How should my new home office be wired?
June 22, 2021 10:42 AM   Subscribe

We're in the process of building a new home office and having an electrician come in to wire up a bunch of new outlets. This is a new space in the home with new walls, so there were no outlets before. What do I want in terms of outlet types and anything else electrical that might be a little extra nice or convenient?

The office will have a couple of computers and multiple monitors. I need to charge a lot of different types of batteries all the time. I do have some things that charge via USB.

I'm not interested in anything IoT whatsoever. There will never be an Alexa or similar device in the house as long as I'm in it, so no need to worry about any outlets connecting to those.

Is it worthwhile to install the outlets with USB connections? Are there any other new types of outlets that might be nice to have?

Is there anything else I should consider? Maybe ethernet wiring?
posted by msbrauer to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would definitely add some network drops (Ethernet ports). Maybe consider adding fiber if you really want to future-proof your home.
posted by alex1965 at 10:47 AM on June 22, 2021 [9 favorites]

Definitely do ethernet wiring if this is to be a home office. I have an old habit of pulling two ethernet drops wherever I need one, because Things Happen, but that's not strictly necessary (in my mom's house, that was a critter in the attic that chewed through one network cable but not the other; in another instance roofers killed a phone line). Where are your modem and router now? Do you plan to move them to the new office? Having one or more coax or fiber runs, or at least a conduit they can be pulled through later, may be a good idea.

I've also had electricians do outlets for electronics with an isolated ground. It shouldn't strictly be necessary, but it also may not add much to the cost and may prevent some weirdness down the line. USB outlets can be added after the fact, but I guess if you know you're always going to be charging gadgets in one spot, sure, build some outlets in there. Note that whatever you put in now may not handle the USB-PD requirements of future devices, though, so I'd kind of expect to do some upgrading down the line.
posted by fedward at 10:57 AM on June 22, 2021

Is it worthwhile to install the outlets with USB connections? Are there any other new types of outlets that might be nice to have?

I would have said yes, but then stupid Apple started making USBC instead of regular USB, so I would personally only add USB-enabled plugs in a situation just like yours (brand new constuction), or if they were the same price as standard plugs (they are not- a standard 2 gang outlet is $3, one with USB outlets is between $10-$20).
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:57 AM on June 22, 2021

the USB standard is moving fast enough as a standard now, and chargers are getting small enough, that I wouldn't bother.

But if you do, definitely get USB-C outlets! Regular USB-A is abysmal for charging compared to 3.0+ USB-C ports.
posted by sagc at 11:02 AM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Several 4 plug outlets. USB enabled outlets I’m meh on because surge protection and I usually charge things closer to me than at a wall.

I’d make sure that you have separate switch for light and ceiling fan, as well as at least one switch powered outlet for a lamp.
posted by tilde at 11:03 AM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I've got Verizon fios and it seems to go to two places: our main modem/router which is upstairs and a couple rooms over from the new office; a coax outlet somewhat near the new office that was likely where the previous owners had a TV. I don't have plans to move the modem/router.
posted by msbrauer at 11:04 AM on June 22, 2021

If your office is ever used for high speed gaming, having some kind of ethernet connection, or the router located there, is helpful.
posted by bbqturtle at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2021

Is it worthwhile to install the outlets with USB connections?
damn, I would love to have motorola turbocharger compatible outlets in my house so I don't have to track all the wall warts I've got...

I welcome correction on this but I think there's zero risk in doing USB-C outlets except for the extra ten bones per unit ... when USB-X comes along, it won't be a big deal to swap out the old for the new if the old is cramping your style, and if they're useless to you, $10/unit ain't a big deal if you're already doing a home office.

A usb outlet isn't like a network drop where you'd want it to be future proof and robust because it's a giant pain in the ass to run a new one or repair an existing one.
posted by Sauce Trough at 11:27 AM on June 22, 2021

Put in wired network, not wifi. Bring them back to a small area with outlets for a network switch & wifi router, plus maybe a NAS device to share files and hold backups.

If you have time and money, put in conduit instead of bare wires, so you can run new wires Someday. (Low likelihood, high value if you do need them.) And if you do, for God's sake, leave a string in the conduit!

Maybe some putlets at desk height, and not just knee height.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:27 AM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

Also consider having space for a UPS that your devices can share, which is accessible but out of the way.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:29 AM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

It can be nice to have an electrical outlet near the ceiling if there is any chance at all that you might put something up there. Also having an outlet in any built in shelving.

