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Removing the Hard-Wired Telephone

August 11, 2012

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Remember those old phones from the 1970s, before modular jacks were installed? We didn’t own them but the phone companies rented them to us? Hard-wire phones refer the type of phone connected directly to the wiring system and secured to the wall. While very stable and durable for its day, especially in the busy office environment, modern telephones provide much more flexibility and yield better quality than these old phones. With a little exertion and a few snips with the wire cutters, the device will easily disconnect from the wall.

You’ll Need:
Utility knife
Paper clip
Wire cutters
Electrical tape

Score lightly around the body of the telephone with the utility knife where the phone meets the wall. This will break the paint seal if the wall was painted or the ring of hardened dust in very old phones.

Place the heel of your hand at the bottom of the phone while holding the phone speakerset with your other hand, to stabilize it. Push up on the phone to release the phone from the wall mount. Some phone models have a small metal tab that you must release before loosening the phone from the mount. If so, press the tab with a flat head screwdriver while pushing the phone up with the other hand. Other phone models have small screws concealed behind the phone number card. If so, turn the rotary finger wheel clockwise until it stops and locate a small hole on the frame behind the wheel. Insert the end of a paper clip into the hold and press firmly until the finger wheel pops off. Unscrew the exposed screws to remove the phone from the wall.

Snip each of the four telephone wires, one at a time, that are attached to the back of the phone. If you intend on reusing the wiring for a new telephone, snip the wires as close to the phone as possible. This will give you a little additional wire length for your rewiring project. When all the wires are cut, set the phone aside.

Unscrew the wall mount screws with the screwdriver, if necessary.

Wrap the loose telephone wires together with electrical tape and secure the tape to the wall. This will prevent the wires from slipping back into the wall cavity.

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The Benefits of Wiring for a Home Network

October 28, 2011


When I gutted the living room in 2007, I bit the financial bullet and networked the room for Ethernet wiring. Except for drilling a small hole through a 12-inch support beam and 4-inch thick studs, the experience was pretty enjoyable. What I essentially did was create one Ethernet port for each wall in the living room. I ran Cat5 Ethernet wiring inside the wall studs and created a “port” or “Ethernet station” on each wall. One of the walls I made into the “master station.” This area would hold the master computer, the router, and the face plate that would hold all the Ethernet port cables. I scratched a rough diagram showing one of the ports and the master area. It’s pretty rough, but it gives you an idea of how simple it is to network a room.


As you can see from the diagram, I basically created “extension cords” of Ethernet wiring within the walls. Previously, the other computers in the room were connected by wires that I had to string on the floor, across doorways and through the living room. It was terribly messy, and dangerous.

This is the face plate after I had wired the Ethernet. The top two ports are telephone (RJ11) jacks. The others are Ethernet (RJ45) jacks. I left one blank because I didn’t need it filled at the time.

Modular Face Plate

Ah, but now I have cable Internet, with coaxial wiring. I had fun yesterday, and learned how to wire a coaxial cable jack to my master face plate.


You’ll notice that the other two ports have Ethernet cables. These cables go to the router and to the switch, which is a device that acts like an extension cord for the router. Most routers have only 4 ports in the back, but I need many more connections. The switch is a big box that can hold more connections. The one I have holds 16 more Ethernet connections!

Eventually, I want to make the entire house wired. Currently, the computers in the upstairs rooms use wireless. While wireless is pretty handy, I don’t like using it for main computers. It takes up a lot of bandwidth when everyone is on together. Wireless is also a PAIN to configure and if there’s interference from airplanes, CB radios, microwaves, whatever, it can be frustrating when downloading stuff. Wireless is also less secure than wired connections.

The hardest part about home networking, in my opinion, is getting the wiring through the walls. Even when we gutted the walls, it was still hard to drill holes through such big, old lumber. Wiring the upstairs is easier because you can string the wires up into the attic and simply drop them down into the wall cavities without drilling horizontally through studs. When we renovate the upstairs, I will be adding a few Ethernet ports to each of the bedrooms.

Cat5 jack wired

We’ve had our home network system for a few years now, and I’ve never regretted it. The only thing I regret is not adding more ports!

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My Lights Flicker When Neighbors Suck Power

October 17, 2011


You learn something new every day. Huh.

