Cat 5 is a versatile low voltage wire which can be used for a variety of connection and control solutions inside a home or business. Cat5 consists of 4 pairs of wires, or 8 small, 24-gauge conductors, each twisted together and protected by an outer semi-protective jacket. Cat5 will often allow for the transmission or phone, data, video, low voltage power, control, and audio signals over 1000 feet or longer distances. And, because of the number of pairs, multiple types of signals can be transmitted over one Cat5 simultaneous.

The origin of Cat 5

To fully appreciate the flexibility in uses of Cat5 it’s important to know its origin. Cat5’s earliest genesis resulted from telegraph wires. With the first introduction of the telephone, the then existing telegraph wires were used for this newly invented telephone service. Telegraph wires were typically run as a pair running parallel to one another. When phone service was introduced onto the existing telegraph wires callers experienced cross talk and could hear other phone conversations. It was quickly found that by twisting the pair of wires together cross talk was diminished substantially.

So today Cat5 goes by names like: CAT5, or Category 5, Cat5e, UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair) and now even Cat6(having 1 additional pair). The e in Cat5e simply means the wire has more twists per a specified length. More twisting has shown to improve data speed and increases the outside interference immunity characteristics of the wire.

Cat5 Wiring Methods

Generally, there are two ways Cat5 is installed in a home. The earliest and less costly method used, but seldom practiced today, is daisy chaining. Daisy chaining is the process of installing the wiring from point 1 to point 2 and then from point 2 to 3 and 3 to 4 and so on. Although this method will function in some solutions it is by far the least preferable wiring method because it reduces the available options of the wire.

 The method of home running individual Cat5 strands back to a central point generally is the preferred method. Often times however, depending on the applications it’s an even better practice to have more the one wiring “head-end”. For example, Cat5 for phone and data (Home Computer Network) might go to a small electrical room. Whereas wiring for an audio or video system might be located in another part of a home. In the case of complex integrated systems however there is typically one main head end contain equipment rack(s) whereby all the Cat5 terminates.

Uses of Cat5:

Phone – Whether it’s the older POTS line (Plain Old Telephone service) or today’s VoIP phone service, in either case one pair of the Cat5 can be used per dedicated phone number. Therefore, because Cat5 has 4 pair, four dedicated phone numbers could be working without a structure without the use of specialized telephone switching phone systems.

Data – The flow of data occurs faster and more reliably than wireless. A hardwire Home Computer Network only requires the use of two pairs from the Cat5. One pair is to transmit and the other pair is to receive.

Video – Video can be as simple as Surveillance Cameras on up to complex high definition video transmitted over Cat5. In the case of Surveillance often just one pair is used, in conjunction with a balhn, to transmit the video signal over further distances compared to typical coaxial cabling.

Low voltage power – Power of Ethernet (POE) is the term used for injecting low voltage electricity over strands on a Cat5 wire for the purpose of powering a Surveillance camera.

Control – Integrated Home Electronic systems will often use Cat5 wiring to connect devices throughout the home but giving the home owner control on a single interface such as a smart phone or wall keypad. Serial signals like RS232 and others, given the proper adapter(s), allow these control signals to occur.

Audio signal– Specialized Whole Home Audio Systems often use Cat5 wiring. A-Bus for example is a patented readily available Cat5 system that gives a user nearly full control and sound from a room located away for the stereo equipment.