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Electrical Project Costs

Electrical improvements will put a bite in your wallet,


especially with the high cost of copper these days. This is a
look at what the average cost is for common electrical
projects. A standard outlet can be installed in 15 - 30 minutes. An
01of 08 outlet, box, wire, and labor should run you $100.00 -
Electrical Service $150.00 for the installation.
05of 08
220-Volt Outlet

Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images


If youre like a lot of people in an older home, the service is
probably 60 amps and underrated. With the large demand An outlet to run a larger 220-volt outlet requires larger wire.
for power in todays home, a minimum of 100 amps is That means the cost of this operation is a little higher. The
required. Larger homes will require 200 amps or more. Just combination of the outlet, wiring, box and labor would be
as a guideline, a 100-amp service will likely run you around around $100.00 - $150.00. The installation should take less
$1000. The 200-amp service will run you another $500, than 30 minutes.
depending on the cost of wire and the area that you live. 06of 08
This will include a new meter, disconnect, wire, piping, Single-Pole Switch
panel, and a weather head.
02of 08
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)

A skilled electrician can install a single-pole switch in less


than 30 minutes. Wire, a switch, a cover platea box is
needed for this installation. To simply change the switch
HomeSpot HQ/Flickr CC 2.0 out, we'd treat this like a service call costing $100 - $125.
A skilled electrician can install this outlet in about 15 - 30 However, if this is a new installation, you be needing a box,
minutes. That combined with the price of the wire, outlet, wire, switch and a cover, it's likely an $150 - $200 fee.
box and miscellaneous parts will run you approximately 07of 08
$100.00 $200.00 to complete. Entire House Wiring
03of 08
Three-Way Switches

House Wiring. Tim Thiele


Prices for wiring a house will vary from contractor to
A skilled electrician can install a set of three-way contractor. There are many variables involved, so this is a
switches in under an hour. This includes a piece of 12-2 general price quote. On average, you have to figure $50 -
wire with a ground and a piece of 12-3 wire with a ground. 75 an opening. That means every switch, outlet, light, etc.
Two switches are needed and any boxes that might need times that rate. An average two to three bedroom home of
to be changed. This will run $100.00 - $225.00 for a 1,600 square feet would run you roughly $2,500.00 -
complete installation. $5,000.00 for a complete installation. Keep in mind
04of 08 everything depends on the number of switches, outlets,
Outlet wire, circuits, wire cost, etc... For a simple...MORE
08of 08

Garage Wiring Updates

to have GFCI outlets. This would cover interior and exterior


Oleg Alexandrov/Wikimedia CC 2.0 outlets, not to mention out buildings.
In order to get your home's electrical updated, don't forget With the addition of GFCI outlets in place of regular outlets,
to update the garage wiring and devices. Due to recent the cost of changing everything out can be costly,
updates in the National Electrical Code, garages now have depending on the number of outlets your garage has. Be
sure to calculate the cost of the GFCI's, the possibility of
having to change outlet boxes, and installation costs, you
should figure somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 - 125 Dissecting a Ground Fault
per opening.
Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
Swimming Pools, Hot Tubs Outlet
and Electrical Safety
Safe Wiring Leads to a Safe Summer of Fun in the
Water

As you know, water and electricity don't mix. That's why


electrical safety is so important when dealing with A Shocking Morning
swimming pools, hot tubs, and jacuzzis. Here's a
comprehensive list of related issues, codes, and safety Let me explain what Im talking about. Imagine youre in
devices used to wire these summer water items and the your bathroom in the morning. Youve just taken a nice
areas around them. warm shower and step up to the mirror to finish getting
ready. In the sink is water that youve drawn to wash your
01of 03 face or something. You reach for your hair dryer or electric
Spa and Hot Tub Outdoor Wiring razor and start your routine. Suddenly the electrical
appliance slips from your hands and falls into the water!
Instantly, without thinking, you reach into the water and
grab the appliance to save it. The only problem is that now
there is electrical current in the water ready to electrocute
you. Luckily, you installed a GFCI outlet that shut the circuit
off as soon as the appliance hit the water. As they say in
baseball, Youre safe!
People Images/Getty Images

Understanding a GFCI
In order to feed the spas and hot tubs, the power
requirements vary from unit to unit. The smaller units
simply plug into a 15-amp, 120-volt ground fault circuit A GFCI is rectangular in shape and has two places to plug
interrupter (GFCI) outlet. Other larger units may require a devices into. It also has two separate connections. One is
50-amp, 240-volt feed to power the pump motors and called the line connection, which is fed from your electrical
associated heaters that may be installed. These larger units panel. The other connection is called the load connection.
are hardwired to a junction box within the access panel This unique connection feeds additional outlets to the
mounted in a side access panel under the unit. On some circuit downstream but still has the protection of the GFCI.
models, an easily removable panel or door gains It acts as the main hub, protecting all devices connected to
you...MORE it. This can be a huge dollar saver if you know what you are
doing.
02of 03
Pools and Spas Code Requirements Testing...One, Two...

On the face of the outlet are two buttons. One is called a


test button. Its purpose is to give you a means of manually
unbalancing the outlet load and shorting out the device.
When you do that, if the outlet is functioning properly, it will
make a click sound and the power will be shut off to the
Paul Bradbury/Getty Images outlet. If you check the outlet with a voltmeter or tester,
youll find out if the power is off. Now the other button
comes into play. The second button is called the reset
Overhead Power Lines button. As you might guess, this will restore the outlet to the
"on" or working position. Press the button and you will once
Any electrical wiring run over a pool or spa must be at least again have power.
22 feet above the water level. This includes power lines
and broadband wiring communications systems. Clearance Hook It Up
height above diving boards is not less than 14 feet above
the platform or diving board, whichever is the highest. You
see, it is likely that with pools, youll have one of these Making the electrical connection to the outlet itself is pretty
handy bug-catching nets. These are mounted on a long, simple. The brass colored screw on the side of the GFCI is
aluminum handle and could easily be lifted into the air. A for the hot wire (usually the black or red wire). The silver
10-foot...MORE screw is for the neutral wire (the white wire). The green
colored screw is located on either the top or the bottom of
the outlet. This is the ground connection where the bare
03of 03 copper wire from your box goes. Please be sure to connect
the ground wire if you have one.

Use Them Where You Need Them


GFCIs are used in and around the house in areas prone to Black Wires
water. Any time an outlet is within five feet of water, you
should install a GFCI. They should be used in or around Black wires are always used for hot wires. These wires
bathrooms, basements, kitchens, hot tubs, jacuzzis, may feed a switch or outlet and are often used as switch
swimming pools, outdoor outlets and even inside garages. legs. Never use a black wire for a neutral or ground
By installing GFCIs in and around your home, youll have connection.
peace of mind knowing youre being protected from
electrical shock 24/7. Remember, your familys lives Red Wires
depend on them.
Red wires are also used for hot wires, switch legs (like to
Electrical Wire Color Coding a ceiling fan), and are the second hot wire in 220-volt
installations. Another useful application is the interconnect
wire between two hardwired smoke detectors.
What Color Wire Goes Where?
Blue and Yellow Wires

Blue and yellow wires are used as hot wires. These wires
are usually pulled in conduit. The blue wires are generally
used for travelers in three-way and four-way switch
applications. They also are used as switch legs to things
Steven Puetzer/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images like lights and fans. Yellow wires are generally used for
switch legs. These control things like light, fans, and
Among the many things associated with electrical wiring, switched outlets.
it's a good idea to know what type of wire you are using,
the size of the wire, and what each color of wire is used for. Green and Bare Copper Wires
To some, it may seem that it shouldn't matter what color
the wire is, they should all work for the installation. After all,
a wire is a wire, right? Green wires and bare copper wires are used only for
Well, I can tell you that I have been taught that green or grounding. These wires will ground devices and shall be
bare wires are used for ground wires. bonded to junction boxes and appliance connections for
safety.
That rule has been in effect for as long as I have been an
electrician, but wait! While working on a school project I Wire Color Exceptions
opened a 400-amp panel, only to find green wires
connected to the circuit breakers! What! Yes, it seems that In certain instances, wire colors may be used for
someone had their own ideas about wire and didn't care connections that don't follow these general rules. For
what color they used. Image someone going to a junction instance, a white wire in a two-conductor cable may be
box, opening the box and expecting the green wire to be used for the second hot wire on a 240-volt appliance or
ground wires. Connecting a grounded wire to this outlet connection. Another application is using the white
connection would make a big "pop" sound for sure.Then wire for a switch leg for lighting or running a three-way
again, touching it would surely shock you. switch application. This white wire should be properly
marked to show that it is being used for something other
As you can plainly see, the color of the wire coating is used than a neutral. Simply mark the end of the wire with black
to inform every one of the wire's use. If you don't have the or red electrical tape. That way, no one will be confused
right color wire for your purpose, you can still make the and accidentally use it for something else.
wire's use clear. A good example is using black wire in Hopefully, this gives you a detailed look at wire colors and
place of a red wire. By simply wrapping red electrical tape markings and how we electricians can identify the different
on each end of the pulled black wire, it is easily identified colored wires and their uses in new and existing
as a red wire. installations, as long as the color codes are followed
Likewise, if you are using an NM cable with a black and appropriately.
white wire and using it to connect to a type of color coding
method for wire markings, one wire would be the "hot" and
the other for the switch leg. If you put red tape on the white A Guide to Color Coding of
wire, you can identify it as the switch leg, thus using the
white wire, used any other time as a neutral wire, now Electric Wires and Terminal
being used for the switch leg.
Let's take a look at some colored wire selections, their Screws
uses, and electrical wire markings that can help identify
each.

Electrical Wire Markings

Electrical wires have markings stamped or printed on the


outside sheath of the cable. These markings tell what type Jill Ferry Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images
and size of wire that you have. But looking deeper, the Have you ever wanted to learn what color wire goes where
color of the wires inside of the sheath, like in type NM on switch and outlet terminals and why? It's interesting to
cable, will reveal that different color wires serve different me how many people don't know which colored terminal is
purposes. for the "hot" connection and which are for the travelers on a
three-way switch. Then again, I've seen my share of outlets
wired with the "hot" and "neutral" wires switched on the connection and connect the ground wire to the two ground
outlet terminals. wire within the ceiling box and add a pigtail ground wire to
That got me thinking that I needed to educate you all about bond to the ceiling box via a green ground screw.
wires colors, the terminals they attach to, and the function There you have it.
they serve in respect to connecting to terminals on switches On a three-way switch installation where there are a red,
outlets, and other connections you may not be aware of. black, white and bare ground wires involved, you'll also see
Looking over some of the questions and concerns you all the wire taped to make it a current-carrying wire, usually a
have been having over the past four years, I get some traveler. I know this may seem difficult, but it really isn't. By
interesting questions about how to do these connections. marking the wires, knowing your wire color coding and
Some say they'd like to know, "What makes the difference wiring devices with these methods, you'll be able to remove
where I put the "hot" wire versus the switch leg?" Then a device and know hat the wires are being used for. Even
there's the comment that haunts me, "My outlet works just more, so will anyone else that takes something apart.
fine with the wires reversed on the terminals. So what's the There's nothing worse than taking things apart without first
difference?" Another I'll address is the question of why investigating where they go and what they do. If the white
there is a white wire connected to my switch terminal. And wire used for a "hot" wire wasn't marked and you
let's not forget about lighting fixtures. There is always a haphazardly took the connections apart without
question about why it makes a difference which of the two investigating, you may connect the "hot" white wire to the
wires connects to the "hot" wire and which connects to the neutral white wire accidentally and then "POP"! The circuit
neutral wire. Some will say it doesn't matter. They have breaker trips and then what?
tried it connected both ways and the light works either way! Before I forget, let's talk about cord plugs and their
So why do you talk of a right and wrong way to wire them? connection to light fixtures. As you may know, most light
Let me start off by saying these are all great points and fixtures have only two wires, a "hot" wire and a neutral wire.
questions and I'll do my best to explain them all while Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to connect
adding a little more information to improve your electrical these two wires, even though the light will light either way
knowledge. and here's why. If you ever followed the two wires up to the
You may have learned your electrical training from your light socket, you'd see that one connects to the inner
family, friends, or a co-worker. Of course, you may not bottom contact portion of the light socket, where the bottom
know where they learned it or if they learned the correct of the light bulb makes contact. That is intended for the
and safe installation practices. Even more, do they know "hot" connection wire. The other wire is connected to the
where the connections are really supposed to go and why? screw portion of the bulb socket where the bulb screws
I understand that even though a light may light when down into the socket, we'll call this the side of the socket
connected incorrectly, one might think it really doesn't and bulb for visual purposes. Now let's just think about the
make any difference, but you are wrong. dangers of hooking the "hot wire to the side connection of
I don't want you to be "DEAD" wrong! the socket. See anything wrong here yet? Now, visualize
Let me explain the color coding for you first. A white yourself unscrewing the bulb by grasping around the lower
terminal connects to the silver- or white-colored terminal, portion of the bulb where the metal screw part of the bulb is
used as a neutral wire. A green or bare wire, usually exposed. You unscrew the bulb a bit and then take a
copper, is used to ground the box on the green screw second grip of the bulb and "BAM"! You got shocked! It's all
within the box and is pig-tailed to make a connection to the because the screw part of the bulb is now the "hot"
green ground screw on the device. The "hot" wires, usually connection and you became the path to ground.
black or red, are connected to the brass-colored screws on Do you see the danger now? If I never said it before, but I
outlets, but are often connected to both brass- and black- know I have, practice electrical safety every time you touch
colored terminals screws as either the "hot" or switch leg of anything electrical!
the circuit. So take my advice and treat this information as installation
As almost always, there are some exceptions to the rule, instructions and read them before attempting electrical
so just be careful. First, Sometimes a white wire is used as installations or renovations. The more you read, the more
a hot feed or a switch leg, just because that is the only wire you learn. Safety isn't hard if you follow the safe installation
available for this installation. Let me explain further. practices I provide for you here at electrical.about.com, and
Let's say we're installing a switch to a light fixture. The with your due diligence, you'll be able to do your own
power is fed up to the light fixture, meaning we have a electrical installations safely and effectively! Take my
"hot", neutral, and ground wire already there. Now, we run advice and do it safely! Before long you will be doing it like
a wire, with a black, a white, and a ground to a switch. We a pro.
use the black wire to connect to the black in the lighting box
and also to a terminal on the single-pole switch. We
connect the ground wires together in the ceiling box and Choosing the Right Electrical
the ground wire to the switch via the green ground screw.
Next, we use the white wire as a traveler wire to feed the Wire
light power. So as not to get confused in the lighting box or
put anyone in danger of getting shocked, we simply mark Picking the Right Wire Based On Gauge, Amperage,
the white wire with a wrap of black tape, signifying that it is and Wattage Load
being used as a "hot" wire of some sort. Now, simply
connect the marked white wire to the unused terminal on
the switch, I like the top to be the switch leg, and continue
on the ceiling box.
Here at the ceiling box, you'll notice that there is now a
white wire from the power feed and a marked white wire
from the switch, along with two ground wires. Connect the
marked white wire to the black "hot" wire on the fixture
(making sure that the power is off first), connect the white We've all done it. Walk into a building supply store and
wire to the white wire on the fixture for the neutral head for the electrical department to buy some electrical
wire for a project that we have at home. In most cases, we Whether you're a first-timer or an old pro who just needs a
have no idea what one type wire is from the other. Even few refresher tips, having a hands-on lesson will make the
more, we couldn't tell the difference from 100-amp wiring job that much easier. Sometimes, having the right tools for
and 200-amp wire, let alone the difference between 20- the job is just as...MORE
amp and 30-amp wiring. This simple set of facts is enough 01of 05
to make my hair stand up on the back of my neck, fearing Appliance Wiring
the dangers of having an electrical fire at some point.
Maybe it's just to extend a circuit for an additional outlet or
two, or maybe it's an underground feed to a swimming pool
you just added? In any case, the point is that now you're at
the store looking at the wire, which one is the right wire for
you? What size wire do I need? Is color important?
Not only are there different types of wiring, both indoor and Getty Images/Tony Cordoza
outdoor wiring, but also underground wiring and specific Every appliance, whether it be a counter top appliance like
types, like heat resistant and corrosion-proof wiring. If that a coffee pot or a major appliance like an electric range, has
isn't enough to distinguish the differences, there is also an electrical connection. Each has a specific outlet, or cord
copper and aluminum wiring. Each has their own unique connection and certain breaker size that they are needed to
wire sizes and ampacity-carrying capabilities. be connected to. Some use a simple 120-volt circuit
Although aluminum wiring was used in the past, today's breaker, called a single-pole circuit breaker. A good
homes use copper wiring. Aluminum wiring often heated up example of this installation is a garbage disposer circuit.
under load causing it to become loose in the connections Others need a 240-volt feed that requires a double-pole
and sometimes caused electrical fires. Those connections circuit breaker. This connection...MORE
already in homes may work forever untouched and not 02of 05
overloaded, but I would advise an electrical upgrade by Electrical Wiring Connection: Good and Bad
replacing the wiring to copper. There are good electrical connections and some that
Wire coloring makes the wires look pretty, right? Well should never be made. Although manufacturers sometimes
maybe, bu the real reason for wire colors is to identify them give you the choice of a couple of different connection
for their intended uses. The green wire is used for points, like with switches and outlets, a closer look will
grounding, always! In the past, and I've personally seen reveal which connection should be your choice.
this while working on an old school project. The "hot" wires, Loose connections can cause the device to heat up and
feeding branch circuits, were actually green in color. that could lead to an electrical fire! In any electrical
installation, you need a safe and secure connection to last
I was taken aback! Everything I had been taught about wire a lifetime. Keep these connection tips in mind the next
colors was now a red flag and caution was the word time...MORE
working on the circuitry. 03of 05
Electrical Service Wiring
When dealing with NM wiring, the colors are normally black Making the proper connections to the electrical service
and white for two conductor wiring and red, black and white components will help keep the electricity flowing trouble-
for three conductor wiring. In most cases, the black or black free. Before trying to wire an electric meter, disconnect,
and red are used as hot wires for feeds or traveling electrical panel, or sub-panel, be sure you know where to
conductors. The white is usually neutral, but not in all place the wires on each. These devices are the heartbeat
cases. You see, sometimes the third wire, being the white of your electrical system and you need to make these
wire, is used as a "hot' or "switch leg" in the circuit. connections correctly. Here's a look at just a few that will
In these cases, you need to wrap the end of the wire with help you keep your wiring projects safe and functional for
electrical tape to identify it as such. This will ensure that no years to come.
one confuses it use and ties it into the neutral wires. o How To Wire an...MORE
Because just looking at wires is hard if not impossible to 04of 05
distinguish between the different sizes and types, wires Electrical Device Wiring
have something special on its coating to tell us what the Electrical devices must be wired right to make electrical
wiring really is. connections safe and secure. Some appliances need only
To help you understand the correct choice, manufacturers 120-volt outlets, but others need 240-volt outlets. Just
have labeled the outer coating of the wire with types and connecting wires to device terminals isn't enough. You
gauges of wire. You see, the insulation covering the need to know the proper way to strip, bend and tighten
wire tells the story about the wire itself. Along with different connections so they will provide you with a safe and
sizes of wire, there are many types of wire used around the functional connection for years to come.
home. Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05of 05
Knowing which type of wire to use is just as important as Wiring Size and Application
determining the proper gauge, amperage limit, and the Before you can make electrical connections, you must first
maximum wattage load limit of the electrical wire you know what type wire to use for the installation, what color
choose. wire is needed for the application, and what is the proper
size wire to handle the load of the circuit. For electricians,
wire colors mean everything. They identify whether the wire
Top 5 Tips for Electrical Wiring is a hot, neutral, or a ground wire.
Electrical wiring can be as simple as following these tips. Having the right sized wire to handle the ampacity flowing
Connecting cords, circuit connections, device connections, through it is just as important. The size of wire also varies,
and electrical panel connections all require some type of depending on which type of wire you are installing. By
wiring connection. This tutorial is loaded with electrical following these steps, you'll be installing electrical circuits
wiring tips to make the job simple and easy to accomplish. the right way and have a safer home because of it.
Understanding How Electrical This ampacity should match the circuit size, meaning the
circuit breaker or fuse that protects it.

Wiring Is Labeled As a guide, #14 wire is designated for 15-amp current, #12
wire for 20-amp current and #10 wire for 30 amps. As the
number gets smaller, the size of the wire gets larger and
the number of amps it can handle also gets larger.
Some wire is stranded, while other wire is solid. The solid
wire is stiffer and doesn't always pull as easy
through conduit, especially when the run has many
bends, but it is much easier to place under wire terminals,
Electrical Wire Lettering. Timothy Thiele such as those on switches and outlets.
With electrical wire that runs in the familiar plastic or vinyl Insulation Color
jacket--called NM (for non-metallic) cable--the labeling is Don't forget, the color of the wire tells a story of its own. It
fairly easy to understand. NM cable will be identified by its indicates whether the wire is used for a hot, neutral, or a
wire gauge (such as 12-gauge or 14-gauge), and by its ground wire. In this article about wire color, you can learn
designated usage, but there's not much more you need to the common uses of specific wire colors; some are used for
know when buying NM cable. 277-volt installations, while others are used for 240-volt
It's a different matter when you're buying individual installations, for example.
conducting wires for wiring that runs in metal conduit or in For an electrician, wire color may indicate which voltage
surface-mounted wiremold systems. and transformer configuration are being used. And
Here, it's more important to know something about how the universally, color is a convenient shorthand that tells us
insulation of the wires in categorized and labeled. which wire is a "hot" wire, which is a "neutral wire" and
Electrical wiring to be run in conduit comes in individual which is a "ground" wire.
strands, encased in insulation to protect the wire and Whether you need wire for normal conditions, for high heat,
insulate it from other wires and the conduit. A typical metal or wire that is sunlight-resistant or water-resistant, the
conduit may have two, three or even more individual labeling and color-coding will help you get it right.
conducting wires within it, each surrounded by a thin color-
coded insulating jacket. The copper conductors within
these wires may either be solid come in either solid or Understanding Electrical Wire
stranded, depending on the wire size. Bare conductors
without insulating jackets are used for ground wires only. Labeling
Insulation Type
The insulation around the individual conductors is made to What do the Letters on Electrical Wire Mean?
take on some rather extreme conditions. Heat-, oil-,
gasoline- and water-resistant coatings are all available to
help your electrical wire survive.
The labeling on a wire's insulating jacket tells the story of
the wires ruggedness.
You'll likely see labels like THHN or THWN written on the
wire. THHN wire stands for thermoplastic high heat-
Amazon.com
resistant nylon coated wire. THWN stands for thermoplastic
heat- and moisture-resistant nylon coated wire.
The "T" stands for thermoplastic, the type of insulation The wires sold for electrical wiring carry several different
covering the wire itself. The "H" stands for a heat labels to help you choose the right product for your needs.
resistance of up to 167 F. For example, whether you are buying individual conductors
Likewise, the "HH" stands for a heat resistance, only it or sheathed cable, the wire gauge labeling will help you buy
increases the rating to 194 F. The "W" stands for moisture wires that are sized correctly for the electrical load they will
resistance. The "N" stands for an additional nylon coating carry. The labeling on the wire also tells what the wire is
that makes the wire both oil and gasoline resistant. As you made of--either aluminum or copper.
can see, these wires are built to take on many different But wires also carry another form of labeling that serves to
conditions. identify the nature of the plastic or vinyl insulating sheath
Wire Size and Composition that covers the individual conductors. There are many
The labeling on the wire also tells the conductor size and different types of wire insulation used for residential use.
what the wire is made of--either aluminum or copper. In Some of the most commonly used are THHN, THWN, THW
order to install any electrical wire installation, the proper and XHHN.
wire size for the application is needed. But how do you So exactly what do the letters on the wire mean? Here's a
know what size wire to use? Wire is sized by the American breakdown to help make some sense of the lettering.
Wire Gauge (AWG) system. Your installation of
conductors will depend on several factors: the gauge of the A "T" stands for thermoplastic insulated cable, a fire-
wire, wire capacity, and what the wire will feed should all be resistant material.
considered. A single "H" means the wire is heat resistant, able
Wire gauge is the physical size of the wire, rated by gauge to withstand heat up to 167F.
diameter. For instance, common sizes include 14-, 12-, 10-, "HH" means that the wire is heat resistant and can
8-, 6-, and 2-gauge wire, with lower numbers denoted wires withstand a higher temperature. This wire can withstand
of greater diameter. The gauge of the wire dictates the heat up to 194 F.
amount of current that can safely pass through the A "W" means that the wire is approved for damp and
electrical wire, as measured by ampacity. Ampacity is wet locations. Of course, this wire is also suitable for dry
defined as the measurement of how much electrical current locations.
can flow through an electrical wire safely. The "X" means the cable is made of a synthetic
polymer that is flame-retardant.
The "N" is for the nylon coating that covers the wire The labels will tell you what the allowable wire connections
insulation. Nylon coating gives the wire oil- and gasoline are for the switch.
resistance. If it reads, "use CU wire only", the only copper wire may be
used for the connections, not aluminum. If it says,
The labeling on a wire's insulating jacket tells the story of "CO/ALR", that means that either copper or aluminum wire
the wire's ruggedness. You'll likely see labels like THHN or installation is allowable. The manufacturer lists these labels
THWN written on the wire. For example, THHNwire stands to identify all of the previously mentioned labels. This will
for thermoplastic high heat-resistant ensure proper installation of switches in your home.
nylon coated wire. THWN stands for thermoplastic heat- Some switches are used for things like on/off switches on
and moisture-resistant nylon coated wire. battery-operated devices like radios or to control things like
As you can see, these wires are built to take on many fog lights on your car. These are DC switches and are
different conditions. And with a little prior knowledge, you rated differently than that used for AC applications in your
can read the labeling at a glance and understand the home.
conditions appropriate for any wire. Some examples: Your home has a variety of switches that are used both
alone and with a combination of other switches to control
lighting, outlets, and devices like being a disconnecting
THW: With these letters, you know the wire is flame-
means for furnaces and garbage disposers. One
retardant (the T indicates a flame-resistant thermo-
combination may be a set of three-way switches used to
plastic), heat-resistant (indicated by the W) and moisture-
control the lighting in a hallway. Now add in a four-way
resistant (indicated by the W).
switch or two to the mix and you can control the lighting
THHN wire is fire retardant (T), extra heat resistant (HH), from many more locations.
and has a nylon coating (N) that makes it resistant to oil These switches, along with single-pole switches, are
and gasoline. primarily used in your home every day.
THWN is flame-retardant (T) heat-resistant (H) moisture- In the homes of the future and the green homes, you are
resistant (W) and gasoline-resistant, and oil-resistant likely to find LED lighting and the possibility of solar panels
(N). powering the light switches. This lighting may be using 12-
or 24-volt power for the entire lighting in the home.
Labels on Low-Voltage and Thermostat Wires: These specially marked switches are designed especially
for the low voltage lighting. Check the rating on the
Like high-voltage wiring, low-voltage wiring has its own switches to see the allowable wattage and do not overload
color coding and terminal lettering. Heating and cooling the circuit.
technicians know these well and that makes their job Always take the time to look a switch over well and
easier. Connecting a set of thermostat wires is fairly easy if determine if it has a 15-amp rating or a 20-amp rating. The
you know what the terminal letters stand for and what they difference is obvious, but the strength of the contact points
control. within the switch and thickness of the components, not to
mention the quality of the switch, is a big difference.
G: This terminal controls the fan relay and is responsible Switches are rated as either standard or commercial grade.
for turning the blower fan on and off automatically or You will soon learn that buying the cheapest switch will only
manually via the thermostat. cost you, in the long run, meaning you'll be changing out
the switch again soon in the future. I believe in buying the
RC: This terminal is the 24-volt cooling power supply.
better grade switches and avoiding the breakdown factor of
RH: This terminal is the 24-volt heating power
cheaper switches.
supply. Note: The RC and RH terminals are jumpered
Electrical labeling on a wire's insulating jacket tells the story
together in a four-wire heat/cool system and a single-
of the wires ruggedness. You'll likely see labels like THHN
stage heat pump system, but not in a five-wire heat/cool
or THWN written on the wire. THHN wire stands for
system.
thermoplastic high heat-resistant nylon coated wire. THWN
Y/O: This terminal is used to control the cooling
stands for thermoplastic heat- and moisture-resistant nylon
contractor. When the thermostat calls for cooling, power is
coated wire.
fed to pull in the cooling contractor and the fan relay. This
The "T" stands for thermoplastic, the type of insulation
powers up the condenser and the blower fan, cooling your
covering the wire itself. The "H" stands for a heat
home.
resistance of up to 167F.
A Guide to the Markings on Likewise, the "HH" stands for a heat resistance, only it
increases the rating to 194F.
Electrical Switches The "W" stands for moisture resistance. The "N" stands for
an additional nylon coating that makes the wire both oil and
gasoline resistant. As you can see, these wires are built to
take on many different conditions.
The labeling on the wire also tells the conductor size and
what the wire is made of, either aluminum or copper.
As you can plainly see, labeling for electrical switches and
wiring is important and is informative if you know what the
Light switch. Tetra Images / Getty Images lettering and symbols mean. By taking the time to examine
Switches are marked with different labels to identify ratings, these devices, you'll learn a lot about the electrical devices
types, and acceptable wire types. The UL label will also tell that you are using. Take your time and choose wisely for
you if the device has been tested for safety by an switches that will last a lifetime.
independent testing agency, such as the Underwriters
Laboratories. A switch will tell you if it's approved for
alternating current (AC) applications only, the voltage
rating, and the maximum allowable amperage.
24-Volt Thermostat Wiring For connection. This turns the fan on when heating or cooling is
called for. The Y/O, used for the cooling mode, is

Single-Stage Heat Pump connected to the reversing valve. Also connected to the
reversing valve is the W/B, used for the heating mode,

Systems keeping in mind to connect to the appropriate terminal on


the heat pump connection terminal. The Y1 connection is
the cooling compressor connection that pulls in the
compressor when the thermostat calls for cooling.
As you can see from the above information, the heat pump
system connections on a programmable thermostat are a
little different than a 4- or 5-wire heat/cool system wold be
wired. The actual wiring isn't that difficult if you have the
Programmable Thermostat. Tim Thiele information to follow and a little wiring experience. Go
Question: 24-Volt Thermostat Wiring For Single-Stage Heat ahead! Give it a try. If you're not sure the connections are
Pump Systems right, you can always call a professionalto examine the
I was recently asked if I could help with the installation connection points before firing it up.
wiring of a single-stage heat pump system. The thermostat
connections are often confusing if you don't know what they
each do and how the heat pump system is connected. I'll Geothermal Heat Pumps:
do my best to explain the connections and what they are
used for. Here is How They Work
Properly connecting the right colored wires to the
appropriate terminal connection is crucial. Energy savings are right under your feet
Each wire has its specific use and specially colored wire is
identifiable to the technicians that connect and maintain
these units. The wire color standard makes it easy for
whoever comes to work on the device, an easier path to
tracing circuit paths and troubleshooting possible problems.
Always remember to properly strip the insulation completely
off the wires to ensure the connection point is touching
BanksPhotos/GettyImages
100% of the copper wire. This will ensure a quality
connection point and allow the device to function properly
and effectively. Here are the normal connections on the Geothermal is Worth a Look
thermostat that you likely have and the connection points. Do you want to conserve energy and save money on both
Answer: heating and cooling your home? Well, the answer is not
only right under your nose, it may be right under your feet!
G Below the frost line a few feet you'll find the ground is an
The G terminal controls the fan relay and is responsible average temperature of about 55 degrees F. The heat
for turning the blower fan on and off automatically or comes from a layer of hot melted rock deep in the earths
manually via the thermostat. crust called magma. Magma can reach temperatures of
2400 degrees F and as this heat radiates up, depending on
geographic latitude, ground temperatures can vary from
RC
between 45F to 75F.
The RC terminal is the 24-volt cooling power supply.

