Do It Yourself: Basic Electrical Wiring For The Home

Basic electrical repair is a simple task if you understand the rules and tools.

Basic electrical wiring and repair can be a simple task if you understand a few simple rules and possess the proper tools. Let us first discuss the simple rules that will not only keep you safe, but also allow you to understand how electricity works.

Electricity is a powerful tool that has come a long way since its discovery from the first lightening strike. The fact is electrical power travels at the speed of light. One fact you should never forget when working with any type of electrical circuit is to always remove the power from any appliance or circuit at the source--the source being either the wall outlet or the circuit breakers in the main electrical service box.

Electricity must also have a continuous path to ground. This applies to all 120-volt alternating current circuits, or 120-vac for short. The ground is exactly what the name implies - the earth. All modern household wiring employs two type of wiring for accomplishing this return path for the electricity. The first is the common or white wire ground. This wire is a part of every household circuit. The second is the emergency or earth ground. This wire or conductor is the bare copper wire found in most household wiring.

If your house wiring does not employ this type of secondary grounding method, you may have an older home. If this is the case, any new wiring you install should be of the three wire type "Romex" that uses a bare copper wire as the grounding conductor.

The black wire, in a 120-vac circuit system for the home, is the hot conductor. This wire is what carries the electricity to your appliances and lights. In addition, the black wire is what connects to the end of the circuit breaker or fuse connection.

In a 240-vac wiring system, both of the wires carry a separate 120-vac power to the appliance. The two wires are connected to a special type of double or ganged type circuit breaker. This circuit breaker is used primarily for higher amperage appliances such as your cooking stove and hot water heater. In the 240-vac circuit, the white wire may be used for carrying current and not as a ground wire. The bare copper wire is used as the earth ground and is always connected to the metal parts of the appliance.

The tools you possess are just as important as understanding the simple rules for home wiring. All of the tools contained in the list below must be in good working order.

Screwdrivers - You should have at least two types of screwdrivers for your tool list, a slotted head screwdriver and one Philips head screwdriver. The slotted type can be of two different sizes, a large head and a small head. The large head is ideal for prying open new junction box openings. The smaller head is primary for making the actual wire connections to any switches, receptacles and appliances.

Wire pliers and wire strippers - You may find that keeping two types of wire pliers on hand will make any wiring job easier. These two types are a regular flat-jawed plier and a needle nose pliers. Both of these types should have a wire cutter built in to the jaws. A pair of wire strippers that use multiple holes for the wire stripping will be extremely useful. The proper set of strippers will also keep you from excessive wire nicking, which can cause breakage and a failure to your wiring circuit. All of these pliers should have thick insulation on the handle grips.

Circuit tester or Multi-meter - Simple circuit testers are easy to use and very inexpensive. They consist of an LED that lights up when one or more wires are electrified. This type of tester is useful for locating the proper circuit breaker when you want to shut it off.

Multi-meters on the other hand range in price from cheap to very expensive. The truly cheap models can be very inaccurate and sometimes dangerous to use. The wire leads for the cheaper models can be so thin a that a high voltage can cause over heating and may cause a sever burn. If you are looking into the purchase of a multi-meter, shop around; the lowest price may not be the safest deal out there. Multi-meters are a very useful tool and a wise investment if you are going to perform extensive wiring in your home.

Electrical tape and wire nuts - Not all electrical tape is made the same. You should check that every roll of black electrical tape carries a UL rating. If the tape does not carry the Underwriters Laboratory marks, do not buy it. The tape may fail and cost you more problems than the dollar you saved because it was such a deal.

The same advice goes for the wire nuts you use for making multiple wire connections. Always, make a mechanical connection to the wires with your flat jawed pliers first, and then apply the wire nut connector. You may also want to apply a layer or two with the black tape. The tape will help maintain a solid, moisture free connection.

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