
    This post might've been better as a separate thread, but here goes...

    1st point - you aren't planning for nearly enough cable IMHO. I'd wire the Cat5/5e + coax & speaker to 4 or 5 locations *in each room*... You are right to think about it all now though. I retrofitted mine and it took much more effort than if it were at 1st fix.
    You'll find that if you only put one or two points in each room they will inevitably be in the wrong place once you start to live in the house. In real terms the cabling is cheap, and you don't need to terminate every run - it's quite ok to leave some cables hidden behind faceplates for future use.

    Affordable HDMI over Cat5 solutions are here now (see: http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/New-P...ffordable.html) but each link uses two cat5 cables, so if you've only run two cables to each room, that's it, you've used it up. There's then no option for an ethernet link to the media center PC, and/or phone line for Sky box etc.

    Coax is good too - it gives you a bit more flexibility in how you distribute your signals and you can even "get by" with coax for your AV distribution for a couple of years while your wallet recovers from the house-building expenses

    For info, I've cabled to five places in the lounge, each point has 3-4 Cat5e, 2-3 CT100 coax & 2x speaker. Other rooms in the house have the same quantities per point, but fewer points depending on the room layout.
    Wireless is ok, but I wouldn't consider it a long-term substitute for a proper wired link. You'll get greater security, speed & reliability with a wired connection over wireless.

    The ethernet and audio over mains (powerline technology) stuff is interesting though. I'm not sure I'd rely on it to do the whole house, but for getting to those hard to reach places it can be ideal.

    I'd agree that Cat5e will be good enough for domestic use, unless you're planning some serious network infrastructure, but then if you were doing that you'd perhaps know the answer anyway

    Quote Originally Posted by total novice View Post
    I am looking at AV MCU systems like OPUS 500. This seems to be fairly highly recommended. I've also looked at NUVO SIMPLESE but can't find a lot of info.

    So, my questions are:

    Can anyone recommend either of these systems?
    Would you recommend CAT5E *2 per zone?
    I have been reading in this forum about wiring solutions (such as abitana & britishhome network higher-grade-than-CAT5 wiring)which seem to be more costly but more flexible too. I'm not sure how this wiring works along with a packaged AV system. If I wanted to go with a simple to use AV system with nice faceplates would this simply replace the CAT5E wiring? AM struggling to get my head around this.
    From what I remember of looking at Opus a while ago it seemed pretty competent, it wasn't too highly spec'd for video though, only composite or maybe S-video IIRC. I've no direct experience though, nor of the Nuvo system.

    I also don't know too much about Abitana, but I do know someone who does... What I understand though is that you'd need to wire with the Abitana cable to use all of the benefits of their system.

    Have a look at the Russound A-Bus units - they're quite popular and there's a number of other "enthusiast" systems also around. They have loads of functionality but aren't commercial and are largely user/community driven/developed, e.g. a collection of modified Xboxes ("Xbox classic" not "360") running XBMC and drawing their music & video from a central server/NAS box. Or even Windows Media Centre and Xbox 360's in each room as the extenders...

    Quote Originally Posted by total novice View Post
    Sorry for the long list of questions from a first time poster. I hope you won't mind helping me.

    Thanks.
    HTH,

    Tim.

  5. #5
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    Default

    Tim, just to say thank you very much for your detailed reply. I have been offline for a few days over Christmas but intend to go at this over the next week and decide on an approach to wiring. I've taken on board everything you've said particularly the need to wire for changes to the room and therefore running cat 5 & coax to a number of locations in each room. I've had a look at the Russaround but its prob not for me. I'll be looking to save and buy an off the shelf MCU AV type system and possibly something for mood lighting.

    On your point on Abitana... can you recommend who I should speak to on this to assess if its going to be worthwhile for me to use? And particularly if it will be compatible with an Opus / Nuvo / Similar system? I guess so but I just want to be very clear on this.

    Many thanks again.

  6. #6
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Contact Minitran in the Uk for Abitana, or even Abitana themselves. www.minitran.co.uk Either company is very helpful. Or you could give Minitran a ring to discuss your needs.

  7. #7
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    Default Your experience

    Thanks Toscal. I'll contact Abitana with my questions.

    Can I ask though if you would recommened Abitana without reservation? And also, do you use an off the shelf MCU / touch panel control system with your abitana cabling? I'm looking for something which is practical but which is also extremely user friendly with a bit of wow factor too.

    Thanks.

