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Patch panels or direct connect to switch


tcwalker5
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I'm curious what most installers do regarding patch panels or direct connect home runs to switches.

I requested that every jack in every room be hot for data.  So it is a 1:1 cable to switch port ratio.

My installer decided to bring the home run directly to the switch.  But after reading more about this, I feel like they should have used a patch panel.

What is the consensus among installers?

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If we were making every data port live in a home we would put a network switch in the structure panel and wire the jacks directly into the switch.  If they went to a rack we would probably still go directly to a rackmount switch unless it was a commercial environment where things may be moved around often.  That's really the only time we utilize patch panels.  

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I'm in the other camp.  Patch Panels for any CAT wire, except for when they are being used for HDBT video distribution, then they are direct to matrix.  Makes servicing much more efficient/easier. 

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Consider this, a patch panel is used for flexibility and simplifying cable management. In office environments, where there are 100s of terminations and they go to different switches (voice, data, poe, etc) or move between switches for various reasons, it's an absolute must.

But if you have a home and all the runs are the same (ie no separation of voice and data or POE) and they all terminate on the same switch, then there's no reason to use the patch panel (other than cabling looks cool). It also has the benefit of saving a lot of money, and less breaks in the cable (less signal loss).

 

 

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Solid wire was designed to be fixed to a solid surface (wall), and punched down to a patch panel, then stranded wire patch cables used to connect to the networking gear, so changes in the patches don't stress the solid wire, which is more prone to breakage when frequently moved.

In real life, that is not much of an issue, and as mentioned above, if you are lighting up all of them, going direct to the switch probably isn't that big a deal (there isn't frequent movement  of the cables, where the stranded wire would be better).

In my house, I don't light up all jacks, so labelled punchdowns are where it's at.  Need to light up a particular run?  Plug in a patch.

RyanE

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  • 2 months later...

I know this response is late, but wanted to share my experience/feedback.

My opinion, if it's a small network, no automation, no AV rack.  The client just wants a professional network installation there is two options.

  • Install the switch into a wall mounted shelving system. Wiring everything directly into the switch with a service loop bundled behind the equipment.  We're talking approx 10-12 outlets, maybe some POE for access points is ok. Ideal for rear facing network equipment.
  • Or if you have front facing network equipment, you can install a patch panel.  I prefer non punch down panels and individual jacks because it's easier to troubleshoot.  it's troublesome to re-configure wire in large bundles on punch down panels.  You don't want to pop 1 conductor of a random wire on a punch down panel.

However, if you're doing a small - large home automation system, have an AV rack, and plan on using automation long term, I HIGHLY recommend going with a patch panel. 

  • During the course of time (18 years for my personal home) equipment changes.  If you installed something at the bottom of the rack, re-wire and install a replacement item at the top of the rack you're now creating additional work and more places where things go wrong.
  • It sucks to have to make jumpers or extend wires inside the AV rack.  After a while it just gets messy.  After time, it's hard to keep track of what's what.
  • I had to change my system out numerous times.  Prior to going with a patch panel it always sucked changing stuff out and I dreaded having to make large changes.  Now, it's much, much easier.

We wire from the patch panels into the AV racks for a super clean look.  Changing out or adding wires is much easier this way.

A large part of our business is doing what we call 'take over jobs' in our industry.  I present exhibit A, B, C and D.

06-14-21 Rack 02.jpg

A= A small wall mounted shelf with rear facing network equipment. @RyanE will probably approve of the network switches.

12-22-20 Patch 01.jpg

B = Our standard Patch panels for our clients.  We make every connection live for customer ease.

06-02-21 rack01.jpg

C = Take over job and completed patch panel.

06-08-21 Rack 06.jpg

D = Not our work, this is what can happen when things get out of control. PS.  I hope it uploads in the correct order heh.  I'm not taking credit for the messy work.

EDIT:  First time uploading to these forums... I was hoping it would upload thumbnails, but nope.  Super big pictures.. sorry everyone 🙈

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33 minutes ago, Jeff W said:

If it wasn't a complete pain in the butt to travel internationally with tools, I'd fly down there and fix them. We do a lot of take overs and the clients absolutely love the results!

I have cable cutters, crimpers, testing tools, etc.  Doesn’t mean I know how to use them well 🙂 

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18 hours ago, zaphod said:

Major cable porn on the after photo!

Mine is like the before, but 10X worse 😪

That's ok Zaphod, we won't hold that against you :).  Our patch panels and AV racks are the accumulation of 13+ years in the industry.  We are continuously trying to improve each one we do.  We even custom make panels and equipment to achieve our vision.  If you'd like to check out more of our work, I welcome you to check out our Instagram page.

EVS Instagram Page

Account = EVScalgary

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I bought a used large rack (45U) on wheels that I have started to use to hold my equipment.  My rack is one of those ones with doors, but I have taken off the door and the back and side panels as I don't need them as it is in the "server room" in my basement.  Currently I have about a dozen ethernet terminals terminated in keystone jacks.  I will be running more ethernet cables and I am trying to figure out whether to use a patch panel or keep them as "pig-tails".  If I use a patch panel the next question is whether to put the patch panel on the rack, or mount it permanently on the wall.  If on the rack then I will need to leave a loop (or two) so that I can move the rack around a bit.

One of the annoying things about a rack is that you need a lot of space since you generally need access to both the front and the back of the rack. For things like patch panels and network switches you normally need front access, but for C4 amps, controllers, AVRs, rack mounted PCs, etc, you need rear access.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 8/31/2021 at 2:50 PM, zaphod said:

I bought a used large rack (45U) on wheels that I have started to use to hold my equipment.  My rack is one of those ones with doors, but I have taken off the door and the back and side panels as I don't need them as it is in the "server room" in my basement.  Currently I have about a dozen ethernet terminals terminated in keystone jacks.  I will be running more ethernet cables and I am trying to figure out whether to use a patch panel or keep them as "pig-tails".  If I use a patch panel the next question is whether to put the patch panel on the rack, or mount it permanently on the wall.  If on the rack then I will need to leave a loop (or two) so that I can move the rack around a bit.

One of the annoying things about a rack is that you need a lot of space since you generally need access to both the front and the back of the rack. For things like patch panels and network switches you normally need front access, but for C4 amps, controllers, AVRs, rack mounted PCs, etc, you need rear access.

Very cool - I have this exact project on my short list when I have a little time.  I've read that a lot of installers put the run into a patch panel on the wall (since that doesn't move) and then do a patch cord from there up and back down into the rack (with room to move the rack like you noted).  That's how I plan to do it when I eventually do anyway - good luck - post some pictures when you can!

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