I was sitting in my office today, typing merrily away, when my lights flickered. Then, they flickered again. ?? I’ve been seeing this happen a number of times recently, and while I wasn’t exactly WORRIED, I wanted to know what was going on. Since I did all the home electric wiring myself (and it’s been working fine for several years now), I guess I’m still a little nervous. It’s a silly thing to worry about— if I wired something wrong, I’d certainly know by now! But I also like to know WHY things happen.

My neighbors next door use a lot of power-sucking appliances. They seem to have commercial carpet cleaners over a lot (we have basement water problems around here, if you recall, and woe to the poor folks who have finished basements 🙁 ). As a matter of fact, the carpet cleaner truck is outside my window right now, roaring at a high decibel for the second time this month. I wondered if perhaps the carpet cleaner machine is sucking the electricity… since I am “after” them in the power grid lines, it makes sense that my electricity would experience a slight transmission delay. Looks like I’m correct! I found this little FAQ at a power utility company website:

Q: My lights dim when my neighbor operates his power tools.

A: The voltage going into your home constantly changes depending on electrical loads used by you and your neighbors. The neighbor’s power tools may cause your voltage to drop.


So if you see your lights flicker and you know that your neighbor is running a homegrown industrial lights machine or is cleaning their carpets, it’s just a temporary blip in the electricity transmission.

I don’t care about the lights flickering, but I do care about how the voltage fluctuations might affect my computers and other sensitive electronics. I think I need to get more surge protectors, just in case.

I’ll pass along a tip I found while researching this issue: If it happens often, you can call your power company to upgrade the transformer, or perhaps they’ll give your neighbor his own transformer on a pole. That way, he can slurp energy without draining it for everyone else down the pike. 😉

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, your neighbor’s mega-power-slurping does not affect your bill in any way. It just affects the flow of voltage transmission, which is why it’s important to use surge protectors for your electronics.

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What I Learned at the Home Depot Lighting Showcase in New York City

August 3, 2011


I attended the Home Depot Lighting Showcase in New York City last week, to learn more about light bulb technology. I have previously expressed my dismay that the federal government and my state (New York) have passed legislation sharply restricting and eventually prohibiting incandescent light bulbs in the United States. Some of you have (like me) really detest the compact fluorescent light (CFL) “swirly” fluorescent bulbs and are stocking up on incandescents for the future. When the folks at Home Depot invited me to check out some new bulb technology, I was keenly interested. Here are a few things I learned from the showcase:

The old bulb with metal filament.

1. Incandescents are not outlawed by the government.
This news was rather surprising. According to one of the gentlemen at the showcase, the federal government is requiring that incandescents be “energy efficient.” On display at the showcase was a very unique incandescent bulb that had — of all things– a halogen bulb inside it!

Now, regular incandescents, the ones we’ve been using since Thomas Edison, work this way: a glass bulb is filled with inert gas and contains a thin metal filament. When electrified, the filament heats up until it glows, producing light. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of the energy generated is wasted, emitting heat and not light. Since energy is a precious commodity, the incandescent is considered very wasteful.

Now, I like the light that incandescents emit. It’s warm, cozy, comforting. CFLs are terribly harsh, ugly and some of them do not fit in my lamp fixtures. It seems that many of us are convinced we are being forced between choosing soon-to-be illegal incandescents or the ugly and expensive CFLs. But this is not so! Read on…

2. Manufacturers are making our beloved incandescent more energy efficient.
At the showcase, the Home Depot dudes showed me a new type of incandescent, a bulb with a small halogen bulb inside of it. This is the sample they gave me.


I was very impressed with this bulb. According to the packaging, this new incandescent offers 28 percent energy savings, 1000 hours life cycle, a light output of 1490 lumens and all for 72 watts. The bulb is brighter than a typical incandescent, and shines a very pleasant, clear light.

The new bulb with halogen insert.

Obviously, such a remanufactured bulb will cost more. In my location, I can purchase one package of regular incandescent light bulbs that contain 4 bulbs for about $1.50. These new EcoVantage bulbs come in packs of two, and cost approximately $3 per package. That’s a jump, but realize that the bulbs save energy and reduce your energy bill somewhat.

3. Manufacturers are making a slew of new kinds of bulbs. The key is “energy efficient” lighting.

These EcoVantage bulbs are only the next step up from incandescents in energy efficiency. The CFLs have better efficiency than the EcoVantage, and the Halogena Energy Saver bulbs are better than them all. The most energy efficient of all are the new-fangled LED lights. This is a totally new technology that has been long in coming. I’ll have much more about those in future posts.

