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I wanted to have a phone system that would allow us to have multiple incoming lines, use the phones as an intercom, hold and transfer calls, and generally do office-like phone functions. A friend installed a Panasonic "KSU" (think PBX) in his house and that seemed to do everything I wanted. I started checking around the net and came across the AbleComm web site. They have a ton of information and links that helped me settle on a system. The Panasonic KX-TD816 can handle up to 8 lines, with up to 16 multi-line digital phones and 16 single-line analog phones and accessories, plus 2 door intercoms. I have a number of desktop digital phones and two cordless "system phones". Unlike regular cordless phones, these are made to work with the KSU so they can easily get to all of the lines, use the intercom, and access functions like call hold and transfer.

If you look at the floor plan of our house, all of the phone jacks are marked with a red "E". These locations have both phone and ethernet jacks. I used Cat 5 cable for the phone cabling just to keep things simple. Because the system is digital, I need only connect one pair of wires to each telephone jack. However, if you want to use an analog phone at a given location, you need to connect the other pair as well. I connected both pairs at all jacks just in case. All of the cables home-run to the wiring closet which is in the room I use as an office. They enter a three gang electrical box and are wired into jacks. I originally planned to wire them into a punchdown block, but this option took a little less space and met my needs. Patch cables connect these jacks to the KSU.

The closet also houses two cordless base stations - one for each cordless phone. The second base station is about four feet above the one you can see. As you can see, I could use a better power distribution setup. Those darn wall-warts take up so much space and I've got six of them in here (two are above the top of the picture). If you know of any power strips that have good spacing for many wall-warts, let me know.

The system works well but is somewhat complicated to setup. The documentation (two big binders) leaves something to be desired. You can program the whole system through one of the phones, but it's a pain. Fortunately there is a piece of software written by Oleg Zemskov called "Programator." It allows you to program the KSU through its RS-232 port. I did a lot of the programming before getting this program - what a mistake. This makes things much easier.

The system has operated flawlessly for over a year. The only problem is when the power goes out. I don't have a UPS for it, so all of the digital phones go dead. Fortunately I've got a few analog phones for just such an eventuality.

Component List

My system consists of the following:

Manufacturer Component (w/image) Description Relevant Discussion
Panasonic KX-TD816 The heart of the system. Configured for 4 incoming lines, expandable to 8. Also can accomodate add-on modules for automated attendant, voice mail, and other expansion. Query
Panasonic KX-T7220 & 7230 System Phones
The phones themselves are the kind you'd expect to see in an office setting. They've got the normal buttons along with a bank of 24 programmable buttons that allow for one touch dialing of external numbers and internal extensions (intercom). Panasonic has newer phones than this now, but I don't really have much motivation to upgrade.
Panasonic KX-T7880 Cordless System Phones
Pretty generic cordless phones. They have extra buttons for things like hold and transfer as well as buttons corresponding to up to three incoming lines.
AT&T 1545 4 Box Digital Answering Machine Our tried and true answering machine. AT&T stopped making them. Lucent took over for a while. I don't know whether a unit with this collection of features is still made. Suggestion?

If you have suggestion for other relevant discussion forums, let me know.

System Evolution

September 2000

Learned the hard way...