RH This creates a nice reliable and sustainable source of heat


The RH terminal is the 24-volt heating power supply. that can be harnessed for our heating and home
cooling needs.
Note: The RC and RH terminals are jumpered together in
a four-wire heat/cool system and a single-stage heat This constant temperature of the earth is used in
pump system, but not in a five-wire heat/cool system. a geothermal or ground source heat pump. As opposed to
a furnace that burns natural gas or oil to produce heat in
Y/O winter, the geothermal heat pump concentrates the heat
The Y/O terminal is used to control the cooling contractor. that is in the ground just below the surface. Geothermal can
When the thermostat calls for cooling, power is fed to pull not only be used to heat and cool our home but to heat our
in the cooling contactor and the fan relay. This powers up domestic water too.
the condenser and the blower fan, cooling your home.
How a Geothermal System Works:
W/B So how does this magic happen? Well its really pretty
The W/B terminal controls the heat relay or valve. When simple. The geothermal system is a heat pump that uses
the thermostat calls for heat, power is fed to pull in the the earth as a heat sink (summer) or a heat source (winter).
heat relay or valve and the fan relay. This powers up the A geothermal system will use a series of pipes (buried
furnace and the blower fan or the boiler, heating your below the frost line in the ground) which is called a loop.
home. Pipes in the loop are most commonly made of plastic and
filled with a water and antifreeze solution. A pump
Y1 circulates the water solution to the heat pump inside the
The Y1 terminal is used for the compressor contact in a home.
single-stage heat pump installation.
First of all, RC and RH are jumpered together providing the There a compressor and heat exchanger use the nominal
power. This combo connection is then wired to the heat 55 degree water to either heat or cool the home.
pump's 24 volt supply. The G terminal is the fan relay
In the winter the air (e.g., 10 degrees F) is colder than the Vertical Loop: The vertical looped system is used in
earths temperature underground (e.g., 55 degrees F). The situations where required land is tight or soils are not
geothermal system circulates the water solution through conducive to trenching. More expensive then the horizontal
the ground loop and absorbs the heat from the earth. system to install, the vertical system uses a series of drilled
holes. The holes are nominally 4 in diameter and spaced
The nominal 55 degree water is brought to the heat pump around 20 apart. Depths depend on the system design and
or furnace to be heated further as needed and then soils but can range from 100 to 400 feet deep. The pipes
distributed by ductwork throughout the home. are fed down and back up each drilled hole to and
connected by a trenched manifold pipe across the top that
connects the system to the heat pump in the house.
In summer the air (e.g., 90 degrees F) is hotter than the 55
Water Body: Another less common method of capturing
degrees F underground. Here, the geothermal heat
ground heat is to use a close by water body like a pond or
exchanger absorbs heat in the home and the system
lake. With this method the plastic pipe runs from the heat
circulates the water solution through the ground loop to
cool it off, dumping the heat into the ground. The cool water pump to the water body and is placed in coils 8 to 10 feet
is then used by the heat exchanger and distributed by under the water surface. The water body has to be of an
adequate size to support the geothermal heat loads and
ductwork throughout the home to cool the house.
have the proper depth. Coordination with and approval by
local and state agencies is often required.
Costs and Characteristics of Geothermal Systems:
Costs of a Geothermal System:
Geothermal is a very energy efficient heating and cooling The cost of installing a geothermal system will vary by the
ground source heat pump system with utility savings type of loop system used and the size of the geothermal
over conventional gas forced air systems and air sourced system itself. Costs for a horizontal ground loop geothermal
heat pumps of between 25% and 50%. system is about $2,700.00 per ton in 2017 dollars. If you
Payback is between 5 to 10 years but much shorter if opt for a vertical loop system the cost will increase
being compared to an all electric resistance heating and significantly as the drilling costs could be $30,000 to
cooling option where geothermal can use up to 75% less $40,000 or more depending on soils, site access and size
electric energy. of system.
As of January 01, 2017 geothermal is only eligible for In the right application geothermal can be a cost effective
a $300 Federal tax creditif the heat pump system meets and environmentally sensitive solution for home heating
DOE Energy Star SEER and COP standards. Previous and cooling. Its worth a look, especially when the answer is
tax credits ended December 31, 2016. right under your feet.
Geothermal may in some cases be retrofit to an existing
furnace with an air handler. You can also find geothermal
heat pumps that have their own integrated air handler. If
your house has hot water baseboard heat it can also be
Choosing the Right
retrofit with a geothermal system. Thermostat for Your Furnace
01of 10
Introduction

Types of Geothermal Systems:


Ground loop geothermal heat pump systems are most
commonly installed as a closed loop system. That means
the fluid in the loop is constantly recirculated. Open loop
systems are less common and use a ground well, lake,
river or other surface water as the fluid for the heat
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images
exchanger. The water is then dumped back into the ground Furnaces and thermostats are not mix-and-match
or into the water body after use. appliances when it comes to compatibility. There are
Closed loop systems are typically installed as a horizontal several types of heating systems and thermostat systems,
loop, vertical loop or water body systems. Water body
and they need to be coordinated to ensure safe and proper
systems use surface water bodies as the constant source
operation.
of heat as opposed to the ground. Lets review these three
In this tutorial we'll review the three types of thermostat
different methods. systems used today:
Horizontal Loop: Horizontal loop systems are the most o Millivoltage
economical to install but one of their drawbacks is the o Low voltage
amount of land required to install the horizontal ground
o Line voltage
loops.
We will then show how to match these types with the
different types of heating and cooling (HVAC) systems in
A geothermal system may require 1,500 to 3,000 linear feet the home, including:
of pipe or more depending on house size and loads. If you
have the required land available the most common
residential method is to either install two pipes side by side o Gas Furnace System
in a 5 foot deep trench or one pipe run in a 6 foot deep o Boiler and...MORE
trench and the other run in a 4 foot deep trench.
02of 10
A third method can be used where the required land for Millivoltage Thermostats
longer runs of pipe is not readily available. That method
loops or coils the pipe in deeper short trenches. This allows
the required surface contact with the soil but in less
horizontal trench length.
Economy Millivolt Non-Programmable Thermostat, Bernard Jaubert / Getty Images
Amazon When trying to determine what kind of combined
These systems are not very common because they are thermostat/furnace system you have, look for at the
mostly used in direct/ top vent wall furnaces. These types following criteria:
of systems require a special thermostat and will not work
with standard low-voltage (24-V) thermostats.
o Type of heating or cooling system.
o Number of wires to the thermostat.
Thermostats that run on a millivoltage system rely on very o Voltage.
low voltage, usually 750 millivolts (mV) or 0.75 o System attributes
volts. Unlike low-voltage systems, they do not require a
step-down transformer reducing line voltage of 120 volts to
24 volts. Instead, they are self-powered by a Let's look at the criteria profile for each of the following
special...MORE heating/ cooling systems:

03of 10
Low-Voltage Thermostats o Gas furnace systems.
o Gas- and oil-fired boiler systems.
o Electric heat and cooling systems.
o Heat pump systems.

06of 10
Gas Furnace System with Millivoltage Thermostat
Honeywell 5-1-1 Day 24V Low Voltage Programmable
Thermostat RTHL2410C1005, Amazon
Low voltage thermostats are the most common and
versatile type of thermostats found in the home. They are
typically 24-volt AC and powered by a step-down
transformer from a standard 120-volt circuit in the home.
Some styles may use voltages as low as 6 volts or as high 35,000 BTU/hr Monterey Top-Vent Gravity Wall Furnace
as 30 volts, but 24 volts is by far the most common. The Natural Gas Heater with Wall or Cabinet-Mounted
transformer that steps down the house voltage to low Thermostat, Amazon
voltage is usually mounted on or near the furnace.
Type: Gas Furnace System with Millivoltage Thermostat
Number of thermostat wires: 2
Several common types of thermostat may fall under the Voltage: 750mV
category of...MORE System attributes: Gravity wall (room) furnace; direct- or
top-vent wall furnace for small areas; mobile home direct-
04of 10 vent wall furnace.
Line-voltage Thermostats
07of 10
Gas Furnace Systems with Low-Voltage Thermostat

Honeywell Thermostat Line Voltage Snap Action, Amazon


Line-voltage (high-voltage) thermostat systems run off your
home's standard 120-volt or 240-volt AC power Sibel Yilmaz / Getty Images
circuits. They not particularly common, as they are Type: Conventional gas furnace.
primarily used for electric resistance heating systems, such
as for electrical baseboard or in-wall heaters. These
thermostats are not as sensitive as the low-voltage types, Number of thermostat wires: 2 or 3; with air conditioning, 4
and it may take a temperature fluctuation of as much 7F or 5.
before they act. As a result, expect wider temperature Voltage: 24 volts AC.
fluctuations in any heating system controlled by...MORE System attributes: forced air furnace with standing pilot.

05of 10
Matching Thermostat Type to Furnace Type Type: Gas furnace with Electronic Ignition.
Number of Thermostat Wires: 2 or 3; with air conditioning 4
or 5 .
Voltage: 24 volts AC.
System attributes: forced air furnace with Intermittent pilot
or hot surface ignition, Continue to 10 of 10 below.
10of 10
Heat Pump Systems

08of 10
Gas- or Oil-fired Boiler Systems

Honeywell TH114-AF-024T Low Voltage Thermostat,


Amazon
Type: Single-stage heat pump with a low-voltage
thermostat.
Bernard Jaubert / Getty Images Number of Thermostat Wires: 4 or 5
Type: Gas-fired hot water boiler with low-voltage Voltage: 24 Volt AC
thermostat. System Attributes: Outdoor heat pump unit providing
heating and cooling

Number of thermostat wires: 2 or 3.


Voltage: 24 volts AC.
System attributes: Hot water boiler for radiant heat or Type: Multi-stage heat pump with a low-voltage thermostat.
baseboard hydronic systems. Number of thermostat wires: 7 or more
Voltage: 24 volt AC
System Attributes: Outdoor heat pump unit providing
heating and cooling.
Type: Oil-fired hot water boiler system with low- or high-
voltage thermostat. How To Rip Electrical Wire
Number of Thermostat Wires: 2 or 3.
Voltage: 24 volts AC or 120pvolts AC. Cable--Without Damaging
System attributes: Hot water boiler for radiant heat or
baseboard hydronic systems. Inner Wires

Type: Electric boiler system with a low-voltage thermostat.


Number...MORE

Gardner Bender Cable Ripper. via Amazon


09of 10 On Romex(R) brand and other NM (non-metallic cased)
Electric Heat and Cooling Systems wires, casing refers to the heavy plastic sheathing that
binds two or more individual wires. Each of these wires are
coated in a thin layer of plastic.
When you remove this outer sheathing (casing), this action
is ripping. For this, you use a cable ripper.
When you remove the casing from inner wires, this action
is stripping. For this, you use a wire stripper.
Tetra Images / Getty Images Buy From Amazon - Klein Tools Cable Ripper
Type: Electric furnace with low-voltage thermostat. Ripper Basics
When you have several wires within the Romex-
style plastic cable casing, you often need to loosen and
Number of thermostat wires: 2; with air conditioning 4 or 5. separate those individual wires to attach them to terminals
Voltage: 24 volts AC. of an electric outlet, switch, circuit breaker, etc.
System attributes: Forced air furnace. You can laboriously slice the casing away with a jackknife,
but you risk cutting into the copper wires' own casings.
Bad news there: short circuits and fires can result. Enter
the cable ripper. The ripper is a helpful, though not 100%
Type: Electric air conditioning with a low-voltage foolproof, way of slicing away casing without affecting inner
thermostat. wires' coating.
Number of thermostat wires: 4 or 5 . The cable ripper is simply a U-shaped, stamped-metal tool
Voltage: 24 volts AC. with a tiny cutting "head" within it. It is just about the lowest,
System attributes: Outdoor condensing unit; cooling coils in low-tech tool imaginable.
furnace ductwork. When you pull the wire ripper down the length of the cable,
the cutting head penetrates the outer cable but leaves the
inner wires untouched. The cutting head is barely sharp
enough to prick your finger, yet with pressure it will rip
Type: Electric baseboard heat with a line-voltage cable casing.
thermostat . Buy From Amazon - Gardner Bender Cable Ripper
Number of thermostat wires: 2 or 4. (Pictured)
Voltage: 120 volts AC or 240 volts...MORE How to Use It
The cable ripper is an imperfect tool and requires a sure Willie B. Thomas/Getty Images
hand. Learn these skills to effectively use one. Like any other project you may try to tackle, electrical work
1. Position: Hold the cable ripper with the "V"-shaped end will require a few tools to accomplish the job. If you are like
facing away from your body. me and other electricians, you will likely have a few bags of
2. Placement: Insert cable into the hole in the cable tools that you use almost every day. it seems that I use
ripper. Push the ripper upward until you reach the point almost every tool in my tool bag at one time or another
where you want the rip to begin. during the course of the day. When someone tries to lift my
1. Pull: Put light pressure on the two sides of the cable tool bags, they are amazed at how heavy it is and how I
ripper until the cutting heads touch the casing. Rip in the could possibly need all those tools!
direction of your body lightly, ensuring that you do not nick This is a partial list of needed tools to take...MORE
the inner wires. 01of 16
2. Separate: Often, the ripped cable is not entirely Fish Tape
cut. Instead, it is perforated. Put down the cable ripper
and pull the casing away from the inner wires until you
can go no further.
Cable Not Ripping? Try This Trick
Seasoned electricians don't have to do this. But "seasoned"
I am not. It's just a quick tip for slicing off the thick plastic
casing from electrical wire. amazon.com
The problem: slice too hard, and you risk slicing off the A fish tape is used to pull stranded or solid wire through
casing of the inner copper wires. While not exactly the end metal or PVC conduit. Cable lube is available to assist you
of the world, it's better to avoid this. in pulling the wires through the pipe.
Instead, run your cable slicer very lightly several times 02of 16
down the cable. The goal is not to slice in one stroke, but Tape Measure
almost to create a perforation that you allows you to rip the
casing off by hand.
For me, it usually takes three strokes.

How To Strip Electrical Wire


amazon.com
A tape measure is used to measure heights for switches
and outlets. You will also need it to center lighting fixture
boxes.
03of 16
Stripping Electrical Wire. Photo: Timothy Thiele
Voltmeter
Tools Needed to Strip Wires
Before you can actually strip electrical wires, you'll need
one of two tools to remove the insulation from the copper
wire. The first tool is a wire stripping tool. It has cutoff
blades and many formed stripping holes (notches) on each
half of the tool. These holes have the different sized wires
listed for you. For instance, if you're stripping #12 wire,
you'll use the #12 hole. amazon.com
It will cut the insulation off of the wire without damaging the A voltmeter is used to check voltages and verify that
copper wire. circuits are indeed live. There are many manufacturers of
A combination tool is the other option for stripping the these testers with various options available. Choose the
wires. It also is a wire-stripping tool, but it also has a wire voltmeter that serves your needs.
terminal crimper. This allows you to crimp terminals on the 04of 16
ends of the wire when making that type of connection. Hammer
Tools Not Recommended
Although a knife or linesman pliers would also strip the
wires, they also may damage the copper wire by nicking
the copper or cutting into it. Nicked wires can lead to
overheating of wires and eventually could cause an
electrical fire in your home.
How to Strip the Wires amazon.com
By simply squeezing the handles about 3/4" from the end of A hammer is used to secure boxes equipped with nail-on
the wire and then twisting it slightly the insulation will be cut brackets to studs in a home. Youll also need it to drive
free. Then by pulling the wire strippers towards the end of Romex straps when adding new Romex wiring in a home.
the wire, the insulation should slide right off of the copper Continue to 5 of 16 below.
wire. 05of 16
Top 16 Electrical Tools Channel Lock Pliers

amazon.com
Channel lock pliers are used to take knockouts out of the A level is used to make sure your work is level and plumb.
boxes, tighten down Romex connectors in the boxes, and A great installationstarts with straight switch and outlet
adjust expansion-type ceiling fan boxes. covers.
06of 16 11of 16
Wire Strippers Flashlight

amazon.com amazon.com
Wire strippers are used to cut the insulation off of the wire. A light comes in handy in those places where lighting is
They are equipped with different sized cutting teeth for limited. Never try to reach into a panel without proper
various sized wires. They also have a cutoff portion in order lighting.
to cut the wire. 12of 16
07of 16 Allen Wrench Set (Hex Set)
Non-contact Voltage Detector

amazon.com
amazon.com Allen wrenches are used to tighten Allen-headed screws in
A voltage detector is used for a quick safety check to see if your electrical panel.
there is voltage or current flow present. Some of these Continue to 13 of 16 below.
devices are automatic and some must be turned on via a 13of 16
switch. Simply place the end of the tracer beside a wire, Razor Blade Knife (Utility Knife)
breaker or cord to see if its energized.
08of 16
Side Cutter Diagonal Pliers

amazon.com
This knife is needed to cut the insulation off of Romex
wiring. You will also need to open boxes when doing the
amazon.com installation and this tool will come in handy.
These cutting pliers, sometimes called side snips, are used 14of 16
to cut wire. They are specially designed with a cutting edge Phillips Screwdriver
that goes down to the tip of the pliers. The advantage being
that you can get into tight areas to trim wires. There are
some that are equipped with live wire detection capabilities.
Continue to 9 of 16 below.
09of 16
Linesman Pliers
amazon.com
A Phillips screwdriver has four blades used to install
Phillips-head screws. The tip looks like a plus sign.
15of 16
Straight-Blade Screwdriver

amazon.com
These pliers are the do-it-all pliers. They cut, twist wires
together, and grip wires for pulling. They have a squared off
end that is great for twisting wires together, a center cutting
blade for cutting wire and a grip area between the handles
to pull wire. amazon.com
10of 16 This screwdriver is used for straight slot screws. You will
Torpedo Level likely need more than one size for your project. If you have
to choose just one, pick a medium blade. It will suit most
projects.
16of 16
Wire Crimpers

amazon.com
does, a dedicated circuit should be run that is capable of
handling the load. Over the years of being an electrician,
I've seen my share of overloaded circuits, appliances
plugged into extension cords that were too light to handle
the load, and plugged into power strips that were actually
trying to melt due to the load.
amazon.com These are great instances of potential electrical fires due to
This tool strips the wire and also crimps lugs onto the wire. the wrong sized extension cords. In the event that you don't
know, there are special extension cords called appliance
Electrical Wire Gauge, cords that are designed to handle the load of appliances.
One more thing to keep in mind is to select wire that best
Ampacity, and Wattage Load fits your needs. Some wire is stranded, while other wire is
solid. The solid wire doesn't always pull as easy
in conduit with a large number of bends, but is much easier
to place under wire terminals like those on switches and
outlets.

GK and Vikki Hart/UpperCut Images/Getty Images


Determining Proper Electrical
If you've ever gone to the store with the intent on buying
some electrical wire for a project at home, you may have
Wire Size For Underground
noticed that there are many types and sizes of wire to
choose from. These electrical wires are used for powering
Circuit Cable Length
all types of devices, appliances, and lighting in your home,
but knowing what the right size wire is needed for each is Wire Resistance Increases With Cable Length
the secret to a safe and effective wire choice.
Here are some great tips for determining the proper wire
gauge, ampacity, and the maximum wattage allowed.
Determining the proper size wire to use can be easy if you
know what amperage and wattage a wire can carry per
wire gauge. The trick is to have the right sized wired fitted
to the power demand it will have on the circuit. Although UF Cable - Underground Feeder. Timothy Thiele
some wires look the same and even look to be the same
size, it doesn't mean that they can handle the amperage. Direct burial cable is a special type cable that is designed
For instance, copper wire can handle more than aluminum to be run in a trench underground without the use of
wire and should always be your choice of wiring to install in conduit to surround it. The electrical wires are encased in a
your home. Aluminum wiring was used years ago, being thermoplastic sheath that seals out moisture and protects
cheaper, but due to the softer wiring becoming heated and the wires within.
then becoming loose within the wiring connection points, As many of your homes have, overhead service entrances
the practice of using aluminum wire has faded. Copper wire were the power entrance of choice for years. the downfall
is a superior choice and the standard in wiring techniques. is wires running overhead, poles in your yard and the
Wire gauge is the physical size of the wire, rated in gauge possibility of snagging a power.
size. For instance, common sizes include 14-, 12-, 10-, 8-,
6-, and 2-gauge wire. The gauge of the wire dictates the
amount of current that can safely pass through the Usually, triplex aluminum wire was used to run from the
electrical wire. power pole to the service entrance weather head feeding
Electrical current is is measured as ampacity. As a guide, your electrical disconnect, that eventually powers your
#14 wire is good for 15 amps, #12 wire is good for 20 electrical panel in your home.
amps, #10 wire is good for 30 amps.As the number gets
smaller, the size of the wire gets larger and the amount of The choice of running underground with direct burial cable
amps it can handle also gets larger. This little tip can help is an appealing way to power your home without the
you choose the correct sized wire. unsightly wires showing. But placing power lines
Ampacity is defined as the measurement of how much underground presents its own unique problems, mainly with
electrical current can flow through an electrical wire safely. digging. before you dig, be sure to have the power lines,
This ampacity should match the circuit size, meaning the cables, phone lines, and gas lines marked.
circuit breaker or fuse that protects it. Speaking of that,
remember to calculate the circuit load at no more than 80% Call the underground utilities company hotline before
of the circuit protection. That would mean that a 20-amp digging. They come out and mark any underground
circuit should not be loaded more than 16 amps safely. obstructions that may be in your path, giving you a heads-
Let's think of a motor on this same circuit that has a startup up on where to and not to dig.
amperage larger than that of the run ampacity. This Type UF cable is to be used for direct burial wiring needs
practice leaves plenty of startup amperage left over, that and is identified by its grey covering. Open wiring not
being 20% or 4 amps, to get the motor spinning. This is protected in conduit should be buried at least 24" below
also true with many appliances in your home that use the surface.
compressors and motors to cool like refrigerators and Underground wiring run in plastic conduit must be buried
freezer. at least 18" below the surface and in schedule 80 PVC.
Appliances are marked with a tag that informs you of the This is a more durable plastic conduit (grey colored) than
maximum wattage (load) that it takes to run. The maximum its similar-looking water pipe that is a white or cream-
wattage of the appliance should never exceed the colored piping.
maximum wattage rating of the circuit it is connected to. If it
When considering the appropriate wire size for a circuit, accessible from the ground and no more than 6 1/2 feet
don't forget to take the circuit length into above grade.
consideration. Electrical wire, no matter what material it is Attached decks and balconies with interior access (door to
made out of, has a certain resistance to it. With an increase indoors) must have a receptacle no more than 6 1/2 feet
in cable length, the resistance causes a voltage drop in the above the deck or balcony walking surface. As a general
circuit. recommendation, houses also should have a receptacle
The solution is easy enough. at each side of a deck or balcony, accessible from the
ground.
You should just choose the next sized larger ampacity wire Receptacles in damp locations (under protective cover,
size to lessen the effects, for instance, on a 15-amp circuit, such as a porch roof) must be weather-resistant and have
you would normally use 14-gauge wire to supply the circuit. a weatherproof (sometimes called weathertight) cover.
However, if the run is over 50' long, you could use a 12- Receptacles in wet locations (exposed to weather) must
gauge wire instead which is rated for a 20-amp circuit. be weather-resistant and have a weatherproof "in-use"
cover. This cover provides weather protection even when
Likewise, a 20-amp circuit that normally is run with 12- cords are plugged into the receptacle.
gauge wire, should be run with 10-gauge wire if the the run Outdoor Lighting
is over 50' long. Light fixtures in wet/exposed areas must be listed for wet
Voltage drop on wires due to resistance causes hotter locations.
wires and less voltage to run the devices attached to it. You Light fixtures in damp areas (protected by an overhanging
may have noticed the same effects of voltage drop when eave or roof) must be listed for damp locations.
using an electric drill that is attached to a long extension Surface-mounted electrical boxes for fixtures must be
cord. The drill still runs, but is often slower, with less torque, raintight/weatherproof.
and tends to heat up more quickly. Voltage drop has a Exterior light fixtures do not require GFCI protection.
devastating effect on motors. Low-voltage lighting systems must be listed as entire
Planning ahead for circuit size, the distance it must travel, system or assembled from listed components.
and what is going to be connected to it will save you money Transformers for low-voltage lighting must be accessible.
and frustration later. I know we all want to try and save a Outdoor Wiring
dollar when purchasing electrical wire, especially at today's Exposed or buried wiring/cable must be listed for its
prices, but it is important to have the right sized wire and application. Type UF cable is the most commonly used
the proper length to finish the job. It doesn't make any nonmetallic cable for residential outdoor wiring runs.
sense to buy 50' of wire instead of 100' if you need 55'.You UF cable can be direct-buried (without conduit) with a
cannot stretch it or shortcut the installation to save a buck. minimum of 24" of cover.
Wiring buried inside rigid metal (RMC) or intermediate
Buy the longer reel of wire, use what you need, and sell the metal (IMC) conduit must have at least 6" of cover; wiring
rest if need be. Do the job right the first time! in PVC conduit must have at least 18" of cover.
Backfill surrounding conduit or cables must be smooth
Photo: Timothy Thiele granular material without rocks.
Low-voltage (no more than 30 volts) wiring must be buried
at least 6" deep.
National Electrical Code Buried wiring runs that transition above ground must be
protected in conduit from the required cover depth or 18"
Outdoor Wiring Tips (whichever is less) to its termination point above ground
or at least 8 feet above grade.
Call Before You Dig
This is not an NEC requirement, but it could save your life
and/or considerable trouble with your service providers.
Call 8-1-1, the national "Call Before You Dig" hotline, at
least three days before you plan to dig anywhere on your
property. The hotline personnel will notify all utility providers
Huntstock / Getty Images
in your area. Those with lines running through your
The National Electrical Code (NEC) includes many specific
property will send out a representative to mark their line(s)
requirements for outdoor circuits and equipment. The
on the ground. You can use power equipment to dig no
primary safety concerns outdoors are moisture and
closer than 24" to marked lines; use a hand shovel when
corrosion, physical damage and issues related to
digging within 24" of either side of a marked line.
underground burial. With most residential outdoor wiring
projects, the relevant code requirements pertain to
installing outdoor receptacles and fixtures and running
wiring above and below ground.
The Electrical Service Size of
Where requirements call for "listed" equipment, products
must be listed for the application by an approved testing
Your Home
agency, such as UL (formerly Underwriters Laboratories).
Outdoor Receptacles Main Service Circuit Breaker Sizes
GFCI (ground-fault circuit-interrupter) protection is
required for all outdoor receptacles. Specific exceptions
may be made for snow-melting or deicing equipment.
GFCI protection can include GFCI receptacles or GFCI
circuit breakers.
Homes must have at least one outdoor receptacle at the
front and rear of the house. They must be readily Glogger/Wikimedia CC 2.0
Your electrical service is the power headquarters for your This breaker is either factory mounted or can be added by
home. It divides the power to different parts of the home in either bolting it in or snapping it into place.
circuitry via circuit breakers in a circuit breaker panel. To
fully understand how it all works, we must first know what Where Main Circuit Breaker Is Located
each of these are and how they work.
The circuit breaker panel has a main breaker to disconnect
Electrical Circuit Breaker Panel power to the entire electrical buss bar and its branch circuit
breakers. Normally, the main breaker is located on the top
First, an electrical circuit breaker panel is the main of the buss, but sometimes the panel is installed upside
distribution point for electrical circuits in your home. down for a bottom feed breaker position.
The main circuit breaker has the amperage listed on the
It usually provides between 100 and 200 amps of power to handle. Most generally, the main service size will be 100 or
your home, depending on your homes load demand. 200 amps. It is possible that a larger service is needed in
Power comes into your home from the utility company, larger homes and those with extensive electrical loads.
through a service entrance. It flows through an electrical Homes that have a 60-amp service or less may be needing
meter, through an electrical disconnect and then to the an update.
main breaker in your electrical panel. Older service panels, of the fuse type, use cartrige fuses as
the main disconnecting means instead of the circuit
The main breaker is located at the top or bottom of two breakers to disconnect the power.
rows of breakers, depending which way the panel is
mounted. The main breaker is marked with the value of They normally have the main discconnect and a range feed
protection (like 100 amps) on the breaker handle. This protected with cartirge fuses and four screw-in fuses that
breaker is either factory mounted or can be added by either provide the branch circuits with protection. These panels
bolting it in or snapping it into place. The main circuit are outdated because of the large demand for power that
breaker in your home dictates how much power your home we all seem to have.
can use. This breaker is located in the main service panel
of your home. You home is either equipped with a fuse
panel or a circuit breaker panel. Choosing the Right Extension
The Main Breaker Cord
So, what is a main breaker anyway? You'd think that it is How to Choosing the Right Gauge Extension Cord
something special having a name like that.