So we do have some choices here, and we are not merely relegated to a war between incandescents vs. CFLs. Manufacturers are truly stepping up to the plate to offer more palatable choices for us. The bad news is that we will all be paying a lot more for light bulbs. The good news is that the bulbs last exponentially longer and save energy.

I’ll have more information about the developments of new bulbs and about the Home Depot Showcase in posts to come. So come back for more! 🙂

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Is Home Security the New Necessity?

May 26, 2011

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As a very young and fresh-faced new homeowner with a passel of kids and low income, if you had asked me if home security was a necessity, I would have laughed you off the property. Our solution to ensure against the possibility of theft was “have nothing of value!”

Well, it seemed funny when I was 25….

Now, 3 or 4 years later (*snicker*), I’ve changed my thinking. Not that I own much more of value, mind you. Unless you count the “new” curbside furniture collection or the 10-year old computers and monitors, lol. We do have a new washing machine and hot water tank, but I’d like to see someone take off with those in our nosy neighborhood, uh huh.

Anyway, home security always seemed reserved for celebrities or high-profile homeowners with home stuffed to brim … but I’m seeing a lot of gadgets marketed for the “average” Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner. In my tech news magazines, home security devices are hot, filled with how to install your own hi-tech system and how to monitor cameras wirelessly both in the home and while away. I’m interested because… well, I’m always interested in home technology. It’s fascinating.

What do you think of home security? Do you think the best policy is to “own nothing of value”? I personally have a few home security devices around for kicks, but I’m certainly interested in building a whole mega-system, Tim the Toolman Taylor style. But let’s hope I don’t blast a hole through the roof in so doing…..

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Finding Good CFL Bulbs

March 29, 2011

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The Old House Journal has a terrific article at

Starting in January 2011 light bulbs are required to be labeled with lumens, watts, kelvins and efficacy. Greek to you too? Not worry. The label is now clear, easy to understand and full of fun colors.

It’s good news to me. Here in New York State, we will be forced to use only CFLs (or LEDs) for lighting. I have discovered that not all CFLs are created equal, and have often wondered why the differences seems so enigmatic. I had no idea about kelvins and lumens and all that jazz. I recently purchased some “full spectrum” bulbs for our desk lamps, in the hopes that these bulbs would give us a little energy perk and cheer up our spirits on the gloomy days that New York often suffers. I’d heard that full spectrum bulbs simulate sunlight and therefore help improve mood and make you faster than a speeding bullet and etc. Honestly, I don’t rely on light bulbs to cure diseases! But if full spectrum bulbs give us a little psychological boost, then, hey- why not? Honestly, I can’t say I have noticed a huge difference. Maybe. I’m a pretty chipper person, anyway, especially when I’m at my desk. 😀

Anyway, now we have a little guide for choosing CFLs. I like it. Here’s what Old House Journal said:

1. Bedroom and Living Room: Pick a bulb in the “yellow” range as close to 2700K as you can get.

2. Garage, Basement, Laundry and Utility Room: These are rooms where mimicking the sun is okay. So, look for bulbs in the “white” range and have a high color temperature of about 5800K. Don’t go too much higher than that or you’ll end up in the ugly “blue” range.

3. Computer Screen: There is a great free program I use called F.lux. It makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.

For more specific information, see the U.S. Department of Energy’s CFL lighting facts chart (opens as a pdf document).

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Incandescent vs. CFLs

March 28, 2011


In 2012, sales of incandescent light bulbs in New York State will be illegal. The bulbs nominated to fill the void: Compact Fluorescent Lights, or CFLs. The government’s Energy Star website says that CFL bulbs use “75% less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and lasts up to 10 times longer.”

Honestly, I’ve been using CFL bulbs for certain rooms, and I haven’t seen any big difference between them an incandescent bulbs; CFLs may last a LITTLE longer than incandescent, but NO WAY not 10 times longer. Maybe 1.5 times. As a matter of fact, I filled my living room chandelier with CFL bulbs in December, and already one has blown. :-p These suckers are pricey, too. No one ever says that they COST 20 times more than incandescent. If you know of a website that offers some statistics, I’m curious.