  8. #8
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    Well I install Abitana systems here in Spain. So I may be a bit biased with that one. But I do think its a good product, well made and easy to use. The demo system in my house has been up and running for almost 2 years now with no problems.
    I actually use a Viewsonic Air panel I think they are called Smart Panels now. This uses Windows remote desktop to log into the House PC. I use HomevisionXL along with the control plugin and of course a homevision unit. So I basically have a floor plan of my home. Each room can then be accessed by touching it on the screen, then you get another page with the controls for that room. The Homevision controller is actually in the dining room and is connected to the PCs serial port via the Abitana structured wiring. The PC is in the office ( I have a home office). I also have an Access point connected to one of the sockets in the lounge which then goes back to the router in the garage. I also have my cable digi box linked into the Abitana system and distributed via the Home Channel module and TV distribution module, and I distribute the stereo from the digibox via the audio distribution module.

  9. #9
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    Default Abitana vs Kerpen Homenet cabling

    Thanks Toscal. That all sounds incredibly impressive. Can you give me an idea of how much, ballpark, i'd be looking at for wiring a 4 bedroom house properly? For wiring only?

    Also, i've been doing some homework on abitana and similar Kerpen Homenet wiring. Are you familiar with this and if so can you tell me what are the differences? Very little i'm guessing but would be good to have your view on it.

    The blurb from the Kerpen Homenet spec is as follows:

    It uses one high capacity shielded cable with additional in-cable shielding, therefore allowing signal and service separation within one cable.
    It is designed and is verified for up to 10/40 Gigabits and a 2,4 GHz bandwidth.
    It exceeds full compliance with the new IEC 61156-7 standard for Multi-Media cables up to 1200MHz and with ISO/IEC 11801 & EN 50173-1/2, ISO/IEC 24702 & EN 50173-3 and with ISO/IEC 15018 & EN 50173-4 for ICT & BCT generic cabling.
    www.britishhomenet.com

    Cheers for looking at this. I think i'm almost ready to spend some money!

  10. #10
    Moderator toscal's Avatar
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    From what I can see these are the major differences between the Homenet system and Abitana. Please be aware that I got the Homenet info from their website, and don't have real world experience on it.
    1. Cable. Abitana uses a modified Cat5 cable with wires 7 and 8 being slightly thicker and has extra shielding to cope with signals upto 900Mhz. The Homenet cable seems to be capable of frequencies upto 2.3GHz for the MMC-230 and 1.5Mhz for the MMC-150 cable.
    2. The Abitana system has all distribution modules in a central patch panel, all modules have the same look and foot print and are mounted on one of the din rails. Don't know about the Homenet system. But I guess they fit into their version of the patch panel.
    3. The Abitana has only one type of cable, the Homenet has 2 types depending I guess on installation requirements MMC-150 or MMC-230
    4. Abitana only uses adapters for Scart, TV, HDMI and Audio for PC and telephone (RJ11 type plugs) there is no need. Homenet requires an adapter for virtually everything. A very minor point I know.
    5. Price. Abitana RJ45 to UHF/FM with gain control costs €28.42 similar from homenet costs €46.50 and from what I can see no gain control. TV distribution hub from Abitana costs €230.75 but interestingly the Homenet version costs €110. Don't know about cable prices.
    6. Can Homenet have home channels. Abitana can distribute say your digibox, DVD, CCTV and Video as 4 separate TV channels. So Channel 40 on your TV is the Digibox, 41 is the DVD etc. Also there is a built in IR bus so you can control the equipment from any room.
    7. Abitana patch panel cabinet is basically a large consumer unit box. The Homenet box looks quite large by comparison.

    Pricing for a 4 bed house just for the bits and pieces from Abitana . This would give you 36 sockets in total. Price includes patch panel, room sockets, patch panel sockets, 500m of cable,2x45cm patch leads and 5Vdc 4A power supply.
    For a complete list of what is included see http://www.abitana.com/webshop/en-gb/p_1305.html
    This would also be available from Minitran, but not too sure about the price from Minitran but it should be similar.

    Also see this document for examples http://www.abitana.com/webshopextrap...rios_BE_EN.pdf

    As I said at the beginning.
    My comparison on the Homenet is based solely on what I've read on the internet.
    What we need is a true side by side comparison.
    Another thing to note is that the new Abitana sockets are very quick and easy to install. There is now no need for any special tools. All you need is a screwdriver a pair of wire cutters. No need for and punch down tool. This is taken care of when you assemble the socket. But looking at the socket design of the Homenet it seems to have a similar design.
    At the end of the day I think its a matter of choice. Some people like BMW while others like Audi or VW etc.

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