Actually, the main breaker is the breaker that the feeder


wire connects to. This breaker is a two-pole breaker that is
connected to 240 volts to power your home. The main
breaker acts as the disconnecting means to the entire
power load of your breaker box. With it off, there is no Stephen Simpson / Getty Images
power being fed to the buss bar that feeds the branch
circuit breakers. Extension cords offer a means of extending a home's or
workshop's electrical circuits when a lamp, appliance or
Your electrical panel is full of circuit breakers, running from tool has an attached cord that is too short to reach the
top to bottom of the service panel. The odd numbered needed location. Most people have several extension cords
breakers are located on the left and the even numbered they keep on hand for this purpose. What is often not
circuit breakers are on the right. Atop the many circuit considered, though, is that these extension cords need to
breakers is a larger circuit breaker that is used to turn the be of an appropriate size for the power load being placed
entire circuit breaker panel on or off. It is known as the on them.
main breaker. It plays probably the most important function The amperage rating for each extension cord should be
in the whole circuit breaker panel. It is a means of labeled on a tag attached to each cord, but this label may
disconnect for the entire panel. But you may ask what not always be present or visible. This article will explain
makes it different from the rest of the circuit breakers within how to select proper extension cords for the job at hand.
the panel. Extension cords vary in rating, based upon the amperage
they can safely carry, the wattage they can handle--both of
How Power Enters Your Home which are determined by the gauge of the wire. Whats
important when choosing an extension cord is to determine
the amount of the wattage and amperage the tool or
An electrical circuit breaker panel is the main distribution appliance will draw. With simple devices like lamps, radios,
point for electrical circuits in your home. It usually provides televisions and other electronics, the familiar basic
between 100 and 200 amps of power to your home, household extension cord is normally perfectly acceptable.
depending on your homes load demand. Power comes into Things get more complicated when you are using an
your home from the utility company, through a service extension cord for devices with motors, or which produce
entrance. It flows through an electrical meter, through an heat of any kind. The electrical load of these items is
electrical disconnect and then to the main breaker in substantially higher, and generally, are not really suited for
your electrical panel. a light-weight household extension cord.
The main breaker is located at the top or bottom of two
rows of breakers, depending which way the panel is
mounted. The main breaker is marked with the value of Further complicating the issue is the length of the extension
protection (like 100 amps) on the breaker handle. cord. In longer extension cords, the resistance of electrical
current is higher and the potential for overheating is electricity flowing through electrical wires encounters some
greater. A 5-ft-long extension cord powering a table saw resistance along the way.
rarely overheats, but a 50-ft.-long extension cord of the This leads us to our first term, ohms.
same wire gauge may well be undersized for the job.
01of 07

Extension cords should be rated for loads that are at least Ohms
equal to, and preferably greater than, the requirements
needed to run a tool effectively. Extension cord lengths 50
feet or less can be used based upon the following chart, but
runs over 50 feet should implement the next heavier-sized
cord to accommodate voltage drop in the cord due to the
natural resistance of the wire.

Warning!: Special caution should be taken with electric


Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/Getty Images
space heaters. You should never use an extension cord to
plug one of these heaters into a power source. There
have been numerous house fires due to such heaters Ohms is the measurement of resistance to the flow of
having been plugged into extension cords due to the electrons through a conductive material. The higher the
extreme amount of wattage they carry and the amount of resistance, the lower the flow of electrons. This resistance
amperage they use. Instead, space heaters should be causes a certain amount of heat to be generated in the
plugged into separate outlets in your walls, but even there circuit. The reason that a hair dryer blows hot air, for
you must be careful not to exceed the amperage rating on example, is because of resistance in the internal wiring that
that circuit. If you find that a circuit breaker trips or a fuse produces heat. And it is resistance in the tiny wires of an
blows when you plug in a space heater, you must try incandescent light bulb that causes it to heat up and glow
another circuit with heavier wire and a larger circuit with light.
breaker amp rating. In circuit wiring, too much resistance can overload a circuit
and cause an electrical fire. Because bad connections
caused by things like loose screw terminal and corrosion
Safety Reminder: Discard or repair extension cords that are
are likely culprits, electrical connections should be checked
missing ground connections, show signs of extreme wear,
regularly to ensure safe electrical power to your home.
or have cracks, cuts and bare wires exposed from the
outside coating of the cord.
02of 07
Drop cords without ground connections can be dangerous
to the user. Nicks and bare, exposed wires can cause Electrons
electrical shock. Also, make sure to examine the plug ends
on your extension cords Your local supply company or An electron is a negatively charged subatomic particle. In
hardware store has replacement plugs that can be used to electrical conductors, current flow results from the
extend an extension cord's life, provided the cord itself is in movement of electrons from atom to atom individually, and
good condition. from negative to positive electric poles in general. The
charge on a single electron is considered as the unit
Extension Cord Wire Gauges, Amperage Rating, and electrical charge. It is assigned negativepolarity. The
Wattage negative flow of electrons is essentially the "hot" current
Wire Amperage Wattage that does the real work when electricity flows through the
Power Tool Used wires into appliances and light fixtures. Without this flow of
Gauge Rating Rating
electrons, there is no electrical current.
Detail Sander, Drill,
#18 5 Amps 600 Watts
Jig Saw
Belt Sander, 03of 07
#16 7 Amps 840 Watts
Reciprocating Saw
1,440 Circular Saw, Miter Current
#14 12 Amps
Watts Saw, Router
1,920 Table Saw, Radial Current is the flow of these electrons in a circuit or electrical
#12 16 Amps
Watts Arm Saw system. Current is measured in amperage, often called
amps. Current is broken down into two types: alternating
current (AC) and direct current (DC). Generally speaking,
How Does Electrical Current AC is the form of electricity that operates lights, appliances
and outlet receptacles in your home, while DC is the form
Flow? of power provided by batteries. For example, your car's
electrical system is a DC system.
Understanding Common Electrical Terms However, with the green age upon us, DC power is
becoming more popular as a source for household power.
With the addition of solar power and wind turbines that
In order to understand how electricity flows, you must first generate DC power, many homeowners are now
understand what the key terms mean, as outlined below. converting that DC power to AC power to help power the
One helpful way to think of electrical current is to imagine main house electrical system. The DC power can also
that it behaves somewhat like water flowing through copper power stand-alone lights and other devices.
pipes in your home. Although the analogy is not perfect, it
is a helpful way to understand many of the key concepts.
For example, just like water flowing through copper pipes, 04of 07
Amperage With this brief overview of the key terms used in electrical
wiring, you will be in a better position to understand home
Amperage is the measurement of the strength of wiring projects and repairs.
the volume of electrons flowing through an electrical
conductor or system. The measurement is based on the
number of electrons that pass through a point in a given How to Prevent Electrical
amount of time. This measurement is done with an
ammeter that tells us reading like 20 amp, 30 amps, etc. Circuit Overload
Another tool called a multimeter can read not only
amperage but also ohms and voltage. In a typical home's
electrical system, that standard circuits for lights and outlets
will be 15-amp or 20-amp circuits, while those that bring
power to appliances may be 30-, 40- or even 50-amp
circuits.
Southern Stock/Stockbyte/Getty Images
05of 07 I know we have all done it from time to time and it will
probably happen again. That's right, I'm talking about
Voltage overloading a circuit or drop cord with too many devices.
Instead of us running another circuit or extension cord to a
different circuit to split the electrical load, we just keep
Voltage, also known as electromotive force, is
adding devices until the circuit breaker trips.Electrical circuit
the pressure of the electrons in a system. Another
overloads happen when more amperage is put across an
definition of voltage is that it is the potential difference in
electrical wire or circuit than it can handle.
charge between two points in an electrical field. The
For instance, a #14 wire can safely carry 15 amps and
quantity of charge carriers passing through a fixed point per
should be protected by a 15-amp breaker. If it happens to
unit of time determines the voltage reading. In other words,
get connected to a 20-amp breaker instead, the breaker will
the greater the flow of current, electrons, the greater the
allow 20 amps of current to flow through a wire that can
voltage.
only handle 15 amps. The wire and breaker start to heat up
Voltage is a representation of the electric potential energy
and could cause start an electrical fire.
per unit charge. It is a...MORE
Ampacity can be calculated by dividing the amount of
wattage by the voltage. Let's say you have a 1,000-watt
06of 07 hair dryer that runs on 120 volts. Divide that out and you'll
get 10 amps of current draw. On a 20-amp circuit, that's
Wattage or Watts half of the circuit used already.
Now, think about having a meal at your house. You plug in
Wattage is used to specify the rate at which electrical a couple of crock pots that each draw 1,000 watts of power
energy is dissipated or the rate at which electromagnetic and you can see how the circuit is at maximum capacity.
energy is radiated, absorbed or dissipated. A watt is a The problem is, that likely there are other things plugged in
standard unit of power which is measured by the amount of also and undoubtedly the circuit will trip. In this case, the
energy used per unit of time. The total amount of power only way to solve the problem is to plug one of the devices
consumed by the electrical system in your home is read into another outlet on a different circuit.
through the utility company's electric meter. It is measured As a rule of thumb, remember that anything with a motor
in kilowatts and that is how you are billed. needs its own circuit. That way, you'll always have enough
Each light fixture or appliance plugged into an outlet will circuit for the device being plugging into it. Likewise, things
have a rate of usage measured in wattage. For example, a like portable heaters need to each have their own individual
100-watt lightbulb will be dissipating a greater amount of circuits. This is extremely dangerous if more than one
electricity that a 60-watt bulb. A portable heater rated at portable heater is connected to the same circuit.
1500 watts is quite a large consumer of electricity. I actually got a call once from a friend of mine who wanted
me to stop by his rental because he said the renter said it
smelled like smoke. There was smoke due to three electric
07of 07
heaters plugged into the same circuit. You might ask if
the circuit breaker tripped and so did I. The answer they
Conclusion gave was "YES" all 13 times! Luckily, I got them out of the
house and the fire department and they found a melted
Amps, volts, and watts exist in a mathematical relationship wire inside the wall cavity. The damage costed a few
to one another, expressed as follows: thousand dollars and an inconvenient few weeks for the
Amps x voltage = watts. renters having to stay with friends while repairs were being
So, for example, in a 20-amp, 120-volt circuit, there are made.
2400 watts of power available for lights and plug-in Circuit overloads can also be caused by loose or corroded
appliances. wires and connections. This could be a breaker connection,
When the term "electrical power" or "power" is used to a splice in a box, especially if the connection has been
describe a home's electrical service, it is in reference to the exposed to moisture, it could be a wire is not making good
total amount of wattage available to the system, as contact under a wire nut splice, only because the wire were
calculated by voltage x amperage. This is the potential not lined up evenly when installed, or it may be a loose
energy of the system available to provide heat to radiating connection on a part of a light fixture. Of course, the list
appliances, to turn motors in appliances like vacuum goes on and on. The point is, if the breaker trips or the fuse
cleaners, and to provide light in lightbulbs. blows, there is a problem. It may be a short or just a circuit
overload.
Correcting the problem may be as easy as unplugging a
device that you plugged into a circuit already loaded up.
Just use common sense when there is a problem. Think to Dishwasher
yourself, what did I just recently add to the circuit that
tripped. Was it something that could have caused the The dishwasher circuit should be a dedicated 120/125-volt,
problem? Maybe it's just something simple like a hot day 15-amp circuit. It is fed with a 14/2 NM wire with a ground.
and you plug in an air conditioner and a couple of fans. All You may also elect to feed the dishwasher with a 20-amp
of a sudden the breaker trips. Unplug the fans and wait a circuit using 12/2 NM wire with a ground.
few minutes before resetting the breaker. Then, rest the Be sure to allow enough slack on the NM cable so that the
breaker and try turning on just the air conditioner. Chances dishwasher can be pulled out and serviced
are that if you look at the nameplate rating on the unit, you'll without disconnecting it--your appliance repairman will
see that the air conditioner used up most of the circuits and thank you.
the fans put it over the edge.
04of 07
Electrical Circuits for Kitchens Food Disposer
Learn what circuits are needed for a typical kitchen
Food disposers do the dirty work of cleaning up the messes
after meals. When loaded down with garbage, they use a
The kitchen is the room that uses the most electricity in the good bit of amperage as they grind up the refuse. A
home, and for this reason, it requires several electrical dedicated 15-amp circuit is required, fed by a 14/2 NM
circuits. While a bedroom or other room may be served cable with a ground. You may also elect to feed the
only by a standard lighting circuit that provides all the disposer with a 20-amp circuit, using 12/2 NM wire with a
power for lights and plug-in devices, it's not uncommon for ground.
a kitchen to have five or six circuits, or even more if there
are many hardwired electrical appliances.
Continue to 5 of 7 below.
Here is a list of the most commonly used circuits in a
05of 07
kitchen.

Microwave Oven
01of 07
The microwave oven needs a dedicated 20-amp, 120/125-
Refrigerator
volt circuit to feed it. This will require 12/2 NM wire with a
ground. Microwave ovens come in different varieties and
sizes. Some are countertop models, and others mount
under the cabinet, above the stove. Although it's not
uncommon to see microwave ovens plugged into standard
appliance outlets, larger microwave ovens can draw as
much as 1500 watts, and these need their own dedicated
circuits.
Inti St Clair/Photodisc/Getty Images
06of 07
As we get larger and larger appliances, the load demand
increases in our homes. A modern refrigerator requires a Small Appliance Loads
dedicated 20-amp, 120/125-volt circuit. You may currently
have a smaller refrigerator plugged into a general lighting
Atop your counter-top you will need two dedicated 20-amp,
circuit, but during any major remodeling, a dedicated
120/125-volt circuits to run your small appliance loads,
120/125-volt circuit should be installed.
including things like toasters, electric griddles, coffee pots,
For this dedicated 20-amp circuit, 12/2 NM wire with a
etc. Two circuits is the minimum required by Code; you can
ground is required for the wiring.
also install more if your needs require them.
When planning the circuits and the location of outlets, try to
02of 07 imagine where you will place appliances on your
countertop. If in doubt, add additional circuits for the future.
Range
07of 07
An electric range will need a dedicated 240/250-volt, 50-
amp circuit. That means that you'll need to install a 6/3 NM Lighting Circuit
cable (or #6 THHN wire in a conduit) to feed the range. If
it's a gas range, however, it will only require only a
Of course, a kitchen wouldn't be complete without a lighting
120/125-volt receptacle to feed the range.
circuit to brighten the cooking area. A 15-amp, 120/125-volt
During a major remodel, though, it's a good idea to install
dedicated circuit is required to power the ceiling fixtures,
the electric range circuit, even if you won't currently be
canister lights, under-cabinet lights and strip lights if you
using it. In the future, you may want to convert to an electric
have them.
range, and having this circuit available will be a selling point
Each set of lights should have its own switch, allowing you
if you ever sell your house. Keep in mind that the electric
to vary the lighting. Always consider future needs, as well.
range needs to push back to the wall, so position the outlet
You may want to add a ceiling fan in the future, or maybe a
accordingly.
bank of track lights. For this reason, it's not a bad idea to
install a 20-amp circuit for the general lighting use, even
03of 07 though Code only requires a 15-amp circuit.
Don't Overload Circuits with The LED Solution
LED lights are about 75% more efficient than conventional

Christmas Lights incandescent lights. Switching from old-style lights to LEDs


makes your electrical load more than seven times smaller
and has the same effect on your holiday electric bill. That
alone might easily solve your overload problems. If you
decide to make the switch, check the Energy Star
website for a listing of qualified products. These meet the
program's minimum standards for energy efficiency and
warranty length. LEDs last a long time (or they should), so
Saugus, Massachusetts USA. By Anthony92931 (Own it makes sense pay a little more for quality.
work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
For anyone in the Clark Griswold school of holiday
decorating, overloaded circuits are a real concern around Color Coding of Nonmetallic
Christmastime. Unlike Clark, you won't risk shutting down
the grid service to your entire town, but you can certainly (NM) Electrical Cable
pop some breakers and possibly create a fire hazard.
There are a few ways you can create an electrical Here's How to Interpret the Jacket Colors
overload, and all are easily avoidable. As for the decision to
go with the animatronic Santa on the roof again this year, In nonmetallic sheathed cable (NM) used for residential
maybe you should let your circuits decide. and commercial wiring, the outer sheath color indicates the
wire gauge or size and amperage rating of the wire within.
Overloading a Circuit Most NM-B cable made after 2001 is sheathed with
Standard household electrical outlets are on circuits that different-colored wire sheathings to make identification
are rated for at least 15 amps of electrical current. Newer easier for both consumers and inspectors. This color
homes also have a lot of 20-amp circuits, including the coding of the wire sheath is strictly voluntary, but most
outlets in the garage and outdoors. Lighting circuits (which manufacturers have followed suit in adhering to the color
often include outlets) typically are 15-amp. So what does scheme
the amp rating mean? It tells you how many lights and
other devices the circuit can handle without tripping its
circuit breaker. The rule of thumb is not to load a circuit 01of 08
over 80%, meaning a 20-amp circuit can safely handle 16
amps, and a 15-amp circuit can safely handle 12 amps. By The Five Basic Colors Of Nonmetallic Cable
adding up the amperage draw of your lights you'll know
how many you can put on a single circuit.
Adding the Amperage
Check the packaging of your light sets. If that's not
available, check the tag or plug on the light cord. If it gives
you the amperage rating, you're all set. If it gives you only
the wattage, divide the wattage number by 120 to find the
amperage. ArnoldReinhold / Wikimedia Commons / Creative
For example, if a light string uses 250 watts, the amperage Commons
draw will be 2.08 amps (250/120 = 2.08). You could get
away with six of these strings on a single circuit, but five is
a safer bet. Keep in mind that this is just the total for the The five basic color schemes used for the NM cable in
Christmas lights; if anything else is using the same circuit, residential construction are white, yellow, orange, black and
there will be less power available for the lights. gray. These colors are seen in the solid vinyl outer
A single circuit may be serving several outlets and/or light jacket that enclose the individual conductors within the
fixtures. If you suspect you're getting close to an overload, cable. The colors are easily identified at a glance.
divide the lights among two or more circuits. You can Be aware that black is used as a color for two different wire
identify which outlets are on which circuits by switching off gauges, so some care is needed when interpreting black
one breaker at a time and checking each outlet for power; cable.
any outlet that has no power is on that circuit.
Overloading Devices 02of 08
Another potential overload comes from plugging Christmas
lights into light fixtures, using one of those cheap screw-in White-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable
adapters. You can do this safely only if the adapter is in
good condition and makes good contact with the fixture Cable with white sheathing houses 14-gauge wire. This
base and you don't exceed the wattage limit on the adapter type wire is used for 15-amp circuits in your home. General
or the light fixture. This means you can forget about running lighting circuits are normally the primary use of 14-gauge
all the outdoor holiday lights to one fixture, but it's better cable.
than causing a fire. Also, don't overload outlets and
adapters by plugging in too many light strings. You can
easily fry an adapter (since many of these are sketchy, to 03of 08
begin with), and the massive bulk of cord connectors
protruding from the outlet itself becomes a shock and fire Yellow-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable
hazard. When the weight of the plugs draws the plugs
away from the outlet, it often exposes the blades of the Yellow color-coded cable sheathing encloses 12-gauge
plugs while they're still energized. wire, which is rated for 20-amp circuits. General power for
outlets and appliances is the main use for this 12-gauge
cable. Electrical Wire And Cable
04of 08
Conductors Types
Orange-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable Commonly Used Home Wire And Cable

The orange-colored wire sheathing is set aside for 10-


gauge wire. It is able to handle 30-amp circuit loads. These
loads include air conditioner, water heater feeds, and any
other 30-amp loads.

Paul Bradbury / Getty Images


Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05of 08
Electrical wire is used to carry electrical current from the
power source to the end user device, like an outlet or light.
Black-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable
This wire is really a conductor, but is referred to as wire in
most instances.
Black-sheathed cable is used for both 6- and 8-gauge There are three different styles of wire. Bare wire is just
wire. 8-gauge wire is good for 45-amp circuits, while 6- what the name states, non-insulated. Insulated solid wire it
gauge wire is capable of handling 60-amp circuits. The 6- a solid piece of wire that is coated and encased in a plastic
gauge wire is better for a feeding a sub panel, an electric coating. The last is insulated stranded wire.
range, or a double oven, depending on the amperage
rating listed on the appliance.
This has many smaller sized strands of copper and is also
If you need black cable, make sure to read the sheathing
wrapped in a protective plastic coating. Type NM cable, as
and packaging carefully to determine if you are buying 6-or
it is often referred to, is sold in precut lengths like 50', 100',
8-gauge wire.
250', and 1,000' spools.

06of 08
There are two different types of cables that are commonly
used. Nonmetallic sheathed cable has two or more
Gray-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable insulated conductors and usually a bare ground wire. They
are all wrapped in an outer protective plastic sheath. The
Gray-colored sheathing is used to designate cable intended other is armored cable in which there is a black, red, white
for underground installation. It has excellent water and green insulated wire inside of a protective flexible
resistance and may also be rated for resistance to oil and metal housing, often called a cord. Usually,m armored
sunlight. In this cable, the conductors are embedded in cable is cut to length, but you may buy a precut length roll.
solid vinyl rather than running loosely inside the jacket. In home wiring that implements nonmetallic sheathed cable
Because the gray coding does not indicate wire size, read (NM), the outer sheath color indicates the wire gauge or
the packaging and jacket printing to make sure you are size and amperage rating of the wire within. Most NM-B
buying the right wire size. cable, made after 2001, is sheathed with different colored
wire sheathed to make identification easier for both
07of 08 consumers and inspectors.

Outer Jacket Labeling This color coding of the wire sheath is strictly voluntary, but
most manufacturers have followed suit in producing such a
color scheme.
With all nonmetallic sheathed cable, the outer jacket is
labeled with letters that show how many insulated wires are
concealed within the sheath. This wire count does not, The Five Basic Colors Of Nonmetallic Cable
however, include the uninsulated wire that is used as a
ground wire. For instance, if the cable lists 12-2 WG, it The five basic color schemes used primarily in home
means there are two insulated 12-gauge wires (a black and construction are white, yellow, orange, black and gray.
a white wire), plus a ground wire. If the label says 12-3, Actually, black is used twice, but it is used for two different
this is a three-conductor, 12-gauge cable with a bare wire gauges, so beware when selecting the
copper ground wire included. appropriate wire size.

08of 08 These colors are the solid color of the insulation housing
cover that coats the insulated and non insulated individual
Conclusion wires within.

With this information, the next time that you look at White-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable
nonmetallic-sheathed cable, a single glance at the color of
the cable sheathing will tell you many of the details you The white color-coded wire sheath houses 14-gauge wire.
need. But always make sure to double-check and verify the This type wire is used for 15-amp circuits in your home.
wires gauge rating and the installation areas it is approved Lighting circuits are normally the primary use of this sized
for. wire.

