Testing Structured Cable in the Residential Market
By Ed Constantine
Many commercial system integrators and installers have taken advantage of the boom in residential custom work and begun to gravitate toward that market. They have brought with them expertise and discipline honed at the commercial level, but are now finding that conditions are quite different in the residential space. For example, not everyone knows that testing structured cable in the residential market is not a requirement, as it is for commercial installations.
Most residential owners are simply concerned that the wires and jacks are in and the equipment works. Unfortunately, that's just not enough. Can those building owners now say for certain that all the jacks have been tested, that they pass the requirements and the house is digitally ready? Probably not. If a house that is currently wired for structured cable is sold today and the new owner upgrades to a more powerful computer or a satellite dish, will those same components work with the new equipment? There's no guarantee of that right now.
In the commercial market, owners demand hard copy test results that state that every wire and every jack meets or exceeds the requirements and standards set forth by the Electronic Institute of America/Telecommunications Institute of America (EIA/TIA). But most residential clients are unaware of the difference between connectivity that works and connectivity that lives up to spec, and, unfortunately, the same could be said for residential builders. Without a clear standard to live up to, there's simply no way of certifying the integrity of a structured wiring solution in a residential context.
That's why many companies and associations are currently lobbying to promote testing in the residential market. For instance, the Building Industry Consulting Services International (BCSI), a not-for-profit telecommunications association which serves and supports the professionals responsible for the design and distribution of telecommunications wiring in commercial and multi-family buildings, is in the process of writing suggested standards for residential installation, just as they did for the commercial world. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) have also realized and agreed that we need standards.