Installing a Home Media Network

Intro

Installing a media network panel with modules for phone, data, and video lines provides flexibility and the assurance that you have reliable connections.

Planning the network
Choose a central location for your network panel, away from any electrical breaker panel or subpanel. Avoid attics or garages, where temperatures and humidity vary widely. Make sure no lines have to reach more than 300 feet from the panel. Check with service providers for special requirements. Place several outlets in each room, no more than 12 feet from each other. Each should have at least a telephone and cable outlet. Draw a plan, noting the length of cable run and parts needed.

Prestart Checklist

Time
About 1 hour to run each cable, about 4 to 6 hours to install the panel

Tools
Drywall saw or reciprocating saw, cable connector crimpers, type-F connector crimpers, stripping tool, drill, fish tape, longnose pliers, diagonal cutter

Skills
Planning, making electrical connections, running cable

Prep
Plan the installation; clear space for installing the panel and outlets.

Materials
Panel; cable and telephone distribution modules; power module, Category 5e and coaxial cable with connectors; outlets

Step 1

Cut openings and install a low-voltage box at each outlet location. Between two studs, cut an opening for the network panel. Run Category 5e cable for phone and data lines and coaxial cable for broadband or satellite lines. This is the hardest and most time-consuming part of the job.

Step 2

Label each end of the cables as you pull them. Leave 12-18 inches of excess cable at each opening. Run a 14/2 electrical cable from the breaker panel to the network box opening. Remove knockouts and fit the box with bushings to protect the cables. Feed the cables into the box and fasten them to the studs.

Step 3

Purchase Category 5e connectors, selecting colors to indicate use (blue for data lines and white for phone lines for example). Strip about 21/2 inches of cable jacket and straighten the wires. Using the A color key on the eight-conductor connector, push the wires into their color-coded slots. Press them into place using the punch tool provided.

Step 4

Check to make sure the wires are positioned correctly, and then trim any excess wire with a diagonal cutter. Push the connector cap into place. Fit the coaxial cable with type-F connectors.

Step 5

Remove knockouts and fasten the surge protector and GFCI power module into the network box. Strip the 14/2 cable and connect the module following the manufacturer's instructions. Fasten the module into place using screws provided. Leave caps in place to guard against debris falling into the receptacles.

Step 6

Snap a telephone distribution panel into place. It routes incoming telephone lines. Attach a voice and data module (or more if you need them -- each module serves six wall outlets). Wire each household extension line to this module. Connect patch cords between these modules and the appropriate plug-in.

Step 7

For each incoming line strip about 21/2 inches of cable jacket from the Category 5e cable. Following the manufacturer's instructions straighten and fan the wires and place them into the color-coded brackets adjacent to the appropriate module. Press them into the brackets with a punch tool and snip off the excess.

Step 8

Snap the Internet gateway into place. Connect the incoming modem line to the WAN (wide-area network) port with Category 5e-rated patch cords. Connect computer lines to the gateway. Configure the gateway using the software provided on a CD packaged with the Internet gateway.

Step 9

Install a new breaker to power the dedicated 15-amp lines. Test for power. Remove a protective cap from one of the GFCI receptacles and plug in the Internet gateway transformer.

Step 10

Attach type-F coaxial connectors to each incoming coaxial line, using coaxial stripping and crimping tools. Attach the incoming service cable to the CATV/ANT connection. Attach the other lines according to their labels. Plug the module transformer into the power module.

Step 11

Snap the connectors into the duplex plate. (You can choose from plates that have from two to six openings.) Test each line. Gently feed the cables into the wall and attach the plate to the outlet box.

Testing the system: Step 1

With an inexpensive walkie-talkie, an assistant, and the testing device shown, you can quickly test each new line. This tester has plugs for coaxial, four-pair phone lines, and Category 5 and 5e lines. Have your helper check the plan to identify the line being tested and then announce the line number to you.

Testing the system: Step 2

At the network panel find the cable being tested and touch the tester to it. If the line is correct, the tester emits a high-pitched sound. If there is no sound, check other lines until you find the connected line. Adjust the connection at the panel to correct any mistakes.

Attaching modular plugs on Category 5 and Category 5e cable: Step 1

Use stripping pliers to strip about 2 inches of jacket. Straighten each wire. Check packaging for recommended wire order.

Attaching modular plugs on Category 5 and Category 5e cable: Step 2

Trim wires to 1/2 inch. Fan them in the order they go into the modular plug. Push the wires into the plug.

Attaching modular plugs on Category 5 and Category 5e cable: Step 3

Use a crimping tool to fasten the wires into the plug. Give the plug a firm tug to make sure it is tight.


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