Yellow-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable


Yellow color-coded wire sheath encloses 12-gauge wire 02of 10
that is rated for 20-amp circuits. General power for outlets Common Types Of Electrical Wiring Used In A Home
and appliances is the main use for this sized wire feed. Your home is wired with different types of wire. Each has its
specific use to accommodate the load and conditions it is
Orange-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable exposed to. Lets examine what each type is and how it is
used in the homes electrical system.
The orange-colored wire sheathing is set aside for 10- 03of 10
gauge wire. It is able to handle 30-amp circuit loads. These What Size Electrical Wire Do I Need?
loads include air conditioner, water heater feeds, and any In order to install any electrical wire installation, the proper
other 30-amp loads. wire size for the application is needed. But how do you
know what size wire to use? The wire is sized by the
American Wire Gauge (AWG) system. Your installation of
Black-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable
conductorswill depend on a few factors. The gauge of the
wire, wire capacity, and what the wire will feed should all be
As far as black-coated wire, this is shared for both 6- and 8- considered.
gauge wire. As you may know, 8-gauge wire is good for 04of 10
45-amp circuits and 6-gauge wire is capable of handling Electrical Wire Color Coding
60-amp circuits. The 6-gauge wire is better for a feeding a Electrical wires have markings stamped or printed on the
sub panel, an electric range, or a double oven, depending outside sheath of the cable. These markings tell what type
on the amperage rating listed on the appliance. and size of wire that you have. But looking deeper, the
color of the wires inside of the sheath, like in type NM
Gray-colored Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable cable, will reveal that different color wires serve different
purposes.
Now there is another colored sheathing that has more to do 05of 10
with installation areas than with wire size. What Do The Letters On Electrical Wire Mean?
Understanding electrical wire lettering will help you decide
This would be gray-colored NM wire. It is used for which type wire is best for the installation that you are
underground installations and comes in varying sizes. It using. There are many different types of insulation used for
has water-resistant qualities and is sometimes resistant to residential use. Some of the most commonly used are
other things like oil and sunlight. THHN, THWN, THW and XHHN.
06of 10
How To Wire an Electrical Panel
Nonmetallic Sheathed Cable's Outer Jacket Labeling
The electric panel is the power distribution point of the
home. All of you electrical load connections happen here to
As with all nonmetallic sheathed cable, the outer jacket is feed the devices throughout the home. Find out how to
labeled with letters that show how many insulated wires are make these connections to circuit breakers in this article.
concealed within the sheath. This wire count does not, 07of 10
however, include the non insulated wire that is used as a How To Strip Electrical Wire
ground wire. For instance, if the cable lists 12-2 WG, it Before you can actually strip electrical wires, you'll need
means there are two insulated 12-gauge wires (a black and one of two tools to remove the insulation from the copper
a white wire), plus a ground wire. If the label says 12-3, wire. The first tool is a wire stripping tool. It has cutoff
this is a three-conductor, 12-gauge cable with a bare blades and many formed stripping holes (notches) on each
copper ground wire included. half of the tool. These holes have the different sized wires
listed for you. For instance, if you're stripping #12 wire,
Electrical Wiring Size, Type you'll use the #12 hole. It will cut the insulation off of the
wire without damaging the copper wire.
and Installation 08of 10
How To Wire Electrical Disconnects
The do-it-yourselfer sometimes runs into electrical mishaps Electrical disconnects are generally mounted below
around the home. Sometimes you may have to repair an the electric meter on the side of your home or on the utility
electrical connection or you may have to wire a company's power pole. Their purpose is to disconnect
replacement. Either way, it often requires that you deal power to the home from the outside of the home. A great
with the electrical wiring. These tutorials will help you example would be in the event of a fire within the home.
through the process of dealing with all things electrical with Learn how to wire this disconnect.
ease. Continue to 9 of 10 below.
01of 10 09of 10
Direct Burial Cable Electrical Wire And Cable Conductors Types
Electrical wire is used to carry electric current from the
power source to the end user device, like an outlet or light.
This wire is really a conductor but is referred to as wire in
most instances. There are three different styles of wire.
Bare wire is just what the name states, non-insulated.
Insulated solid wire it a solid piece of wire that is coated
David Malan/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images and encased in a plastic coating. The last is insulated
Some cables are meant to be run indoors, while others are stranded wire. This has many smaller sized strands of
meant for weathered areas and underground like direct copper and is also wrapped in a protective plastic coating.
burial cable. Direct burial cable can be installed Type NM cable, as it is often referred to, is sold in precut
underground without being installed in conduit. The utility lengths like 50', 100', 250', and 1,000' spools.
company often runs underground services using this 10of 10
method. Maximum Number Of Electrical Wires Allowed In Conduit
Electrical conduit, whether it be metal (EMT), plastic (PVC),
or flexible conduit, each has their own maximum number of Connecting Electrical Wires to
electrical wires allowed in the conduit. Their fill capacities
are different, even though they may be the same size Screw Terminals
conduit.

Electric Water Heater Wiring Screw Terminal Connections On Electrical Switches


and Receptacles

JulNichols/E+/Getty Images Quasipalm / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons


Replacing an electric water heater requires a permit in most
areas. This ensures that both the electrical and plumbing
When connecting electrical wires to switches and
connections are done properly and safely and meet the
receptacles, there are two ways to do it, and only one is
local code requirements. Here we will look at the basic
recommended by professionals.
electrical requirements only. If you're replacing an existing
Each switch and receptacle device has standard screw
electric unit, now is the time to make sure the original water terminals on the sides of the device body. These are the
heater wiring is up to snuff. connection terminals that are best to use, and the
Turn Off the Power
technique for using screw terminals is what is described in
Before you do any investigating or touching of water heater
further detail in this article.
wiring or electrical connections, turn off the power to the
circuit that supplies the water heater.
In most cases, the circuit is served by a 30-amp, double- Push-In Connections
pole breaker. Switch off the appropriate breaker in the
breaker box, then use an electrical tester to be sure that the On the back side of the body of the switch or receptacle,
circuit is off by testing at the water heater. you will also see slide-in connection holes that can allow
Electrical Connections you to simply push in the end of a bare wire to make the
The electrical connection for a water heater is made at a wire connections.
built-in junction box on the top of the water heater tank.
This is enclosed by a cover plate. Typically, the wiring to While this might seem like a very convenient way to do it,
the heater is enclosed in flexible metal conduit or is made virtually no professional electricians and few experienced
with flexible metal cable, such as metal-clad (MC) cable. A DIYers ever use these push-in fittings--mostly because
flexible connection provides a little wiggle room, making it they have had experience with these connections coming
easier to replace the water heater, and it is a required in loose. While still allowed by Underwriters
many earthquake areas. The metal protects the high- Laboratories (UL), these push-in connections are often not
voltage wiring from damage. very secure to begin with, and over time, loose connections
Water Heater Wiring can cause arcing, pitting of the surface area around the
Electric water heaters require a 240-volt dedicated circuit, connection, sparking and a buildup of heat. If you MUST
which serves only the water heater and no other appliances use these push-in connections, always test the wires by
or devices. The circuit wiring typically includes a 30- tugging on them to make sure you indeed have a tight
amp double pole breaker and 10-2 non-metallic (NM) or connection.
MC cable.
At the water heater, the black circuit wire connects to the How to Make Screw Terminal Connections
black heater lead, and the white circuit wire connects to the
white heater lead. The white circuit wire should be wrapped
1. First, use a pair of wire strippers or a combination tool to
with black or red electrical tape near the connection at both
strip about 3/4" of wire insulation from each conductor to
ends of the circuit, to indicate that it is a "hot" wire, not a
be connected. Take care not to nick the metal wire itself if
neutral wire.
you can help it; using the proper opening on the wire
The circuit ground wire connects to the ground screw on
stripper will prevent this.
the water heater or the heater's ground lead, as applicable.
1. Use a pair of long-nosed pliers to bend the exposed metal
The Bonding Question
tip of the wire into a J-shaped hook This bend will allow
Some building authorities require a bonding wire, or
the wire to wrap completely around the screw terminal
bonding jumper, between the hot water and cold water
without any insulation touching the screw head.
pipes serving the water heater. This is a question for your
2. Now, loop the wire hook around the screw terminal in a
local building authority, as rules and recommendations vary
manner so that when the screw is turned closed, the hook
widely. A bonding jumper may be required to ensure a
will tighten the wire closed, not force it open. This means,
reliable bond in a metal water piping system. Some experts
essentially, that the wire should be looped around the
believe a bonding jumper helps water heaters last longer
screw terminal in a clockwise direction as you look down
by reducing corrosion in the tank caused by electrolysis. In
at the screw head from above.
any case, if you need a bonding wire, it usually consists of
1. Tighten the screw terminal firmly down onto the wire.
a 6 AWG bare copper wire connected to a ground clamp on
Make sure that there is no wire insulation under the head
each of the hot and cold water pipes. Each clamp should
of the screw, and make sure that the wire is not resting on
be on a smooth part of the pipe and not too close to any
any part of the plastic housing of the switch or receptacle.
fittings; the pressure of the clamp may stress soldered
2. TIP: Though not the subject of this article, always make
joints and valve connections.
sure you are connecting the right wires to the right screw
terminals. On a receptacle, the screw terminals that are
bronze or brass in color are meant to be attached to hot you're stripping NM 12-2 wire, then you'll use the #12 wire
wires (which will usually have black or red insulation on setting. Place the stripper over the wire at about 3/4" from
them). The silver-colored screw terminals are meant for the end of the wire. That will usually give you enough wire
the neutral circuit wires (usually with white insulation), and to make the connection.
the green colored screw terminal is meant for the circuit Depending on the type outlet you've selected to install and
grounding wire, usually a bare copper wire or sometimes the brand name, the neutral connection may be different
a wire with green insulation. from the one I'm showing here. This neutral connection has
slots that are tightened with the screws mounted on the
If you have made these screw terminal connections side of the outlet. Notice that the white wire (neutral)is
correctly, there is a good likelihood you will not need to connected to the silver-colored terminal.
touch this receptacle or switch for many years. Poor Other outlets will have only the screws on the side to
electrical connections rank high as the biggest causes connect to. If so, connect the wires as you just connected
of electrical problems in the home. Keep you family safe the ground wire.
and avoid electrical connection problems by mastering this That is, with the wire loop opening facing the right, connect
simple solution of making tight, flawless electrical it to the screw and tighten in a clockwise motion.
connections to switches and receptacles. Likewise, connect the green wire to the green ground
terminal and you have successfully wired an outlet.

What Is A Middle-of-run How to Pull Wire Into An


Circuit? Existing Wall
Fishing Electrical Wires Through Walls from the
Basement

If you've ever had to add a new wire, for an outlet or switch,


Thomas Collins / Getty Images in an existing wall, this tip will surely help. One option is to
Unlike an end-of-run circuit which has only one cable in the take down the drywall, which is not only time consuming,
junction box, a middle-of-run circuit has at least two cables but also is costly and is messy. And for running it on the
in its junction box. One of the cables is used to feed power surface, yes it is possible with Wiremold products, but to
and the other is run to the device that needs the power. In me, it just looks unprofessional and tacky. Feeding the
this instance, lets assume there is a light and a switch in wire from a basement, crawlspace, or attic is a much neater
the circuit. The first cable comes from the circuit breaker solution, but how in the world do you get the wire into the
panel to the switch box. The second cable runs from the wall cavity?
switch box to the light fixture.
The black wire from the breaker connects to one side of the 01of 06
switch and the black wire from the light connects to the
other switch terminal. The white neutral wires twist together
Fish A Wire From the Basement Or Crawlspace
in the switch box. The ground wires twist together, and two
pigtail wires are also connected, one to the junction box
and the other to receptacle itself.
In review, the middle-of-run circuit is the middle device box
within the circuit run, in this case the switch box.
So how do you connect and wire outlet in a junction
box? As with any electrical installation, the first step is to
turn off the power to the circuit that you'll be working on
before wiring and installing an outlet. Check first to see that Fish Tape. Photo: Timothy Thiele
the circuit is on with an electrical tester and then turn the
circuit off. Double-check that the circuit is now dead and Drilling a bunch of studs in a wall that is covered by drywall
then you may begin the installation. seems impossible at the least. So why go to all of that
There are a couple ways of stripping the outer sheathing trouble? Doesn't it just make good sense to run the wiring
of Romex wire. under the floor joists where access is easy and there is
One is to use a razor knife. Carefully start the cut about six hardly anything in the way? But ho do you get the wiring
inches from the end of the wire. Make the cut in the center from the basement or crawlspace area up through the wall
of the wire, but don't cut too deeply. Because the on the floor above? That indeed is the burning question.
bare ground wire is located in this area of the wire, it's the
safest place to make the cut without nicking the insulated 02of 06
wires.
When wiring and installing an outlet, you can cut off excess
sheathing by using side-cutting pliers (Dikes), carefully cut Locate And Cut A Box Opening
the excess outer sheath coating and filler paper from the
wire. Try and make a clean cut all the way around the wire In order to gain access to a wall cavity in order to fish an
if possible. Be sure not to cut into the insulated wire electrical wire into it, you must first choose the location you
coatings of the black and white wires. want to install the outlet. Once located, mark the box
In order to make proper electrical connections to an outlet, opening on the wall between two studs. You may find it
you first must strip the appropriate amount of wire easy to do this with a stud finder. We will be using a cut-in
insulation from the wires. To do this, use wire strippers by box to add this device. On drywall walls, use a drywall
selecting the proper sized wire size on the stripper gauge. If saw, reciprocating saw, or jigsaw to cut the opening. Be
aware that there may be electrical lines, plumbing, heat time to lubricate the wire or pull enough off to feed into the
ducts or other obstacles behind the wall. hole. A simple signal to alert each other that you are ready
for the next pull is to tap on a pipe or the floor with
03of 06 something like a tool.

Drilling The Floor Plate To Fish An Electrical Wire .

Once the hole is cut in the wall, install a long flexible drill bit
into an electric or battery operated drill. Insert the drill
Electrical Wire Sizes
bit into the opening and center the bit tip as well as you can
within the wall cavity. Gently press down while drilling the
hole through the wall stud and the plywood floor. With any
luck, you should go right through the floor and into the
basement or crawlspace opening. Keep in mind that there
may also be things below like gas lines, plumbing runs
including water lines, electrical wires, etc... that are hidden Electrical Wire Lettering. Timothy Thiele
dangers. My suggestion is to drill slowly and not press very Question: Electrical Wire Sizes
hard. Stop when you feel the drill penetrate the floor. What sizes of wire do I need to wire the various appliances
in my home? This seems to be a common question asked
04of 06 on a regular basis. Let's examine some appliances that
need tobe wired.
Answer:
Marking The Floor Opening To Fish The Electrical Wire
Electrical wiring is installed to provide a wide range of
power options in your home. It is used for lighting,
Now that the wall plate has been drilled and you are ready receptacles to power things like TV's, stereos, curling irons,
to install the electrical wiring, you'll need to go into the and hair dryers.
basement or crawlspace and find the hole. If you've ever The wiring also feeds a variety of appliances, both big and
had the thrill of crawling on your hands and knees in a small, throughout the home. These include ranges, ovens,
spider web infested, filthy crawlspace, you already know refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, microwave ovens,
that finding a small hole is certainly a challenge in a large washers, dryers, toasters, blenders, pizza ovens, coffee
area. Why even looking for it in a basement can be a pots, and crock pots, just to name a few. Installing the
challenge. So what's the secret to finding this tiny drilled proper sized wire is essential for proper operation and
hole? Well, I install a wire or fish tape through the hole in electrical safety.
the floor and let it dangle through the hole. This serves two The links below will help guide you through both wire sizes
purposes; one is to make it easy to find, and the other is to used and installation of many of these appliances.
fish the electrical wire through the hole into the wall
opening. Wire Gauge and Ampacity
In order to install any electrical wire installation, the proper
Continue to 5 of 6 below. wire size for the application is needed. But how do you
05of 06 know what size wire to use? Wire is sized by the American
Wire Gauge (AWG) system. Your installation of
Fishing The Electrical Wire conductors will depend on a few factors. The gauge of the
wire, wire capacity, and what the wire will feed should all be
Fishing the electrical wire is easy when you attach it to considered.
a fish tape or a pull wire. Fish tapes are nice because they Wire Resistance Increases With Cable Length
have a loop on the end and are strong steel pieces of metal Direct burial cable is a special type cable that is designed
that can pull a load. When pulling nonmetallic sheathed to be run in a trench underground without the use of
cable, simply strip back a few inches of the outer sheath conduit to surround it.
and expose the inner wires. To make this simple, cut off the The electrical wires are encased in a thermoplastic sheath
two insulated wires (black and white) and leave the bare that seals out moisture and protects the wires within.
ground wire. Wrap the bare wire through the fish tape eye As many of your homes have, overhead service entrances
and twist the end of the wire around itself. Place electrical were the power entrance of choice for years. the downfall
tape over the end of the fish tape eye and wire. You are is wires running overhead, poles in your yard and the
now ready to pull the wire through the hole. In the instance possibility of snagging a power.
of a pull wire, you'll have to make your own eye on the end Usually, triplex aluminum wire was used to run from the
in order to attach the wire to be pulled. power pole to the service entrance weather head feeding
your electrical disconnect, that eventually powers your
electrical panel in your home.
06of 06
Electrical Wire Gauge, Ampacity, and Wattage Load
Here are some great tips for determining the proper wire
Pulling Cable With A Fish Tape gauge, ampacity, and the maximum wattage allowed.
Determining the proper size wire to use can be easy if you
With one person standing at the box to feed the wire, pull know what amperage and wattage a wire can carry per
evenly on all of the wires to be fed. Try to keep the wire wire gauge. The trick is to have the right sized wired fitted
untangled as you feed it. As for the person actually doing to the power demand it will have on the circuit. Although
the pulling on the other end, pull the wires in two to 3-foot some wires look the same and even look to be the same
intervals. Count to four and then pull again. Pulling too fast size, it doesn't mean that they can handle the amperage.
can nick the wires and catch your helper's fingers. Leave For instance, copper wire can handle more than aluminum
enough time between pulls so that the person feeding has
wire and should always be your choice of wiring to install in Tinning Precautions
your home.
Common Types of Electrical Wiring Used In Homes Soldering should be performed with caution! The soldering
Your home is wired with different types of wire. Each has its iron gets very hot and can cause severe burns. Always
specific use to accommodate the load and conditions it is place soldering iron on a heat-resistant surface while it
exposed to. Lets examine what each type is and how it is heats up and cools off. While soldering, be sure to work
used in the homes electrical system. above a heat-resistant surface and away from anything
Electrical wire can be the stranded type or a solid form. flammable.
Every wire except the ground wire is coated with a non-
conductive coating of insulated material. Only rosin-core solder should be used. It has been called
Electrical wiring is rated in gauge for it's size and amp the electrical solder because it is acid-free, unlike acid-core
rating. solder that will corrode the wire strands. A smaller-style
Electrical wire can come in rolls or on spools. Lengths of solder that is easy to feed and easy to melt is the best
wire vary from standard cuts of 50, 100, 250, 500 and choice. Here's how to tin stranded wire:
1,000 feet, but can be special ordered for specific lengths.
The homeowner will generally choose the shorter lengths,
while the contractors chooser much larger rolls, knowing 1. When using the soldering iron, first let the solder iron heat
that they will use it somewhere down the road. The up until the solder will melt easily you test by touching it to
homeowners electrical jobs may be limited, unlike the the tip of the iron. Once the solder starts to melt, the
contractor. soldering iron is ready to tin your wire.
1. Now, hold the hot solder iron to the bare stranded wires
Kitchen Appliance Connection Requirements
with some force until the wire gets hot. Touch the solder
The National Electrical Code requires that fixed appliances
to the wire, not the iron, to see when the wire is hot
have their own (dedicated) circuit. These separate circuits
enough to start melting the solder. If the wire is not hot
are specific to appliances that must remain running at all
enough, the solder won't melt in and around the wire
times, like freezers, refrigerators, ranges, electric water
strands. Keep heating until it the solder flows with ease,
heaters, and clothes dryers.
gelling the wires together.
How To Wire Typical Laundry Circuits
2. Be careful! Don't get the wire so hot that the insulating
Appliance Repair Projects jacket melts. You should practice on a spare piece of wire
to get the hang of soldering. It usually works best to strip
Tinning Stranded Electrical between 3/4" and 1" of wire insulation when performing
this task. The idea is to have enough wire to turn around
Wires the terminal screw without excess wire hanging out.
3. After tinning the wire, use long-nosed pliers to bend the
tinned wire into a candy-cane-shaped hook that easily
Soldering Stranded Wire Together wraps around the screw terminal on devices like switches
and receptacles. Be sure that the solder joint is evenly
distributed and the connection is even and secure under
the terminal. If tinning is being used to connect a wire
termination, such as that associated with knob-and-tube
wire connections, be sure that the connection point allows
ample room for a wire connector over the joint and that
Solarbotics / Flickr / Creative Commons there are no burrs.

In situations where a stranded copper wire needs to be The next time you have to work on stranded wires, like
secured around a screw terminal, a technique used by those in a lamp cord, remember this simple, little quick tip:
professional or skilled DIYers is to tin the stranded wire to simply get out your soldering iron, some rosin-core solder,
make it easier to handle. For example, the wire leads on and let the tinning begin.
light fixtures or lamps very often consist of tiny stranded
copper wires bunched together inside the insulating jacket
of the wire. Tinning the tips of the stranded wires involves 250-Volt Air Conditioner
soldering them together so that the now-solid wire can
more easily and securely fasten to a screw terminal. Outlets
This is the way professionals ensure that wire strands don't Special Appliance Outlets
fray and separate when the screw terminal is tightened
down over the wire.

The Tinning Process

Note that there is no "tin" involved in tinning. By using a


soldering iron to add rosin-core solder to the wire strands, Ernesto r. Ageitos/Getty Images
the solder fills in the voids between the wire stands and Readers often ask what the proper sized wire is for
causes the loose, fine wires to become one solid wire that installations in a home. Here's a look at the common sizes.
can be easily bent and placed underneath the terminal I often hear things like, "This wire looks big enough". I have
screws. This ensures a tight connection and virtually to tell you, it makes the hair stand up on my neck when I
eliminates the possibility of loose strands touching the hear this! Know the right wire size and protect it with the
junction box or coming out from beneath the terminal proper sized circuit breaker or fuse. Please, be safe and do
screw. the job right the first time. It only takes a few minutes to get
the answers you need for wiring tips here at everything is connected. If you have a roll of masking tape,
electrical.about.com. mark down things like right top side hot wire and youll be
Choose your wire size wisely! able to place these right on the wires themselves.
In my article, electrical wire sizes, I break down the Use the tape and label each wire, paying close attention to
common wire sizes used for everything from feeder wires, what color screws each connect to. This will eliminate any
to branch circuitry, to low voltage uses. The numbering guesswork when installing the new device.
system of wire can be quite deceiving unless you know Replace the Outlet
what the numbers mean. A smaller number gauge wire has This step is unusually specific. A regular outlet has two hot
a larger ampacity, which is probably reverse thinking for and two neutral terminals. These are common, meaning
most. you can connect to either of the two screws for the "hot" or
Along with wire size, you'll need to consider the wire cable "neutral" connection. For the GFCI outlet, things get a little
length. In long runs of wire, the resistance of the wire acts more interesting. There are two separate connections, line
like a load, using some of the capacity of the wire load. and load connections.
Thus, a wire capable of carrying 200 amps, may only be The power comes in on the "line" connection and out on
good for 180 now. In this case, the next larger wire should the "load" connection. Unscrew the wires from the outlet
be used to allow safe distribution of the load. and remove. If youre reusing the existing wire feed,
To some, wire color means nothing. As long as it's the right connect the new device to the GFCI outlet. The brass
sized wire, what's the difference? Well, as an electrician, I'll terminal is for the hot wire. This is usually the black or red
tell you that I don't like finding green wires connected to wire.
circuit breakers, and I have in an old school I worked in. Connect the white wire to the silver screw. This is the
You see, green is for ground wires, at least usually. neutral connection. The bare or green wire is the ground
Knowing which wires are used for what makes for a less connection. Place it around the green screw. When you
complicated installation. In fact, here's a video to show you have connected all the wires successfully, give the entire
what the different colors mean. Play Video. side of the outlet a wrap of electrical tape. This will

Install Ground Fault Circuit eliminate the screw from touching either the side of the box
or a stray wire when reinstalling.

Interupter Outlets - GFCI's Install the Outlet


Press the outlet into the box before installing the outlet with
the screws provided.
You may have to carefully push and bend the wires back
into the box to make everything fit. Now install the cover
plate that came with the outlet and your installation is
complete.
Turn on Power and Test
Fstop123/Getty Images Once youre satisfied, go back to the electrical panel and
To better understand what is involved in installing a ground turn on the circuit. Go to the GFCI and press the reset
fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) in your home, youll first need button. Now use your tester to check the circuit. You can
to have an understanding of basic electrical wiring. If you also use a lamp or any small appliance to see if power is
feel at all uncomfortable about working on an electrical restored.
circuit, then it might be best the call a professional. Note: Always make sure that the power is off before
Understanding basic circuitry, knowing where to turn performing any electrical project! Safety first!
circuits off and on, being able to test circuits and keep track What You Need
of what goes where are all essential and important. Flat Blade Screw Driver
As with any and all electrical projects, be sure to turn the Phillips Blade Screw Driver
power off to anything you are working on. Electrical safety Wire Strippers
should always be number 1 on your list. Circuit Tester
Difficulty: Tape
Easy Pen or Pencil

Wiring Projects At Home


Time Required:
15 Minutes
Turn Off the Power Electrical wiring keeps the power flowing through your
Before you begin any electrical project, go to the electrical home. It is run to power lighting, outlets, and devices
panel and shut off the circuit that youll be working on. throughout your home including appliances. Some wiring is
Sometimes, not always, the electrician will mark the panel, low-voltage for things like doorbells, while other wiring is
on the inside of the door with the location the each much larger for large loads to power things like ovens,
individual breaker supplies. If it is marked, turn off the ranges, welders, sub-panels, wells, and air conditioners.
correct circuit. If it is not marked, plug something into the Here are some great articles about wiring.
circuit and one-at-a-time start shutting off breakers. When 01of 08
the device that you plugged in goes out, you may have Electrical Wire Color Coding
found the circuit.
Check the Circuit
Always double-check the circuit with a tester or meter to be
safe! Never assume that, just because the light went out,
the circuit is off. Maybe, just maybe the bulb burned out
and you happened to be at the right place at the wrong
time. A photo of electrical wire colors. Timothy Thiele
Mark Each Wire Electrical wires have markings stamped or printed on the
Now that the circuit is safe to start work, remove the outside sheath of the cable. These markings tell what type
existing outlet cover and then the outlet. Do yourself a favor and size of wire that you have. But looking deeper, the
and get a pencil and paper so that you can mark down how color of the wires inside of the sheath, like in type NM
cable, will reveal that different color wires serve different
purposes. Electrical wire color tells you a lot about the
intended use of the wire.This coloring scheme is called wire
color coding. Do you know what it means?
02of 08
What Size Electrical Wire Do I Need?
Electrical Wire Pulling Caddies. Timothy Thiele
Here are some great tips for determining the proper wire
gauge, ampacity, and the maximum wattage allowed.
Determining the proper size wire to use can be easy if you
know what amperage and wattage a wire can carry per
wire gauge. The trick is to have the right sized wired fitted
Peter Dazeley/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images to the power demand it will have on the circuit.
In order to install any electrical wire installation, the 07of 08
proper wire size for the application is needed. But how do Electrical Wire Insulation And Its Labeling
you know what size wire to use? Wire is sized by the
American Wire Gauge (AWG) system. Your installation of
conductors will depend on a few factors. The gauge of the
wire, wire capacity, and what the wire will feed should all be
considered.
03of 08
Common Types of Electrical Wiring Used In Homes Electrical Wire Lettering. Timothy Thiele
Electrical wiring to be run in conduit comes in individual
strands, encased in insulation to protect the wire and
insulate it from other wires and the conduit. Wires come in
either solid or stranded, depending on the wire size. Bare
conductors are available for ground wires only. The
insulation is made to take on some rather extreme
Photo of Triplex Wire. Tim Thiele conditions. Heat-, oil-, gasoline- and water-resistant
Your home is wired with different types of wire. Each has coatings are all available to help your electrical
its specific use to accommodate the load and conditions it wire survive.
is exposed to. Lets examine what each type is and how it 08of 08
is used in the homes electrical system. Wiring Typical Laundry Circuits
04of 08
Determining Proper Electrical Wire Size For Underground
Circuit Cable Length

Whirlpool Duet Front-load Washers. Timothy Thiele


It is commonplace for homes today to have one or more of
three different laundry circuits. Each has its own unique
Direct Burial Cable. Timothy Thiele assignment for supplying power to the laundry appliances.
When considering the appropriate wire size for a circuit, One is a 20-amp circuit designated to run the 120-volt
don't forget to take the circuit length into power for the washing machine and the control power for
consideration. Electrical wire, no matter what material it is the dryer. This circuit can also supply general-use devices.
made out of, has a certain resistance to it. With an increase
in cable length, the resistance causes a voltage drop in the
circuit. Guide to the Electrical
05of 08
Electrical Wiring Needed For A Bathroom Connections in and Around
the Home
Electrical connections are all around your home. Electrical
wiring connects to switches, outlets, appliances,
disconnects, meters, and circuit breakers. There are a
number of ways to make these connections, but what we
Bathroom Photo. Steven Miric - Getty Images are looking for is the safe and secure ways to make these
Bathrooms are damp and have special needs when wiring connections that will last a lifetime!
them. This article will help you install appropriate electrical Loos connections can cause electrical wiring and devices
wiring to cover lighting, air flow, and safety devices in your to heat up and are a potential electrical fire in the making.
bathroom. Everything from watertight lighting fixtures in That's why safe and secure electrical connections are
bathing areas to effective ventilation to GFCI outlets for so...MORE
safety should be observed. 01of 05
06of 08 Top Electrical Connections: Appliance Connections
Electrical Wire Gauge, Ampacity, and Wattage Load
Making the proper connections to the electrical service
components will help keep the electricity flowing trouble-
free. Before trying to wire an electric meter,
disconnect, electrical panel, or sub-panel, be sure you
know where to place the wires on each. Here's a look at
just a few that will help you keep your wiring projects safe
Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images and functional for years to come.
Every appliance, whether it be a counter top appliance like o How To Wire an Electric Meter
a coffee pot or a major appliance like an electric range, has o How To Wire Electrical Disconnects
an electrical connection. Each has a specific outlet and o How to Wire An Electrical Panel
certain breaker size that they are needed to be connected o What are Sub-panels?
to. These connections are easy enough if you can follow Continue to 5 of 5 below.
these simple instructions. 05of 05
o
o
How to Wire Electric Range Receptacles
How To Install a Dryer Cord Top Electrical Connections:
o
o
How to Connect a Range Cord
How to Change a Bake Element in an Electric Oven Electrical Device
o How to Install a Dishwasher
02of 05
Connections
Top Electrical Connections: Electrical Connections You
Should and Shouldn't Use

Electric Range Receptacle Terminal Wiring. Photo:


Timothy Thiele
Outlet Ground Connection - Photo. Photo: Timothy Thiele Electrical devices must be wired right to make electrical
There are good electrical connections and some that connections safe and secure. Some appliances need only
should never be made. Although manufacturers sometimes 120-volt outlets, but others need 240-volt outlets. Just
give you the choice of a couple of different connection connecting wires to the device terminals isn't enough. You
points, like with switches and outlets, a closer look will need to know the proper way to strip, bend and tighten
reveal which connection should be your choice. Keep these connections so they will provide you with a safe and
connection tips in mind the next time you perform your next functional connection for years to come.
electrical wiring project. o How To Wire Split Outlets
o Why Not to Use Push-in Terminals on Switches and o 250-Volt Air Conditioner Outlets
Receptacles o How To Wire and Install an Outlet
o Returning to Flooded Homes o Three-way Switch Wiring
o Protect It With Surge Protection o How To Change a Single Pole Switch
o How To Make...MORE
03of 05
Top Electrical Connections: Proper Wire Color, Size, and
What Is Electrical Wire Color
Types of Wire to Use
Coding?

