A shortcut for wiring your house with Ethernet

As convenient as wireless is, wireless will never match the security, speed, and reliability of wired Ethernet. I ran some wired Ethernet jacks in mid-2009 and have no regrets, but on my last trip to Lowe’s, I spied a nifty shortcut for wiring: an Ethernet coupler that plugs into a standard keystone jack. They were expensive, but looked like a good way to cut out the most consuming part of wiring a house. I looked online, and they cost less than $2 from Amazon.

What these allow is for you to drill your holes, then snake a regular Ethernet cable through the opening, then plug in the keystone coupler, saving you from the task of wiring a keystone connector. Some people undoubtedly are better at that task than I am, but it takes me a good 20 minutes to wire those connectors. I would much rather pay a little extra for couplers, a little extra for ready-made cables instead of bulk cables (Monoprice.com has CAT5e cables in varying lengths for well under $10 apiece), then drill a larger hole to accommodate the connector in exchange for the convenience. I could probably wire a living room and three bedrooms in a couple of hours or less this way. Test the cables and couplers before running them through the walls just to make sure they work–a quick way to do that is to chain all of the cables and couplers you plan to use all together, then plug one end into a switch and the other into a computer, and make sure you get a working connection–and then you have reasonable assurance that after you run the cables and plug it all in, they’ll still work. Drill your holes, pull the cable through, then tilt the lip on the bottom of the keystone into the wallplate, then click the top part in. Then plug the cable’s RJ-45 connector into the side of the keystone that goes into the wall, secure the wallplate to the wall, and plug in. Once you plug the other end of the wire into a central switch, you have the outlet wired.

To do a traditional wiring job with bulk cable, you’ll be stripping wires and punching them down onto a jack. It takes practice, and since it’s something I haven’t done very many times, it takes me about 20 minutes and they don’t always work the first time. Doing it this way is cheaper, but the easy way only costs $2-$3 more, and 20 minutes of my time is worth that to me.

Monoprice has the couplers too, but there have been some complaints about the quality. The couplers from Amazon are cheaper, and of good quality. Using couplers, ready-made cables, and keystones, pretty much anyone can do an installation that looks and works as well as a qualified professional would do.

I’ve wired one port into my office, and plan to wire at least four more. I want four gigabit ports (a decent gigabit switch costs less than $20 these days). I have the switch and couplers in hand and some cables and wallplates on order. I expect it to be an easy project once the rest of my stuff arrives.