by Jeff Fisher
This is a pretty broad question because every structured wire panel & installation is different.
Lets first start of by saying: always by a larger structured wire panel than you think you will need. Keep in mind, routers, cable/DSL modems, switches, modulators and gear other than the actual distribution devices may live there. Allow space for cable management. Sometimes just managing the cable itself takes up 12" to 18" inside a panel. Just to drive this point home: In all our experience selling and teaching the installation of structured wiring panels, nobody has ever come back to us and said that they wished they had bought a smaller panel! But we all wished we had a dime for every time we heard someone gripe about running out of space in their panel.
Leviton offers a 42" panel, Open House offers a panel, and Channel Vision has the largest panel at 50". All of these panels can hold, (depending on how well you do the cable routing) 6 to 16 zones. We refer to zones as one structured wire bundle or one room. And remember, one structured wire drop per room is the minimum that we recommend. Often a few more CAT5 or CAT6's are run to adjacent walls. We've seen people run a structured wire to every wall in a single room. Although this is extreme....its definitely gives you many options. Over wiring is OK by us...just keep in mind that your head end box or structured wiring panel will cost you more in the end.
TIP 1: It its always preferred that the cables come in from the top of the panel. Its ultimately harder to trim out a panel if cables are coming from different directions. Use adjacent stud bays to run cables up to where they can enter the top of the panel.
TIP 2: If you purchased structured wire that has a sheath or jacket on it, strip off the jacket from before where the cable enters the panel so that only the individual coax and cat5 cables enter the panel. You will eat up less room inside the panel without the jacket.
TIP 3: Channel Vision offers a great cable management device called a Grid Manager (C1320). We recommend several of these in every panel. They are great for running wires underneath to better manage the cables. the C1320 fits in all panels we offer. Open House has a version that only fits into their panel model H270 that does the same thing as the C1320.
TIP: 4 Using an access panel above your panel can give you lots of options to help manage cable or push extra cable back into the wall.
TIP: 5 Label like crazy!!!! Many people use a label machine. We offer several labeling systems. Some label machines have a mirror mode that will print the label twice so that you can wrap the cable so both sticky sides stick together. Other people use fine point Sharpie and label the cables every 3 ft. This way if the person terminating the panel has to cut extra off, it's still labeled at the top of the panel. We don't care if you use masking tape and a crayon....JUST LABEL every wire.
Labeling conventions: Many homeowners label their rooms as to what they call them, Bedroom, Dining, Home Theater Etc, While installers may use labels like Room 1, 2 & 3. As far as multiple drops in each room many will use east west markings or label from left to right Bedroom 1A, 1B & 1C.
Using a good pair of cable cutters, cut any extra wire that was looped longer than the panel. Or any extra cable that extends below the panel. If you installed an access panel above your structured wire panel you could could push the extra cable back up the wall and coil it behind the access panel, or push it all the way into the ceiling or sub-floor.
Using a small blade or small pair of wire cutters slice the jacket of the structured cable to expose a few inches of the individual cables. Inside the bundled cable is a small pull string made for helping you peel the jacket off of the cable. Its small and sometimes sharp so be careful when pulling as not to cut your fingers. If you purchased Belden's Banana Peel Structured Cable you would simply peal the coax and cat5 apart. You want to peal the cable jacket back all the way to the top of the panel to give yourself room for managing cables.
Group all like wires together. All green Cat5 wires, all blue Cat5 wires, all black coax, white coax etc. Use velcro or tie wraps to help group and/or manage the cables. You should end up with at least 4 large trunks of wire.
At this point you will need to meditate in front of your panel and think about data flow and the where your distribution devices will go. If you followed tip 1, cables will flow from top to bottom. It's preferred to put all phone and data at the top of the panel. The grid managers (see Tip 3) allow cables to flow underneath so you can mount all data modules, C0508, H628 and phone modules C0432, C0439, C0438, H616 & H618 on the grids and have the coax cables flow underneath to the bottom or middle of the panel. Although some feel that the harder cable to manage is coax because is larger and stiffer, many of the cable products mount directly onto the panel and limit the cable flow to the bottom of the panel. UPDATE: I have since started wiring all coax at the TOP of the panel using Channel Vision's C0213. This allows all the coax to stay in one place through the the life of the panel regardless of what distribution products you have.
You would then route 8 of which ever wires you intend to punch down, data or phones through an opening in the grid. Or route the cable from the bottom or top of the grid to the device. Once you have routed the cables to the device to be punched down and your confident of your panel layout, you can then cut the cables approx 1 inch beyond the 110 CAT5 color coded punch down connectors. This will give you just enough room to strip the jacket off of the CAT5 and punch the individual pairs of wire to the device. Always make sure to maintain the twist in the CAT5 cables all the way up to the patch panel to keep the CAT5 or CAT6 rating intact. Some people like to keep the middle or the top of the panel vacant for the routers, hubs & other networking gear. Its always a good idea to keep the CAT5 wires bundled together with Velcro to keep them from getting tangled with other wires to be channeled through the grid manager.
You can individually route the RG6 coax cables by feeding them through the grid managers to their destination in the panel. If you are going to be a using cable TV or antenna feed you need a 4, 6 or 8 way passive or amplified RF splitter. There are two approaches here. You can cut the cables to length, terminate and connect directly to the splitter or amplifier. The preferred method is to terminate all cables to one or more Channel Vision termination modules. Then use coax jumpers to make all connections.
All panels pictured were wired by James Miller (408) 603-3152.
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