Pre-wiring and Post-wiring for a Home Theater System

The best thing about having a flat panel television floating on your wall is that there are no cables dangling from your TV. Our technicians are experienced at concealing all of your wires and cables so that your home entertainment center maintains a clean and floating appearance. Hiding cables behind a wall can be frustrating especially when you are dealing with cutting holes and fishing them around obstacles behind the drywall. But no worries we are the best at what we do.

With that said, for all of the hardcore DIY'ers out there who would like to handle the job on your own, we have a basic guideline and safety tips for your wiring adventures...enjoy

Home Theater wiring 101: The basics of post-wiring and cabling

Although wireless technology continues to improve, it's still years away from being feasible for a high performance home theater, so wiring is still necessary for the foreseeable future. If you're currently in the process of building a new home, or remodeling an existing structure, wiring your home theater room is cost effective, and will provide you with a custom setup that will circumvent many headaches that you'd face during future home theater upgrades.

If you're not a professional, you're less likely to anticipate problems during installation. Consulting with an electrician or a specialist who have experience in pre-wiring a home can save you a lot of money, time and headaches.

Safety Tips

1) Always make sure all power is disconnected from the breaker box before beginning anything. If someone other than yourself is working on the house, always make sure no one has touched it since you were last there.

2) Always test a wire an outlet to make sure it's not hot before cutting.

3) Thoroughly tape down all wiring if drywall or other wall finishing installations are to be done after your wiring.

4) Test that your breakers can handle the load of your theater system. They may need to be attached to their own separate breaker.

5) Always use UL-compliant wiring and cables, as they carry a guaranteed flammability rating.

Planning Checklist

As you move through the wiring process, always keep that old carpenter's idiom of "measure twice, cut once" when planning your wiring project, and ask yourself the following questions before you start the project.

1) Will any other rooms use entertainment devices, such as a television or computer?

If so, which devices and what kind of performance will they need? For instance, will a bedroom television have surround sound? Whether to use a separate breaker dedicated to your home theater will often be determined by these circumstances.
2) Will your home theater serve as the main hub of all home entertainment?

If you plan on using a house-wide distributed audio system? Services that provide room to room music services are becoming more popular, and easier to install than ever before. Your home theater room will make the most sense as the central distribution center that feeds signals to the rest of your home, but only if you're properly set up to receive and transmit large quantities of bandwidth.

3) How likely is it that you'll use a home automation system?

If you're already planning on installing a home automation system, or believe it likely that you will at some point in the future, wire for it now. Running an entire household via a universal remote is likely to become commonplace thanks to the rise of internet ready mobile devices, and will add to your home's resale value.

Once you've determined your overall needs, focus on specifics, and the most efficient wiring network distribution design possible. Use a sketch of the room, as well as your equipment specs (such as optimum distance of seating from the screen) to plan your exact layout to make the following determinations.

  • General furniture layout.
  • Speaker and screen placement.
  • Theater component locations.
  • Lighting and other ancillary controls.
  • Access point for wiring and cabling for future adjustments.
  • The power and signal inputs your devices require.

Selecting the Correct Wire

A quality wiring project avoids opening the walls later to install new wiring, so take wire selection seriously. Home theater wiring is subject to the law of diminishing returns, meaning that going with a mid-grade quality wire over a bargain wire will net you plenty of gain for not much more money, but going with the highest grade will net you minimal gain over the mid-grade option for significantly larger sum of money. Durability should trump over more expensive materials. Few differences can be discerned by the unassisted human ear, so don't waste money on an upgrade you can't hear. Speaker wire should be judged the following three characteristics.
Gauge: In this case, thicker is better, as offers less signal resistance and is a better conductor of electricity. This also puts less stress on receivers and amplifiers. The lower the American Wire Gauge number, the thicker the wire. Most home theater projects will need something between a 14 or 16 gauge rating.

Shielding: There are theories out there that one type of shielding offers an advantage over others, but no real industry consensus. Just make sure you're buying a wire shielded in foil, braid, or a combination of the two, and not one that's simply "insulated".

Termination: Again, the professionals are still out on whether wires that terminate with connectors are better than those with bare termination. Terminating with connectors makes for easier installiation, so are recommended for a DIY project.

Installation Tips

Optimize your wiring to use the shortest distance possible to get to each device to limit signal loss, but leave plenty of slack during the installation process for connecting system components. Additionally, splicing is the worst thing you can do to your signal performance. Every splice makes it more vulnerable to outside interference from other electronic devices.
Don't neglect the importance of Ethernet cabling. Whether your current equipment can run off an Ethernet cable or not, it's best to take into account that this will likely be the case in the near future, and install proper cabling accordingly. Install at least a Cat5 grade cable to handle increasingly heavy digital information.

Run as much of your wiring through PVC pipe, or another durable conduit. It not only offers better environmental protection, but makes later upgrades much easier, as you likely won't need to open up the wall again. This is especially important with wiring that partially runs outdoors.

Eliminating Grounding Related Hums

First, keep your wiring as far away from high voltage electrical wire as possible to avoid RF interference. Most electricians, when wiring a home, ground each power outlet, but this should be avoided in your theater room wiring. You cannot use outlets that require separate grounds in your dedicated power line for this reason. The sixty cycle hum is created when a service panel ground is connected to multiple grounding wires of different lengths, creating current eddies.

All dedicated line outlets should be run with the same ground wire and run directly to the service panel. Hot and neutral wires should be attached directly to panel's dedicated service line, and should only have the A/V system attached. The theater room's outlets should only be used for the A/V equipment. Lighting and anything else not directly part of the A/V system should be attached to a separate circuit with its own dedicated grounding.

If you discover that maybe you can use a little help with your wiring project, just give us a call and we will pick up where you left off, (336).291.3526 or send us a message through our contact form. Have a great day!

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