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Low Voltage Wiring in Our Homes / On-Q Panel
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Anita S.
Mueller Community

Posts: 55
Joined on December 1st, 2009
Low Voltage Wiring in Our Homes / On-Q Panel
by Anita S. on July 5th, 2011

I was going through notes I took when we moved in and thought they might be good to share. This covers telephone, cable, security, and Ethernet and explains what is going on inside that "On-Q communications panel" inside your house.

General system overview:
In most neighborhoods, utility companies run wires around the outside of the home and drill through home walls to install service in various rooms, often leaving a messy appearance and reducing energy efficiency. To avoid this, the Mueller community requires all utilities to enter homes through a dedicated communications panel on the exterior of the house. The builders bury conduit from the utility service boxes to each home's communications panel. This conduit is later used by the utility to run the wires necessary to bring service to the home. The conduit can be spotted as gray PVC pipes that poke up near the utility company service boxes in an alley. The conduit then runs underground to the exterior communication panel of individual homes. Each utility box serves multiple homes. The telephone box is gray. The cable box is green and is labeled Time Warner.

The exterior communications panel
In the communications panel on the side of a new Mueller home you'll find
1) the ends of the two gray PVC conduits coming from the utility boxes
2) a bundle of cables coming from the internals of the house
3) an empty conduit (will have just a pull string inside) coming from the internals of the house. This flexible plastic conduit is for future expansion. Ours is bright orange.
4) an electrical outlet (Probably. I'm not sure if it's not required by the neighborhood.)

When the utility comes to install service, they run wiring from their service box in the alley through the underground gray conduit left by the builder and into the home's exterior communications panel. There, they will connect their wiring to the "service" end of your wiring that was installed in the house during construction. The other end of the bundle of cables and orange conduit you see in the exterior panel goes to the On-Q panel inside the house.

The interior On-Q communications panel
The contents of the On-Q panel can be divided into a few groups:
1) telephone
2) cable
3) networking (Ethernet)
4) security
5) future expansion

Telephone - The builder ran a telephone line from the exterior panel to the "Line In" connection on the telephone distribution box inside the On-Q communications panel. This is probably run on a CAT5e cable and will have a connector that looks like an Ethernet connector, but telephone signals are being sent on it, not Ethernet. The telephone distribution box is a black panel with 10 connectors. The jacks to the left of the telephone "Line In" are the telephone lines going out to each of the telephone jacks in the house. These are also run on CAT5e cable and go to telephone jacks throughout the home. At the other end of the cable will be the familiar, skinnier connector you recognize as a telephone jack. Our distribution box has room for 8 phone connections to the home. Not all are used. The connector below the "Line In" will be used if you decide to connect a telephone-monitored security service. This allows the security system to seize the phone line and dial the monitoring company when activated.

Cable TV - The cable line coming into the home is a traditional coaxial cable. It feels stiffer than the CAT5e cables used for telephone and Ethernet. The incoming line was originally plugged into the center "In" connection on the silver 8-way cable splitter mounted on top of the telephone distribution box. If you have only cable TV, this will be the only way your cable service is connected.

Networking - If you have a cable modem installed without cable TV, the installer might have disconnected the incoming cable TV service line from the cable splitter and instead moved it to the cable modem's input. The output of the cable modem supplied by your cable provider is then connected to the input of the router you supply. You then connect the cables for the various ethernet drops you want to work in the house into the router. These are also run on CAT5e. On their other ends are Ethernet jacks throughout the home.
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