A photo of electrical wire colors. Photo: Timothy Thiele


Before you can make electrical connections, you must first
know what type wire to use for the installation, what color
wire is needed for the application, and what is the proper
size wire to handle the load of the circuit. For
electricians, wire colorsmean everything. They identify
whether the wire is a hot, neutral, or a ground wire.
Having the right sized wire to handle the ampacity flowing
Electrical Wire Pulling Caddies. Timothy Thiele
through it is just as important. The size of wire also varies,
Among the many things associated with electrical wiring,
depending on which type of wire you are...MORE
it's a good idea to know what type of wire you are using,
04of 05 the size of the wire, and what each color of wire i used for.
Top Electrical Connections: Electrical Service To some, it may seem that it shouldn't matter what color
Connections the wire is, they should all work for the installation. After all,
a wire is a wire, right?
Well, I can tell you that I have been taught that green or
bare wires are used for ground wires.
That rule has been in effect for as long as I have been an
electrician, but wait! While working on a school project I
opened a 400-amp panel, only to find green wires
Service Entrance Pole. Photo: Timothy Thiele connected to the circuit breakers! What! Yes, it seems that
someone had their own ideas about wire and didn't care
what color they used. Image someone going to a junction Anatomy of a Three-Way
box, opening the box and expecting the green wire to be
ground wires. Connecting a grounded wire to this Switch
connection would make a big "pop" sound for sure.The 01of 04
again, touching it would surely shock you. Introduction to Three-way Switches
As you can plainly see, the color of the wire coating is used
to inform everyone of the wire's use and A good example is
using black wire in place of a red wire. By simply wrapping
red electrical tape on each end of the pulled black wire, it is
easily identified as a red wire.
Likewise, if you are using a NM cable with a black and
white wire and using it to connect to a a type of color Three-Way Switch. Timothy Thiele
coding method for wire markings.switch, one wire would be Three-way switches are special light switches that are
the "hot" and the other for the switch leg. always installed in pairs and are used to control one or
If you put red tape on the white wire, you can identify it as more light fixtures from two locations, such as at the top
the switch leg, thus using the white wire, used any other and bottom of a stairway. One clue that gives away a three-
time as a neutral wire, now being used for the switch leg. way switch is the absence of ON/OFF markings on the
As you see here, another example of using. Let's take a switch toggle. This is because sometimes a three-way
look at some colored wire selections, their uses and switch is off when the toggle is up, and vice versa. It
electrical wire markings that can help identify each. depends on the position of the other three-way switch.
Electrical Wire Markings Sometimes two three-way switches are installed with
Electrical wires have markings stamped or printed on the a...MORE
outside sheath of the cable. These markings tell what type
and size of wire that you have. But looking deeper, the Continue to 2 of 4 below.
color of the wires inside of the sheath, like in type NM 02of 04
cable, will reveal that different color wires serve different Parts of a Three-Way Switch
purposes.
Black Wires
Black wires are always used for hot wires. These wires
may feed a switch or outlet and are often used as switch
legs. Never use a black wire for a neutral or ground
connection.
Red Wires
Red wires are also used for hot wires, switch legs (like to Three-Way Switch Connections. Timothy Thiele
a ceiling fan), and are the second hot wire in 220-volt A three-way switch has four different screw terminals on its
installations. Another useful application is the interconnect body:
wire between two hardwired smoke detectors.
Blue and Yellow Wires
Blue and yellow wires are used as hot wires. These wires o The green screw is always for the ground wire (this is
are usually pulled in conduit. The blue wires are generally the bare copper or green insulated wire).
used for travelers in three-way and four-way switch o The two brass-colored screws across from each other
applications. They also are used as switch legs to things are called the traveler screws. These carry the power
like lights and fans. Yellow wires are generally used for from one switch to the other.
switch legs. These control things like light, fans, and o The last screw is the common terminal and is a darker
switched outlets. color, usually dark brass, copper or black. This connects
Green and Bare Copper Wires to the incoming source (hot) wire on one switch and to
Green wires and bare copper wires are used only for the black (hot) wire leading to...MORE
grounding.
These wires will ground devices and shall be bonded Continue to 3 of 4 below.
to junction boxes and appliance connections for safety. 03of 04
Wire Color Exceptions The Ground Terminal
In certain instances, wire colors may be used for
connections that don't follow these general rules. For
instance, a white wire in a two-conductor cable may be
used for the second hot wire on a 240-
volt appliance or outlet connection. Another application is
using the white wire for a switch leg for lighting or running
a three-way switch application. This white wire should be Ground Connection. Timothy Thiele
properly marked to show that it is being used for something For safety, always install a three-way switch that has a
other than a neutral. Simply mark the end of the wire with ground screw. It may be located on the bottom of the
black or red electrical tape. That way, no one will be switch, as shown here, or it may be on the side or another
confused and accidentally use it for something else. location.
Hopefully this gives you a detailed look at wire colors and
markings and how we electricians can identify the different Continue to 4 of 4 below.
colored wires and their uses in new and existing 04of 04
installations,as long as the color codes are followed
appropriately. Three-Way Switch Wiring
Diagram
power in the feeders lines or at the switch connections.
Disconnect switches must be installed by a licensed
electrician.
Where the Feed Comes From
The electrical wiring to the disconnect is fed from the "load"
side, or outgoing side, of the electric meter.
Three-Way Switch Wiring Diagram. Timothy Thiele The side of the meter that receives incoming power from
Here is a mock-up of a household circuit with three-way the utility service lines is called the "line" side. There are
switches and a light fixture. The switches would normally two hot wires and a neutral wire. The hot wires each carry
be on opposite sides of a room, staircase or hallway. 120 volts and are different phases. These phases are
normally called "A" and "B" phases. The total voltage, when
measured between them, is around 240 volts.
The power source, or "feeder wire" is a 2-wire cable with a These wires connect to the disconnect breaker installed
ground, meaning it has one black (hot) wire, one white within the disconnect box. The breaker is rated for
(neutral) wire and a bare copper ground wire. maximum current, measured in amps. For example, a
home with 200-amp service will have a disconnect breaker
rated for 200 amps. This is standard for new home
The black hot wire from the feeder cable is connected to construction. Older homes may have 150-amp, 100-amp or
the common terminal on the first switch. The white neutral lower service capacity.
wire is spliced at each device location and carries on to the Feeding the Line Side of the Breaker
light fixture. Neutral wires do not connect to switches. The The two hot wires connect to the top two lugs of the
ground wire connects to the first switch and carries on to breaker, called the "line" side of the breaker. The neutral
the next switch and the fixture. wire connects to the silver-colored lug along the side of the
breaker. This wire typically is marked with white phasing
The connections between the switches are made with a 3- tape to signify that it is the neutral wire.
wire cable, which has four wires: red, black, white and Feeding the Load Side of the Breaker
ground. The red and black wires are the traveler wires, and The bottom of the breaker is for the "load" side wiring. The
each connects to a traveler terminal on each switch. wires that connect here feed the electric service panel in
your home. Two "hot" feeder wires connect to the bottom of
Between the second switch and the fixture, a black wire the breaker. A neutral feed wire connects to the silver-
from a 2-wire cable connects to the switch's common colored lug along the side of the breaker. This wire is
terminal and to the hot lead on the fixture. The white wire marked with white phasing tape to signify that it is the
connects to the fixture's neutral lead. The ground wire neutral wire.
connects to the fixture's ground lead or grounding screw What Do the Electrical Disconnect Wires Feed?
terminal. The electrical disconnect may feed the main service panel
(breaker panel) in the home. The feeder wires connect to
If any of the electrical boxes (not shown) in this circuit were the main breaker in the panel and the neutral wire connects
metal, there would also have to be a grounding pigtail to the neutral bus.
(short length of ground wire) connecting the circuit ground There also may be a ground wire between the disconnect
to each box. Plastic boxes don't need to be grounded. and the service panel; this must be separated from the
neutral feed at the service panel to prevent an improper
Wiring for Electrical neutral connection.

Disconnects Electrical Basics 101


We depend on electricity constantly, and when the power
goes out in a storm or there's a tripped breaker or another
problem in an electrical circuit, understanding the basic
components of an electrical system can help you get things
running again. It's also important to know who is
responsible for what portion of your electrical service. The
utility company handles the line portion of your service,
BanksPhotos / Getty Images
which includes everything up to the attachment point on
Electrical disconnects are switches that isolate all wiring in
your house. From there, it's...MORE
a home or other building from the source of power, typically
01of 05
the utility power service. Also called the service disconnect,
Electrical Service Connection
this is the first disconnect device after the utility meter. This
disconnect may be a special breaker switch housed in an
exterior box enclosure, or it may simply be the main circuit
breaker on the home's main service panel.
It's also possible for a home to have a service disconnect
on the outside of the home, while the main service panel--
with its own main breaker--is inside the home. Each of
these configurations involves specific wiring techniques and Piccell / Getty Images
requirements that are not interchangeable. This article Your home's electricity starts with the power service. This is
describes the basic wiring setup for a separate disconnect where the electric company connects their wires to
breaker switch. your home's feeder wires that attach to the meter on your
Warning: Disconnects receive 240 volts and lethal current house or power pole. The meter measures the amount of
from feeder lines coming from the utility meter. The feeders electricity your home uses and is the basis for the charges
and the terminals they connect to on the disconnect switch on your electric bill.
are live at all times unless the utility has shut off the power 02of 05
to your service. The disconnect switch does not shut off the Main Service Panel
refrigerators, furnaces and water heaters. Other
appliances, such as dishwashers and microwaves, usually
are on dedicated circuits, too, so that they can be shut off
at the service panel without interrupting service to other
devices. This also reduces the incidence of overloaded
circuits.
danishkhan / Getty Images
After passing through the meter, your electrical service
How To Wire an Electric Meter
feeds into your home's main service panel, commonly 01of 06
known as the breaker box. The feeder wires connect to big What's Behind an Electric Meter?
screw terminals, called lugs, inside the service panel,
providing all the power to the panel. A typical home has
single-phase service consisting of an A phase, a B
phase, a neutral and a ground.
03of 05
Main Breaker
Have you ever wondered what is behind an electric
meter and how it is wired? It houses a center neutral buss
bar and two hot wire connection points for the incoming
and outgoing electric meter connections.

danishkhan / Getty Images The incoming overhead feeder wires connect to the top
The service panel contains a large main breaker that is the (line connection)two hot connection points via terminal lug
switch controlling the power to the entire panel. It is sized connections. In a typical 100-amp service connection these
according to your home's usage, or load, needs. A wires will likely be #2 THHN. The center post is for
standard panel today provides 200-amp service. Older connecting the incoming neutral/ground connection from
panels were sized for 150, 100 or fewer amps. the utility...MORE
A main breaker of 200 amps will allow a maximum of 200
amps to flow through it without tripping. In a tripped state, 02of 06
no current will flow to the panel. The main breaker is the How Does an Electric Meter Read Power?
interrupt between the utility service and the...MORE
04of 05
Branch Circuit Breakers

Robert Llewellyn / Getty Images


Have you ever wondered how the utility company knows
how much power you used each month?
creischl / Getty Images
The breakers for the branch circuits fill the panel (usually
below) the main breaker. Each of these breakers is a The utility company often connects their power lines to
switch that controls the flow of electricity to a branch circuit. the weather head on you electrical power pole. It is
Turning off a breaker shuts off the power to all of the connected to a pipe that connects to your electric meter.
devices and appliances on that circuit. If a circuit has a This the device that will measure the power your electrical
problem, such as an overload or a fault, the breaker system of your uses throughout the month.
automatically trips itself off.
The most common cause of a tripped breaker is a circuit
overload. If you're running a high-demand appliance, like The electric meter not only measures power but is one way
a...MORE the utility company can disconnect power from your home.
Continue to 5 of 5 below. The electric meter is a glass-encased metering device. It's
05of 05 almost like an over-sized mason jar. Since it is clear glass,
Devices you can see through the glass. Inside, the glass houses the
measuring devices that include dials and wheels on the
older model meters.

Usually, there are 5 dials that measure kilowatts and a


large rotating wheel that sits below them. These type
meters must be read by the owner of the property or the
utility company will read it for you, sometimes for a charge.
RASimon / Getty Images
Devices are all the things in the house that use electricity, The newer electric meters are digital and have an added
including switches, receptacles (outlets), light fixtures and feature to them. These devices are actually read from the
appliances. Devices are connected to the individual branch utility companies office. My understanding is that a signal is
circuits that start at the breakers in the main service panel. sent down the line from the electric meter to the utility
A single circuit may contain multiple switches, receptacles, company that identifies your particular meter.
fixtures and other devices, or it may serve only a single
appliance or receptacle. The latter is called a dedicated Electric meters read kilowatt hours. To simply that, 1-
circuit. These are used for critical-use appliances, like kilowatt hour = 1,000-watt hours. To simply that even
further, if you turn on a 100-watt light bulb for ten hours,
you'll consume 1 kilowatt of power. 100 watts x 10 hours =
1,000 watt-hours or 1 kilowatt, since kilo = a thousand.

Each month you read the dial, there are five places to
record your readings. To read the electric meter dial, start
with the number digit on the left and read towards the right. Electric Meter Neutral Connection. Photo: Timothy Thiele
Before you can connect the electric meter neutral wire, you
03of 06 must first know how the wire is marked and why. The wire
Connect the Feeder Wires marked with the white tape is the neutral wire and it is
attached to the neutral lug terminal. The terminal is located
directly in the center of the meter between the two hot
wires. Strip the wire and insert it into the lug. Tighten the
lug screw with a screw driver and tighten snugly. Tug on
the wire to be sure that it is tight. Be sure to mark this wire
with white tape.
Electric Meter Wired. Photo: Timothy Thiele
The utility company brings wires overhead to connect to
meter on the outside is where the hot wires will connect. If Calculating Safe Circuit Loads
you look, it is where the meter will also connect. The
connection terminal in the center is where the neutral will Doing the Math with Ohms Law
connect. Strip the wires and insert them into the terminal.
Tighten the screws until they are tight and tug on the wires
to be sure that the connection is tight.

04of 06
Wiring the Load Side of an Electric Meter
Raimund Koch/The Image Bank/Getty Images

The majority of the circuits in your home are either 15-, 20-,
or 30-amp circuits. They are located within your electrical
circuit panel. But what is an electrical panel? An electrical
circuit breaker panel is the main distribution point for
Electric Meter Load Connection. Photo: Timothy Thiele
electrical circuits in your home. It usually provides between
The load side of an electric meter can be wired to the
100 and 200 amps of power to your home, depending on
electrical disconnect or electrical panel. To do this, connect
your homes load demand. Power comes into your home
the two hot wires on the bottom two terminals of the meter.
from the utility company, through a service entrance.
These will be directly below the two hot line connections.
Strip the wires and insert them into the terminal. Tighten
the screws until they are tight and tug on the wires to be It flows through an electrical meter, through an electrical
sure that the connection is tight. disconnect and then to the main breaker in your electrical
panel.
05of 06
How To Connect an Electric Meter Ground Wire First, Locate the Main Breaker

The main breaker is located at the top or bottom of two


rows of breakers, depending which way the panel is
mounted. The main breaker is marked with the value of
protection (like 100 amps) on the breaker handle. This
breaker is either factory mounted or can be added by either
Electric Meter Ground Connection. Photo: Timothy Thiele bolting it in or snapping it into place. Bow you may ask what
To effectively protect a ground wire running from the the main breaker is and for good reason.
electric meter to the ground rod, you need to add a piece of Your electrical panel is full of circuit breakers, running from
conduit. Install a connector and a piece of pipe from the top to bottom of the service panel. The odd numbered
meter to the ground to protect the electric meter ground breakers are located on the left and the even numbered
wire. Many wires have been damaged by lawnmowers and circuit breakers are on the right. Atop the many circuit
weed trimmers without protection. breakers is a larger circuit breaker that is used to turn the
entire circuit breaker panel on or off. It is known as the
main breaker. It plays probably the most important function
Install a ground wire and connect the wire to the neutral in the whole circuit breaker panel.
ground terminal in the center of the meter, next to the
neutral connect. In residential installations, the neutral and It is a means of disconnect for the entire panel. But you
ground are a common connection called a neutral/ground may ask what makes it different from the rest of the circuit
connection. The other end of the ground wire attaches to a breakers within the panel.
ground rod and is attached to a ground lug.
So, what is the main breaker anyway? You'd think that it is
Continue to 6 of 6 below. something special having a name like that. Actually, the
06of 06 main breaker is the breaker that the feeder wire connects
How To Connect the Electric Meter Neutral Wire to.
This breaker is a two-pole breaker that is connected to 240
volts to power your home. The main breaker acts as the
disconnecting means to the entire power load of
your breaker box. With it off, there is no power being fed to
the buss bar that feeds the branch circuit breakers. These
dish out power to everything you power up in your home,
but to a limit of the breaker size and this is called the Service Entrance Pole. Timothy Thiele
electrical load. While most older homes have an overhead service
connection, underground services are now the standard
Now, Calculate Safe Circuit Loads and are the favorite among homeowners for several
reasons. These buried lines are more appealing to the eye
But how much should you actually load each of these and the surrounding landscape than power poles and
circuits to maintain a safe circuit load? overhead lines draped across the yard. Underground lines
Electrical circuit load capacity is the total amount of power also don't have to contend with tree branches, which cause
that your home actually will use. In order to decide how big so many problems for overhead lines during inclement
of an electrical service is needed in your home, one has to weather.
do a little math homework. Older homes often only had a But just like overhead service line feeders, there are rules
60-amp electrical service, connected to a fuse panel. I that must be followed when installing underground lines,
actually lived in one that only had 120-volts coming into it. and underground feeders present their own dangers.
That's right, no 240-volt service! Now homes have 100- or The Path to Power
200-amp electrical services. For customers with overhead electrical service, the primary
Calculating how much power both you and your electrical power comes from the utility company's power lines via a
appliances use is necessary to calculate this number. As transformer mounted on the power pole. The heavy lines
technology continues to advance, it seems we add more that hang between the transformer and the house are
and more electrical loads to our home. I'm often asked how collectively called the service drop. These must be a
to figure this load and foresee the additional electrical load minimum of 12 feet above a driveway. The point of
additions in the future. attachment to a house's service connection should be a
minimum of 10 feet above the ground. The service
It really is pretty simple if you know what to look for and drop typically connects to the house at the top of a vertical
how to add up the loads. pipe called a masthead or weatherhead. This connection
point is called the service point and in many cases
represents the dividing line between the utility and the
To determine this figure, you must implement ohms law. By customer. From the service point, the service entrance
simply multiplying the amperage times the voltage, youll conductors carry the electricity to the home's service panel,
get the total wattage capacity for the circuit. However, what or breaker box.
were looking for here is the total safe amperage capacity to
load the circuit. Power Underground
So to determine this, we simply multiply the total wattage With underground service, the service lines between the
times 80%. To demonstrate what these figures look like, utility transformer and the house are known as the service
look at the chart below for these common circuit lateral, and the service entrance conductors often travel up
amperages used in homes. The figures are based on 120- to the service panel rather than down from the roof. The
volt circuits. service lateral cables must be protected in the ground by
conduit until they reach a depth of 4 feet.
Typical Home Branch Circuit Sizes At this point, they often make the horizontal run to the
house without conduit. This is why you must always "Call
Typical Home Branch Circuit Sizes Before You Dig;" that is, call the 8-1-1 hotline to have all
15-amp Circuit utility lines marked before you dig anywhere on your
Total Wattage Capacity: 15 amps x 120 volts = 1,800 property. Trust me, you don't want to hit a 200-amp
watts electrical cable with a shovel. If you do damage something,
Safe Wattage Capacity: 1,800 watts x 80% = 1,440 watts you'll have to likely pay a fine and the repair costs, if you
Safe Amperage Capacity: 15 amps x 80% = 12 amps survive the encounter.
Meter and Service Panel Connections
20-amp Circuit
The service entrance conductors connect to a utility meter,
Total Wattage Capacity: 20 amps x 120 volts = 2,400
which records all electricity used by the house. After the
watts
meter, there are three service conductor wires that come
Safe Wattage Capacity: 2,400 watts x 80% = 1,920 watts into a service panel: two hot feeder wires and a neutral wire
Safe Amperage Capacity: 20 amps x 80% = 16 amps that bonds to the case ground of the service. This ground is
30-amp Circuit then connected and bonded to both the water piping within
Total Wattage Capacity: 30 amps x 120 volts = 3,600 the home a ground rod driven into the earth near the
watts service panel.
Safe Wattage Capacity: 3,600 watts x 80% = 2,880 watts
Safe Amperage Capacity: 30 amps x 80% = 24 amps

Overhead and Buried Service Service Entrance Drops


Entrances
Should You Choose Overhead or Underground? underground. These cables run to the area where the
meter is attached to the home. The meter will have conduit
extending from the meter into and below the ground. The
feeder wires ill again be protected by the conduit from
damage that could occur from things like mowers and weed
trimmers. Since there in no overhead wires, there is no
overhead wire danger with this installation.
Service Pole. Timothy Thiele

Service entrance drops are used to supply power to your


Wire a 4-Prong Dryer Outlet
home. They can be fed overhead or underground from the
utility companys power pole. In either case, a hot primary
feed and a neutral feed are run from the utility companys
line to their transformer. From there, the transformer feeds
two hot wires and a neutral to the service drop, either
overhead or underground.
Overhead and underground service entrances are both Prior to 1996, electric dryers were supplied by a dedicated
acceptable and it is up to you as a homeowner to choose circuit that had three conductors: two hots and a neutral.
which is best for you. There was no ground slot on the outlet, and dryer cords
had no ground wire or ground prong. The ground for the
Overhead connections are above the ground and appliance itself was connected to the neutral wires. This
noticeable, whereas underground service feeds are very system worked pretty well and is still in use in many homes
pleasing to the eye. There are dangers associated with today. But in 1996 the National Electrical Code
both of these installations. Overhead wires can be a hazard (NEC) began requiring 4-conductor outlets with a separate
for farm implements and tall trucks like dump trucks. There ground.
is also the danger of metal ladders and overhead wires. To be code-compliant, all newly installed outlets for dryers
Underground wires have their dangers also. Having buried must be compatible with 4-prong, grounded dryer cords.
wires in the ground can leave the possibility of digging 4-Prong Dryer Outlet Wiring
dangers. A great thing to do when the direct burial cable is A 4-prong dryer outlet is wired as a 120/240-volt circuit.
installed is to make a map of the trenched line and take a The 120-volt service is for the dryer's timers, sensors, and
picture, for future reference. other electronics, while the 240-volt service supplies the
heating elements. The NEC requires that dryers have a
dedicated circuit with a minimum of 30 amps. This calls for
Overhead service entrance feeds are fed through a
a 30-amp, double-pole breaker and 10 AWG wire. In a
weatherhead that is attached to a rigid metal conduit. This
standard installation with nonmetallic (NM) cable, 10-3 NM-
conduit runs through the homes eave and the roof of the
home for an overhead feed. The penetration is sealed with B (with ground) cable is run from the service panel to a
a roof boot to keep the roof penetration from leaking. The recessed outlet. If the outlet is surface-mounted, such as
on a concrete or block wall, the circuit includes cable or
other end of the conduit is attached to the electrical meter,
insulated (THHN/THWN) wires inside nonmetallic or EMT
which connects to a weatherproof disconnect and then to
conduit. The outlet may be a special surface-mount
the electrical panel.
receptacle or may be a standard dryer receptacle installed
in a surface-mounted box.
The connection at the weatherhead should extend at least
2 - 3 above the roof line. The eave should not extend any Wiring the 4-Prong Dryer Outlet
farther than 4 from the side of the feeder conduit. The With the standard wiring configuration, the black hot wire is
service riser should be at least 10 above the ground grade. connected to one of the two brass hot terminals on the
It is also advisable to use support braces to help support outlet, and the red hot wire connects to the other brass
the service riser conduit. This point of attachment should be terminal. The hot terminals are interchangeable. The white
at least 18 above the roof line, measured at the point neutral wire is connected to the silver neutral terminal on
where the conduit penetrates the roof. Dont forget to strap the outlet.
the conduit under the eave between the underside of the The ground wire connects to the ground terminal. If the
eave and the top of the electrical meter. These straps outlet is mounted in a metal electrical box, the circuit
should be placed every 3 from the electrical meter on up. ground wire is connected to two pigtails -- one for the
And one more thing to remember, dont forget that the outlet's ground terminal and one for the ground screw on
minimum driveway clearance should be 12. the box.
Wiring the Circuit Breaker
Underground service entrance feeds are fed, like their The 30-amp breaker is wired with the standard double-pole
names imply, underground. Instead of overhead aerial configuration: the ground wire connects to the panel's
cable feeding an overhead service conduit, an underground ground bus bar. The white neutral wire connects to the
service is fed by underground, direct burial cable. This panel's neutral bus bar. The red and black hot wires
method has become the choice of many, replacing the connect to the two brass terminals on the
unsightly overhead feeds. Like its overhead feed, the breaker. Note: Installing and wiring a breaker in a service
underground feeder wire has three conductors. It too has panel is a job for a licensed electrician. Even if you install
two hot wires and a neutral wire. the circuit cable, box, and outlet, have an electrician make
the final connections at the service panel.
The feeder wire is attached to the transformer and is fed Installation Tips for Dryer Outlets
through a conduit or PVC conduit sleeve attached to the Position the outlet box in a convenient location for both
utility companys power pole. The conduit should extend the dryer cord and the dryer vent. Whenever possible,
below the ground so the cables cannot be damaged. The dryers should be near an exterior wall to minimize the
underground feed should be trenched at least 4 length of the vent run.
Local codes typically do not specify an installation height You'll notice the white machine wire is now the case ground
for dryer outlets, but it's helpful to be able to reach the connection, unlike the 4-prong cord connection in which the
plug without moving the dryer all the way out from the green wire from the cord makes the ground connection.
wall. A height of about 30 - 36 inches from the floor often In order to protect the 4-prong electric dryer cord and hold it
keeps the plug accessible while hiding it from view behind securely in place, a strain relief cord connector is used.
the dryer, depending on the height of the dryer. This serves two purposes by keeping the cord from being
Orient the outlet so the L-shaped (neutral) slot is at the cut on the metal of the machine and it protects the electrical
bottom. This ensures the cord will extend downward from connections from being pulled loose if the cord is pulled on.
the outlet. Slide one half of the clamp into the connection hole under

