To Wire or not to Wire? That is the Question

By Jess Rothenburger

When my father was a kid, he remembers anxiously waiting for his favourite radio show to come on after school – no Netflix back then. Today, my 3-year-old daughter has conversations and dance parties with Alexa, Siri and Google Home. I remember when the single phone in our house was attached to the wall in the kitchen and, after committing minutes to dialling the correct number, having to wrap the mangled phone chord down the hallway in vain hopes of having a private conversation. Today, I can control my home and complete important on-the-job tasks from the smart phone in my pocket. A quick Google search tells me that today’s smartphone is millions of times more powerful than all of NASA’s combined computing in 1969.

Now, we are entering the brave new world of voice recognition, artificial intelligence and the “Internet of things”. Our lives are becoming more interconnected whether we are at work, in our cars or at home. Yes, times have changed and no doubt the technology we use on a daily basis has improved immeasurably.

Wireless technology is an example of a modern luxury that has improved how we experience our homes. With it, we can stream 4k videos, transfer huge amounts of data, listen to music and perform countless technological miracles in our homes… without wires! Wireless media streamers. Wireless baby monitors. Wireless doorbells and video cameras…. even wireless speakers! It. Is. Awesome.

So, when you are renovating your home or building from scratch, should you even bother spending more money to run wires?

Counter intuitively, the answer to the above question is an unequivocal YES! Reliable and quality solutions (for example, security cameras, touchscreens, video doorbells, intercoms, audio systems, video systems, shading, etc.) require wires.

Having a professional pre-wire your house (including the proper pre-wire design) is, in my opinion, a no brainer because it is:
Affordable
Offers a reliable, high quality solution
Existing wireless devices work better when there are fewer wireless devices around
Running wires future proofs your home

Running wires is affordable. If I had a nickel for every time I have been in a gorgeous (and no doubt expensive) house where a customer wants a reliable security cameras system but can’t because the proper $50 wire was not run, I could retire early. The necessary design and pre-wire to make a new home ‘smart home ready’ can typically cost between $500-$1,500 depending on the size of the house. Having your equipment work flawlessly and having the option well into the future to install a desired solution is invaluable.

Reliable and high- quality solutions always work better with a wire. Low voltage wires transfer data and also provide power reliably. Wireless solutions, as handy as they are, often just don’t cut the mustard because of common issues like wireless interference and attenuation – as a function of the physical limitations of the space they are in, Wi-Fi devices often cannot get enough throughput to work reliably. And, obviously, a completely wireless device necessarily relies on a battery; in all my years of experience, I have yet to witness a dead battery change itself. Almost always, if the proper wire was run, the homeowner has the option to implement a solution that not only works better, it has a much higher uptime and looks better too. Don’t compromise on your convenience and comfort under the assumption that you’re initially saving on cost by not pre-wiring. Why buy a new car and put bald tires on it to save money?

Existing wireless devices work better when there are fewer wireless devices around. When it comes to wireless technology, less is more. Wireless solutions compete with each other and when too many devices are connected wirelessly you get problems that cause decreased data throughput and latency. The best and most affordable solution to this, with foresight, is to have all the devices that can work with a wire use a wire. Using the wireless equipment provided to you from your internet service provider, go ahead and stream a movie wirelessly, monitor your Wi-Fi video cameras, listen to music to on your Wi-Fi speakers, monitor the baby on the Wi-Fi monitor and turn on the microwave and see what happens. Save your Wi-Fi for your smartphone and the devices that require it, so they work reliably and provide robust performance every time.

Running wires future proofs your home. When you buy a car, you have to pay for the advanced features up front whether or not you would use them right away. If you want all-wheel drive now but can’t afford it, adding this later is not a realistic option. Luckily, when it comes to the modern ‘Smart Home’, you can have your cake and eat it, too. You can affordably choose the option to implement the solutions you really want when the time is right. The wrong time to wish you had a wire is when you are 20 feet up on a ladder in -15C weather, swapping out the dead battery on your wireless video camera. The wrong time to wish you had the wires is when you want that piece of furniture out (where your currently stereo sits) and wishing the speakers were in the ceiling. The wrong time to wish you had a wire is when you have the extended family over for Christmas and all the kids are wirelessly streaming “one last show” on Netflix before bedtime. Then, Uncle Bob decides to stream music in the other room and, crisis, the show won’t play and temper tantrums ensue.

Having a professional design and pre-wire your Smart Home is definitely the smart thing to do.