House electrical wiring is hazardous and can cost not just your life but also the lives of others. Home electric fires cause approximately 51,000 fires, resulting in around 500 deaths, 1400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage annually. To ensure your safety, we have enlisted a few essential tips so your home wiring can be done right.
However, it is important to note that anything regarding electrical systems, notably designing and installation, is extremely complex and would be best done in the hands of professionals. HandyKith is one of the best wiring electricians that can provide quality service and have a proven track record that assures the safety of you, your family, and the people around you.
The Basics of House Electrical Wiring
We have delved into the world of electrical work starting at school by making a small circuit board with a switch, a bunch of batteries, wires, and probably a little light bulb. However, you either haven’t paid enough attention or have forgotten anything related to class by now. Yet, house electrical wiring has a similar process as that miniature circuit board you made way back when.
Any electrical system will start with a supplier’s meter board wherein electricity is then distributed to a consumer unit, which usually consists of the main switch and an RCD (Residual Current Device).
The current will then pass to a fuse known as an MCB (Miniature Circuit Breaker), which usually acts as your access to the power supply to all the circuits and devices in your house. This is what gets the appliances and equipment in your home like your lights, television, heaters, etc. to work.
However, this description is all just surface-level knowledge of how a home electrical wiring system is utilized. To get to a little bit of the nitty-gritty, here is a list of essential components that you must be aware of:
The disconnector (also known as a disconnect switch or isolator switch) is a manual or motor-operated, high-voltage electrical switch that isolates sections of the electrical network. Simply put, in cases of emergency, such as a fire, or if some maintenance work is required, the disconnector allows you to switch to alternate power sources and also shut off the power.
It usually is a dedicated switch when it comes to home electrical wiring systems, but there are a few instances where a home may not have a separate disconnect switch. This may then include a breaker box, or what is otherwise known as the main service panel, to serve as a means to disconnect the system.
It is also called the main service panel or load center by those in the trade. The breaker box is a panel that takes incoming electricity from a supplier, usually from your utility company provider, and redistributes the power safely into your home.
This can be controlled through a switchboard within the panel. Inside the main service panel are two large “hot” wires connected to lugs and are the source in providing the power to the panel and into all the outlets, switches, and appliances in your home.
From there, once electricity flows into your household, it is fed back through what is known as a neutral bus bar or simply, neutral. The neutral wire acts as the cable that feeds the current back to the electric company, which completes the loop or flow of the electrical circuit.
Main Circuit Breaker
The main circuit breaker is used to either switch on or off the flow of power to all branch circuit breakers in electrical wiring residential all at the same time. Most of the time, you can find this at the top of the panel. The main breaker indicates the maximum amperage capacity of the service panel. The standard capacity of panels today is at 200 amps but can have either lower or higher capacities.
Older panels were sized for 100 amps or 150 amps, possibly even fewer amperes. Power will always flow into the panel, however, even if the main breaker is switched off unless there is a separate disconnect switch to shut the power off. The electric company will always have a utility service line that can shut off the power.
Branch Circuit Breakers
Branch circuit breakers are the switches that fill the panel and are usually just below the main breaker. Each breaker controls all the electric flow to a particular branch circuit. This means that any devices or appliances connected to a particular branch circuit will all be turned off or on if the power is switched a certain way from the branch circuit breaker.
If there is an overload on a circuit, the breaker will automatically switch off the electricity flow. To prevent this from happening, it is advisable to keep appliances in separate circuits. In the event that you experience the breaker switch off due to an overload in a circuit and it trips off again after you separate your devices, it is best to call an electrician as the situation may be more complex and dangerous.
Devices are objects in the household adapted and used for electrical purposes. This can be anything from switches to lights, to your appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioners, and televisions. Devices get their electricity via the branch circuit connected to the main service panel.
One circuit can usually hold more than a single device and contain several switches, fixtures, etc. However, there are circuits known as dedicated circuits that are specific to a critical appliance such as a refrigerator. This is so that these dedicated circuits can be turned off at the breaker box without interfering with other circuits and devices and decreases the risk of an overloaded circuit.