Changing Dryer Cords From


the cord wire. This will be the half with the smaller holes.
The clamp is bent at a 90 degree angle, so you'll have to

4-Wire to 3-Wire
twist it into place with the holes facing up.
Now, install the larger-holed clamp half in the same
manner. Squeeze the two halves together with pliers and
insert the two screws into the holes. Using a screw driver or
drill with a screw head, tighten the two screws equally until
snug.
The electrical connection cover plate can be attached
easily with a nut driver to cover the electrical connections.
3-Prong And 4-Prong Electric Dryer Cords. Timothy To install the electrical connection cover plate on an electric
Thiele dryer, simply slide the slotted side of the plate into the slot
Newer homes are now being equipped with 4-prong dryer provided on the dryer. Line the plate screw slot up with the
cord plugs. This is the new standard and is required under mounting screw hole and insert the cover plate retaining
Article 550.16(A)(2) of the National Electrical Code (NEC) screw using a nut driver.
2008. Connections of electrical clothes dryers shall be
made with a 4-conductor cord and 3-pole, 4-wire,
How to Connect a Range
grounding-type plugs or by Type AC cable.
The electrical connection cover plate can be removed
Cord
easily with a nut driver to gain access to the electrical 01of 07
connections. Electric Range Cords and Wiring
To remove the electrical connection cover plate on an
electric dryer, simply slide the slotted side of the plate from
the slot provided on the dryer after removing the retaining
screw using a nut driver.
In order to protect the 4-prong electric dryer cord and hold it
securely in place, a strain relief cord connector is used.
This serves two purposes by keeping the cord from being Misha Gravenor/The Image Bank/Getty Images
cut on the metal of the machine and it protects the electrical An electric range is a freestanding unit with an oven and a
connections from being pulled loose if the cord is pulled on. cooktop. Most ranges are fed by a 40-amp or 50-amp
In order to remove the clamp, squeeze the two halves circuit and connect to a wall outlet (receptacle)with a 3-
together with pliers and remove the two screws using a prong or 4-prong cord, depending on the type of
screw driver or drill with a screw head. Remove the two receptacle. The new cord you are installing must match the
halves of the clamps and the cord is ready to be removed. amperage rating of the range and the circuit, and it must fit
Removing a 4-prong electric dryer cord when replacing it the existing outlet.
with a 3-prong electric dryer cord is easy when you follow
these directions. First, disconnect the black wire, one of the
"hot" connections, from the left side post by removing the The installation steps for 3-prong and 4-prong cords are
terminal screw. similar but include some key differences. Ranges wired for
This is one-half of the 240-volt connection. 3-prong cords may have...MORE
Next, disconnect the red wire, another of the "hot"
connections, from the right side post by removing the Continue to 2 of 7 below.
terminal screw. 02of 07
This is the other half of the 240-volt connection. Then, Installing an Electric Range Cord: Step 1
disconnect the white wire from the center connection. It is Locate the removable metal cover plate or shroud on the
used for the neutral connection. back panel of the range. This covers the cavity housing the
Now, disconnect the green wire from the machine case by terminal block of the range wiring. There may be a hole
unscrewing the green screw. about 1" in diameter in or near the cover; this is for the
The next step is critical to return your electrical cord. Remove the screws or bolts securing the cover, using
connection to factory condition before installing the 3-prong a screwdriver or nut driver, and remove the cover from the
cord! Locate the white machine wire that is now connected range.
to the neutral (center) screw terminal. Disconnect it from
there and install it under the green ground screw. Continue to 3 of 7 below.
In order to install a 3-prong dryer cord, insert the cord into 03of 07
the installation hole provided in the electrical connection Installing an Electric Range Cord: Step 2
access box in the rear of the electric dryer. Note the wiring configuration on the terminal block. There
Unscrew the three connection screws using a magnetic nut are three terminals in a line: The center terminal is the
driver, so the screws don't fall down inside of the machine. neutral and usually has a white wire. The left terminal is hot
Connect the outer two wires (hot wires) to the outer two and may have a red or black wire. The right terminal also is
screws, obviously, one on each screw. Now connect the hot and may have a black or red wire. There may or may
center wire (neutral) to the center post.
not be a ground screw near the terminal block; this would
be driven into the metal case of the appliance.

If necessary, alter the ground-to-neutral connection as


needed, depending on the type of cord you...MORE
120 volt outlets are most commonly found in the 15 amp
Continue to 4 of 7 below. variety using 14 gauge wire but also come in a 20 amp
04of 07 version for heavier circuit loads using 12 gauge wire.
Installing an Electric Range Cord: Step 3--for 4-Prong Home-Cost.com 2014
Cord In this tutorial, you'll learn how to easily install a new
4-prong cord: Insert the end of the 4-prong cord through the electrical outlet receptacle in a single-gang wall box. Boxes
hole in the back panel of the range. Loosen or remove the come in styles designed for new construction, as well as
screw on the center neutral terminal and attach the white style for remodeling or retrofit applications, known as old
cord wire to the terminal, using the screw. Attach the black work boxes. This tutorial shows connecting a new outlet
cord wire to the hot terminal with the black wire. Attach the receptacle in an old work box that has been installed in an
red cord wire to the terminal with the red wire. Attach the existing wall.
green cord wire to the ground screw on the range body.
Tighten all of the screws firmly.
An electrical receptacle is a ubiquitous electrical device that
Continue to 5 of 7 below. we use every day in our homes and work. It is designed to
05of 07 receive an electrical plug for lamps and other
Installing an Electric Range Cord: Step 3--Variation for 3- appliances, and in residential use, outlet receptacles are
Prong Cord typically either 120-volt models (shown) or 240-volt models,
such as those that are used for window air conditioners and
other appliances. 120-volt receptacles are typically
designed to receive a three-prong grounded plug, each
with different sized blades. The rounded hole receives the
ground blade, the narrow slot receives the hot blade and
the long slot receives the neutral blade of the plug. 20-amp
Range Cord Connection. Timothy Thiele outlets also have a notch in the neutral receptacle slot for
3-prong cord: Insert the end of the 3-prong cord through the use with certain plugs on appliances that draw higher
hole in the back panel of the range and position the cord so amperage.
it is flat (horizontal). Loosen or remove the screw on the
neutral (center) terminal and attach the center cord wire to In older homes where there may be no circuit ground wire,
the terminal, using the screw. Attach the left cord wire to the receptacles may be only two-slot models, without the
the left hot terminal, and attach the right cord wire to the grounding slot. When updating these receptacles, it's a
right hot terminal. The hot terminals and cord wires are good idea to use a GFCI receptacle, which improves the
interchangeable. Tighten all of the screws firmly. safety of the outlet in a situation where there is no ground
wire.
Continue to 6 of 7 below.
06of 07 Preparation
Installing an Electric Range Cord: Step 4
Install a strain relief clamp to secure the cord to the back of Before you start installing an outlet, it is critical that you first
the range. This is typically a two-piece clamp that requires find the branch circuit breaker or fuse in your electrical
assembly. Remove the screws holding the clamp halves service panel that feeds the receptacle you will be working
together. Insert the tab of the top half into the cord hole and on, and then turn off the power to the circuit wiring. The
fit the center of the clamp piece over the top of the cord. circuit breaker you turn off, or the fuse you remove will be
Repeat with the bottom half on the underside of the cord. rated for the proper amperage rating of the circuit. The
Reinstall the screws and tighten the clamp snugly onto the markings on the circuit breaker or fuse will tell you if it is a
cord. You may want to squeeze the two halves together 15- or 20-amp circuit, and therefore whether to install a 15-
gently with pliers while installing the screws. Do not amp or 20-amp 120-volt outlet receptacle. (15-amp circuits
overtighten the clamp, which can damage the cord require the use of 14-gauge conductor wires, while 20-amp
insulation and possibly expose a wire. circuits require 12-gauge conductor wires.)

Continue to 7 of 7 below. Once you have the right outlet for the job, the branch circuit
07of 07 is turned off and the electrical wiring is prepped for outlet
Installing an Electric Range Cord: Step 5 installation, you are ready to proceed.
Reinstall the cover plate or shroud over the wiring cavity to
complete the installation. Make sure all controls on the Difficulty Level
range are OFF. Plug the cord into the range outlet, and test
the range functions to confirm proper operation. o Easy

How to Connect an Electrical Needed Tools and Materials

Outlet Receptacle o 15-amp or 20-amp outlet receptacle


01of 06 o Needle nose pliers
Preparation for an Electrical Outlet Installation o Outlet cover plate
o Flat blade and Philips-head screwdrivers
Continue to 2 of 6 below. Fasten the last wirethe black "hot" wireto the brass
02of 06 terminal screw in the same manner as the previous wires,
Connect the Ground Wire to the Receptacle by placing the "Hot" wire under the head of the brass
terminal screw and turning the terminal screw clockwise,
making sure the wire is firmly tightened under the head of
the screw.

Install bare copper ground wire to receptacle by attaching


to the green terminal screw. Home-Cost.com 2014 Continue to 5 of 6 below.
05of 06
Secure the Outlet to the Electrical Box

1. Bend the last 3/4" of the bare copper ground wire in a "J"
or "U" shape, and place the wire under the head of the
green ground terminal screw on the receptacle, so that
the wire end is looped clockwise around the screw.
2. Tighten the loop with needle nose pliers so it's a little snug
over the screw, then tighten by turning the screw Fasten the receptacle to the electrical box. Home-
clockwise, making sure the ground wire is firmly tightened Cost.com 2014
under the green screw head.

TIP: To maximize safety, electricians connect the wires in a 0. With the conductors all fastened to the outlet, gently bend
certain sequence: first the ground wire, then the neutral the wires into the back of the box, deep enough so there
wire, and finally the hot wire. When disconnecting an outlet, is room for the receptacle to fit.
reverse the order, removing the hot wire first and the 1. Gently push the receptacle into the box, holding the metal
ground wire last. mounting strap.
2. Fasten the outlet to the box by threading the long fine
Continue to 3 of 6 below. thread screws that came with the outlet into the screw
03of 06 openings on the box. This will usually require a Philips-
Connect the Neutral Wire head screwdriver.

Continue to 6 of 6 below.
06of 06
Install Cover Plate

Fasten the white neutral wire to the silver colored


terminal screw. Home-Cost.com 2014

Fasten finish cover plate. Home-Cost.com 2014


0. As in the previous step, bend the end of the white
"neutral" wire in a "J" position and wrap the end of the "J"
looped under the head of the silver-colored terminal screw
in a clockwise direction. 0. Once the outlet is installed in the box, test for proper
1. Fasten the neutral wire to the outlet by turning the silver- operation by turning the power to the circuit back on at the
colored terminal screw clockwise, making sure the wire is electrical service panel.
firmly tightened under the head of the screw. 1. If the outlet functions properly, install the finish
faceplate to the outlet. This will usually require a flat blade
screwdriver.
TIP: Examine the screws carefully: the silver-colored
screws MUST connect to the white neutral wire. The brass-
colored screw is for the black hot wire. Electrical Wiring Needed for a
Continue to 4 of 6 below. Bathroom
04of 06
Connect the Hot Wire

Spaces Images / Getty Images


Bathrooms are damp and can use a lot of power. This
Fasten the hot black wire to the brass colored terminal creates special needs when it comes to wiring. This article
screw. Home-Cost.com 2014 will help you plan for appropriate electrical wiring to cover
lighting, airflow, and safety devices in your bathroom.
Everything from watertight lighting fixtures in bathing areas A wiring guide to connecting the wires to a ground
to effective ventilation to GFCI outlets for safety must be fault circuit interrupter.
considered.
Lighting
We all know that bathrooms tend to be one of the darker
rooms of the house.
For that reason, plenty of lights should be installed to
provide enough general illumination but also to enhance
areas like mirrors, showers, closets, and bathtub areas. Thomas Collins / Getty Images
Bath and shower areas must have special fixtures. Light
fixtures for these areas carry one of two
When it comes to ground fault circuit interrupter outlets,
ratings: damp locations and wet locations. A bathing area,
commonly known as GFCI outlets, there is always a
sometimes called the "shower zone," includes the tub or
question as to how to connect the wires to them. You see,
shower area itself and the adjacent room area measured 3
GFCIs have two terminals on each side, one side the
feet horizontally from the rim of the tub or shower stall (that
neutral connection and the other the hot wire connection,
is, measuring straight out into the room) and 8 feet
and a ground terminal on one end. One-half of the outlet
vertically from the tub rim (measuring straight up). Any light
connection is labeled LINE and the other LOAD. To the
fixture in this zone must be at least rated for damp
unfamiliar eye, they appear to connect to the same point,
locations. However, if the fixture is potentially subject to
and in fact, the terminal screws are the same color, giving
spray from the shower, it must be a rated for wet locations.
the appearance that they are a common connection.
When it comes to lighting around the mirror, side lights are
best. Overhead lighting, especially recessed lights, leave
your face in shadow when you get close to the mirror. The truth is that these connections are very different and
They also highlight how much your hair is thinning (isn't it Im going to tell you why. This is one of those times that you
better not to know?). Side lights, such as wall sconces or must read the directions first before connecting the wires,
vertical strip lights, can be combined with lights mounted to that is if you want the outlet to actually work.
the wall above the mirror for fuller illumination.
Ventilation Fans The line connection is the point where you will connect the
Bathrooms are notorious for being moist, and some don't incoming feeder wire, the line, which is fed from the
have windows to remove the moisture and odors. homes electrical panel. Youll connect the hot wire, often a
Even if you have a window, a bathroom vent fan is more black or red wire, to the brass-colored terminal screw or in
effective at exhausting moisture and odors, and you don't the slot provided to accept the stripped wire. The neutral
lose as much heat in the winter. Vent fans are required in connection, white wire, is then connected to the silver-
all new bathrooms and remodels. You can install a vent fan colored terminal screw or slot provided to accept the
with a built-in heater, but this has different wiring stripped wire. Be sure to tighten the terminal screws and
requirements than a standard fan without a heater (we'll get tug on the wire to check that the connection is tight. These
to the wiring in a minute). terminal screws are uncovered and visible right out of the
Power Outlets manufacturers packaging. This is different from the load
All outlets or receptacles in a bathroom must be GFCI- connections appearance.
protected. This is a critical safety device to help prevent The load connection is visible from the time you pull it out
shock hazards, a very real concern in a bathroom. You can of the package.
provide GFCI protection with a GFCI circuit breaker or by
installing one or more GFCI outlets on the receptacle There is a piece of tape that covers the terminal screws,
circuit. When using a single GFCI outlet for protection, it often yellow in color. As with the line connection, when you
must be wired for "multiple-location" protection so that it look on the back of the GFCI, there is a labeled area
protects all of the outlets downstream on the same circuit. designating the load connection. The load connection is
Bathroom Circuits available to feed addition regular outlets from the GFCI and
A basic wiring plan for a bathroom includes a 20-amp, have protection from the GFCI.
GFCI-protected circuit for the receptacles and a 15-amp In other words, any regular outlet that is fed from the load
general lighting circuit for the switches, light fixtures, and side of the GFCI is also protected from a ground
vent fan. In some areas, the lighting and receptacles must fault because of the GFCI. The benefit of this is to reduce
be on separate circuits so that if a receptacle trips the cost by only having to purchase one GFCI when running
circuit breaker the lights won't go out. In other areas, it's addition outlets, instead of buying a GFCI for every outlet.
permissible to install the lighting, receptacles, and a The regular outlets are about 1/10th the cost. The downfall
standard vent fan on a single 20-amp circuit, provided the is that when there is a ground fault condition with any of
circuit serves only the bathroom and not other rooms. these added outlets, the GFCI outlet then trips. It may be
If the vent fan has a built-in heater, it must have its own 20- located close, but it may be quite a distance away from
amp circuit. This is called a "dedicated" circuit because it another room or outside. The inconvenience of having to
serves only one appliance or fixture. Heat lamps, wall go to another area to reset the GFCI may not be worth it.
heaters, and other built-in heating appliances may also Then again, you may have no problem taking a short walk
require dedicated circuits. to save a few bucks.
Learn about bathroom wiring requirements in your area by
contacting the local building department. The ground screw is always green and is located on one
end of the GFCI. This is where the bare or green-colored
Line or Load: A GFCI ground wire is to be connected. This connection should be
pig-tailed to a connection that is bonded to the junction
Connection Choice box that it is being installed in. Be sure and connect all
ground wires together to ensure that the grounding circuit is
carried by the additional outlets for proper connection to all
outlets.This grounding connection is an essential part of An electric range, cooktop, or oven must be wired to a
safety for devices attached to the GFCI outlet. dedicated 240-volt circuit.

You must have a secure ground connection attached Living Room, Dining Room, and Bed Rooms
properly.
These rooms require that a wall switch be placed beside
For protection in bathrooms, kitchens, garages, swimming the entry door of the room so that you can light the room
pools, spas, whirlpool tubs, outdoor outlets and wet areas before entering it. It can either control a ceiling light, a wall
near water, GfCI outlets are there to protect you. Knowing a light, or an outlet connected to a desk lamp. The ceiling
little more about how they are connected will ensure that fixturemust be controlled by a wall switch and not a pull
you make the correct connections that will keep you and chain type light. Wall receptacles should be placed no
your family safe. farther than 12 feet apart. Dining rooms usually require a
separate 20-amp circuit for one outlet used for a
microwave, entertainment center, or window air
Room-By-Room Electrical conditioner.

Codes Stairways

Electrical Codes in your Home Special care is needed in stairways to ensure all of the
steps are lighted properly. Three-way switches are required
at the top and bottom of the stairs. If the stairs turn, you
may need to add additional lighting to accommodate the
area to be lit.

Hallways
Eekhoff Picture Lab/Getty Images
These areas can be long and need adequate lighting. Be
General Guidelines sure to place enough lighting so shadows are not cast
when walking. Remember, hallways are often escape
Electrical codes are in place to protect you, the routes in the event of inclement weather and emergencies.
homeowner. These general guidelines apply to new A hallway over 10 feet long is required to have an outlet for
installations and will give you the basics of what electrical general purpose.
inspectors are looking for. Be sure to check with your local
electrical inspector because local codes may vary from the Three-way switches are required for the two ends of the
list provided. In the case of existing housing, the codes will hallway. If there are more doors throughout the hallway,
apply if you are updating a home, and it requires an say a bedroom or two, then you may want to add
electrical update. addition four-way switches to the circuit outside the door of
each room.
It is also suggested that you update if the wiring in your
home is unsafe and a danger to your family. I suggest Closets
updating the wiring if you have the old knob and tube wiring
or the cloth-wrapped wiring with no ground wire. These are Closets must have one globe covered fixture controlled by
a great example of wiring that has outlived its effectiveness. a wall switch. Exposed bulb fixtures, like pull-chain fixtures,
Although both may still work, we have placed a large get hot and come in contact with clothing or other
burden on wiring that was not intended for the electrical combustible materials stored in closets. Although your
loads we place on them with a vast array of electrical existing home may have these fixtures, it is recommended
appliances. that you change them for safety reasons.

Bathrooms Laundry Room

Bathrooms use a lot of power and may need more than one The washer and dryer should have its own 20-amp
circuit. Mainly, because you may have a curling iron, razor, receptacle. In the case of an electric dryer, a separate 240-
hairdryer, and the combination light, fan, and heater all volt circuit should be installed.
running at the same time. The combination fan, light, and
heater should have its own 20-amp circuit. Likewise, the Attached Garage
outlet should have its own 20-amp circuit. All outlets in
bathrooms should be GFCI's. Light fixtures should be
covered with lenses or globes and moisture resistant if Inside the garage, there should be at least one switch
placed in a shower or tub area. controlling the lighting.

Kitchen It is recommended that three-way switches be installed for


convenience between the doors. This lighting should be in
addition to any garage door lighting that you may have.
A kitchen should have a separate circuit for each appliance Garages need a separate circuit for at least one outlet. This
with a motor. The microwave, refrigerator, garbage is generally required to be a GFCI outlet. You should check
disposal, and dishwasher would be the major appliances your local code to be sure. When in doubt, make it a GFCI.
included. Generally, the code requires that you install a Any outside outlets connected must be either a GFCI outlet
minimum of two receptacle circuits in the area above the or an outlet connected to a GFCI breaker.
counter top.
Remember that the electrical codes are in place for your Since bathrooms are wet, switches should be grounded as
safety. Although you may believe that they are overkill at well to give any stray voltage a direct path to ground,
times, these practices save lives every day. When it comes instead of through you. You'd hate to get out of the shower,
to electric safety, don't become a statistic! Follow the rules soaking wet, and get shocked by touching a switch.
of the codes and be sure to have your local electrical Install at least one ceiling-mounted light fixture to allow
inspector give you the green light for the safety of your ample lighting. This may be in addition to wall sconces or
family's sake. strip lighting in the bathroom.
Does your home meet the electrical code requirements? Place exhaust fans or heater-fan-light combinations far
enough from the bathtub, shower, or hot tub so that no one
can stand in water and touch it. I'd like to see the fan
National Electrical Codes For located somewhere over the toilet area.
Just remember, these are bare minimum requirement and
Bathrooms you can add more circuits as you see fit to accommodate
the load of the appliance you plan to plug in or add to your
Bathroom electrical codes to live by. bathroom. For all I know, you may have three girls needing
to use a hair dryer at the same time.

In that case, I'd add a circuit and GFCI outlet for each hair
dryer.

Here's a great tip to keep in mind...for each motorized


Peter Mukherjee/Vetta/Getty Images appliance or device, add a separate circuit to feed it. That
way, you'll have ample circuitry to handle every situation in
that area of the home. You'll thank me later when you really
The National Electrical Code (NEC) was written to provide
need it, so plan ahead. I am so glad I added extra outlets
a set of rules and regulations to keep the use of electricity
around my home and so will you!
in your home safe. Here are the top bathrooms codes you
need to live by to remain safe and keep your electrical
devices working properly.
You may wonder why the electrical inspector seems to be
Electrical Code For Outlets:
so tough on you when he explains all of the requirements in
your bathroom. You may ask why you need things like
Bathrooms, Kitchens, and
GFCI's, timers for tubs mounted at a distance from the tub,
and exhaust fans.
General Rooms
He may tell you that you need a separate circuit for your
outlet, but after you consider everything that will probably
be plugged into it, you soon see that the inspector is there
to help you to have an effective and safe electrical plan.

I have talked with many people throughout my community Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images


that seem to think that the inspector i out to get them. He or 1. General Areas (Living Rooms, Family Rooms,
Bedrooms, Hallways, etc.)
she is just picking on me. They seem to consider
What Is the Required Outlet Spacing on Walls?
themselves the only one that has to do this. As an
Every 12 feet. The reasoning is that you should never
electrician, I have to convince them that they are not alone,
have to extend an electrical cord for a light, appliance,
everyone must follow the guidelines of the electrical code
for their safety.As is with many things in life, we get caught computer, or other personal need more than 6 feet in either
up in the way it used to be just isn't the way it is gonna be direction.
Spacing outlets more frequently than every 12 feet is your
now. Some just don't understand why they need to change
choice, not required by code. If the space gets heavy use--
something in their home that has worked just fine for all
people charging phones, plugging in laptops, etc.--you may
these years. They have never been hurt up to now, so why
want more outlets than code requires.
the change?Let's take a look at some of the bathroom
requirements and you can see if your home stacks up to Hallways more than 10 feet long must have at least one
receptacle.
the codes.
Are There Exceptions?
I'm often asked what the NEC requires in different parts of
If the wall is less than 24 inches wide, an outlet is not
the home. This section will deal with bathrooms and its
required. Placing an outlet on walls less than 24 inches
safety.
Each bathroom should have a circuit for lighting and wide is your choice.
an exhaust fan. This may include a blower-heater-light What Type of Outlet Should Be Installed?
Either a 15A or 20A tamper-resistant outlet, depending on
combination.
the amperage carried by the wire servicing that
There should also be a 20-amp circuit, separate from the
outlet. Check that circuit's breaker in the service panel to
lighting circuit, to provide power for an outlet to feed things
know if it is 15 or 20 amps.
like curling irons, razors, hair dryers, and even portable milk
house heaters. 15 amp circuits for general rooms are permitted to be 20
Connected to the outlet circuit, you should install a ground amp if you wish.
Buy on Amazon - Leviton 15A Tamper Resistant Outlet
fault circuit interrupter(GFCI) to protect the user. A GFCI
Buy on Amazon - Leviton 20A Tamper Resistant Outlet
trips and disconnects the circuit power if it senses a
What Is a Tamper Resistant Outlet?
difference in potential on the circuit, like a short circuit or a
As a safety measure, municipalities have largely begun to
path to ground, which could be right through your body.
This device is very important and can save your life! adopt requirements for tamper resistant outlets into their
local electrical codes. These are identified by the recessed Eliminating Electrical Safety Hazards In Your Home
letters "TR" on the face of the outlet. Each year, electrical accidents kill over a thousand people
TR outlets are not required: a). and injure tens of thousands more. Most, if not all, of
66 inches or more above the floor; b.) If supplying an these could have been avoided by correcting and
outlet behind a large appliance that is difficult to move updating potential electrical hazards. Don't wait until
(namely, a refrigerator); or c.) If the outlet is part of a light trouble arises to find the problems. By using this electrical
fixture or appliance. safety checklist, you'll be able to determine potential
The idea is that spring-loaded gate within the outlet is too problems before they arise.
strong for young children to open by means of a knife or 01of 13
other flat object.
2. Bathrooms Electrical Service Capacity Safety Limits
What Is the Required Outlet Spacing on Walls?
There must be a receptacle at least within 3 feet of the
outside edge of the sink basin.
Generally, you will want to install the outlet above the
countertop. But the code's 3-foot designation gives you
leeway in case the outlet is not directly above the
countertop.
What Type of Outlet Should Be Installed?
Only install GFCI (ground fault current interrupter) Electrical Panel Photo. Timothy Thiele
receptacles in bathrooms.
No receptacles face-up on countertops. You and your family are growing both in size and in
Receptacles must be on at least one separate 20A branch electrical power needs. As you add more people,
circuit. The reason is because this receptacle usually appliances, and electrical devices to a home, the power
powers high-wattage devices like hair dryers. need grows right along with them. This leads to the
3. Kitchens question, "Is my electrical circuit breaker panel big
What Is the Required Outlet Spacing and Positioning Over enough?" More rooms, lighting, and electronic gadgets may
Countertops? add more load to your service panel that it can handle and
Outlets should be placed no farther than 48 inches from a service upgrade would be in order. A qualified, licensed
each other. The idea is that no point on the countertop electrician can determine the amount of load your...MORE
should be more than 24 inches from an outlet.
Even 12" base cabinets (topped with a counter) will get an 02of 13
outlet, as any wall 12" or wider is required to have an outlet.
Outlets should not be positioned more than 20 inches
Lighting and Switch Safety
above countertops. Exceptions are for the physically
handicapped and for islands or peninsulas where this is not
possible.
No face-up receptacles.
At least one receptacle for islands or peninsulas.
At least two branch circuits must supply the countertop
receptacles.
What Type of Outlet Should Be Installed?
Only install GFCI (ground fault current interrupter) Four-way Switch. Timothy Thiele
receptacles over countertops. Lights that flicker and switches that seem hot to the touch
Electrical Code Resources in all likelihood are problems to deal with now. Sizzling
Electrical code--properly called the National Electrical and/or popping sounds in and around switches mean that
Code, published by the U.S. National Fire Protection the switches are getting bad. Either loose electrical
Association--is one of the most important documents a connections or bad contacts are usually the result of these
home renovator can have. sounds. Be sure you are using grounded switches and
But if you want a copy of the National Electrical Code, you that the copper wire connections are attached properly
have to shell out upwards of $175. And forget their website: and secure. Hot switches indicate the circuit may have
this non-profit organization is not about to give out any free more load that the switch can handle. Remember, if the
information. lighting is on a 20-amp circuit, please use a 20-amp
That said, the electrical code is much more than a switch, not a 15-amp switch to accommodate the load.
restrictive document telling you what not to do. It's an 03of 13
instructive document that will help you learn how to do your
own residential electrical wiring. Electronic Devices and Appliance Safety
It is not necessary to buy a copy of the National Electrical
Code to understand it. Instead, there are plenty of
guidebooks that interpret the Code without overloading you
with all kinds of unnecessary information (the Code itself
includes things like commercial wiring that you won't need).
One good guide is House Wiring with the NEC by Ray C.
Mullin (Delmar/Thomson).
Also try Black and Decker Codes For Homeowners (Cool
Springs Press), which includes other codes as well as Burned Oven Element. Photo: Timothy Thiele
electrical code.
If your electronic devices and appliances have ever given
you a jolt when you touch them, be sure the ground
Electrical Safety Checklist connection on your cord has not been removed and also
check that the outlet has a ground on it. It may be that your socket securely. Loose connections between the bulb and
appliance has an electrical short to case ground, but the its contacts cause the bulb, socket, and wiring to heat up,
device doesn't have a path to ground through the wiring. If causing bulbs to burn out quickly and can lead to
so, you may need to call an appliance repairman to electrical fires. Wire insulation can break down when
determine the extent of the problem and possibly an overloaded. You can replace regular incandescent bulbs
electrician to update the wiring and devices in your home. It with compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL's) that not only use a
could be as simple as a burnt oven element laying on the fourth of the energy incandescent bulbs do, but also last
oven base causing such a problem. upto ten times as long.
07of 13
04of 13
Cord and Plug Safety
Circuit Breaker and Fuse Safety

Cord Plug Connections. Photo: Timothy Thiele


Branch Circuit Breakers Photo. Timothy Thiele Electrical cords and plugs can be a safety issue. Check
cords for cuts and defects. Plugs should be equipped with
Circuit breaker sizes and wire sizes go hand-in-hand. a ground pin. If the ground pin has been cut off or
Never connect an electrical wire with an amperage rating removed to fit into a two-conductor, non-grounded outlet,
replace the plug or throw away the cord. Replace the
less than the circuit breaker that is protecting it. For
outlet to accommodate the grounded cord plug instead of
instance, if a wire is connected to a 20-amp circuit breaker,
removing the grounding pin for your safety.
it needs to be rated for 20 amps also. Look on the outer
sheath of the wire to determine what wire size it is. If a 08of 13
circuit breaker trips or a fuse blows, you can bet there is a
problem somewhere. Continually resetting breakers and Extension Cord Safety
replacing fuses is not the answer to your problems. In fact,
you are likely to have an electrical fire if you don't address
the problem. GFCI breakers can be used on circuits
exposed to weather and areas prone to water.

