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Two of the most common modules to add to the hub of a structured wiring system are a phone module and a video distribution module. Many manufacturers provide these two modules as a standard part of a structured wiring system. A data module, which networks computers, is another fairly common unit.

The phone module simply enables multiple phone lines — usually four — to enter the house. Each line connects to a specific phone jack. For example, the phone module might feed line 1 to the kitchen phone, lines 2 and 3 to the home office (for fax and phone) and line 4 to a phone in a kid's room. By expanding to a larger module, the system could feed additional lines into the house to provide a high-speed Internet connection to several computers. Of course, dedicated lines can be added to any house without a structured wiring system. The beauty of tying the lines to a phone module is the ability to modify the destination of the incoming calls. Say you move your home office from the kitchen to a spare bedroom. By moving around two wires inside the hub, the phone module can now direct the office line to the spare bedroom. Same goes for the Internet connection. The phone line that used to give the PC access to the Internet from a kitchen wall jack can be redirected to the bedroom wall jack.

A standard phone module really does nothing more than determine where each incoming line will go. But by adding a more sophisticated PBX or KSU module to the structured wiring hub, the phones can be networked, which allows them to transfer calls and function as intercoms and gives them other capabilities commonly found in a business telephone system. Most structured wiring systems are designed so that an external telephone systems can be connected to the panel. It is also a simple matter to add a VOIP phone adapter to the system.

As for the module that receives and distributes cable TV and satellite TV video signals, make sure it fits your needs. For example, if there are fewer than four TVs in your house, a 1 x 4 splitter will suffice, but consider sizing up to a 1 x 8 splitter just in case you add more TVs. Another caveat: Each TV will still need its own satellite or cable TV receiver box. The structured wiring system simply ensures that the necessary connections are in place.

That covers incoming video signals. There are many video signals generated by products inside your home that you'll want to tie into a structured wiring system as well. By adding a modulator to the hub, movies from a DVD player or a VCR, and images from security cameras can be distributed to multiple TVs. This internal network offers the convenience of starting a movie in the family room, then finishing it up in the comfort of your master suite. It can also give you the peace of mind of knowing exactly what movies your kids are watching and the economy of having to buy only one set of entertainment components for the entire house.

Just because a house has a structured wiring system does not mean the computers are automatically networked. For computers to freely exchange files, share peripherals and utilize one Internet connection, you'll need to add either a switcher or a router to the hub.

A switcher effectively enables several computers to communicate and access the Internet. A four-port switcher, for example, facilitates exchanges between four computers, a six-port supports communications between six computers, and so on. This device certainly adds a level of convenience and efficiency to a home with multiple computers, but there is one drawback: Only one person can be on the Internet at a time. For everyone to use the Internet at the same time, a router should be used instead of a switcher. A router will also add firewall protection to the network.

Beyond computer networking, video distribution and a telephone system, the upgrade opportunities get a bit pricier, but to some clients, they are even more appealing. One of the hottest upgrade options is an audio distribution module. This device basically acts like a whole-house music system. But instead of using conventional speaker wiring to transport music from a stereo system to remote speakers, the music travels on a structured wiring system's Category 5 cabling from a stereo system to the audio module and then off to each room. Audio distribution modules can usually distribute only a single source to multiple locations. However, there are a number of stand-alone whole-house music systems that can pipe tunes from many sources to multiple rooms.

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Last Updated: 01/29/08 08:41 AM - © 2008 Wilson Technologies LLC - All Rights Reserved