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How to Add Phones, Do Your Own Repairs

June 04, 1992|GERRY McSTRAVICK

The telephone has been called "the greatest nuisance among conveniences, and the greatest convenience among nuisances." Now that we own the telephones and wiring in our homes, it's up to us to make the nuisance more convenient.

You can save money by repairing your own telephone wiring or adding to the wiring system in your home.

According to Pacific Bell spokesman Michael Runzler, the company's rate for inside wire repair service in residences, effective March 1, is $45 for the first 15 minutes and $16 for each additional 15 minutes, per visit.

(Pacific Bell also has a per-month rate for inside wire repair service, which costs 60 cents a month. Under this plan, a repair person will come to your home and fix the inside wiring at no extra charge.)

There are also independent companies that offer telephone repair services.

Here are some common phone line changes or repairs and how to go about them if your decide to do the work yourself:

Switching to Touch-Tone

All residential telephone lines in San Diego County are now preconditioned for touch-tone. So, if you want to get rid of your old rotary dial phone, you can now simply plug in a touch-tone model with no problems.

Modular Connectors

If you intend to add more telephone wiring and jacks in your home, AT&T Phone Centers, Radio Shack, Montgomery Ward, Sears Roebuck, home improvement centers and various drug store chains in North County sell do-it-yourself wiring and modular accessories.

But some points should be considered before you buy a bunch of modular jacks and wire junctions or string telephone wire all over your house like Christmas decorations.

Plan jack locations carefully for convenience, accessibility and appearance. And avoid locations where the jacks and phone cords could be damaged or interfere with electrical wires. Most people use the surface mounted type of modular jack. Flush mounted jacks recessed into the wall are available and give a neater appearance, but they require more work.

The instructions included with the package of modular jacks and other accessories are usually descriptive enough for the novice handyman, so don't be afraid of trying to add an extension.

Here, for example, is a small rewiring job I recently completed:

In order to combine the location of the electric and telephone wires for my telephone answering machine, I used a "Modular Jack With Electric Faceplate."

To install it, I ran a length of station wire from an existing modular jack, at the other end of the room, along the baseboard to the new jack location at the electrical outlet. I connected the wires following the directions included in the package, then removed the old electrical faceplate and installed the combination faceplate.

The result is a tidy arrangement with the electric and telephone wires now in one place. This rewiring job took me about an hour and cost $16.14, including tax, for the wire and the jack--and I still have 35 feet of wire left over for future use. The tools required? A screwdriver, wire cutters (or scissors), hammer and staples.

Rewiring Your Home

Many books have been published on rewiring your home and installing more telephones. But most of them go into great detail about how the telephone central office and the public network works--when all that most homeowners want to do is add, or relocate, one or two extensions.

For small wiring jobs, here is all you need to know about telephone wire:

The most commonly used modern wire, called "D-station wire," (or just "station wire") for home telephone use contains four color-coded conducting wires: red, green, yellow and black. (If your telephone wiring is so old that it is color coded differently, call in an expert, unless you really know what you are doing.) The red and green wires are normally used for the basic telephone line. The yellow and black are used for either a second telephone line, current for a lighted phone, or as spare wires if a problem develops in the red and green wires. Just be sure you maintain the color-coding continuity throughout your system--red to red, green to green, etc.

But a word of caution if you want to avoid trouble and noise interference on your line: never twist-splice telephone wires. Use the Federal Communications Commission-approved accessories, such as wire junctions and modular jacks. Wire junctions are connectors that allow you to branch off an existing station wire to different locations throughout your home.

How Many Phones on One Line?

The ringing current from the telephone company central office is usually sufficient to ring five telephones. But, according to Runzler, "Every device that can connect to the phone network has a Ringer Equivalency Number or REN. We (Pacific Bell) will guarantee that the line will work properly as long as the total of the REN's on one line remains five or less," he said.

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