05of 13

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters For Safety Range Cord. Photo: Timothy Thiele
Extension cords are great temporary extensions of a
circuit. They are not, however, intended for permanent
circuit feeds for household appliances and devices. If you
are feeding a major appliance with an extension cord, be
sure the cord is heavy enough to handle the load of the
appliance. Light duty cords cannot and should not be
used. Consult your neighborhood appliance center to
determine the appropriate sized cord for this installation
Photo of a GFCI Outlet. Timothy Thiele need.
Ground fault circuit interrupters, called GFCI's, are used in 09of 13
bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, garages,
and outdoors to protect the person using them. If there is
a difference of potential in the circuit, the GFCI will trip Outlets and Receptacle Safety
and open the circuit so you won'r get electrocuted. They
come equipped with a test and also a reset button.
Monthly checks should be made to test the GFCI's for
functionality.
06of 13

Light Bulb Safety


Install an Outlet Cover - Photo. Timothy Thiele

Outlets can become a problem when the contacts become


weak and cords start falling out of them. The fingers inside
have a certain tension rating that is required to hold the
plug in place. You can buy a tester that checks this tension
and gives you a heads-up on whether your outlets are
defective. Check for loose electrical connections to the
CFL - Compact Fluorescent Lighting. Timothy Thiele
Light bubs can cause their share of problems in a home. terminals of the outlets and never use the push-in
Putting a bulb with a wattage too large for a socket is a terminals. Replace cracked or broken outlets and wall
plates. These can expose connection points and...MORE
problem. Always be sure the bulb is screwed into the
10of 13 Overloaded Electrical Wire. Timothy Thiele
Electrical wiring defects and connection problems cause
Portable Generator Safety electrical fires. Be sure to check for loose connections in
junction boxes, on switches and outlets, and also the
connection points in your electrical circuit breaker panel.
Another potential problem area is lighting fixtures. Light
bulbs too large for light socket capacities, loose
connections, and defective fixtures and cords can all
cause problems. Sizzling and/or popping sounds in and
around electrical devices are good signs that something is
wrong. If you hear such a sound, turn that circuit off
Portable Generator. Timothy Thiele immediately and call a qualified, licensed electrician to
Portable generators are a God-send when the lights go find the problem. Check the electrical wire size to
out. Severe storms cause havoc on power lines and often determine if it is sized appropriately for the circuit breaker.
lead to power outages. Portable generators can provide How Electrical Service Panels Changed through the 1900s
the power needed to run your home. Electrical safety
measures should be followed to allow safe power to your
home and safety to others down the line. Be sure your
generated is properly grounded. Always use a transfer
switch to connect the generator to your service panel. You
see, a transfer switch allows the power to be fed for either
the utility company or your generator, not both at the
BanksPhotos / Getty Images
same time. That way, you cannot back-feed power down
The electrical service panel, commonly known these days
the utility line, potentially setting up a death trap for the
as a breaker box, has come a long way since the early
lineman working on the power lines.
1900s. Almost every home has some type of service panel,
11of 13
whether it be a fuse panel or a circuit breaker panel.
Overhead Power Lines
Commonly, these service panels are located in utility
rooms, garages, or basements. Along with a main service
panel, you may also have a subpanel, a small breaker
box that supplies power to a specific area of your home,
such as a garage, outbuildings or an addition.
30-Amp Fuse Panels
Before 1950, a 30-amp fuse panel was the norm. These
Overhead Power Lines. Timothy Thiele fuse panels featured two plug fuses to protect the branch
circuits and a knife-blade switch to disconnectpower to the
Overhead power lines have some strict guidelines for entire panel, and thus the house. The fuses were installed
height clearances over streets, sidewalks, alleys, roads, in a ceramic fuse holder, which was mounted within a black
and driveways. The National Electrical Code (NEC) metal enclosure. This 30-amp service panel supplied 120
mandates acceptable clearances for power lines to keep volts to the home; today's panels provide both 120 and 240
the public safe from coming into contact with them. volts to different circuits. A 30-amp panel is far from
sufficient for powering the average household. Homes with
12of 13 these panels must be updated to at least a 100-amp circuit
Lightning Protection For Your Home breaker panel to satisfy both the FHA and other lending
institution requirements for home sales.
60-Amp Fuse Panel
Between 1950 and 1965, the 60-amp service panel
became widely accepted and preferred. This panel was
mounted inside a gray metal cabinet and featured a 240-
volt feed. It had two cartridge-fuse blocks and four sockets
for plug fuses.
Lightning Strikes. Photo:By: Ethan Miller/Getty Images The first cartridge fuse block held 60-amp fuses and was
News used as the main disconnect. The other was used as an
appliance feed and held a 30-amp fuse. It fed power to
Spring and summer storms spawn thunderstorms which things like an electric dryer, water heater, oven or electric
produce lightning. Lightning can cause severe damage to a range.
home without the addition of lightning rods to funnel the full The four plug fuses served four individual branch circuits. In
force of its destructive powers to ground. Find out smaller homes with minimal electrical needs, this was often
why lightning rodscan save your home. sufficient to power the home.
These panels did have their limitations, though, as they
13of 13 could not support more than one 240-volt feed or more
than the four individual branch circuits. Some older homes
Electrical Wiring Defects and Safety have a 100 amp fuse box. This is similar to 60-amp box but
likely has more capacity for serving additional branch
circuits.
Circuit Breaker Panels
Finally, in the 1960s, the circuit breaker panel was invented
and has remained the standard ever since. Circuit breakers
represented a new age of resetable devices, unlike fuses
that had to be changed when they blew. The circuit breaker
panel not only provided expandable circuit spaces,
it include both 120- and 240-volt circuits and a total Remember that adding additional outlets to these circuits is
amperage of 100 amps. This panel features a main breaker allowed in the pantry, dining room, and the kitchen.
and two rows of circuit breakers that are used for branch
circuits. Kitchen Appliance Circuits
There are many circuit breaker panels still around that have
100-amp service, but the standard for new homes (and old Kitchen appliance circuits that need to be separate include
homes with updated wiring) is 200 amps. In fact, 100-amp garbage disposers, dishwashers, refrigerators, microwave
panels are the minimum allowed. Newer panels with 200- ovens, electric ovens, electric ranges, and a dedicated
amp service also tend to have more spaces for adding circuit for a dining room receptacle.
breakers. If you're planning a new home or a remodel that
involves significant electrical work, a 200-amp panel usually Countertop Outlets
is a no-brainer.
When you consider placing outlets for countertop use,

Design a Kitchen Electrical remember that small appliances like crock pots, coffee
pots, electric griddles, and pizza ovens come with short 2-

Wiring Plan foot cords. Try to imagine where you'll be using each small
appliance that you have and position the outlets
Electrical Wiring Plan for Kitchens accordingly. Remember that an outlet is required within two
feet of each side of the sink and an outlet no more than two
feet from the end of the counter. In no circumstance is
there to be more than four feet between countertop outlets.

GFCI Outlets in Wet Areas

Kitchen Recessed Lighting. Perry Mastrovito - Getty In Section 210.8(A)(6), the NEC requires that all countertop
Images outlets be ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI's). That's
Kitchen electrical wiring can easily be accomplished by first right. Although the old rule once said only within 5 feet of a
creating a kitchen electrical wiring plan. When planning sink or water, the 2008 version states otherwise. This GFCI
your kitchen wiring, you must take into account appliances protection can be in the form of either a GFCI receptacle or
that will move from place to place, appliances that stay a GFCI circuit breaker.
stationary, outlet placement for optimal usage, lighting
locations for optimal light coverage in areas needed, and Lighting
any specialized outlets or flexible connections, such as in
the case of built-in ovens. Lighting branch circuits only require a 15-amp circuit. If
you're like me, I prefer 2-amp circuits for these also and I'll
tell you why. I've always held the position that anything with
A great plan is to plan for future appliances that you don't a motor needs its own circuit and my house has many
have now, or possibly have not even been invented yet. ceiling fans installed. Ceiling fans incorporate both a fan
Look back 30 years and remember what you had for motor and a light fixture with one or many bulbs. The load
kitchen appliances back then. Now look around at the of one may not be much, but include a few on the same
kitchen appliances you now have and cannot live without. circuit and the 15-amp circuit doesn't cut it.
As you can see, without any outlets and circuits you have
now, you'd never be able to power them up with the old When laying out the lighting fixtures, try to provide a
wiring plan. uniform lighting layout for optimal light coverage. Try to wire
circuits so that if one circuit trips, there will be another
My recommendation is to add a few extra outlets in the odd circuit with lighting close by so the lights don't all go off at
places like in the corners above the cabinets, next to the once.
sink on both sides, and over very small cabinets. You may
not think you'll use it, but I have just such a cabinet and the Three-way switches should be installed where required to
outlet is being used for a coffee maker and a radio. Boy am allow you to walk to and from any doorway allowing access
I glad that I installed it there! Now let's take a look at a to the light switching before entering a room. If lamps are to
typical kitchen wiring plan. be used that plug into outlets, try installing split outlets that
leave one-half of the outlet hot and the other connected to
Small Appliance Branch Circuits a switch to turn on the floor or desk lamp without having to
cross the dark room to turn it on.
An appliance branch circuit supplies power to one or more
outlets that appliances are connected to and that has no
permanently connected lighting fixtures, that is, that are not GFCI Testing For Potential
connected to a part of the appliance. For instance, an oven
with an oven light. Problems
The National Electrical Code states that a general-purpose Testing the Test Button Function On GFCI's
branch circuit is a circuit that supplies two or more
receptacles or outlets for lighting and appliances.

Minimum NEC requirements, as per Section 210.52(B),


requires that the pantry, dining room, and kitchen, including
the counter top outlets, be supplied by at least two separate
circuits of 20 amps. Of course, you'll want to add many Don Nichols/Getty Images
more outlets and circuits for added convenience.
GFCI outlets offer a great electrical safety barrier between Electrical Safety Issues
you and the supply of electricity in your home. By installing
these GFCI outlets in your home according to the
instructions, you have a better chance of them functioning
properly. However, you should also follow the periodic
testing of these devices to ensure they remain functioning
optimally throughout the years to come.
GFCI's come equipped with a test button to quickly and Rusty Weathered Metallic Electric Box On Wall. Nick
effectively test the functionality of the device. Stanley / EyeEm / Getty Images

Simply push the button and see if it trips. If so, the device is An arc-fault occurs when loose or corroded connections
functioning properly as a safety device. make intermittent contact and causes sparking or arcing
between the connections. This translates into heat, which
A GFCI outlet also is equipped with a reset button. Its will break down the insulation of the wire and can be the
function is to restore the GFCI back to its protected state trigger for an electrical fire.
and ready it for protection once more. I'd check the outlet. Unlike a short circuit, that is a hot wire coming into contact
To reset the GFCI, simply press the reset button. To with a ground or neutral wire, arcing may not trip the circuit
double-check it's working once again, simply use a voltage breaker. If youve ever heard a switch buzzing, hissing, or
tester and test the outlet for voltage. If you can verify popping, youll know what Im talking about.
voltage, you have successfully reset the GFCI outlet.
GFCI's are designed to trip if things like drop cords, power In order to protect your home, an arc-fault circuit interrupter
tools or other electrical devices that are plugged into them can be used to detect just such a problem.
have a dangerous path to ground on any of the electrical
wiring or parts of the device. This could be a frayed cord or
Arc-fault circuit-interrupters provide protection from the
a faulty drill. This could also include you dropping an
effects of arc faults, which includes arcing of switches and
electric razor into a sink full of water. In any case, anything
the like. The device then shuts the circuit down when arcing
that could potentially make you the path t ground, the GFCI
is detected.
sees and protects you from it.
The 2008 National Electrical Code states in article
Warning! There are some potential GFCI wiring methods
210.12(A) that the definition of arc-fault circuit-interrupter is,
that will cause the GFCI to malfunction. These installation
"A device intended to provide protection from the effects of
methods should be avoided and include:
arc faults by recognizing characteristics unique to arcing
and by functioning to de-energize the circuit when an arc
A two-wire GFCI outlet is connected in a three-wire circuit. fault is detected."
In this instance, a two-pole GFCI circuit breaker is to be So the question now focuses on where these safety
installed to protect the circuitry. devices are to be placed in dwelling units. According to
A GFCI white circuit conductor is connected to the load article 210.12(B), "All 120-volt, single phase, 15- and 20-
side of the GFCIinstead of the line side. ampere branch circuits supplying outlets installed in
The physical length of the circuit run the GFCI dwelling unit family rooms, dining rooms living rooms,
is protecting is too long. The general rule is not to exceed parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sun rooms, recreation
250 feet or the circuit may encounter a capacitive leak to rooms, closets, hallways, or similar rooms or areas shall be
ground, causing the GFCI to fail. protected by a listed arc-fault circuit interrupter,
combination-type, installed to provide protection of the
GFCI's are intended to open the circuit if unsafe and render branch circuit."
any shock minimal. If I remember correctly, I believe the The exceptions to the rule are stated in articles 760.41(B)
GFCI reacts in one/one millionth of a second. That's faster and 760.121(B) for power requirements for fire alarm
than you can blink your eye. So given that number, I'd say systems. Also, see the National Fire alarm Code in the
we're lucky to have them watching out over us! NFPA 72 - 2007 edition where 11.6.3(5) tells of information
Remember to use GFCI outlets or circuit breakers on circuit related to secondary power supply requirements for smoke
that supply power to areas around water. In kitchens near alarms installed in dwelling units.
sinks, bathrooms, utility rooms, garages, outside your AFCI's are different than GFCI's. Ground fault circuit
home, swimming pools, spas, hot tubs, and even interrupters are required in homes, especially where water
basements are all potentially wet areas that GFCI is present. here has long been a discussion, for lack of a
protection is required. Getting shocked is the last thing you better word, about whether the National Electrical Code
want, so get GFCi protection installed and make your home says that you need to install GFCI outlets or just have
safe! It's a small price to pay to protect your family from the GFCI-protected circuits. I and some electrical inspectors
dangers of electrical shock. At a cost of under $10 in most have discussed this in detail in some cases. One even told
cases, it is a viable addition to your home's electrical me that his interpretation of the rule is that you cannot feed
system and will bring your home's electrical system up to off the load side of the GFCI and count that regular outlet
code. as a GFCI-protected outlet.
The GFCI outlets come in many different convenient colors GFCI receptacles are a great choice in areas like
to match your home's decor. GFCI outlets and breakers bathrooms, kitchens, exterior receptacles, and those
make your home safer and provide you with peace of mind. around water. However, that can also be said for GFCI
If you have not installed them yet in your home, I advise breakers for these areas. The thing to consider is what may
you to do it right away. Choose a GFCI...It's a trip! be connected to the GFCI protected circuit if connected to
the breaker. If the circuit is only for protecting the
receptacles in that area, then maybe a breaker is the better
Understanding an Arc Fault choice. The GFCI breaker could be protecting many
outlets, which would then be a cost saver. However, if there
and Its Causes is going to be receptacles that don't need to be protected
on that circuit, maybe a GFCI receptacle is the better and reset it. However, if the protected outlet is on the upper
choice. In older homes that have receptacles without floor of the house or outside, the inconvenience may not be
ground connection, GFCi's are a great replacement for worth it. In that case, I'd choose a GFCI receptacle.
these outlets. GFCI receptacles have a test and rest button right on the
face of the receptacle and these are easily accessible.
They can sense trouble in the wiring and shut the circuit Because of these buttons, their physical size is much larger
down before trouble can start. than that of a standard receptacle. This issue comes into
play when you are dealing with physical room within
So whether you need a GFCI to sense a difference of a junction box. With a standard sized box and the wiring
within, the space is cramped or nonexistent. Larger
potential on the line or an AFCI to detect arcing, like on a
boxes may be required with this installation, so a GFCI
lighting circuit, you can rest easy with the safety devices
breaker may be the choice here.
that have been developed for your home.
As you can see, there are many factors to consider before
making the decision of which is best for you and your
Should I Install a GFCI situation.
There is no right or wrong answer here, only the one that
Receptacle or a GFCI makes the most sense and works in the location needed.

Breaker? Installing GFCI / AFCI Circuit


Breaker Protection

Spiderstock / Getty Images


The question is often asked, whether it is better to install Ground Fault Circuit Interruption (GFCI) breakers like this
a GFCI receptacle or a GFCI breaker. While both are ways example can also come with Arc Fault Protection (AFCI)
to add ground fault protection to the circuit being served, and are known as combination Arc-Fault breakers.
there may be some requirements that must be met and to A very cost effective way to provide overcurrent
which an electrical inspector may voice his or her opinion protection to the entire electrical circuit in your home is to
on the matter. There are many factors that may weigh into use a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) circuit
this decision, so let's take a few minutes to examine the breaker.
possibilities of each. Alternatively, you can buy a combination Arc Fault Circuit
There has long been discussion, for lack of a better word, Interrupter (AFCI) breaker that has both GFCI and AFCI
about whether the National Electrical Code says that you protection. An arc fault is similar to lightning. It is a highly
need to install GFCI outlets or just have GFCI-protected energized plasma discharge that jumps the air from an
circuits. I and some electrical inspectors have discussed energized source to a ground, like you.
this in detail in some cases. One even told me that his As the discharge occurs it converts to very high heat and
interpretation of the rule is that you cannot feed off the load can melt insulation from wires and start fires with
side of the GFCI and count that regular outlet as a GFCI- surrounding combustible materials.
protected outlet. The National Electric Code (NEC) first required arc fault
As you can see, the interpretation of the NEC by the protection in bedrooms effective 2002 (1999 code). In 2014
electrical inspector can be the final decision You can section 201.12 of the NEC code required new construction
challenge his or her ruling by asking them to show you to provide Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter protection in kitchens
where it says that in the code book.I will just say this and the laundry room in addition to bedrooms.
though: remember that the electrical inspector has to green So the easiest way to provide combined GFCI and AFCI
light your home so tread lightly.With certain changes in the protection is a combination AFCI/GFCI circuit breaker.
electrical code, it may be better to follow the guidance of Below are some links to purchase your AFCI combination
the inspector and get your home up to code without making breaker and instructions on how to install one of these
waves. Checking with the inspector in advance as to his or devices.
her recommendations for needed updates can save you Compare Prices 15A Siemens Combination AFCI Breaker
agony when the inspector comes calling. Compare Prices 15A Square D Combination AFCI Breaker
GFCI receptacles are a great choice in areas like Compare Prices 15A Murray Combination AFCI Breaker
bathrooms, kitchens, exterior receptacles, and those Installation of an AFCI / GFCI Combination Circuit
around water. However, that can also be said for GFCI Breaker
breakers for these areas. The thing to consider is what may 1. Purchase a GFCI or AFCI combination breaker of the
be connected to the GFCI protected circuit if connected to SAME amperage rating (e.g., 15 amp or 20 amp) as the
the breaker. If the circuit is only for protecting the one being replaced.
receptacles in that area, then maybe a breaker is the better 1. Turn off the power to the load center (electrical panel);
choice. 2. Stand on a non-conductive floor mat while you work on
The GFCI breaker could be protecting many outlets, which the panel. If you do not have a mat available at least
would then be a cost saver. However, if there is going to be make sure you're wearing rubber soled shoes or boots
receptacles that don't need to be protected on that circuit, and are not only wearing socks or are barefoot;
maybe a GFCI receptacle is the better choice. 3. Remove the cover to the power panel usually held on by 4
Now, let's consider the location of the outlets and how to 6 screws;
accessible they are. Let's take a basement, where 1. Turn the circuit breaker to be replaced to the "OFF"
the electrical panel just happens to be located. If the GFCI position.
circuit breaker trips, you can easily walk over to the panel
2. Remove it by lifting the breaker from the end closest to see all types of electrical wire. There is wiring for low
the center of the electrical panel and pull it up and out. voltage projects, wiring for circuits to run appliances,
3. Remove the wire attached to the other end of the breaker lighting and more, and then wiring for electrical services.
by unscrewing the terminal holding the wire to the But as I watch some of you look over this wiring in the
breaker. stores, I often here things like, "This wire looks big enough"
4. Switch the new GFCI or AFCI combination breaker to the and "What;s the difference? This smaller wire is much
"OFF" position and connect the white pigtail wire to a cheaper and will work just fine!" It's a very scary set of
terminal screw on the neutral bus bar. comments to someone who knows the difference and
5. Take the white wire (neutral) for the circuit and connect it knows what can happen if the wiring cannot handle the
to the circuit breaker terminal lug called "load neutral." electrical load. Let's take a look at the types of wire that you
6. Take the circuit's black wire (hot) and connect it to the will likely need in your home.
breaker's terminal lug marked "load power." 01of 05
7. Grab the GFCI or AFCI Combination circuit breaker and at Triplex Wire
a slight angle hook the base of the breaker into the panel
mounting rail/recess. Align the breaker's connection plug
on the back of the breaker with the panel's Hot bus bar
knife blade and press the breaker into place on the main
bus bar.
8. Replace the panel cover, then turn on the main panel
power and turn on the circuit breaker to ensure proper Baerbel Schmidt/Photodisc/Getty Images
operation. Triplex is an aerial cable that the utility company uses to
9. Test the GFCI operation by pressing the "push to test" feed the power pole. This wire ties to the wires sticking out
button on the breaker. The breaker handle should trip and of the weather head.
power should shut off to the circuit if it operating properly. 02of 05
1. Reset the breaker generally by pushing the handle to the Main Feeder Wires
far "OFF" position then turn to the "ON" position.

Common Types of Electrical


Wiring Used In Homes
Your home is wired with different types of wire. Each has its
specific use to accommodate the load and conditions it is Feeder Wires. Tim Thiele
exposed to. Lets examine what each type is and how it is These wires are usually typed THHN wire and are rated for
used in the homes electrical system. 125% of the load required. These are usually black
Electrical wire can be the stranded type or a solid form. insulated wires coming out of the service weather head.
Every wire except the ground wire is coated with a non- 03of 05
conductive coating of insulated material. Electrical wiring is Panel Feed Wires
rated in gauge for it's size and amp rating.
Electrical wire can come in rolls or on spools. Lengths
of wire vary from standard cuts of 50, 100, 250, 500 and
1,000 feet, but can be special ordered for specific lengths.
The homeowner will generally choose the shorter lengths,
while the contractors chooser much larger rolls, knowing
that they will use it somewhere down the road. The Panel Feed Wires. Tim Thiele
homeowners electrical jobs may be limited, unlike the These wires are also typed THHN, like the main feeders. A
contractor. typical 100-amp service would have a #2 THHN set of
There are low voltage wires used in homes like phone, wires. They would then be rated at 125 amps. This would
cable, doorbell, thermostat, and security camera cables. protect the wires if the amperage was a full 100 amps.
These will not carry standard home voltages of 120 volts or 04of 05
240 volts, like most everything runs on in your home. Non-Metallic Sheathed Wire (NM)
The larger voltages, 120 and 240 volt, run circuitry and
appliances in your home. The service entrance to your
home may come in either overhead or underground.
The underground wiring provides for a more pleasant view,
but the dangers of underground wiring and digging have to
be considered. Overhead wiring is not without its own
dangers, especially with children with kites and farmers Photo of Non-Metallic Sheathed Wire (NM). Tim Thiele
with booms or grain augers extended. This wire, commonly called Romex, is a plastic coated wire
Electrical wiring colors and labeling often tell the tale of the that has either two or three conductors and a bare ground
wire you are installing You can tell a lot about a piece of wire. This is the typical wiring used in most homes. The
electrical wire from the label on it. It will tell the type, size, rating for this wire is either 15 amps, 20 amps, or 30 amps,
and intended uses. It also tells whether it is weather depending on the installation.
resistant, sunlight proof, or heat rated. The wire colors tell Continue to 5 of 5 below.
of the specific use of the wire. It may be a "hot" wire, a 05of 05
neutral wire, or even a ground wire. For those of use that Single Strand Wire
know, wire colors tell us how to use each wire, where to
connect it, and most importantly where not to use it.
If you are like many of the beginner electrical project
DIYers, you may walk into the electrical department and
needed. Wire is sized by its gauge and there are numbers
and letters (wire lettering) listed on the outer sheath of
electrical wire that comes in many different colors,
called wire color coding to tell you what type and size the
wire is.

Photo of Single Strand Wire. Tim Thiele Dedicated branch circuits serve specific things.
When your home is piped, youll have to have another type A dedicated circuit is defined as - a circuit that serves only
of wire. Single strand wire is insulated and many of these that appliance. These appliances include refrigerators,
can be pulled into the same pipe. Normally, youll be using freezers, electric range, electric water heaters, furnaces,
THHN wire for this installation. washers, dryers, microwaves, dishwashers, and garbage
disposals. And don't forget about heat pumps, sump
pumps, and air conditioners.
What Are Branch Circuits? A good rule of thumb is that if it has a motor, it needs its
own circuit.
Electrical Wires That Feed The Home's Power Needs
I'd rather have too many circuits, rather than not enough!
Just a look above at the trouble it can cause and the
expense related to this problem that doesn't have to
happen, should convince you that installing another circuit
or making sure to plug into individual circuits is a must.

