x•s•v•toys (ex-es-iv-toyz or excessive toys): Exceeding a normal, usual, reasonable, or proper limit for the purchase of consumer electronics.


***UPDATE*** This retrofit structured wiring installation has been working with no problems since it was designed and installed in 2006, and most of the concepts are still valid today. However due to advances in technology some of the plans should be changed to accommodate the latest technological developments. Please review THIS UPDATE (CLICK HERE) before proceeding with any new plans for a home structured wiring project.

The xsvtoys "RETRO" Structured Wiring Story - INSTALLATION

Phase 3 – Install the Structured Media Center (SMC)

Now comes the biggest job in this project - getting the SMC installed, including getting all of the wires properly connected and the SMC modules properly installed so everything works. With the benefit of good planning, it should just be a matter of following the plan.

Install the SMC enclosure

The first step is to install the enclosure itself. The first step is to decide where wires will be going into and out of the panel and then punch out the holes on the sides. Since this panel will have the majority of the wires coming in from the top (from the attic) all 4 hole cutouts were punched out on the top of the enclosure. A few were done on the right and left sides as well to allow for additional wiring connections for networking equipment and power. The panel does not come with any "terminal adaptor" connectors to finish these holes. You can purchase the special structured wiring versions, but I opted for standard PVC pipe connectors from a local building supply store. The 1" and 1.5" versions fit the enclosure holes just fine and this is a cheap system.

Cheap adaptors (click to expand)


Here is what the panel looks like with all of the adaptors installed.

Enclosure with adaptors (click to expand)


There needs to be a way to route all of the cables from the attic into the SMC. To do this, 4 holes were measured and cut in the ceiling of the closet to match up with the 4 holes of the SMC enclosure. Then standard PCV pipe (from the home supply store) was used as a transfer tube for the wire. The picture below shows the 4 holes cut in the ceiling from below and how it looks in the attic after the pipes are installed (and before wiring is put in).

mounting holes

Once this dirty work is done, the enclosure can be put into place. Here is what it looks like just after the initial positioning. There are 2 wires coming down from the attic - one coax and one Cat5e. These happen to be the infeed cables from the telephone DP and the cable company DP.

Click to enlarge

In this particular installation, it turns out that there is a closet shelf at the height to allow the enclosure to sit directly on the shelf for support, using a few inches of downward piping for the wire feeds. It is also possible to attach the enclosure directly to the wall preferably by using screws going into studs for the strongest support. NOTE: It is best if you put a thin sheet of plywood (same size as the enclosure) between the enclosure and the wall. This will make it much easier to screw in the various brackets and rails that you will be using. Unfortunately I failed to do this which is a pain because screwing directly into the drywall (actually plaster in this case) doesn't work very well. Luckily there is room to add the plywood sheet and this will be part of future upgrades.

Install the SMC modules

Now with the enclosure in place the two main SW modules can be added. This picture shows the locations of the Leviton panel and the ChannelPlus video distribution panel. Since the enclosure and the distribution panel are both from Leviton, the mounting holes all match up and the distribution panel simply snaps right into place into the holes in the back of the panel. Since the video distribution module is from another supplier, its mounting brackets and holes don't line up. This is fairly easy to overcome, especially with the handy-dandy universal mounting rails that (silver-colored) that you can see the video module is attached. These mounting rails came from SmartHome.

Click to enlarge

Terminate the Cat5e

Now it is time to feed down all of the Cat5e cables and then attach them to the ports on the Leviton panel. These cables are attached with a special tool called a "punchdown" tool. These are easily purchased for not too much money, and they are not too difficult to use once you get the hang of it. You can also have a professional installer punch them down for you if prefer. Just be sure they follow your wiring scheme. Actually, it is not very important which wires go to which ports on the media panel, it is only important that you know which cables are where. If the cables have been properly labeled then you will always be able to tell where they are going if your labeling scheme is good. In order to do this step, it is critical to precisely follow the instructions given by Leviton on how to place all of the cables and also to make sure that the T568A pattern is followed. It is a tiny bit confusing how it works, but once the pattern is understood the Cat5e cable punchdown procedure should go quickly. The cables are punched down the left and right sides of each mini-panel starting with the top RIGHT for #1, then the top LEFT for #2, and repeating this pattern working down. How this works is shown in this picture.

wire punchdown

Unfortunately I don't have a good photo of the panel with just the wires punched in. But this is what it looks like schematically (click picture to enlarge):

panel wiring

This picture shows all 20 Cat5e cables that are brought into the enclosure from the attic. The position of each cable on the media panel is labeled and the destination at the other end of the cable is labeled as well. It is vital that all of this information be correct in order to make the panel work as far as the initial configuration and for future reconfigurations too. For documentation it is neater to produce a table that lists where each wire goes. A spreadsheet works great for this. If you combine the table with a picture of the panel with all of the ports clearly labeled, you will have an unambiguous reference list of where all of the wires go. Click this picture to enlarge.

panel wiring

Notice that there has not been any action yet in the TLDM (Telephone Line Distribution Module) which is the middle panel with yellow numbers. Don't worry, the time will come when it will get connected.

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