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LexCom Home System in Refurbished Mill, Lisburn (3/6/2008)
Robin's Mill, a historic building on the banks of the Ravernet River in Northern Ireland's Lisburn province, has recently been transformed into a high-tech, luxurious home. Enjoying an elevated position overlooking expansive lawns, beautiful copses and its own meandering stream stocked with salmon, Robin's Mill could be mistaken for a traditional country retreat. Yet underneath the facade lies a Square D LexCOM system installed by INit - Northern Ireland's specialist Square D installer - to distribute telephone, broadband, TV and DVD around the home.
From the impressive 12 x 6m drawing room, entertainment and telecommunications are distributed around the house. For example, satellite channels from the drawing room television can be viewed and remotely controlled from the master bedroom, or the Internet can be easily accessed from multiple points around the house simultaneously.
The LexCom Home system was chosen for the network because of the flexibility it offers, allowing permanent access in every room to whichever incoming signal required, and from any outlet. A telephone outlet for example, can easily be switched to receive TV, radio or Internet within seconds.
The system uses a single high-capacity data cable that has been designed to satisfy present and future transmission speed demands, and that overcomes the need for separate cables such as co-axial, telephone and Cat5. The hub of the system is the distribution centre (or patch panel). Incoming signals for telephone, data and television are connected to this hub. Using star wiring configuration, cables are run from the central panel to each room where services are required. The room terminations are simply wideband RJ45 outlets of the same type. Patch cables then route the incoming signals to individual outlets around the home.
It was important to define at an early stage what was required of the cabling infrastructure. Up to 30 outlets were identified as being required for Robinís Mill, which meant these were able to be connected using a single standard distribution centre - for really big projects there are further options. Although the panel at Robinís Mill is heavily used, by changing or adding a module, evolving or future needs for new functions can easily be accomodated.
Planning the system for Robinís Mill required Connor McCarthy of Init to both survey the property and more importantly, discuss with the Millís owner, Colin Donaldson, what he required for the property. This planning is vital because, as with any infrastructure, the further the installation progresses, the more difficult and costly it can be to make changes.
When considering the number of outlets, flexibility had to be built in. The unusually versatile living spaces within Robinís Mill meant that scope for using rooms for different purposes or changing the use of any particular room, was always a strong possibility. Because of this, the panel was located in a convenient cupboard towards the centre of the property that also had good accessibility for both installation and subsequent programming.
Room outlet locations and a plan of the cable runs was able to be resolved early in the scheme, which both simplified the cable pulling and minimised other disruption during installation Ė such as conflicting with electricians working on power and lighting cabling.
Because data, telephone, audio, DVD and multiple cable/satellite TV was to be distributed throughout the Mill, it was important to fit necessary modulators to enable that distribution. Again, siting these was comparatively easy because the house was empty and the owner was on hand to confirm locations as the installation progressed.
To maintain optimum signal performance between the distribution centre and the outlets, no cable must be more than 40 metres long. To avoid over-driving of the TV signal, no installation cable should be less than 8 metres long, but since Robinís Mill has such generous proportions, this was never going to be an issue.
Having said this, it was important for the distribution centre to be sited so as to minimise cable runs to the outlets Ė again, cables were able to be fed directly up and out of the cupboard location under the flooring or within the cavity walls to each room in the house. The hub required a fused 230V supply, but this was provided in the first fix in close proximity to the panel. Similarly, the BT master socket was installed to be as close as possible. Finally although the ambient temperature should be between 0 and +40C, the air space around the unit was more than adequate to prevent overheating.
Connor McCarthy explained, ďIn an ideal world, the cabling for a smart home should be completed at the same time as the general first fix. However, this rarely occurs, so it's vital to have a plan in place so that electrical contractors provide for both power where it's required for the smart system and also access to pull cableĒ.
Because flush-mounted ceiling speakers were planned for just about every room in Robinís Mill, it was an obvious advantage to be able to fit these as early as possible in the decoration phase. Given that filling a 72 square metre living room with sound required no less than eight speakers, this was a plus. In Robinís Mill, while time was tight, there was an unimpeded opportunity to fit the speakers (also from Square D) before decoration work started. Clearly, in building refurbishment projects, much the same rules apply, but there are always likely to be more compromises faced by the installer.
At least two outlets were required in every room - in most cases to meet the ownerís requirements, but in some rooms, having more than one outlet gave Mr Donaldson scope to change the roomís use in the future. Most developers and installers recommend a telephone network socket in rooms such as the hall, lounge and master bedroom, and an aerial outlet in the main living areas, bedrooms and the kitchen. But, at Robinís Mill, telephone outlets are everywhere and TV/DVD/audio and Internet connections are similarly in most rooms, including the magnificent kitchen.
The decision to include a modulator was important here because it allows centralised equipment such as satellite/cable, DVD and videos to be located in the main living room, but broadcast around the home, meaning they can be viewed and importantly, controlled from any room in the house via infrared remote controls.
Another upgrade option that was a neat addition was a PC Player which acts as an FM modulator, allowing centrally-located music such as MP3 files on a PC to be played on any stereo in the house.
Robin's Mill was designed and redeveloped by Tensixtysix Ltd - a developer with a strong tradition of creating luxury abodes with intelligent home controls. Having worked with INit on numerous other properties, Colin Donaldson, Managing Director of Tensixtysix, decided that LexCOM would add that finishing touch to the luxury fittings and cutting-edge decor of the Mill. "LexCOM is a great product" enthuses Mr Donaldson. "It is really flexible and simple to use. The distribution around each room can be changed at the main switchboard extremely easily and it offers us developers a unique selling point. There are some real lifestyle benefits to be had from LexCOM and the system certainly gives homes that extra little 'wow' factor."
Indeed, Mr Donaldson was so bowled over by the house and the benefits that integrated and distributed entertainment and telecommunications can bring, that he decided to move in himself!
Init's Conor McCarth concludes, "A property like Robin's Mill has everything - the perfect location, the perfect size and the perfect decor - so it makes sense that you should find the perfect entertainment system below the surface. We're not at all surprised that Colin has decided to keep the house."
Square D is a brand of Schneider Electric.
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