Fuse/Getty Images If you're not sure which outlet is connected to what circuit,
you can simply turn off a circuit breaker or unscrew a fuse
and go through your house to see which outlet, lighting
A home's electrical system has feeder wires that supply
circuit, or appliance is not working. Although tedious, this is
power to the panel and branch circuits that leave the panel
a simple way to check out circuitry without using more
to power devices. As you may know, the service feeders
sophisticated electrical testers that you may not have. By
connect to the main breaker, which supplies power to
using something as simple as a desk lamp to plug into an
the electrical panelfor distribution. It normally is connected
outlet, you can turn circuits off one at a time until you find
to a 100- or 200-amp two-pole circuit breaker, This main
the right one.
breaker is the main disconnect for the power supply of the
If you've ever had a major appliance connected to the
breaker box enclosure.
same circuit as another and a circuit breaker has tripped or
There are also many other breakers within this circuit
a fuse has blown, then you understand the need for these
breaker box enclosure. These breakers vary from the
specific circuits.
common 15- and 20-amp breakers to those breakers of
100 amps or more, depending on the size of the main
breaker and the load requirements that are needed on
each individual circuit. These breakers also come in single-
How to Wire Electrical Outlets
(for 120-volt circuits) and double-pole (for 240-volt
applications)styles. They are the current protection devices
and Switches
for the circuits that feed areas, devices such as appliances, 01of 05
and lighting throughout your home. Mark the Three Way Switch Common Wire
These circuits are referred to as branch circuits, much like
a branch on a tree is an extension of a tree. It is a part of
the system and provides its individual protection of its
circuit, but has ties to the main breaker. The main breaker
could theoretically trips if the load across the individual
branch circuit breaker became large enough due to the
branch circuit's failure to trip. 3-Way Switch Common and Traveler Terminals. 2008
Home-Cost.com
This is a very limited occurance, and to date over the past Three way switches
23 years or so, I've only seen this happen twice. It is good control a light fixture or outlet from two different locations.
to know that there is a double safety in place. These switches have two "traveler" wires and a "common"
wire.
The branch circuits are the individual electrical wire feeds
that go from the branch circuit breakers to the individual The trick in replacing an old switch is to mark the COM or
electrical loads in your home. common wire off the old three way switch before you
replace the old switch so that you properly connect the
COM wire to the new 3-way switch's dark or bronze screw
They come complete with neutral and ground wires to give terminal identified as COM. The COM wire is the one you
each circuit a complete path for electricity to travel and also have to install to a specific switch terminal screw. With the
a grounding means for electrical safety. The wire sizes to other two traveler wires it makes no real difference to which
connect to these circuit breakers is determined by the terminals they get fastened.
electrical load rating stamped on the breaker itself. This
wire size is determined by the load the branch circuit is 02of 05
connected to, like a 2-pole, 30-amp electric dryer. In this Wrap Wires Clockwise Around the Terminal Screw
case you'd need a 2-pole, 30-amp breaker and 310 THHN
wire to feed the electric dryer. My electrical wire chart is a
good place to start in determining the appropriate wire size
Wrap wires clokwise around terminal screws as stab-in GFCI outlet.
connectors can create loose connections. [sup] 2008 GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets have special
Home-Cost.com[/sup] terminals marked lineand load. If the wires are providing
Strip about 3/4" of an inch of insulation from the electrical power to extended outlets further down the circuit, the wires
wire you are connecting to the terminal on your switch or are connected to the "load" terminals. If the wires are for
outlet. Bend the wire in a "U" shape and slip over the the hot and neutral incoming power wires, then they get
screw so that the wire end is wound clockwise over the connected to the "line" terminals.
screw. Tighten the loop with pliers so it's a little snug over
the screw, then tighten making sure the wire is firmly
under the screw head. Marking the wires before you disconnect the GFCI outlet is
03of 05 a great way to avoid miswiring the outlet once it has been
Connect White Wire to Silver Screw Terminal and Black removed.
Wire to Bronze Terminal
Kitchen Electrical Code
Basics: Outlets, GFCIs,
Lights, and Circuits
120 volt outlets typically come in 15 and 20 amp
versions. Home-Cost.com 2014
It is critical to make sure you wire the outlet with correct
polarity. Fortunately it is easy to do so. Just connect the
white wire (neutral) to the silver colored screw or terminal
and the black wire (hot) to the bronze terminal screw. Electrician Working on GFCI in Kitchen. Getty / Pamela
Moore
Electrical code basics and recommended practices for
What about the green wire or the bare copper wire? Well kitchen renovation often seem like pointless rules
that one is ground wireand gets connected to the green cooked up in an office boardroom.
grounding screw. And while electrical code eventually does get hammered
out across conference tables, most of it originates from
04of 05 people who work in the field: electricians, contractors, and
Don't Use Stab-In Connectors in Cheap Outlets other industry professionals. These recommendations
influence the U.S. National Fire Protection Association
(NFPA).
This is the group that writes the National Electrical Code
(NEC), which then is adopted in whole or part (or not
adopted) by your municipality.
So it is more than about making your local inspector
Stab-In Connectors Can Create Loose Connections. Use happy. Far from draconian, the code actually addresses
Terminal Screws on the Switch for Best Results. 2008 only the bare minimum. The NFPA updates the code every
Home-Cost.com 3 years to meet the increasing requirements of the modern
Cheap outlets have holes in the back that you insert a kitchen. Are you current with code?
stripped wire end into to make a connection as opposed to GFCI-Protected Small Appliance Circuits
a tight mechanical connection around a screw terminal. As Requirement: Provide at least two 20-amp, 120-volt
easy as this is to do, don't. circuits to supply power to GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit
Interrupter) receptacles for countertop and eating areas.
Why: The 20 amps are required (vs. 15 amp) for the higher
These connections are weak and can loosen as the devise power requirements found in kitchens. Think: toaster
is used causing problems like a short circuit or failure later ovens, blenders, mixers. The "two" part of this requirement
on. spreads out the coverage area (though not the total load,
as both can be on the same circuit). Providing frequent
plug-in points has long been a mainstay of the NEC so that
Even the cheap outlets have screw terminals in addition to homeowners are not tempted to stretch power cords too
the stab-in connectors. Use the screw terminal connectors. far.
Basic Lighting Circuit
Continue to 5 of 5 below. Requirement: Provide at least one 15-amp, 120-volt circuit
feeding a ceiling fixture, recessed lights, and any
05of 05
undercabinet lights. This cannot be on a GFCI circuit.
Label "Load" and "Line" Wires on a GFCI Outlet
Why: Less amperage is required for light
fixtures. However, if you desire more lighting, you will have
to bring up the amperage (and other attendant factors,
such as wire gauges, etc.) to meet those needs.
The "one" requirement is the bare minimum to ensure that Why: Electric ranges draw more power in the kitchen than
kitchens have at least some kind of permanent nearly anything else. So, everything about this circuit is
lighting. Finally, if the lights were on GFCI, they might super-sized and segregated: fat cable, big-amp circuit
accidentally get tripped off. breakers, dedicated circuit so as not to trip other appliances
Distance Between GFCIs Over Countertops or lights.
Requirement: You should allow no more than 48 inches
between countertop receptacles.
Why: The intent is that a homeowner should not be Sub-Panels Put Power In
tempted to stretch a cord more than 24 inches (i.e., half of
the required 48 inches) in order to plug in a small Convenient Place
appliance. You can provide GFCIs more frequently than
every 48 inches, and in fact this is a recommended These Electrical Service Panels, Smaller In Amperage
practice. Size, Give More Space
Tamper-Resistant Outlets
Requirement: All 15 amp and 20 amp outlets, whether
GFCI or not, must be tamper-resistant in the following
kitchen-related places: small appliance circuit, countertop
space, wall and hallway space.
Why: If you have not done electrical work for a few years,
you may be surprised by this requirement. If you
purchased an older house, there is a likely chance that your Davef3138/Wikimedia CC 2.0
house has none of these special outlets.
Responding to the danger of children shocking themselves We all are aware that our home is powered via an electrical
by sticking conductive items (paper clips, bobby pins, etc.) service panel, the electrical distribution point. This panel
into outlets, the NEC began to require the installation of could be located in the basement, garage or an interior
outlets that have a strong "shutter" inside. utility room in your home. Sometimes homes are large and
strung out and require addition electrical panels to supply
This shutter can only be opened when two electrical prongs power to different areas of the home. This is where a sub-
are pushed into an outlet at the same time--and with great panel comes in handy.
force. These outlets are identified by the letters "TR" on Sub-panels are smaller in amperage size than the main
the front yoke of the outlet. electrical service panel.
Countertop Sections More Than 12 Inches Wide Require
GFCI For instance, you may feed the home with a 200-amp panel
Requirement: Countertop sections more than 12 inches and a new addition that is fed with a 100-amp panel. Sub-
wide are considered a "wall" and must have a receptacle panels are fed with a single feed from the main service
(GFCI). panel via a breaker rated high enough to handle the load
Why: People do all sorts of things on tiny sections of required for the area that it will feed. You should always
countertop, including trying to cram in small allow space and make the feed large enough for future
appliances. This "12 inches" requirement ensures that growth.
whatever power-sucking appliance gets set there will have
its own power source. There is always the possibility that the main service isnt big
Dishwasher Circuit enough itself for such an addition. In that case, a service
Requirement: Provide one 15-amp, 120-volt dedicated upgrade should be in your plans before adding a sub-
circuit wired with 14/2 cable. Should not be GFCI. panel. Typically, youll have a 100-amp service and a 60-
Why: "Dedicated" is the important word. This means that amp sub-feed or a 200-amp service with either a 60- or
the dishwasher gets its own circuit and cannot accidentally 100-amp sub-feed for additional areas of the home. If your
trip off (at the circuit level), thus turning off power to other home is really old, you may only have a 60-amp service, to
areas of the kitchen. begin with. In this case, especially, you need to upgrade to
Accidental tripping is also the reason for it not being a larger service. Try replacing the electrical service with a
GFCI. Finally, 14/2 is the standard cable for a 15-amp circuit breaker panel that has many circuit breaker
circuit. openings, at least 20-30 openings is a good choice,
Garbage Disposal Circuit depending on the amount of circuits needed in your home.
Requirement: Provide one 15-amp, 120-volt dedicated Once sub-panels are fed from the main service panel, they
circuit wired with 14/2 cable. Should not be GFCI. are ready to distribute their own power but are protected
Why: The reason for this is the same as the reason as for from the breaker in the main panel that they are connected
the dishwasher circuit, above. Garbage disposers do not to. From there, the sub-panel distributes power, just like the
have an extended run, like ranges or microwaves. But the main service panel, via individual circuit breakers. These
initial surge is so high that it can easily trip off the circuit breakers protect the circuits at a predetermined amperage
breaker, thus turning off other appliances in the kitchen. value that is posted on the breaker switch face.
Microwave Circuit
Requirement: Provide one 20-amp, 120-volt dedicated
circuit wired with 12/2 cable. Should not be GFCI. Common sizes include 15-, 20-, 30-, 50-, 60-, and 100-amp
Why: The 20 amp circuit is needed to handle the higher breakers. There are more values for breakers and the
nameplate rating of the device that you need to connect to
power requirements of microwaves. A 12-gauge cable is
will dictate the value that you choose. Generally, youll find
standard for any 20-amp circuit.
this tag on the back or near the electrical connection on the
Electric Range Circuit
Requirement: Provide one 50-amp, 120/240-volt dedicated device.
circuit wired with appropriately sized wire cable. This
should not be GFCI. Sub-panels are great for different areas both in the home
and outside the home as well. Locations could be different
levels of the home, garages, tool sheds, and other You may have learned your electrical training from your
outbuildings where you are needing multiple circuits. My family, friends, or a co-worker. Of course, you may not
home has two different sub-panels, both in the shed and a know where they learned it or if they learned the correct
small storage building as well, and it makes extending and safe installation practices. Even more, do they know
circuits so much easier. By using a sub-panel on each level where the connections are really supposed to go and why?
of your home, you will be able to connect that floor of the I understand that even though a light may light when
home up to the panel on that floor. The advantage is that if connected incorrectly, one might think it really doesn't
a circuit breaker trips or you want to shut off power to a make any difference, but you are wrong.
circuit, it's right there on the same floor as you are. I don't want you to be "DEAD" wrong!
So, lets review sub-panels. We now know that there is no Let me explain the color coding for you first. A white
need to run many wires from your existing panel all the way terminal connects to the silver- or white-colored terminal,
across the home to a new addition when we can simply used as a neutral wire. A green or bare wire, usually
install a sub-panel to accomplish the same task and save copper, is used to ground the box on the green screw
on the cost of wire. We also learned that sub-panels are fed within the box and is pig-tailed to make a connection to the
from the main service panel and are smaller in amperage green ground screw on the device. The "hot" wires, usually
than the main. black or red, are connected to the brass-colored screws on
outlets, but are often connected to both brass- and black-
Sub-panels are protected by the breaker feeding it in the colored terminals screws as either the "hot" or switch leg of
main panel and the sub-panel has its own circuit the circuit.
breakers to feed and protect the circuits in the area it will As almost always, there are some exceptions to the rule,
feed. All-in-all, sub-panels are a great addition to supplying so just be careful. First, Sometimes a white wire is used as
power to additional areas of the home. Whether its a a hot feed or a switch leg, just because that is the only wire
garage, room addition, basement, utility shed, or barn, sub- available for this installation. Let me explain further.
panels can do the job of supplying power where it is Let's say we're installing a switch to a light fixture. The
needed. Are you in need of a sub-panel in your home? power is fed up to the light fixture, meaning we have a
"hot", neutral, and ground wire already there. Now, we run
a wire, with a black, a white, and a ground to a switch. We
A Guide to Color Coding of use the black wire to connect to the black in the lighting box
and also to a terminal on the single-pole switch. We
Electric Wires and Terminal connect the ground wires together in the ceiling box and
the ground wire to the switch via the green ground screw.
Screws Next, we use the white wire as a traveler wire to feed the
light power. So as not to get confused in the lighting box or
put anyone in danger of getting shocked, we simply mark
the white wire with a wrap of black tape, signifying that it is
being used as a "hot" wire of some sort. Now, simply
connect the marked white wire to the unused terminal on
the switch, I like the top to be the switch leg, and continue
on the ceiling box.
Jill Ferry Photography/Moment Open/Getty Images Here at the ceiling box, you'll notice that there is now a
Have you ever wanted to learn what color wire goes where white wire from the power feed and a marked white wire
on switch and outlet terminals and why? It's interesting to from the switch, along with two ground wires. Connect the
me how many people don't know which colored terminal is marked white wire to the black "hot" wire on the fixture
for the "hot" connection and which are for the travelers on a (making sure that the power is off first), connect the white
three-way switch. Then again, I've seen my share of outlets wire to the white wire on the fixture for the neutral
wired with the "hot" and "neutral" wires switched on the connection and connect the ground wire to the two ground
outlet terminals. wire within the ceiling box and add a pigtail ground wire to
That got me thinking that I needed to educate you all about bond to the ceiling box via a green ground screw.
wires colors, the terminals they attach to, and the function There you have it.
they serve in respect to connecting to terminals on switches On a three-way switch installation where there are a red,
outlets, and other connections you may not be aware of. black, white and bare ground wires involved, you'll also see
Looking over some of the questions and concerns you all the wire taped to make it a current-carrying wire, usually a
have been having over the past four years, I get some traveler. I know this may seem difficult, but it really isn't. By
interesting questions about how to do these connections. marking the wires, knowing your wire color coding and
Some say they'd like to know, "What makes the difference wiring devices with these methods, you'll be able to remove
where I put the "hot" wire versus the switch leg?" Then a device and know hat the wires are being used for. Even
there's the comment that haunts me, "My outlet works just more, so will anyone else that takes something apart.
fine with the wires reversed on the terminals. So what's the There's nothing worse than taking things apart without first
difference?" Another I'll address is the question of why investigating where they go and what they do. If the white
there is a white wire connected to my switch terminal. And wire used for a "hot" wire wasn't marked and you
let's not forget about lighting fixtures. There is always a haphazardly took the connections apart without
question about why it makes a difference which of the two investigating, you may connect the "hot" white wire to the
wires connects to the "hot" wire and which connects to the neutral white wire accidentally and then "POP"! The circuit
neutral wire. Some will say it doesn't matter. They have breaker trips and then what?
tried it connected both ways and the light works either way! Before I forget, let's talk about cord plugs and their
So why do you talk of a right and wrong way to wire them? connection to light fixtures. As you may know, most light
Let me start off by saying these are all great points and fixtures have only two wires, a "hot" wire and a neutral wire.
questions and I'll do my best to explain them all while Believe it or not, there is a right and wrong way to connect
adding a little more information to improve your electrical these two wires, even though the light will light either way
knowledge. and here's why. If you ever followed the two wires up to the
light socket, you'd see that one connects to the inner ground fault and dont have GFCI outlets. Older outlets
bottom contact portion of the light socket, where the bottom dont stop the grounded current and can cause shocks.
of the light bulb makes contact. That is intended for the Disconnect your appliances. Unplug your appliances from
"hot" connection wire. The other wire is connected to the the outlet and reset the breaker or GFCI.
screw portion of the bulb socket where the bulb screws Plug in your appliances. Plug each item back into the
down into the socket, we'll call this the side of the socket outlet until it trips. This will determine which appliance is
and bulb for visual purposes. Now let's just think about the causing the ground fault. If nothing trips your outlet, or if
dangers of hooking the "hot wire to the side connection of your outlet doesnt reset, your ground fault is likely located
the socket. See anything wrong here yet? Now, visualize in another part of your home. Call a professional to look.
yourself unscrewing the bulb by grasping around the lower Faults can occur due to other outlets leaking current,
portion of the bulb where the metal screw part of the bulb is problems with exterior circuits, and other faulty
exposed. You unscrew the bulb a bit and then take a appliances.
second grip of the bulb and "BAM"! You got shocked! It's all Preventing Ground Fault Shocks
because the screw part of the bulb is now the "hot" Installing a GFCI outlet is a simple and affordable way to
connection and you became the path to ground. eliminate the risk of ground fault-related shocks. Also,
Do you see the danger now? If I never said it before, but I including GFCIs in your home will help you keep your
know I have, practice electrical safety every time you touch property up to code. Many ordinances require GFCIs if you
anything electrical! have an outlet within three feet of a water source or in your
So take my advice and treat this information as installation garage. Heres a quick DIY guide to help you update your
instructions and read them before attempting electrical homes outlets:
installations or renovations. The more you read, the more 1. Turn off the power. Flip the appropriate breaker to turn off
you learn. Safety isn't hard if you follow the safe installation the power to your work area. You can also cut the power
practices I provide for you here at electrical.about.com, and to your entire home to avoid the possibility of working with
with your due diligence, you'll be able to do your own live wires. Plug an appliance into the receptacle to ensure
electrical installations safely and effectively! Take my theres no power.
advice and do it safely! Before long you will be doing it like 2. Remove your outlet. Once the power is off, unscrew the
a pro. outlet plate and set it aside. Remove the screws above
Addressing Ground Faults and below your outlet and gently pull it out of the wall. The
wires connected to your outlet should now be visible. Use
a flathead screwdriver to loosen the slots that secure the
wires to the outlet. You can also cut the wires if the slots
dont open.
3. Find and the ground screws. Your outlets ground screws
should be located at the back of the outlet box. Use your
screwdriver to loosen them.
Don Nichols / Getty Images 4. Locate your ground wire. Your ground wire will be green
Ground faults can threaten the safety and efficiency of your or uninsulated. Wrap the ground around the ground screw
home. Heres a quick look at how you can identify and and tighten it.
eliminate the fault-related dangers around your house. 1. Connect your ground wire to the outlet. Your GFCI outlet
What are Ground Faults? will have a green ground screw. Loosen the screw, slide
A ground fault is caused by damaged wiring, faulty power the wire in and tighten it. Be sure to keep the ground on
tools or old appliances allowing electricity to take an the bottom of the outlet.
unplanned path to a ground. These shortcuts can 2. Select the right screws. Begin by looking for a sticker
sometimes be taken through conductive items you touch covering two of the screws. The marked screws are only
like metal appliance casings which can lead to electric for linking your outlet with other outlets in a circuit. Your
shock. outlet will have two screws on either side. Use the
Ground faults are especially dangerous in kitchens, unmarked screws to install a single GFCI.
bathrooms and other areas with high levels of moisture. 3. Insert the hot and neutral wires. The black wire will
The Dangers of Ground Faults connect with the brass screw and the white wire with the
The main threat of ground faults is electric shock. Electric silver screw. Most GFCIs will have holes in the back for
currents running through conductive materials can also inserting the wire. Push the wire into the corresponding
cause fires and burns. hole until it stops. Tighten the screw.
Identifying Ground Faults 4. Push the outlet into the wall. Bend the wires slightly and
Ground faults can occur within appliances or your homes push the outlet back toward the box. Screw the top and
electrical system itself. The best way to identify the cause bottom of the outlet in place.
and location of your fault is through simple troubleshooting. 1. Test the outlet. Turn the power back on and press your
Fortunately, investigating a ground fault doesnt require outlets reset button. Plug in an appliance to make sure
working with live wires. Heres a quick how-to: your new GFCI is working properly.
Locate the problem. Many homes are equipped with Installing a GFCI outlet is a relatively simple project, but it
ground fault circuit interrupters or GFCI outlets. These can present challenges. Always call a pro if youre unsure
outlets detect ground faults and shut off power to the about tackling this job.
affected circuit. Some models alert homeowners with a
light or by tripping a reset switch on the outlet. Look for Series and Parallel Circuits
these alerts to locate the ground fault. If your home
doesnt have GFCI-equipped outlets, look at your breaker The Basics
box. Tripped breakers will be in the off position. Its
important to note that ground faults dont always trip
breakers. If your electrical issue is overloading breakers,
you could be dealing with a short or too many appliances
running on the same circuit. Call a pro If you suspect a
The regular outlets are about 1/10th the cost. The downfall
is that when there is a ground fault condition with any of
these added outlets, the GFCI outlet then trips.
All of the outlets down the line that are connected also trip,
cutting off the power to them. This parallel connection
works to kill the power to everything connected to the GFCI
Jon Shireman/The Image Bank/Getty Images outet.
Introduction
Have you ever wondered what the difference was between
Three-Way Switches
a series and a parallel circuit? Both use current that flow
through them, but thats where the likeness ends.

Series Circuit
A series circuit starts with the hot wire from a power source
that feeds one side of, lets say, a light bulb. The other wire
on the light then goes to feed the next light and so on. At Three-way switches labeled. Timothy Thiele
the last light, the second wire comes back and connects to Although we've all heard the term three-way switches, what
the other side of the power source. do we really know about them? OK, they're switches that
The best example I can give you is a string of Christmas turn lights on and off, that's obvious. But what makes them
lights. You know the type. When you take out one bulb, so special? Does three-way mean they can be installed
they all go out. That is a series circuit. If you take a bulb three different ways? Funny, but no. Three-way switches
out, youre opening up the circuit and that means that are specially designed to work in pairs and often in
current cannot flow. combination with four-way switches to control lighting from
more than one location.
Parallel Circuit Terminals on Three-way Switches
Let's say that you are installing six lights in a building. A Three-way switches come equipped with four terminal
parallel circuit starts with a hot wire and a neutral screws for connecting wires. The green terminal screw is
wire which feeds the first light. The remaining five lights are used to connect the ground wire. This terminal screwhas
connected white to white (neutral) and black to black (hot) either a green or bare copper wire connected to it.
all the way to and including the last light. Unlike the series As you look over the three-way switch you'll notice two
circuit, you can remove a bulb in any of the lights and it will brass-colored terminal screws. These are used to connect
not cause the other lights to go out. A great example is a common wires between the two three-way switches. These
hallway in your house where two or more lights come on are called traveler connections. Basically, if a black wire is
with the same switch. When one burns out, the other hooked on one terminal and a red wire is hooked on the
remains lit. other, the other three-way switch would be wired exactly
Now let's look at a practical application in your home that the same way. Depending on the switch position, one of
may make sense to you . In your kitchen, bathroom or these two wires will always be "hot" when power is "on" to
basement, there is likely a ground fault circuit interrupter, the circuit.
GFCI, that will show how this principle works. The last terminal screw is a darker-colored screw. This is
As you may or may not know, a GFCI has a line and a load the common connection of the switch. Its purpose is to
connection. One is for the incoming "hot" wires and the either be the feed source for the circuit or the switch-leg for
other is for the outgoing "load" connection wires. Let'slook the feed to a light fixture.
at the difference. As a feeder, the power comes in through this connection
The line connection is the point where you will connect and, depending on the position of the switch, the power
the incoming feeder wire, the line, which is fed from the goes out to the other three-way switch through one of the
homes electrical panel. switch-leg (travelers) connections. On the other end, at
Youll connect the hot wire, often a black or red wire, to switch number two, the feed come in through one of the
the brass-colored terminal screw or in the slot provided to traveler connections and out through the common
accept the stripped wire. connection.
at this point, the common connection connects to the light
The neutral connection, white wire, is then connected to fixture feed.
the silver-colored terminal screw or slot provided to accept Three-way Switch Blunders
the stripped wire. Be sure to tighten the terminal One of the most common problems with three-way
screws and tug on the wire to check that the connection is switches is improper wiring. It's very easy to mix up three-
tight. These terminal screws are uncovered and visible right way switch wiring when replacing a three-way switch. The
out of the manufacturers packaging. This is different from most important thing you can do is to take the time to mark
the load connections appearance. the wires before you remove any wires from the old switch,
The load connection is visible from the time you pull it out The wire connected to the common connection is the most
of the package. There is a piece of tape that covers the important to mark. It must always connect to the darkest-
terminal screws, often yellow in color. As with the line colored terminal screw. By placing a colored piece of tape
connection, when you look on the back of the GFCI, there or label on the wire, it will be easy to find when you connect
is a labeled area designating the load connection. The load the new switch
connection is available to feed addition regular outlets from Another great idea is to only remove one wire at a time
the GFCI and have protection from the GFCI. In other when replacing switches. That way, when you remove a
words, any regular outlet that is fed from the load side of wire from one switch, you can attach it to the new switch.
the GFCI is also protected from a ground fault because of By doing it one switch at a time, you'll be sure to properly
the GFCI. The benefit of this is to reduce cost by only connect the switch.
having to purchase one GFCI when running addition Making a Secure Connection
outlets, instead of buying a GFCI for every outlet. Three-way switches have different methods of connections
depending on what brand you may use. They all have
screws on the side, but some come with holes or slots to
slide the wire into the switch. Still, others come with a
quick-mount, spring-loaded slot that holds the wire in place.
It basically has two copper strips inside that are bent at an
angle to allow the wire to go in, but not to come back out.
Although this may be the quickest way to connect a switch,
it is not recommended. Personally, I don't feel this is a solid
connection. By screwing the wires down, you'll be sure to
have a tight, safe, and secure connection.
Three-way Switch Troubles
Sometimes three-way switches go on the fritz. This can be
caused by loose wire connections and faulty switches. By
turning off the power to the circuit and removing the
switches, you can tighten the screw terminal connections.
Check the neutral connections and other connections made
with wire nuts, or dare I say it, electrical tape. If you have
one of these connections, replace it with a wire nut.
You may notice that the switch makes a sizzling or popping
sound when you turn the switch on or when it is on. This
means that the switch contacts are getting bad and aren't
making good contact.
This switch should be changed immediately to avoid bigger
electrical problems. By inspecting your switches
periodically, you'll ensure safe and effective electrical
connections.
Want to learn more about switches? The following articles
will help guide you. Select one below to continue learning
about switches.
Rotary Switches
Learn what a rotary dimmer switch is and how it can benefit
lighting in your home.
How to Change a Single-pole Switch
Find out how to change a single-pole switch with this step-
by-step tutorial.
Anatomy of a Three-way Switch
Learn what a three-way switch is made of, how they work,
and how they are connected.

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