I've also had electricians do outlets for electronics with an isolated ground. It shouldn't strictly be necessary, but it also may not add much to the cost and may prevent some weirdness down the line.

If you do this, think carefully about what equipment you will be using. If you have a lot of video and audio cables connecting different pieces of equipment, it is crucial that they all share the same earth ground. So you might want groups of outlets with an isolated ground, instead of individual outlets. I had a fire start due to having different grounds, fortunately I was home so I was able to remove the offending bit of equipment but that could have easily turned out very differently.

If you personally really want outlets with USB, go for it, it's easy to change out outlets later if there is a new standard. Don't install them if you are just thinking it's going to be for resale value.

Consider how your internet gets to your house and the possible advantages of moving that to your office area. If you do, set up a small wiring closet or panel along with cabling and conduit.
posted by yohko at 11:36 AM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

+1 on running Cat6. Your electrician may not be comfortable installing the keystone jacks or testing the connections, but you can easily do this yourself. Ethernet testers are cheap enough.

There's a closet in my home office that is designated the "data closet." Our Internet connection runs to that; our hub, printer, and a few other doodads are in there, and the signals are then distributed from there to the rest of the house. If you do something like this, 1. consider using a "structured wiring panel," which can be installed between two studs; 2. Have an electric outlet installed at about the same level as the panel (some panels have drop-in openings for outlets); 3. splurge on cables that are just long enough so you don't have a rat's nest in there. Monoprice is good for this stuff.

I wouldn't bother with USB wall outlets in my office, although I would like to get a desktop "charging tower."
posted by adamrice at 12:01 PM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Verizon doesn't run network lines over coax anymore, because the maximum speed of the coax technology they used is below the speed of service they're selling now. They'll run coax to your TV(s) if you have that service, but for internet they're only using ethernet now. If you have any desire to relocate the terminal and/or the router, make that part of your plan before the electrician comes. If you do that, it's probably going to be a good idea to run one or more ethernet cables from the new office back into other parts of the house, so you can add wireless access points or connect other devices that do better with a cable than they do over wifi.

As for power near the ceiling: all my wifi access points are mounted to the ceiling and just use Power over Ethernet (AKA PoE). If you're thinking of doing that you don't need a power outlet on the ceiling, but you do need a special kind of network switch and an ethernet line radiating from that switch to every access point. This specific network architecture may be more trouble than you care to have right now, but it's a possibility and allows you to do stuff like put the switch and your router on a single battery backup and keep your wifi up during brief power outages.

And yohko's point about earth ground for AV devices is well taken. If you're going to be powering stuff like that, definitely let your electrician know.
posted by fedward at 12:05 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would like my outlets in my office to be about 6" under the height of my desk so that I don't have a bunch of cable spaghet where I like to put my feet up.
posted by phunniemee at 12:44 PM on June 22, 2021

Install conduit, as you will want to take advantage of whatever tech changes in the future, and it will change. Install the widest conduit you can fit in your studs.
Install more outlets than you think you need. I'd rather look at an unused outlet than an extension cord.
posted by Diddly at 12:49 PM on June 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

USB, no. Ethernet cable (Cat 6 or so), absolutely. You can use Ethernet cable for a lot more than just network signals.

Make sure your MAIN electrical circuit can handle it first.
posted by kschang at 12:57 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just came to say put your outlets, or at least some outlets, at counter height. Every time I'm under my desk doing something I fantasize about this.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:02 PM on June 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

Extra large diameter conduit and lots of pull strings left in, with boxes and plates everywhere up to your price limit. In ten years, you'll want to change it.
posted by eotvos at 1:41 PM on June 22, 2021 [3 favorites]

N'thing the suggestions for (1) a conduit, with a number of pull-throughs, and a small cupboard/space where it comes out to a network switch and associated NAS (side note, depending on budget, get a ?second RAID equipped NAS and keep it purely for backups on the network).

I'd also suggest you look at setting up a small Mesh Wi-fi around the house, and having one of the points in the home office, using the ethernet for the backhaul. I use the TP-Link Deco system, and the three pack of the 'M5' points covers our entire house with a single network.

Are you likely to do any recording (audio or video) i the future? If so consider some accoustic foam in the design, and possibly a drawover curtain behind your desk chair that can act as a green screen.

A 'do not disturb' light on the outside of the office may or may not be your thing.
posted by ewan at 2:39 PM on June 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ask for Arc fault breakers on any of the outlet circuits. Electrical code is moving in that direction but many places haven't adopted those rules.
posted by drezdn at 7:04 AM on June 24, 2021

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