Switches are operating devices that are used for the purpose of being able to turn the power on or off. It can come in different designs, shapes, and sizes such as a single-pole, a three-way, a four-way, and dimmer. By flipping a switch off, it opens the circuit, which acts as an interruption in power, whereas switching one on, the circuit closes and the power will continue to flow onto further devices such as a light.
Electrical outlets or receptacles are plugs or sockets that connect electrical equipment to an electrical supply. Most appliances can be connected to an outlet, including televisions, vacuums, and toasters. The standard outlet in a household is either 15 amps or 20 amps, where 20 amps provide more electricity without the breaker tripping.
However, some outlets that may give up to 30 – 50 amps of power but are specific to appliances that demand that much energy from these special outlets. Clothes dryers and electric ranges are just a few examples. Furthermore, outlets in areas that can potentially get wet such as a bathroom, have ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection.
Types of Electrical Wiring
To get started with wiring installation, it is vital to know the types of electrical wiring and the suitable places for a certain type of wiring to be found in order to understand and build what is ideal for your home.
It is a cheap and straightforward wiring system that consists of VIR or PVC insulated wires, which are commonly weather-proof sheathed cables. They are usually rare to find, but even still, they are temporary wiring systems that are traditionally seen to power construction sites by enabling lighting in certain areas. Therefore, they are held by wood, plastic, or porcelain cleats on the ceilings and walls.
This wiring comprises of PVC insulated wires or ordinary VIR that are braided and compounded. They are held on walls and ceilings using porcelain cleats with groves, wood, or plastic. Therefore, it is highly unsuitable for you to use within your household. It is a temporary wiring system, thus making it unsuitable for domestic premises.
Casing and Capping Wiring
While this may be a conventional wiring system, it was quite popular in the past. As the name suggests, insulated cables are put into plastic casing enclosures and are covered with a cap. While PVC is usually used, VIR and other approved insulated electrical cables could also be used in this kind of electric wiring.
Batten wiring is when a single or group (normally two or three) are laid on a teak wooden batten by utilizing a brass clip. For the horizontal runs, they are gapped at 10cm, whereas the vertical runs are at 15cm.
Lead Sheathed Wiring
Lead sheathed wiring are VIR-insulated conductors encased with lead aluminum alloy on the outermost part. There is about 95% of lead, thus protecting it from mechanical accidents and degradation of materials caused by the air.
Conduit Wiring is when the wiring is installed within the wall along with metal or plastic pipes. These can be divided into two different types:
- Surface Conduit Wiring: This is when GI or PVC conduits are installed on a surface. Generally, this can be the walls, the ceiling, or the roof. The conduits are sealed within the walls with Rawal plugs and at equal distances.
- Concealed Conduit Wiring: This is when conduits are plastered and hidden inside wall slots and is friendly toward a home’s interior design. While Conduit Wiring may seem like a popular choice among homeowners, it is essential to know their advantages and disadvantages:
- It is a long-lasting electrical wiring system
- There is no need to have any safety concerns such as getting shocked as electrical wires are not directly exposed to you
- There is no risk of it getting harmed by the chemical effects of external factors like moisture or humidity
- Its functionality does not come in the way of being aesthetically pleasing
- There is no risk of attaining damages to the cable insulation, which decreases the chance of fires.
- The price is higher as compared to other electronic wiring systems, surface conduit wiring included
- Installation and wiring is complicated, so therefore addition and management of conduits will be difficult
- Defects and faults are challenging to find
Types of Wires and Electrical Wiring Color Code Standards
Electrical wiring in a household is commonly insulated, or in other words, are covered in a non-conductive plastic coating. This, of course, does not include ground wires, which are solid copper, so is either uninsulated or insulated with a green sheath. Although we will be enlisting all types of wires, please bear in mind that these should be proceeded with caution as they are dangerous and should be turned off when in use. These are also always best handled by professionals such as Handy Kith, who specializes in all kinds of wiring.
