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Installing Telephone and Cable Lines

The telephone and cable companies will install cable for you, but be braced for a pretty hefty bill, even for running a simple surface-mounted extension line. The cable company may want to charge you a monthly fee for splitting the line in order to service two televisions. So, although it is not feasible for a homeowner to make major telephone installations (and perhaps illegal to make a cable installation), it does make sense for you to run cable for extra telephones or a second TV You’ll find that running wires for telephones and cable TV is easier than electrical wiring. There is no danger of shock, and only one cable to run. Still, the same principles of installation and connection apply: You must protect wire insulation from damage and be sure connections are secure. The simplest way to install the cable is to tack or staple it to the wall. Although a common practice, this can be unsightly and a mess when you paint walls and molding. For a neater and more permanent installation, take the time to run the cable out of sight.

The Right Cable

■ To avoid a noisy connection and possible damage to your phone system, use cable marked 22-AWC (often sold as “line cord”) to add a branch line. Stranded-wire extension cable sold in 25- and 50-foot lengths, it should only be used between the jack and the phone, not for adding new extensions. This solid-core cable is more expensive than stranded wires or (the worst of all) filament wire, but well worth the investment.

■ Purchase shielded coaxial cable for television cables. It has a metal wrapping under the insulation. Non-shielded cable will not perform as well.

1. To run cable down a wall, attach to a chain and drop down. Cut a hole in the wall where you want to locate an in-wall phone or cable jack. Attach a length of beaded chain to the end of the cable with electrician’s tape. Drop the chain down through the hole. If you feel it hitting an obstruction, give it a wiggle.

2. Grab the chain at the bottom. Once the chain has dropped far enough, drill a hole in the wall at the point where you want to retrieve the cable. (To hide the cable completely, remove the baseboard molding before drilling.) Insert a bent piece of coat hanger wire and root around until you hook the chain. Pull the chain through the hole until a foot or so of cable is sticking out.

3. Install box and jack. Where you want a new phone or coaxial cable jack, cut out the wall as you would for an electrical box. Pull about 8 inches of cable through the box. Install the box. For phone cable, strip the sheathing and insulation, and make connections as marked on the jack. At the phone junction box, connect the wires to the color-coded terminals.

4. Hide cable under carpeting. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of pulling up your baseboard, it is often possible to hide most of the cable under wall-to-wall carpeting. Pry up only two feet or so of carpeting at a time or you may have trouble getting it to reattach to the tack strip. Slip the cable in place, and push the carpet firmly back in place as you go.

Make coaxial connections. To hook an additional television to your cable, add a two-way splitter. Mount the splitter to a wall, floor, or baseboard and run cable. Add a screw-on connector to both ends of the cable by stripping 3/4 inch of insulation (cutting all the way to the wire), taking care not to bend the wire. Next strip 3/8 inch of the thin outer insulation only, leaving the metal wrapping intact. Screw the connector on—it will grab the insulation firmly. Attach the connector to the splitter.

Installing Doorbell Intercoms

With conventional intercom systems you have to run bell wires from intercom to intercom. You may spend hours drilling holes and fishing wire or still have foot after foot of exposed wire running along the baseboards. Newer doorbell intercoms sidestep these problems by using a combination of existing bell wire and standard 120-volt power circuits to carry your two-way conversations. For room-to-room communication you can buy units that use only your electrical circuits and no bell wire. You mount the inexpensive units on a wall, plug them in, and start talking.

1. Install mounting bracket. NOTE: Shut off the power. Test that the power to the doorbell is shut off by pressing the button— the chime or bell shouldn’t sound. Remove the doorbell button and disconnect the wires from the terminals. Fasten the new doorbell mounting bracket to the wall with screws. Fasten the top screw first, check the unit for plumb, then insert the bottom screw.

2. Install doorbell module. Attach the bell wires to the terminal screws on the back of the doorbell module. Indoors, find your existing doorbell transformer. Transfer the wires from its terminals to the new AC adapter that comes with the system. Plug the adapter into the nearest 120-volt receptacle. This links the doorbell module to the circuit that will carry the signal to the intercom monitor.

3. Disconnect the chime or bell. Remove the doorbell or chime cover. Unscrew the terminal screws and remove the wires. Twist the bare ends of the wires together and cover the splice with a small wire connector. Replace the cover; the doorbell will no longer be used.

4. Plug in the intercom. Choose a location for the intercom monitor, fasten it to the wall with the screws provided, hang the unit in place, and plug its cord into a 120-volt receptacle. Restore power to the circuit and test the unit. Pressing the button on the outdoor unit produces a gong-like sound from the monitor. The signal is carried from the outdoor unit, along the bell wire, into the household circuit, and to the intercom monitor. This allows you to talk with whoever is at the door.

Installing Video Intercom Systems

For a surprisingly small amount of work, you can install a video intercom that lets you see and hear the person at your door. For about the cost of a full-size television, this system provides a new level of convenience and security. One of the simpler systems to install is wired by running a four-wire, 18-gauge cable from a camera outside to the monitor inside. The monitor plugs into a standard electrical receptacle. The toughest part of the job is pulling the four-wire cable from the front door to the monitor location.

1. Attach camera box, wire camera. Choose a location for the camera as close to eye level as possible. Cut an opening in the wall and run four-wire, 18-gauge cable from the box to the location of your monitor. Attach the box to the wall; connect the wires to the terminals on the back of the camera.

2. Install camera. You may want to adjust the camera angle up or down if the unit cannot be placed at eye level. Place the camera unit in the camera box, install the front panel, and secure it with tamperproof screws. Tighten them with the Allen wrench that comes with the unit and insert protective caps.

3. Wire a recessed receptacle. A recessed receptacle (sometimes called a clock receptacle because it often is located behind electric wall clocks) allows you to install the monitor without having the electrical cord visible. Wire it as you would a standard receptacle. Attach the mounting bracket for the monitor.

4. Wire the monitor. Connect the four wires to the back of the monitor. Some units allow you to install electronic door unlockers. Plug the cord in. Push the monitor onto the bracket and pull downward to anchor it. To operate the video intercom, the power switch must be on. Adjust the volume and brightness controls. When a visitor presses the call button on the camera unit, you will hear a chime, and the visitor will appear on the monitor. Pick up the handset to speak. The visitor speaks through the microphone mounted on the camera unit.

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