Jacks, Adapters and Other Accessories
An assortment of Panduit jacks.
There is an almost unbelievable variety of telephone jacks available.
But, all jacks are not created equal! A few cents more spent on a well designed and constructed jack can save you
hours of frustration. And appearance counts too. The plain beige wall jacks and surface mount box jacks that have
long been a familiar sight still work just fine. However, when you start installing multiple jacks in one faceplate,
you may find that some of the other available products are more suited to your desire for a "professional"
You can find phone jacks almost everywhere, from the "Dollar Stores"
to full service electrical supply houses.
Here are a few pointers:
- If you are going to use screw post termination jacks, look at the screw posts before you purchase your jacks.
Some "cheap" jacks simply have machine screws turned into plastic stands. The threads of the screws can cut
your wires and cause open connections. If the wire is caught in the threads, it will probably twist so that it doesn't
leave the jack in the desired direction. Better jacks use machine bolts instead of screws. The bolts have an
unthreaded area just below the bolt head and washers to place your wires between. The unthreaded area and
washers help provide a good mechanically secure connection that is less prone to failure.
Consider using "punch down" jacks when placing several jacks on one faceplate. These type jacks make it
easy to terminate all of the wires with a "punch tool" and avoid the tangled nest
of wires that can result from using screw post jacks. These jacks may be called "110 jacks" or "IDC" jacks . Many
of these jacks are modular and may permit you to combine several different type connections on one faceplate.
(Many of the rooms in my home have 2 phone jacks, 2 ethernet LAN jacks, and a dual-coax cable television
connection all on one Ortronics faceplate. That looks much better than three to six
faceplates each with only one jack.)
- If at all possible, run your cable inside your walls so that it is not exposed and use "flush mount" wall jacks.
This is a little more work, but the results look much better than exposed cable running to a surface mount jack.
- If you are building a new home or doing a major remodeling of your existing home:
- Place at least one and preferably two phone connections in most rooms - it's easier to plan ahead than to run more
cable after the construction is finished.
- Consider using matching "designer" faceplates in some areas such a formal living room. Several manufactures
offer matching phone jacks for their color coordinated light switches and electric outlets. This gives a nice professional
appearance and only cost a few cents more.
- If you use modular jacks, you may have the option of using different color jack modules for different lines or
configurations. Many of these jacks also include special labeling features. This can help avoid confusion.
Multi-line and multi-connection adapters are handy little devices - if you have the right one. The problem is that many
of these adapters appear to be nearly identical and only the internal wiring changes their function. To make matters
worse, manufacturers can't seem to agree on common terminology. Read the description on the packaging and make
sure you get the adapter you need.
- Duplex Adapter - These adapters give you two jacks for the same line. They are normally shape 1 or 2. Some
models are similar to shape two, but have a jack to accept an extension cord rather than a plug to go in a wall jack.
Other models have a cord built into the adapter instead of a plug to go into a jack. Versions of this type adapter are
also available for the smaller jacks/plugs used for handsets (RJ-22 or RJ-HH), which won't work for your RJ-11/RJ-14
- Two Line Adapter - (a.k.a. A/B Splitter) - These adapters give you separate jacks for two lines. Some models
(Triplex Adapters) have a third position that has both lines. They are normally shape 2 or 3. These adapters are
also built in variants with jacks or cords instead of plugs.
- Two Line Combiner - (a.k.a A/B Combiner) - These adapters combine two separate RJ-11 single line jacks into
one RJ-14 two line jack. They are normally shape 2. The plug goes in the jack for one line and a cord coming from
a separate jack for the second line plugs into one of the jacks on the adapter. The remaining jack on the adapter then
provides a combined RJ-14 jack. If that's not confusing enough, these adapters come in variants with cords in place of
some and/or all of the jacks and plug.
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