Non-Metallic Sheathed Cable
The NM cable can also be referred to as a romex. This is frequently seen in dry locations within modern houses with two or more wires contained within a protective plastic sheath, one or more hot wires, one neutral wire, and one ground wire. They are tubular-shaped and go behind the walls and floor cavities of your home. Here are some of the available amperages, size, and color-coded outer jacket:
|Gauge||Amp Circuits||Color Code|
Underground Feeder Cable
UF cables are nonmetallic and are used in wet locations and in areas that are accessible to the ground, such as outdoor fixtures like lamp posts. It consists of neutral wires, insulated hot wire, and a bare ground wire. Unlike the NM cable, which is sheathed with a separate plastic wrap, the sheathing on a UF cable is surrounded with a gray-colored solid plastic.
THHN (Thermoplastic High Heat-resistant Nylon-coated) and THWN (Thermoplastic Heat and Water-resistant Nylon-coated) are the customary insulated conductors utilized and protected by a plastic or tubular metal conduit. They are regularly used in incomplete spaces such as short-term runs like a wiring connection to a water heater or for garages or basements. They also have color-coded sheathings to make it easier to identify its function.
|Hot wires||Black, Red, Orange|
|Neutral wires||White, Brown|
|Ground wires||Green, Yellow-green|
Low-voltage wirings are small wires insulated and possibly contained in a cable sheathing or combined in a twisted pairing. They should only be utilized for low-voltage situations such as a doorbell or a sprinkler connection. Sizes can range around 22 gauge to 12 gauge and require only 50 volts or less.
House Wiring Rules and Codes
A crucial part of being familiar with wiring installation is that you have to follow the safety rules and regulations on the National Electric Code (NEC) governed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), required for you to deal with any home wiring project.
Although these may vary from state to state, we list down a few that are generally applied to residential wiring as of writing. However, you should also check for any new versions or with your local building department as the codes are updated every few years.
- Outlets should have a 20 amp circuit. Provided that there are other circuits to power lights, fans, etc, one circuit can supply the whole bathroom.
- In the case of vents with a built-in heater, a separate 20 amp circuit must be used.
- GFCI protection is a requirement for all outlets.
- At least one 120 volt outlet should be available within 3 feet of the sink.
- All appliances, including light fixtures, fans, and vents, should be rated for wet or damp conditions.
- A minimum of two 120 volt outlets should be installed along the countertop to plug in any appliances and must be GFCI protected.
- Dishwashers, garbage disposals, microwaves, and refrigerators must have their own 120-volt circuits with about 15 or 20 amps depending on the aforementioned appliance. GFCI protection is required for the dishwasher.
- Lighting must also be on its own with a minimum 15 amp circuit.
Living Rooms, Dining Rooms, and Bedrooms
- Every room is required to have a switch by the entrance.
- Walls that are wider than 2-feet should have an outlet placed 12 feet apart on each wall.
- Appliances for entertainment centers or other devices such as microwaves and window air conditioners will require a separate, 20 amp circuit.
- Stairways should have 3-way switches that can be found at both the top and bottom of the stairwell
- If a stairway has a landing, a separate light source is required.
- Like stairways, 3-way switches should be found at each end of the hall.
- An outlet for general use is necessary for hallways over 10 feet long.
- Installation for incandescent fixtures may not be installed within 12 inches of storage space and must be encased in a globe.
- There must be no installation of LED fixtures within 12-inches of storage space.
- There must be no installation of CFL fixtures within 6-inches of storage space.
- The installation of surface-mounted fixtures must be on the wall or ceiling above the door.
- GFCI protection is required for all outlets
- A dedicated 240 volt and 30 amp circuit with 4 conductors are needed for electric clothes dryers.
- Any other appliance will need its own 20 amp circuit.
- A dedicated 20 amp circuit that powers only the garage is required.
- A minimum of one light switch must be present to control lighting.
- A minimum of one outlet per car space is required.
- GFCI protection is required for all outlets.
HandyKith Electrical Wiring Residential
While we hope that you have basic house wiring to take on your project, home improvement jobs for any residential wiring is a complex topic and takes years of learning and experience. In order to avoid any risk to your safety when working with home wiring, it is best to seek professionals as there is a serious and greater price to pay if you don’t.
Electrical work is not something that should be taken lightly and have a set of rules that is strictly followed by an electrician. Unless you’re experienced in even the slightest basic electrical wiring, this job should not be done on your own. Electricians such as HandyKith have provided safe, and quality-assured work over the years and are the best people to call for any of your home improvement needs.