Article
Okay, maybe I went a little overboard saying that cable management is fun. But it can be enjoyable, using the right tools. And if you're an installer, coming up with innovative and attractive solutions for your customer can definitely be profitable.

Cable Management For Fun and Profit – Part 1

Steve Maurer, IME
Okay, maybe I went a little overboard saying that cable management is fun. But it can be enjoyable, using the right tools. And if you're an installer, coming up with innovative and attractive solutions for your customer can definitely be profitable.

For this first article, you and I will discuss cable management for homes and offices. In Cable Management For Fun and Profit – Part 2, we'll take it to a more commercial and industrial level.

But whatever setting you're working in or installing, proper cable management is necessary for aesthetics, convenience, and safety.

Low-voltage cable management
In our connected world, low-voltage cable management is expedient. Sometimes it can be as simple as a tie wrap or cable coil that snakes around a bundle. For example, behind my all-in-one desktop computer there resides a rats nest of cables for everything from external hard drives to secondary monitors to device power cords.

Keeping that array of cabling neat and tidy are zip ties and wraps. It's quick, it's easy, and easily changed.

But for many AV applications, such as home theaters and the like, you or your customer might like a more robust and permanent solution. Even wall mounted flat panel TVs can get a better, cleaner look by using the right cable management equipment.

Home theater connection kits provide everything you need, from coax video connections for video and audio, to connectors designed for HDMI cables for the TV, to ethernet connections to supply data.

A recessed wall plate allows the closest mounting to the wall for the TV, and I've seen them with recessed, angled 110 VAC outlets that make plugging and positioning much cleaner and easier.

Another simpler, yet elegant solution that I recently discovered is a bullnose wall plate. With a scoop that adjusts to four different positions, it has a hinged design. It can be adjusted to be more of a scooped hood, covering the cables exiting the wall, or even installed with the scoop inside the wall cavity, which could assist in fishing the cables down the wall and into the wall plate.

It doesn't have connection ports… you use cables with permanently affixed connectors. But instead of a open hole, cable brushes hold the cabling in place, allowing them to be pulled out of or pushed into the wall as needed. That means that just the necessary amount of cable exits the wall, with any excess pushed out of sight.

Commercial office cable management
Cable management in the office setting usually requires a more hearty solution. The cabling and power in this environment is subject to more use and abuse. Many times, the data and power need to be run along the floors, particularly in retrofits.

For example, many universities and colleges have lecture halls with tiered seating. Many are, well, old school and were designed with pen and paper in mind for student note taking. However, the "rise of the machines" era means more students are bringing electronic notebooks, tablets, and laptop computers to the room. That can mean that data and power must be installed in spaces not designed for that.

The cost to retrofit can be reduced significantly by installing over-the-floor raceway systems. They can be purchased in aluminum sections with up to four channels to separate power, communication, data, and AV cabling.

Unlike temporary vinyl cable hiders that roll out on the floor, these are metal raceways that include a baseplate to affix to the floor, and a cover plate that attached to the base after cable installation. A sloped design for the cover makes these over-the-floor raceways ADA compliant. Junction boxes and outlet boxes complete the installation for easy cable terminations.

While I mentioned a lecture hall above, these floor raceways are also used in offices, healthcare facilities, hospitality and entertainment venues, as well as commercial and retail spaces.

Where under the floor installations aren't feasible, or where layout configuration may change periodically, an over the floor metal raceway may be the solution needed to supply data, power, communications, and AV cabling where it's needed, quickly and affordably.

However, under the floor is often the preferred installation. And while round poke through boxes are common, and have been for years, newer boxes can now offer both a range of cabling options, and wide open spaces to make external connections, well, a snap.

We'll talk more about that in Part 2.
Photo courtesy of Legrand North America
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