In the world of constant connectivity, businesses and homes need a way to quickly transmit data via phone, audio, and internet. Cellular and wireless technology have made these things more accessible. Believe it or not, those options don’t offer the fastest connectivity. No, that crown belongs to low voltage cabling.
So, what is a low voltage cable?
Low voltage cable (also called structured cabling or network wiring) is a wire designed to carry 50 volts or less. Low voltage wiring consists of twisted pairs of wires that carry signals. These wires are enclosed in a cable covering to protect them and prevent crosstalk.
As a whole, low voltage cabling creates an electrical network foundation which digital technology within a building functions through. Low voltage cabling is used for telephone communication, internet, security systems, and even lighting.
The name suggests how low voltage wiring differs from high voltage wiring. Standard wall outlets carry high voltage (120V in the United States and Canada). Most lighting fixtures, electronics, and appliances draw up to 120V.
The standard circuits in a building are high-voltage, but there are circumstances when low-voltage circuits and devices are better.
Here are a few of those situations:
Telephone: Many businesses still rely on wired phone systems which are connected to low voltage wiring. Businesses need quick connectivity between multiple floors and departments and low voltage cabling can facilitate that. Fiber optic or ethernet cable is traditionally used for telephone communication.
Cable Television: Many organizations like restaurants, offices with multiple meeting rooms, and hospitals subscribe to cable television across multiple screens. Video delivery services like cable television are provided with coaxial or fiber optic cable.
Audio: Intercom systems, security camera speakers, and surround sound are a few of the reasons businesses may need audio capabilities. Speakers can be put in any room with coaxial and speaker wire.
Security And Surveillance: All businesses want to protect their employees and property. They have the option of either using wireless cameras or a wired surveillance system. Wireless security cameras may be more convenient, but large buildings (vertically or horizontally), may have range issues with wireless. Surveillance uses Cat6 cabling for IP, network, and analog cameras.
Computers: Companies utilize computer networks for a variety of tasks including communicating with people, communicating with devices, and managing IP. Behind most computers, you’ll find Cat5, 6, or 7 cables connected with an RJ45.
Keep in mind that none of these technologies require low voltage wiring. However, in most cases (when the infrastructure allows for it) low voltage wiring is the superior wiring.
Benefits of Low Voltage Wiring
Wireless networks are getting faster every year, but they still can’t compete with the speed and coverage of low voltage wiring.
Those aren’t the only benefits of low-voltage wiring.
Here are a few more:
- Low voltage wiring is more energy efficient because it never draws more than 50V of power.
- Low voltage wiring is scalable and more streamlined when installed in a structured cabling system managed with patch panels.
- Low voltage wiring can be customized to fit the needs of any business or organization.
- Lower risk of electrocution and severe bodily harm.
Types Of Low Voltage Cables
Cable is the medium through which information and data move from one network device to another. There are more than a few types of low voltage cables which are used in LANs. Most networks will utilize many types of cables to achieve their unique purposes.
Cat5 & Cat5e
With the introduction of Cat5e, Cat5, and all other previous versions are now obsolete. Cat5e, the current industry standard for unshielded twisted-pair cabling (UTP), can support up to 100/1,000 Megabits (Mbps) at 350 Hz bandwidth. Cat5 and Cat5e Ethernet cables are unshielded and used to carry video and telephone signals. These cables are used to connect phones, computer networks, automation networks, video/audio, and much more.
Cat5 and Cat6 may seem the same, but they differ simply because Cat6 is the new and improved version of Cat5. Cat6 has more twists per cm compared to Cat5 allowing them to support faster data transfer. They are also better at limiting crosstalk and system noise, which is beneficial since most low voltage wires exist alongside many other wires originating in the same location.
Coaxial cable is a cable used to transmit internet, video, television, and voice data. It’s made of aluminum, copper, and an outer plastic jacket providing protection from electromagnetic interference. The copper core allows the coaxial cable to transmit information over long distances. Fun fact, coaxial cable was one of the first cables used as ethernet cable, although it no longer serves that purpose.
C-wire or common wire connects low voltage heating systems to thermostats carrying continuous power. Most newer HVAC systems have C-wires making them compatible with smart thermostats.
Speaker wire is most commonly used to transmit sound signals from a receiver or amplifier to a speaker. The smaller the gauge, the bigger the wire and the more power it can handle.
Businesses that need fast communication between devices can benefit from low voltage wiring.
Due to the demand for cost-effective and powerful communication systems, low voltage cabling is becoming more and more popular in homes and businesses.