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) (continued)

With the enclosure put into place and all of the Cat5e cables terminated on both ends, the "hard" work is done. Now it is time to start connecting some stuff and see if this whole structured wiring actually works! We will start by connecting and testing the cable TV. There is no specific reason to start with the cable TV, other than you have to start somewhere.

Configure and test the video (cable tv) distribution.

The wiring for the video distribution is fairly simple, but complicated to a minor degree by the fact that the incoming wire from the cable company is carrying the television and the internet. While it is not strictly a requirement, things are likely to work out better if the incoming coax is initially split two ways, one for the TV and one for the internet. To accomplish this, a simple and inexpensive 2-way splitter is used. The incoming coax wire from the cable company is attached to the Input, then Output1 goes to the cable modem and Output2 goes to the 8-way video splitter. This is how it looks in the panel.

cable wiring


8 wall plates were selected to get a cable TV feed from the 8-way splitter. This is not because there are 8 TVs in the house, rather its just a decision to go ahead and wire in 8 wall plates for future use. It would be just as logical to decide to just wire the wall plates where there are TVs. Either way, it is easy to reconfigure any wall plate to receive TV by screwing in the cable to one of the 8 outputs. Even though the 8 coax cables are labeled according to the color-coding scheme so you can identify where they go, it is nice to create another chart that shows where the 8 wires carrying cable TV are going. If you change the cables that are plugged into the splitter you will need to remember to update the chart. In this chart "CDA" stands for "Cable Distribution Amplifier", in other words the 8-way amplified splitter. You can see by this chart that the living room, kitchen, closet1 and all 4 bedrooms are now connected to cable TV (2 connections for Bedroom 2).

tv chart

The amplified splitter needs to be plugged into an AC outlet in order to work. The power for this enclosure is provided by a simple low-tech solution: a power strip mounted on the bottom of the enclosure. You can see it here with the "wall-wart" from the splitter plugged in along with a number of other devices that we will get to later. The power cord for the power strip passes out one of the side holes of the enclosure to the power outlet that is available in the wiring closet. Now with all of the internal wiring for cable TV in place, it is time to "go live" and test it to see if it all works as planned. The other end of the input cable now needs to be connected to the primary feed coming from the cable company at the DP or demarcation point. In this case, it is only a matter of screwing in the coax plug into the union connector at the end of the cable on the outside of the house. Once it is connected, the testing procedure is pretty simple: Turn on the TVs, and if you see a picture, you are done! If for some reason it doesn't work, it is time to recheck all of the wiring. But for this installation, everything worked perfectly on the first try.

smc power

Configure and test the phone system

With the television working it is time to move to another piece of the project, the telephone system. As a reminder, for this installation we are using the good old-fashioned plain old telephone service, or POTS. VOIP telephone service such as offered by the cable company are becoming more popular and in theory those types of telephone service should be able to be handled by this SW system, but this has not been tested.

The POTS is supplied by the local phone company at the Demarcation Point (DP) in a plastic box mounted on the outside of the house, a very typical arrangement. A single wire comes down into the DP box from the telephone company. This wire is actually a cable (in this case) that carries 8 different wires, which if activated by the phone company can carry a total of 4 different telephone lines. One telephone line uses 1 pair of wires. The picture below shows what the box looks like when closed up, and what the wiring inside looks like when it is opened up. (Click to enlarge this picture).


This box is currently set up for 3 phone lines. So 6 of the 8 wires are used. The wires are attached to screw terminals in the panel in a typical color-coded pattern for phone lines, with Red-Green for line 1, Black-Yellow for line 2, and Blue-White for line 3. The other 2 wires are are not connected and are tucked away. Note that all of these wires are actually the wires that go into the house to the phone jacks. The actual telephone company wiring is terminated behind the panel to the left and is not accessible. This is actually a good thing. You can see that there is a phone jack (RJ11 connector) for each line. When the door panels are swung open, all of the house wiring is disconnected from the phone company and you can plug a phone into one of those jacks to test only the signal coming from the phone company. If you have problems, this allows you to determine if it is due to your own house wiring or if it is outside and a phone company problem. This is very important information to have if you do have a problem as the phone company does NOT work on your internal wiring for free - they will charge you an hourly rate. But they will fix problems on their end for free.

Well, we are going to rip out all of that existing wiring and put in out own. All of those wires can be unscrewed and removed, then we will bring in out single Cat5e cable that we have run from here over to the SMC during the wire installation phase. The Cat5e cable also has 8 wires, so we will use that feature to wire connect in a similar manner so that we can deliver these 3 lines to the house via the SMC. The wires from the Cat5e cable are wired such:

Here is what it looks like after it is wired. For each pair, the wire with white stripes should go onto the green-colored screw. (Click to enlarge).


There is no need to worry about the fact that the phone lines now all have different colors. Really, the phone signal doesn't care what colors the wires are! At any rate, this color-coding system with the Cat5e is actually completely compatible with and matches the standards of the latest POTS wiring guidelines, so all is good. The only trick it to carefully make sure every where is in its proper place here and at the other end, which is in the SMC. The other end of this Cat5e cable is attached to the Leviton TLDM in the location marked with red here. The close-up on the right shows how the color-coded wires are punched into the TLDM's input, which is marked "FROM DEMARCATION". From right to left it goes: blue/white - blue (line 1), orange/white - orange (line 2) then green/white - green (line 3). For access to line 4 the brown/white - brown should be punched into the last two positions.


