We here at Surrounds get a lot of enquiries about cable hub sizes, locations and where in the house these sometimes industrial-looking boxes need to be placed. Generally it's a case of knowing that these boxes are a necessary evil however the task of placing them becomes somewhat of a debate issue.
Consideration, however, is incredibly important. Working out what hardware you are going to place within the hub (other than cable terminations) is essential. We often come across installations where the cable hub is an afterthought and far too small and compact to be of any particular use.
This particular image shown (right) houses terminations for TV and Data however the ability to add say a network switch, modem or even a Foxtel splitter can present some difficulty.
This is not necessarily to say that the installation of this particular sized cable hub is wrong or the fault of the installer, more so the owners may not have known enough about how they were planning on using the home or what options they may have needed once they moved in.
When it comes time to add hardware and they find that space is just not adequate one of the only options is to be creative about how you use the space.
This often results in a jammed packed cabinet where equipment is compressed against cable fittings, heat can increase to where your equipment becomes unusable and sometimes the only way to close the door is to be particularly forceful.
Shown here is a classic example where even though a slightly larger cabinet was used, space still came at a premium and had to be shoehorned into place.
For electronic systems this tight installation can be an utter disaster, all hardware will be operating outside of its perimeters and the consequence of that is a completely unreliable system that will annoy the homeowner to no end for years to come.
The other drawback is that the system is generally resistant to future upgrades, a poorly thought of cable hub really lives for the moment and that moment is typically frozen at the design stage.
What you then have is a whole bunch of "future proof" cabling in place but limited means to harness the technology available when you move in and years into the future, simply because the cable hub was not given due consideration.
When is a tiny Cable Hub suitable?
In our opinion, the answer is, hardly ever!! A VDSL modem (NBN using Fibre To The Node technology) as an example, will fill the first cable hub (shown above) and you will have little room for much else. If you had three to four data cables running a small network within the home with no plans to upgrade then you could manage to get away with it with minimal interruptions.
Adding any sort of video distribution, centralised control system or even Foxtel box sharing later down the track suddenly becomes quite difficult. In those circumstances, you then have to start getting clever about where you can house additional equipment and it suddenly makes your new smart home look rather dumb.
We offer rescue services for these sorts of installations, however when the house is complete and all the cables are run this can quickly get expensive. It's much more effective to plan this in advance and it's certainly better on the hip pocket later down the track.
How can I plan for the most suitable Cable Hub?
Discuss your requirements with a reputable technology consultant/contractor, preferably one that has a display centre and can visibly walk you through the options and can offer technical design documentation.
They should ask you some important questions such as the following:
Where will your entertainment spaces be? What sort of video or audio content are you interested in? Will your entertainment joinery be sufficient for housing equipment? Or are you looking to centrally distribute? What automation control options are you considering? Do you want to link the security system with lights? What sort of WIFI coverage and speeds are you looking for? Are you likely to have Foxtel or interested in making provisions for Foxtel?
Answers to the above or a similar line of questioning will help to establish a benchmark for your cable hub size requirements, to suit the technology expectations. As your requirements build your rack size will increase.
Once it reaches a size that is adequate, any good integration company will then allow for overhead, this overhead is how your installation is made future resistant.
After you have established your size requirements this then needs to be discussed with your architect, interior designer and possibly even your builder. In many instances with a properly sized rack, there is cooling and dust minimisation requirements that need to be considered, in some cases active cooling is a definite requirement.
When you reach a certain amount of cables you will also need to ensure you have sufficient space behind your cabinet, correct cable support and enough cable extension length to allow the system to be built, moved and easily maintained.
Most architects understand that electronic management requirements exist however they may not be fully aware of the details, it's important that consideration is made as this critical element will present itself as a problem further down the track if not addressed.
Surrounds runs its display centre on Stirling Highway in Nedlands using the 38RU/19" rack system below, this is a working system designed to allow people the ability to inspect, understand the practical installation aspects and appreciate the requirements.
If you are building or renovating and looking at a comprehensive system with upgrade potential come through and check out your options. We also have two other rack systems on display - smaller options to suite a lighter application but without compromising the ability to expand and grow as technology changes and evolves.