A Guide To Wired and Wireless Home Networks
Please Note: ***Livewire provides wiring as part of larger installation projects for homes and businesses throughout the Central Virginia Region only.***
Technology has become so interconnected, that nowadays nearly all of your devices can communicate with one another. Everything from smartphones, computers, A/V systems, HVAC and lighting (heck there’s even smart toasters now) can communicate with one another, creating a system that integrates seamlessly. And you can control all of them with just the flick of a switch or press of a button.
One crucial element to creating the ideal environment for yourself and your family is a powerful home network solution. Wired and wireless home networks connect every system and device in your home, allowing for a wide range of functionality at all times and in all locations of your home.
Let’s take a look at the difference between the two types of home networks, and go over some of the home network applications people commonly use.
What Are the Different Types of Home Networks?
There are two types of home networks: wired, and wireless. The type of network installed usually depends on the needs of the home, its current state of development (already finished, under construction, or undergoing renovations), and the desires of the homeowners.
Wired home networks
A wired network relies on physical wiring to create solid connections between all devices in the home; this entails everything from lighting to entertainment systems. Installing a wired home network can be highly extensive, and is typically incorporated into a home’s construction or remodeling plan as opposed to after the home is finished.
However, the upside to a wired system is that it typically offers more reliable interconnectivity throughout the entire home (without the risk of interference or having to rely on airborne Wi-Fi signals).
Wireless home networks
Designed for free-roaming convenience, wireless home networks connect every device in your home in midair. They are far simpler to install in completed buildings, and while they may be susceptible to signal interference, they often provide a greater level of mobility and convenience to the user. For many homeowners, wireless home networks are the ideal solution for enhancing multiple functions around the house.
Each type of home network has its specific applications, benefits, and drawbacks. Understanding the specific uses of wired and wireless home networks will allow homeowners to make an informed decision about what type of system they want installed in their home.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wired Networks
Hardwired networks allow for highly reliable distribution of AV systems, Internet, and home/building automation. Because they’re normally easier to secure, they’re favored by businesses due to the added security and lack the limitations that some wireless solutions face. They are also simple to use – just plug a device into the wired outlet and you’re good to go.
The solution isn’t free of drawbacks, however. Without the ability to connect remotely, you won’t be able to use your smartphone as a control unit unless you install a wireless router. They also require some extensive installation work. These type of networks typically require cabling is run through the walls, ceilings and floors – so the installation process may require opening those up.
It’s for this reason wired networks are normally installed while the building is under construction. When installing on a finished unit, it is usually best done as part of other larger renovations.
Components of Wired Networks
Wired networks rely on several components in order to function. These should be installed by a home automation professional, who will configure every component so that it can support your home automation system. The specific hardware required often include:
- Network adapters on computers and other devices
- Network cables (Ethernet cords)
- A router or central switch
Each device needs to support the network software needed to send data over the network. A central home server may also be used to store data, especially if you want to keep all your media in one place. This allows your videos, movies, music, and pictures to be accessible through any device connected to the network, whether you’re in the kitchen or outside on the deck streaming a game through an outdoor TV.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wireless Networks
Many of the devices we use today are wireless, allowing for a greater range of mobility and convenience. When integrated into your home network, they allow you to access shows and music, change the indoor temperature, manage home security, and control the lights from anywhere in your home (or beyond) with just a quick touch of your phone’s screen.
This is arguably the biggest benefit to a wireless home network – easy, convenient access from virtually anywhere in your home. If a component has Wi-Fi capabilities it can be connected.
Another benefit is the relative ease of installation. Rather than requiring new wiring throughout the walls in your home, it relies on what’s already in place. Simply plug in a wireless router, configure the network, and you’re good to go. It is far less invasive than hardwiring, so many homeowners opt for this setup when retrofitting their home with a network.
The main drawbacks of a wireless home network include the fact they can be less secure. There are also bandwidth limitations, so if one person is streaming a high-definition movie on their smart TV while another is surfing through cat videos on their laptop – the network could be overloaded. In some cases, even turning on the microwave could interfere with a Wi-Fi signal.
Hardware in Wireless Networks
The hardware used in wireless home networks are similar to that of hardwired ones, but without the extensive wiring needed to function properly. The components that go into these network installations include:
- Wireless network adapters in each device (most wireless devices include these)
- A wireless router to broadcast the signal
- Wireless repeaters or antennas to extend the wireless signal and ensure full coverage
The right software is also required to set up and manage the network. Wireless networks don’t rely on physical connections, so Ethernet cables and other such connections aren’t usually necessary. A home server can just as easily be a part of a wireless home network as a wired one.
Once your wireless home network is set up, you can access media and other data on your home server, control the lights, adjust the AC, or stream movies anywhere in your home, all from the convenience of your smartphone, laptop, or tablet.
Common Uses of Home Networks
Home networks allow for a wide range of home control functionality in addition to simply giving access to the Internet. Common applications include:
Automated lighting: Lights can automatically turn on by a set schedule or respond to the use of a remote (or your phone), allowing you to create just the right atmosphere in your home. Automated lighting is also useful for saving electricity since lights can be dimmed or shut off remotely while you’re away.
Distributed AV: A home network is a central part of a distributed audio/visual system. Watch TV anywhere in your home, listen to music, and set a general mood with just the press of a button. Have separate tunes going in different parts of the home, and access a central home server to enjoy various types of media.
Security: Cameras and alarms can be connected to your home’s network, keeping your home safe while you’re away. You can also interface with them remotely, so if someone rings your doorbell while you’re occupied, you can decide whether it’s worth dropping what you’re doing to go answer the door.
Temperature control: Program the thermostat to adjust on a schedule, or tweak it from anywhere. This allows you to save energy or get your home temperature ready for when you get home. Windows and blinds can also be controlled remotely with a home network.
The possibilities are nearly limitless for what you can do with a home network, whether you go wireless or hardwired. The key is to have it properly installed and fully configured to support the automated features you want to use.
Installing Home Networks
To install a home network, you need professionals who know the intricacies of how wired and wireless networks function. If you are building a new home, consider hiring a home automation professional to install the wiring needed to support your network.
If you are retrofitting your house with a home network, you will want to make sure the system is set up to provide full coverage throughout every room with minimal interference.
For either wired or wireless networks, contact Livewire for a consultation at 804-212-3841.