Q&A / 

Adding a Telephone Outlet

DEAR TIM: I want to hook up my computer to a separate telephone line. The local telephone company will bring the cable into my house but I intend to complete the project. What do I need to do so that I can have my existing phone line and the new one active at the same location? Do I have to run a new cable inside my house? K.H. Rapid City, SD

DEAR K.H.: You have selected a project that just about every homeowner can tackle successfully. Telecommunications wiring is quite simple to master. If you are lucky, you will not need to run a new cable. However, for the best signal, a new cable may have to be installed. It is possible that you will have the modem up and running in just an hour.

Telephones, modems, answering machines, etc. work using just two wires. Remove your existing telephone outlet from the wall. You probably will see a single cable that contain four thin wires. If the wiring is fairly modern, you should see separate red, green, yellow, and black wires. Only two of those wires power your existing phone. Usually, the red and green wires do the work. The yellow and black wires are simply spares. The red, green, yellow, and black wires are older technology.

To obtain the absolute best voice and data system you should purchase an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) approved 22 or 24 gauge, color band-striped, twisted pair cable. This cable often contains 4 twisted pairs of wire that have blue-white, orange-white, green-white, and brown white colorations. The twisting of the wires around one another helps to eliminate interference from other wires within the cable.

If there are only two wires feeding your outlet, you will have to run a new wire to your modem location. Be sure to use modern 22 gauge UL approved wire that contains the twisted pair conductors mentioned above.

Your modem will require you to use a modern modular connection cable. This is the cable that has the funny shaped square plug at each end. The cable connects to a wall outlet which is made for these plugs. The outlets are often referred to as RJ-11 outlets. Most of these outlets have short pigtail wires that attach to screws on the back of the outlet. These pigtail wires are also red, green, yellow, and black. Unless you are color blind, you should see why this is going to be easy.

Look at your existing outlet. If the yellow and black wires are connected to the back of the outlet, temporarily remove them. Test to see if your existing phone still works. If you get a dial tone, can dial out and the spare yellow and black wires are not broken somewhere, we will be finished in no time.

Go to where the existing phone line enters your house. Here you will find the other end of the cable. You should see that the red and green wires attach to the two wires that come in from the street.

The telephone company will undoubtedly provide you with a new connection device for the new phone line. Instruct them to install it as close as possible to your existing telephone connection device. If you have traced the wires correctly, the yellow and black wires in your existing wire will become the "red and green" wires for your new modem line. Get the picture? You simply attach the existing yellow and black wires to the new incoming telephone wire. Back at your existing outlet, these two wires should produce a dial tone.

To finish the job, you need to use a handy dual outlet. You can purchase telephone outlets that have two modular connection points on one outlet plate. If you look at the back of the outlet, you will see two sets of red and green pigtail wires. Attach the red and green wire to the corresponding red and green pigtail. Connect the yellow and black wire to the other red and green pigtails. If all the wires are working, you should get a dial tone from each outlet. However, they will be two different phone numbers. Label the front of the outlet as to which outlet accesses which phone number.


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