With the incoming POTS wire connected at both ends, we can now configure any of the Cat5e jacks on any of the wall plates to use the telephone lines of our choice. Basically, the TDLM is a circuit board that routes various combinations of phone lines to different jacks on the board. Each connector is labeled as to which phone line it is carrying. The multiple numbers indicate that multi-line phones can be used as well. Always, the first number indicates line 1 at the final phone jack, so if you have a single-line phone (the most common scenario) you just pick a jack that starts with the line you want and connect a patch cable from it to the RJ45 jack on the patch panel that corresponds to your desired wall plate jack. The picture below shows the corresponding phone lines for each jack on the TLDM. Jacks 1-7 are set up with all 4 lines, so you could plug them into a 4-line phone and gets lines 1-4. Or you could plug them into a 2-line phone and get lines 1-2. Or, in the most typical installation you could plug them into a 1-line phone and just get line 1. If you wanted to get line 2 in a 1-line phone, you could use jacks 13, 14, or 15 because they all start with line 2.


Let's configure 2 different single-line phones, one for line 1 and one for line 2, to see how it works. Supposed we want to have a phone in the Dining Room area. We can pick either of the Cat5e jacks on the Dining Room's wall plate for this purpose. We will pick the left Cat5e jack, which is #1 on that wall plate. By checking our wiring table for the patch panels, we find that this jack is wired into position # 18 (RED). So, we can pick any of the TLDM jacks that has one and use a short patch cable to connect those together. We will pick jack 10 for this purpose, but any of the other ones that starts with 1 will work. So schematically it will look like this:

smc panel

This is pretty much how the TLDM works. It offers plenty of flexibility to configure your different phones lines anywhere where you have your wall plates. This is really an elegant solution. To test all of your wiring including your patch cable at the panel, just plug the phone in and give it a try. If it doesn't work, you will have to work your way backward and figure out where there is a mistake. All of the wiring for this project worked perfectly the first time, so there never was a need for much troubleshooting. But if you do have a problem getting the phone to work, here are the basic steps to resolve it:

  1. Whenever you have a phone problem, ALWAYS go back to the outside box and disconnect all of your house wiring by opening up the doors. Then plug a phone into the test jack and see if it works. You need a non-wireless phone to do this unless you have power out by the box. If you get a good phone signal there, then you know that the problem is in your wiring.
  2. Go to the SMC and unplug the short loop cable that you can see at the top of the picture above. Plug your test phone into the left jack which is labeled "TEST" and see if it works. If it works, you know that your wiring at the demarcation point, from the demarcation to the SMC, and the punchdown connection on the TLDM are all good. If it doesn't work, you need to check all of the connections again and make sure they are exactly right. The problem is most likely in the way one of the connections is wired. However, it could also be that your wire has been damaged somehow during the installation process. If you are absolutely sure that the connections on both ends are right, you may have to replace the wire.
  3. If the TEST jack from #2 is working, plug the loop cable back in, then double-check your patch cable and make sure that you have properly joined together the line and the wall plate that you think you have. If necessary, try some other wall plate jacks to see if they work. If other connections work and the one you want doesn't, then again you have to carefully check the connections on each end. This includes the wire punchdowns both at the wall plate jack and at the patch panel in the SMC. Most likely there is an error on one of the connections. If you are sure the connections are right, once again you may have a bad wire that will need to be replaced. This shouldn't happen unless the wiring was poorly treated during the installation process.

Final note on the wall plate jacks: If you still don't like the idea of plugging the RJ11 telephone plug into the Cat5e (RJ45) jack, you can still do all of the wiring this same way, including the TDLM shown above. Everything will be compatible if you decide to install an RJ11 jack at the wall plate.

Phase 4 - Testing

After everything is all wired and connected, it is a good idea to test the system to make sure everything is proper. The testing confirms that the wires are all good and have not been damaged and that all of the terminations are properly made with all of the wires in the correct places and properly prepare. The "best" way to test the system would be to use specialized testing tools that are made just for this purpose. These devices come with connectors for each end of the cables and will send test signals over the wire and then give a display that indicates whether the wire is good or bad. If you have access to one of these testers or want to spend the money to get one, this is a good way to go.

Being that I am too cheap to spend the money for an official tester, I went with the "freebie" method. This basically consists of connecting up devices, and if they work, well then you can assume everything is the way it should be.

For RG6 cables, this means connecting a TV to the wall plate jack - if you get a picture, all is good.

For Cat5e, the wall plate jack is patched with a patch cord in the SMC to the network switch, then a laptop computer is connected at the wall plate with another patch cable. If the laptop's network port lights up to indicate 100 Mbps and the internet is available, then all is good. If the Cat5e checks out this way, then the same wire should work fine if patched for use as a telephone line.

Troubleshooting: If something does NOT work, it will be a matter of starting with the connections on each end and confirming that everything was done correctly, similar to what was described above for troubleshooting the phone. Luckily for this installation all of the wiring checked out OK on the first try, so no troubleshooting was required : ) This is a result of careful planning and taking time to do the installation carefully and correctly.

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