Patch panels are simple pieces of equipment designed to house a large number of jacks. Typically, they are mounted onto rack or cabinets. The panels themselves are easy to install, but there are a few details to know before getting started.
Horizontally, patch panels are 19 inches (the industry standard size). Vertically, patch panels are measured in rack units (RU). Patch panels are rectangular and secured with four screws, one on each corner. A single RU is the amount of space one row of jacks will take up on a unit (1 RU = 1.75 inches). Typically, a maximum of 24 ports can be squeezed onto a single RU.
There are two main types of patch panels, pre-made and keystone.
*If you need help installing a patch panel onto a rack or cabinet, please see the article here.
Pre-Made Patch Panels
Pre-made patch panels are used for ethernet and telephone connections. This type of patch panel is built with the jacks already installed. Ethernet patch panels feature punchdown on the back for wiring directly into the connectors. They even feature charts with wiring schemes on the back to help during installation. Ethernet panels are available for the various types of ethernet (Cat5e, Cat6, etc.).
Telephone patch panels are also called Telco patch panels. From the front, they look very similar to ethernet patch panels. On the back, a port is available to plug in a Telco cable. This allows for a simple, easy install in data closets and similar environments. There are different types of jacks available on these panels with different positions (P) and conductors (C). For example, regular phone lines may need 6P4C while a VOIP phone could need 8P2C. There are more options besides those two, so see what your phones will need to make an appropriate selection.
Surface mount boxes are great little alternatives to wall plates when running cables to a keystone jack. A surface mount box can be easily affixed to the wall, floor, or ceiling when setting up a keystone jack. This makes them perfect for setting up connections without having to pull cabling through the walls as well.
In the guide below, we will be attaching an ethernet keystone jack to a single port surface mount box. A video guide is available at the bottom of the article.
Step 1: Gathering the Supplies
The main item will be the surface mount box itself, which will come disassembled in a few separate pieces. Not all of these pieces will be used; some will be left over depending on how you secure the mounting box to the wall/floor/ceiling. Aside from the box, you will also need the keystone jack as well as the cable being attached to the back of the keystone. In our example below, we have pre-wired the keystone jack.
From here, the next step is to decide how to secure the surface mount box. There are two options for this: screwing the box down or using an adhesive pad. For using a screw, see Step 2a. For using an adhesive pad, see Step 2b.
Step 2a: Securing with a Screw
Towards the back of the surface mount box, there will be a small round hole. The screw included with the box fits through here and can provide a secure connection to
Keystone jacks are small inserts designed to snap into place on keystone wall plates, patch panels, and surface mount boxes. Equipment built for keystones will have small holes left in them instead of having jacks pre-built in. Keystone jacks snap into place in these holes, allowing users to customize what jacks are included however they see fit. Keystones are also easy to remove if anything ever needs to be repaired or replaced.
A standard keystone wall plate, designed to accept four keystone jacks
Punchdown vs. Coupler
There are multiple types of keystone jacks available, primarily consisting of various types of voice, data, audio, and video connections. Additionally, keystones are available in both punchdown and coupler formats. Voice and data keystones can be either one of these while audio and video keystones are typically only available as couplers.
The difference between the two types lies with how cables are connected to the back of the keystone jack. Punchdowns allow bare wires to be connected to the jack. Directly wiring into a jack is most commonly used for permanent installations. Couplers