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Where to Put Your Smart Home's Networking Hardware

Part of the Smart Homes For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When you're making a smart home network, it's best to create a dedicated room for your networking equipment — a central wiring closet just like those in modern offices and other commercial buildings. The ideal wiring closet would have the following design features:

  • On the main floor of the house.

  • Near an outside wall for easy interconnection to incoming service feeds.

  • Above an accessible part of the basement (if you have a basement).

  • Adequate lighting, ventilation, and climate protection (not in the garage, in other words).

    Electronic gear generates heat, so if you live south of the Arctic Circle, it's a good idea to have air-conditioning vents in the wiring closet.

  • Adequate AC power-line receptacles to power devices such as video amplifiers, Ethernet hubs, and VoIP phone systems.

Such a closet needn't be too large — something between a standard coat closet and a small walk-in closet. A lot of your gear will go in a wall-mounted structured wiring system — what most manufacturers call the panel. Some, however, might go on shelving or in a rack. A typical rack has a 2-by-2-foot footprint.

Of course, the vast majority of home builders or remodelers don't have the luxury of adding this kind of dedicated space for a network wiring closet. In these cases, some other part of the house has to do double duty as your wiring closet. Here are some locations to consider:

  • The utility room 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. (And take steps to keep all the dryer lint from building up on your equipment!)

  • A protected garage: The potential for dust and extreme temperatures may make this location less than optimal for some homes.

  • The basement: A basement can be a good location because it's easy to run wires through a drop ceiling, but keep in mind that basements can be both dusty and damp.

  • A weather-protected outdoor closet: This location is a last resort, but it could be acceptable if you live in a mild climate. However, don't put any active electronics, such as Ethernet hubs or phone systems, out here.

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 sense for those in North Dakota or Arizona.

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