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In depth information on do it yourself home property maintenance, covering all aspects of residential home, commercial, business, and apartment building repair, remodeling, and renovation projects Featuring tips, advice, how-to and step-by-step information to help you maintain and improve the value of your business building and home.

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Basic Electrical Wiring for Homes & Other Buildings

What You Will Be Doing

This section will help you discover how easy it is for you as a do-it-yourself  to work with the 110/120 volt electrical system found in your own home. 110/120 volt is relatively simple to wire and connect and does not require a lot of special equipment or handling.

Electricity can be an intimidating concept for many because of the potential danger. You can virtually eliminate that danger with a little knowledge and proper safety practices. However, regardless of how much knowledge you have, never become lax in dealing with an electrical system, or it can be deadly.

The information in this section is meant to give you an understanding of several common electrical situations that you might encounter. Because of the many options and variations in this area, it is not intended to be a complete guide to electrical work.

Never take chances with electrical work If you feel you need more information, consult an electrician or a more detailed reference book if you plan any extensive electrical work, or to evaluate the condition of an older electrical system, I recommend you seek a professional.

Safety

Safety is of utmost importance when working with electricity. Develop safe work habits and stick to them. Be very careful with electricity. It may be invisible, but it can be dangerous if not understood and respected.

1. Safety glasses or goggles should be worn whenever power tools are used, especially if you wear contact lenses.

 

2. Make sure the power is off at the breaker box before doing any electrical work.

 

3. Always work in a dean, dry area free from anything wet.

 

4. Wires should only be connected at accessible junction boxes. Never splice wires together and conceal them within a wall without a junction box.

 

5. Never attempt to strip wires with a knife. Aside from endangering your fingers, you will nick the wire metal, which will create an electrical hazard.

 

6. Ground fault circuit interrupter out- lets should be used under damp conditions (basements, bathrooms, out- doors, etc.), as required by the National Electric Code.

 

7. Don't create fire hazards by over- loading an outlet or an extension cord.

 

8. Avoid electrical shock by mapping and marking your switch and outlet boxes. Put the map on the door of the main power service panel.

 

9. Leave a warning message that you are working on the circuit at the service panel, and tape the circuit breaker in the off position. With a fuse box, take the fuse out.

 

10.  Never change the size of a fuse or breaker in a circuit.

 

11.  Be certain your connector is CO/ALR rated when you splice aluminum wire. If it is marked CU/ALR, use only copper wire. Do not use aluminum wire with push terminals; use only copper or copper-dad aluminum wire.

 

12.  Always correct the problem that caused a fuse or circuit breaker to blow before replacing the fuse or circuit breaker.

 

13.  Replace wiring that shows signs of fraying or deterioration.

 

14.  Avoid breaking your knuckles by bracing the powerful right-angle drill so that it cannot spin around if it gets stuck while drilling.

 

15.  Before working with wires or electrical connections, check them with a voltage tester to be sure they are dead.

 

16.  Plumbing and gas pipes are often used to ground electrical systems. Never touch them while working with electricity.

 

17.  Don't use metal ladders with over- head electricity.

 

18.  Use the proper protection, take precautions, and plan ahead. Never by-pass safety to save money or to rush a project

Useful Terms

·    Ampere . Measures the number of electrically charged particles that flow past a given point on a circuit (per second).

 

·    Breaker box (breaker panel). Houses the circuit breakers or fuses, distributes power to various parts of your house.

 

·    Circuit. All wiring controlled by one fuse or circuit breaker. 

 

·    Circuit breaker. Protective device for each circuit, which automatically cuts off power from the main breaker in the event of an overload or short. Only a regulated amount of current can pass through the breaker before it will "trip."

 

·    Fish tape. A long, flexible metal strip with a formed hook (to which you fasten the cable) or wire to pull through walls, raceway, or conduit.

 

·    Main breaker. Turns the power entering your home through the breaker box on or off. This is sometimes found in the breaker box, or it may be in a separate box and at another location.

 

·    Neutral bus bar. The bar to which the neutral wire is connected in the breaker box.

 

·    Roughing-in. Placement of outlets, switches and lights prior to actual electrical hook-up.

 

·    Volt. Measures the current pressure at receptacles and lights. Average household voltage is 120.

 

·    Watt. The rate at which an electrical device (light bulb, appliance, etc.) consumes energy Watts=volts x amps.

What You Will Need

Time. The time needed will depend on the scope of the project.

Tools. There are some special (although inexpensive) tools required for use with electricity.

·    Long-nose (needle-nose) pliers

·    Wire cutters

·    Electric drill

·    Fish tape

·    Cable stripper

·    Wire stripper

·    Colored tape

·    Voltage tester

·    Continuity tester

·    Right-angle drill, which can be rented.

Other tools from your household toolbox include:

·    Tape measure

·    Screwdriver

·    Chalk line

·    Hammer

·    Circular saw

·    Chisel

·    Hacksaw

·    Combination square

·    Utility light

·    Safety glasses or goggles

·    Keyhole saw

·    Utility knife

·    Pry bar

Materials . Depending on the extent of wiring you will be undertaking, your list may include these materials:

·    Grounded receptacles 

·    Switches

·    Various junction boxes

·    Nail guards

·    Wire nuts

·    Horseshoe nails (electrical staples)

·    Push terminals

·    Breakers

·    Track lights and fittings

·    Dimmer switch

·    Waterproof junction boxes

·    Ground fault interrupters

·    Conduit

·    Cable

·    Silicon caulking

 

Electrical Repairing

Finding the Hot Wire - Safely

In order to do even the most basic repairs or improvements to your electrical system, you may need to find and isolate the hot wire. Here's what you need to know to do that safely.

