Guide to electrical wiring and equipment
Home electrical projects can be daunting to the do-it-yourself newcomer. Safety is very important, as one wrong move has the potential to start a fire or cause serious injury. Before you even begin to worry about which wire goes where and which fuse box controls which electrical outlets, there are a few basics you should be sure you know like the back of your hand.
Basics of Home Electrical Wiring
If you're going to be working with electrical wire, keep in mind the following general guidelines:
- "Hot" wires are usually, but not always, black or red in color. Current flows from circuit breakers through these wires, delivering amps to electrical outlets that power the items plugged into them.
- Conversely, white wires are usually, but not always, "return" wires. It is through return wires that current returns to the circuit breaker after powering a plugged-in appliance.
- The ground wire is usually attached to the appliance itself and only conducts current in the event of a short circuit. During a short circuit, your circuit breaker should trip, immediately ceasing all current flow. You'll have to reset the electrical switches in the fuse box to restart the flow of current.
- If your return wire and ground wires ever connect with one another, you might soon be dealing with a fire. The only place these two wires should ever be in contact is at the bus bar of your home's circuit panel and nowhere else.
- There are numerous different electrical boxes you can use in your home. Electrical boxes are typically designed for specific applications; some are specially designed to support hanging lighting fixtures; others are intended for applications requiring low voltages. Always make sure you get the right type for the job you're trying to do.
Know Your Circuit Panel Basics
The more circuit panels you have in your home, the better. This gives you more control over the distribution of electricity in your home. You'll experience fewer short circuits and you'll greatly reduce your risk of inadvertently starting an electrical fire.
Circuit panels are where every electrical wire in your home gets connected. From there, the wires are distributed among the individual circuit breakers in your home, which in turn ensure that a safe amount of current is distributed to clusters of electrical outlets.
Building codes dictate the maximum electrical load a residential circuit panel can carry. It is extremely important that you adhere to these laws, and if you're finding yourself overwhelmed by the task at hand, call a professional electrician to ensure it gets done safely and correctly.