Anyway, I’m mainly against CFLs because they contain mercury, one of the most toxic neurotoxins known to man. Currently, there is no system for disposal of the bulbs that we will all be forced to use. Oh, there are a whopping total of THREE recycling centers in New York State (all near Albany) that accept CFLs from residents only (at the time of this writing, to my knowledge). But what are homeowners to do with burned-out CFLs? Throw them in the trash for the landfills? Imagine all the mercury polluting the environment, seeping into the water system. Ugh.

Some experts recommend that we save all our CFLs until the state figures out how to dispose of them all.

Uh, hello? We are supposed to stash old bulbs in bags under our beds until you guys figure out what to do with them?! You mean you didn’t have this all planned out BEFORE you passed such a law?

*rolls eyes*

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

How about you? Is your state regulating CFLs? Do you see a noticeable difference between them and the incandescents?

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My Before, During, and After Story, Part 2

November 16, 2010


Over the summer, we gutted our kitchen and dining room, and replaced the entire electrical system and water supply system. Read Part 1 of our story here.

Redoing the electrical system in this house was harrowing, but not as harrowing as in 2007, when I had replaced the living room and bedroom wiring– for now I knew what to expect. The wiring was probably installed here in the 1920s, judging by the knob and tube system and the hardware used. It had been added to over the years– very piecemeal– and by the time I opened a wall in 2007, it was a disaster. Wires were bare, chewed by mice, spliced with tape… and every once in a while, we found a buried junction box when we opened a wall.

Hidden Junction Box

An inaccessible junction box is a code violation and fire hazard.

Crazy Old Wiring

Because I could find no electrician to assist me, I studied at night and rewired the house by day. I even learned to install circuit breakers in the service panel. The electrical inspector […]

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First Cabinets Installed!

August 23, 2010


Oh my word, this is a day that will stand in history. We got some cabinets up!!!


AND we are 100% electrified now!!! See the ceiling fans? I can’t tell you how thrilling this is for us. We have endured over 3 years without electricity in parts of the house. And now we have switched lights and outlets! It’s an historic moment. 😀

The boys had fun helping install the ceiling fans.


..."and whip it good!" LOLOL


So now we have lights and power AND a few cabinets. I am recuperating from last week’s hectic pace. A billion little jobs await me….

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Powerline Technology Just Totally Blows My Mind

August 9, 2010

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I’ve been in the slow process of creating an entire Ethernet Internet network control panel (I’m still wiring the cables while we have the walls open right now). But after seeing some technology called “powerline switches,” I wonder if I should even bother with the Cat5/Cat6 wiring. This stuff just TOTALLY blows my mind!!

Basically, a powerline switch allows you to extend your Internet connection using your home’s electrical system. I had heard of this technology last year, and I figured it would be a while before it was really stable enough for me to consider. But there’s been a lot of progress in a year’s time. A tech dude from Netgear went to the headquarters and made a very informative video about the Netgear XAV2001 Powerline Switch. It looks so amazing!!

OK, OK, I know some of you are totally uninterested in technology– but before your eyes glaze over, I want you to remember back when there was dialup and you had to learn about that, and then there was cable and DSL, and you had to learn about that…. so let me give a few gory details about this gadget. This just may be how we connect the Internet in the days to come.

  • There are two powerline switches per box. One plugs into an electrical outlet and connects to your router. The outher powerline switch plugs into your electrical outlet somewhere else in the home (like the upstairs game room). The switch has a small port for an Ethernet cable. You connect your computer (or HDTV or Playstation or Xbox or Wii or print server or storage server!) into the powerline switch using the Ethernet cable. Voila, instant Internet.
  • The powerline switch is geared to lessen the load on wireless. If you have a lot of people on wireless connection at once, you know how slow things get. The powerline uses the internal electrical system of your home to connect to the Internet router. The powerline switch is also terrific for providing Internet access to rooms that have spotty wireless coverage (or no coverage).
  • has the best price (of course!). I have seen this Netgear powerline switch for $100 or more everywhere else. has a sale for $70 and free shipping.
  • Netgear’s switch has a security feature– press a button on both switches, and it instantly encrypts all data streaming through the network.
  • Data are fast– rates up to 85 Mbps, which is faster than 802.11g wireless.
  • The powerline 4-port switch will connect up to 4 devices at a time.
  • The switch works on standard 240volt electrical service. No special electrical receptacles required.

So I wonder, am I wasting my time and money, wiring all this Ethernet cabling?! Technology sometimes develops too quickly. I haven’t even gotten the NEW stuff in yet, and already there’s something newer. Whew, it just blows my mind.

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