How to Set Up a Central Wiring Panel for a Home Theater

Designate a space for a central wiring panel when setting up a whole-home theater network. The central wiring panel is where you locate the devices that let you connect the home theater to the rest of the house.

Most of your commonly used electronics gear will probably go right next to your home theater. You're better off relegating the gear that you just “plug and forget” to a wiring panel in an out-of-the-way place. For example:

  • Home cable interconnections with your cable company

  • Home phone interconnections with your telephone company

  • A centralized distribution point for your satellite dish wiring, if you have one

  • Cable, DSL, satellite, or ISDN modems and routers, if you have them

  • Ethernet hubs or switches for your Internet connection

The central wiring panel should be in a place that is out of sight but easily accessible. It needs to have plenty of space and adequate power to run a great deal of equipment. In the best-case scenario, you can create a dedicated room for your home theater and associated equipment.

Most homeowners or remodelers don’t have the luxury of adding a dedicated space for a wiring panel. In these cases, you have to try to make some part of the house do double duty as your wiring panel. A first stop is the place where your cable, telephone, and electrical connections currently come into the house. Here are some other places to consider locating your wiring panel:

  • The utility or laundry room: The biggest disadvantage of this location is the potential for high humidity, so make sure your clothes dryer is well ventilated to the outdoors. Good ventilation also keeps all the dust and lint from your dryer out of your sensitive electronics.

  • A protected garage: The potential for dust and extreme temperatures may make this location less than optimal for some homes, but the garage can be a useful location.

  • The basement: Many people choose the basement for a central wiring node because it’s easy to run wires through a drop ceiling. The basement can be a very good location, but keep in mind that basements can be both dusty and damp.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the natural enemies of electrical and electronic equipment are moisture, dust, and temperature extremes. So locations that may work for someone in Florida or California may not make as much sense for your house in Maine.

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