Need Advice on Home Improvement and Connectivity Upgrades

I’m planning some home improvement projects and need advice on a few things. Specifically, I’m looking to upgrade my home’s connectivity. What are some tips for running new wiring or integrating smart home devices during renovations? Also, any recommendations for the best fiber internet provider in a residential area would be greatly appreciated. I’m trying to ensure seamless connectivity throughout the house while improving the overall aesthetics and functionality. Any insights or experiences with similar projects would be really helpful! Thanks in advance!

Wiring Ethernet, use Cat 6 UTP, anything higher is a waste in residential environments and could introduce ground loops.

As for Fiber, :+1: , I use Verizon.

I’ve been using CAT5E, which works fine with 2.5G speeds.

If you want advice on internet providers, you might like to tell us where you reside.

In general, if ARC is at all important to you, it would be best to avoid ISPs who use CG-NAT. Unfortunately, it is sometimes difficult to find out who does and who does not use CG-NAT.

With regard to connectivity within the home, I’m sure that many on here will have ideas but it would still be better if you were able to give more information. What devices do you anticipate using and where will they be located within the home?

As a general rule, audio and even video, does not require excessively large data bandwidths (both usually top out at significantly less than 50Mbps) so 1Gbps networking to devices is generally more than adequate for both these purposes. However, if you have a common link between router and a switch or between two switches and high bandwidth devices connected by wire to each router/switch then you may want to consider fast ethernet rate links between the switches. Something like:

ISP --- Router  =========================== Switch
           |___ Dev 1.1                       |___ Dev 2.1
           |___ Dev 1.2                       |___ Dev 2.2
           |___ Dev 1.3                       |___ Dev 2.3
           |...                               |... 

Or

ISP --- Router ---- Switch =========================== Switch
                       |___ Dev 1.1                       |___ Dev 2.1
                       |___ Dev 1.2                       |___ Dev 2.2
                       |___ Dev 1.3                       |___ Dev 2.3
                       |...                               |... 

As @Rugby suggested above, CAT 6 ethernet cables are generally good enough. The only exception may be the connection between the router and the switch (or between two switches) indicated by the ‘===’ link in the diagrams above. If you require this to run at 10Gbps (in order to avoid the inter-switch link being a bottleneck) AND the cable distance is more than about 50 meters, you will need to use CAT 6a ethernet cables. At 10Gbps, CAT6 has a 55m limit. Depending on the capabilities of your router, you may need to insert an additional switch to achieve this - until relatively recently, most consumer grade routers were limited to 1Gbps connections and even now very few exceed 2.5Gbps.

Note: Audio and Video equipment connected to a switch do not usually require the inter-switch connection to be high rate. If you have media editiing workstations connected to one switch and a NAS connected to another, for example, with you media stored on the NAS, then you may require the higher bandwidth inter-switch connection (and the more expensive switches that go with it) - depending on how you use your NAS.

You do not need to go to CAT 7 or CAT 8 cables. These are much more expensive and are aimed to solve problems that you will not encounter in the home. In fact, with audio, CAT 7/8 connectivity between devices introduces a device to device ground connection that can cause ground loops and is generally undesirable.

There are some people here who may advocate a fibre optic network. This is totally unnecessary. Ordinary copper based CAT 6/6a networking infrastruction is sufficiently protected against the kind noisy environments you will get in your home and all ethernet devices have galvanic isolation at the ethernet port so there is no direct device to device copper connection.

There are generally two types of network cable:

  • Solid core UTP
  • Stranded core UTP

Solid core cables are better for long distances because they have less electrical loss but can’t be bent so tight and should not be repeatedly flexed. Therefore this should be used for long(er) distance infrastructure cabling that is put in place and then never touched. It should not be used for patch cables, no matter how long.

Stranded core cables are more flexible and can better stand tighter radius bending and being continuously flexed (as might be the case with a patch lead - which should always use stranded core cables). However, even stranded core cables can be up to 100m long without causing issues for 1Gbps ethernet (which is as long as any cable run between devices is allowed to be). For 10Gbps, CAT6 is good for 55m and CAT6a is good for 100m.

Please remeber that this maximum lengths quoted are ‘device to device’. Thus, given, for example:

  • a 3m patch lead between a switch and a wall socket
  • a 50m lead from wall socket to wall socket
  • a 3 m patch lead between the second wall socket and a switch

The total cable length is 56m and it is this that is limited to 100m (or 55m with CAT6 10Gbps).

If you need a cable run longer than 100m, then you should plan to interrupt the cable run and insert another switch.

I think the best thing to do is to draw a diagram with all of the devices that you intend to have and the nature of the connection between them. This will help you to see where the bottlenecks are . For example, the network diagram that I originally produced for my house looks like:

This allowed me to see a potential issue with my use of home plug devices that I have been able to fix:

As can be seen in the second diagram above, I now have the Router to Switch link (which is about 35m) but, because all of the devices connected to the swtich are audio or video related (even the Roon Server and the RPi4 used as a Roon endpoint), I do not have (and do not need) a 2.5, 5 or 10Gbps link between them.

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