What Is Low Voltage Wiring Used For

The use of low-voltage wiring in newly constructed homes is becoming increasingly common. Energy efficiency is a primary consideration when designing and building new homes. This article provides an in-depth look at low-voltage wiring to help you better understand what it is (and what it is not) and whether or not you should hire a low-voltage contractor who offers it.

Wires operating at low voltage can be found all over the house and outside. It not only carries signals for lights and doorbells but also provides signals for high-speed internet. If you are in the course of wiring a new gadget or if you have discovered an unfamiliar wire stapled to the baseboard, you may be dealing with one of a wide variety of low-voltage cables.

What Is Low Voltage Wiring Used For

What Is Low Voltage Wiring

A sort of electrical wire known as low voltage wiring is explicitly created to transmit lower power levels.

The question now is, how do you recognize low-voltage wiring? Look for wires that can carry no more than 50 volts of electricity. Products classified as low voltage often have a voltage of 12V, 24V, or 48V.

Low voltage refers to an electrical potential of 50 volts or less; thus, wiring intended to transmit an electrical potential lower than 50 volts is referred to as low voltage wiring. It carries less power than generally found in a home; for instance, most common wall outlets are 120V or 240V. The energy it transports is less than typically found in a home. Low-voltage wiring is used for most of your home’s network and communication. The infrastructure of low-voltage wiring is also known as structured cabling. While lamps and appliances need that standard voltage to run consistently and reliably, low voltage wiring is used for most of your home’s network and communication wiring.

Installation of Low Voltage Wiring

Low-voltage wiring has distinct installation requirements and use cases than high-voltage wiring, which offers more energy. High-voltage wiring also supplies more electricity. The term “structured cabling” refers to the system that must be present for low-voltage wiring to function correctly. It includes the sheaths that cover the cables and the insulation surrounding them.

Structured cabling is constructed on a network that is distinct from the regular wire in your home. Because it is a different system, hiring an experienced contractor specializing in low-voltage wiring is vital when building a new home. They will be able to construct infrastructure that caters to the typical requirements of most modern households and ensure that they can expand the infrastructure to accommodate any extra electrical upgrades in the foreseeable future.

Additionally, structured cabling is present in all kinds of properties. Tenants in various businesses can be served by structured cabling in multiple settings, from apartment complexes to office buildings. Low-voltage configurations are gaining popularity, particularly now that your customers emphasize maximizing their efficiency and minimizing their environmental impact.

The voltage in the structures you’re working on will typically be 120 or 140 volts, and the wiring network will be typical. Therefore, to install structured cabling in an appropriate and risk-free manner, you will need to construct a distinct low-voltage network on top of any wiring that is already present.

Growing Usage of Low Voltage Wiring

In 2004, low-voltage, structured cabling infrastructure was installed in over 70 percent of newly constructed dwellings. Given the growing reliance on in-house networks, practically all houses now have the capacity to incorporate home networking infrastructure throughout the building process.

However, standard voltage wiring and structured cabling are incompatible with low voltage wiring and structured cabling. In most cases, the installation of the primary wire occurs first. It is then followed by the design and construction of the infrastructure required for the low-voltage wiring by a different wiring contractor specializing in structured cabling. Because low-voltage cables have to be installed at a distance of at least one foot from ordinary electrical lines and must run parallel with all of the other cablings, beginning at a predetermined distribution panel, this task calls for a great deal of care and prior experience.

When a signal enters the residence, it goes through the distribution panel and connects to the various structured cabling bundles. Each bundle of wires is directed to a specific area within the house. In addition to managing standard electrical equipment, the contractor in charge of wiring should develop the system to scale higher to work as it handles improvements while maintaining its orderly and secure operation.

What Is Low Voltage Wiring Used For

The following are examples of low-voltage cable types:

Cables made of fiber optics that provide connections between computers and the internet

Ethernet connections are managed by Cat5 and Cat6 cables, respectively.

RG-6 wires, in addition to cable and satellite TV hookups, can also handle internet connections.

Low-Voltage Wire Gauges

The American Wire Gauge, abbreviated “AWG,” is a standard for determining the thickness of electrically conducting wires by measuring its gauge. A more significant number indicates the cables are thinner, whereas a lower number indicates the wires are thicker.

The abbreviation “AWG” refers to a wire with only one strand. AWG is still used for stranded wire, typically in low-voltage wiring. When added up in the cross-section, the diameter of the many strands equals the designation given to the single-strand, solid wire.

Wire with gauges of 14 and 12 is typically utilized in residential settings for higher voltage appliances and fixtures like lights and outlets. Low-voltage devices can use wire gauges ranging from 12 to 24, depending on the device.

You can break down low-voltage home wiring into a few different categories.

Wire for the Thermostat

The cable that connects wall thermostats to HVAC units in remote locations is a thin 18-gauge wire. It comes in bundles of two, three, four, or five individual wires (furnaces and ACS).

Doorbell Wire

Long runs of thin 18- or 20-gauge cable in bundles of two are used to secure wired doorbells to the doorbell chime or a base unit. They are typically positioned a significant distance away in a central area within the home. This type of wire is sometimes referred to as bell wire. Additionally, it is utilized to connect the transformer to the system.

Wiring for Landscape LightingHow to Install Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting

Low-voltage landscape wiring often uses double-stranded wire in gauges 12, 14, and 16. In most cases, the wire is buried so that it is near the ground.

Because the lights along the run are connected to a continuous-run wire using specialized low-voltage push-fit wire connectors, there is no need to cut the cable and splice in new connections.

Wiring for Network

Ethernet cables of CAT5, CAT5e, CAT6, and CAT6A are used in networks designed to transport broadband internet traffic.

CAT5 was the first type of network cable ever created in 1999. However, its predecessor, CAT5 wire, was rapidly replaced by CAT5e cord, which offered superior performance. There are also situations when audio and video data are carried over the CAT5 line.

CAT5e: The “e” stands for “enhanced,” which means that CAT5e cable, which has 24-gauge twisted pair wires, can carry data at speeds up to ten times quicker than CAT5 cable over greater distances. Although CAT5e is typically tested at frequencies up to 100 MHz, certain manufacturers claim it can support frequencies up to 350 MHz.

CAT6: A CAT6 cable can process frequencies up to 250MHz and carry more bandwidth than a CAT5e connection can handle. Under perfect conditions, its absolute top speed is 10 gigabits per second. Additionally, it can transmit data over distances of up to 165 feet.

CAT6A: The “A” stands for “augmented,” and this enhanced CAT6 cable is capable of speeds up to 500 MHz (10 Gigabits per second) and lengths up to 328 feet.

TV and Cable

Cable television transmissions are carried on RG-6 coaxial cable, with a single 18-gauge wire running down the center.

An older general-purpose coaxial cable, RG-59, has a wire that is 22 gauges in diameter. Because other lines are more effective at handling higher frequency signals, RG-59 cable is typically only used outside for analog TV antennae, CCTV security cameras, or buried underground. This is because other lines can handle higher-frequency signals more effectively.

Telephone Cable

Many residences still have Cat-3 phone wiring. It has 24-gauge wires bundled with four or six wires at a time. Cat-3 cable can carry data and voice (up to a bandwidth of 16 MHz).

How to Recognize Wires That Have a Low Voltage

The wiring for low-voltage devices has a few distinguishing qualities that set it apart from those for higher-voltage devices. The gauge of the wires used to make low-voltage wire is often smaller, though this is not always true. It is sometimes stapled directly to exposed locations or buried in a manner that brings it into direct contact with the ground (you should never tell a higher-voltage wire).

The sheathing or jacket of low-voltage wiring is often thinner than that of higher-voltage wiring. For example, a wire with a gauge of 12 is suitable for low-voltage landscape lighting and residential appliances requiring 120V. However, the sheathing for the two types of wire is distinct. The sheathing for the home current is made of durable PVC and is 19 mils thick. In contrast, the sheathing for landscape wiring is thinner and more flexible vinyl.

Stamps on the margin of the sheathing or jacket are typically used to identify low-voltage wires. This is a more reliable indicator, but it is not conclusive in itself.

Therefore, the telephone line might include a stamp that reads “CAT 3 24 AWG” and several other words and numbers. It’s also possible for a network wire to have the markings “CAT 6 RoHS CM 24 AWG” on it. (RoHS means the wire is free of lead and other hazardous substances).

Safety Concerns Regarding Low-Voltage Wire

Low-voltage wiring does not usually present a safety risk; nevertheless, this is not always true. Wiring with low voltage frequently crosses-connects with other devices with higher voltages.

Additionally, low-voltage wiring can carry sufficient power to produce an electric arc. A spark can start an explosion or fire by contacting combustible or ignitable liquids, solids, or gases.

Anyone dealing with low-voltage wiring, including those who do home repairs, electricians, or anyone else, should exercise extreme caution and handle low-voltage wiring as if it were higher-powered wiring.

What things do you need to keep in mind when installing structured cabling?

Low voltage is used to power many gadgets that tenants will use regularly. When establishing a structured cabling network, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

Integrated System

When you are establishing a low-voltage structured cabling network, there are three factors you need to keep in mind:

  • Good design
  • Futureproofing
  • Redundancy
1. Good design

As with any wire installation, you should be sure that your customers won’t have to cope with the negative impacts that an incorrectly installed wiring network can cause. When trying to improve the lifespan of the wires you install, it is essential to consider factors such as airflow and temperature.

2. Prepare for the future

Continuous progress is being made in wiring and communications technologies. Look at this new development: A group of Japanese engineers recently developed a method for fiber optic cables to carry electrical currents.

Therefore, you need to ensure that replacing components of your wired networks is simple if an alternative form of power transmission emerges that is more effective.

3. Redundancy

By incorporating redundancy into your shared voltage network, you can ensure that your customers can always utilize the essential goods dependent on low voltage.

Make use of redundancy in your low-voltage network by ensuring that every piece of equipment has more than one route to reach a source of electricity. It will help prevent power outages. You can also decide to set up a system of backup batteries so that low-voltage goods would continue to function even if the power goes out.

In summary, low-voltage wiring is essential to every contemporary home since it provides the power necessary for critical parts of daily life. Structured cabling enables homeowners to use various home automation devices like intercoms, speakers, thermostats, telecommunications, and security technologies.

Even though it is a lengthy process, you should seriously consider educating yourself on installing structured cabling correctly. You will be responsible for duties that, when completed, make it feasible for people to live in the modern day. These include installing low-voltage lights and laying a cable that enables residents to access the Internet.