Every electrical circuit consists of loads - lights, stereos, receptacles, stereos, TVs, computers, electric ranges,  etc - and line feeds. A line feed is the set of conductors, and the potential on those conductors, coming to a device - such as a receptacle or a switch - from the over current protection device for that circuit.

In simpler words, it is the wires that feed from your panel into the box you're working in, and the current that those wires can carry, from the circuit breaker or fuse in the main electrical panel to the box you're working in. The line feed, therefore, contains the "hot" wire for the circuit.

The hot wire in any electrical circuit is that conductor which can only be de-energized by opening the over current protection device. In other words, if you remove every device in an electrical box and undo every splice, there will then be one and only one wire which has current on it in that box, per circuit, when all of the circuit breakers are on or all of the fuses are in place. I said "per circuit" because more than one circuit may feed any given box. This is very rarely done. If you encounter it, you should almost certainly stop work immediately and call a licensed professional electrician.

To get back to the topic. There may be another box, or several boxes, between where you are and the panel. That's OK. The line feed is still that wire which can only be de-energized by opening the over current protection device, plus two other wires in the cable or conduit with it - its neutral conductor and the ground wire. Here's how you can safely determine which of those forty-'eleven wires you're staring at is the one.

Determine Which Circuit You Have

Take off the cover plate and look on the back of it. If your house has been well mapped, you may find a note there telling you the circuit number. If so, great. Go turn the power off at the panel and move on to the next step. Not so lucky? That's OK. Just plug the transmitter part of your circuit tracer into the receptacle or into the adapter you've screwed into the lamp socket, take the receiver to the panel and check each breaker or fuse for the tone from the transmitter.

If you don't have a circuit tracer but you do have someone to help you, you can plug in a lamp and ask your helper to yell when the light goes off. Go flip the breakers off and back on until you hear a yell. If you don't have a circuit tracer or a helper, you can plug in a radio. Turn it up until it's loud enough to hear from the panel. Go flip the breakers off and back on until you hear silence.

Open the Circuit

Leave the power to the box you are working in OFF. Go back to the box and unscrew the devices. Take hold of them by their mounting ears - the flanges at each end that the mounting screws went through - and pull them straight out.

If you're working on a standard single-pole switch, there will be two power wires attached to it. Take both of them off the switch, bend and straighten them until they point up and aren't touching anything, not even each other. Put a small wire nut on the end of each one to cover the bare wire.

f you're working on a receptacle, there will be one or more power wires and one or more neutral wires attached to it. Take all of the power wires off the receptacle, bend and straighten them until they point up and aren't touching anything, not even each other. Put a small wire nut on the end of each one to cover the bare wire.

Tip 1: Residential power wires should be black or, sometimes, red. On a properly wired receptacle, they will be attached to brass-colored screws, or pushed into quick-connect holes, adjacent to the smaller slots in the face of the receptacle - the ones counter-clockwise from the ground slots.

Tip 2: To release a wire that has been inserted into a quick-connect hole, push a small flat-blade screwdriver into the slot next to that hole. You should only have to push it straight in. Try not to wiggle it around so you don't break the switch or receptacle.

Energize the Circuit and Test

You've got all the loose wire ends capped, right? OK, go back to the panel and turn the power ON to the box you are working in. Then go to the box and test each power wire with a voltage detector.To get an idea of the way the voltage detector is used to test each wire, you might want to look at this short video.

In the example shown here, there were four power wires - three black and one red. The red wire brought power from the switch to the receptacle, so that was definitely not the line feed. That left the three black wires - one going to the switch box in the same cable as the red wire and two entering in their own cables. When the tester was turned on and moved along each wire, it registered power on the one entering in its own cable from the bottom of the box. That made sense, because the panel was one level down and there were other lights and receptacles on the same circuit on the floor above. In the picture above and in the video, I marked the hot wire by putting a red wire nut on it.

Open the Circuit and Finish

Go back to the panel and turn the power to the box you are working in back OFF.

Back at the box, make the repairs or improvements you had in mind. When you're finished, you might want to tape around each receptacle and switch before you put them back in - it reduces the risk of shock to the next person who opens the box. And now that you know it, write the number of the circuit on the back of the cover plate.

Put the plate back on, turn the power on and test your work.

 Related Resources

•Basic Electrical Tools
•Glossary of Electrical Terms
•More on Electrical Repairs

Do-It-Best-Yourself Mold Solutions

Phil can help you fix your own property’s mold problems at low-cost, more safely, and better-in- results than what is done by many mold inspectors and mold contractors.  How can Phil help you?

     1. Read Phil’s five plain-English,
mold advice books to master mold inspection, testing, removal, remediation, and prevention for your house, condo, apartment, office,  or workplace.

     2. Buy do-it-yourself, affordable mold test kits, mold lab analysis, video inspection scope, mold cleaner, and mold killer, for the  successful toxic and household mold inspection, mold testing, mold species identification and quantification, mold cleaning, mold removal, and mold remediation to find mold, kill mold, clean mold, and remove mold from your residence or commercial building.

     3. Get FREE mold advice, mold help, and/or answers to your mold questions, by emailing mold expert Phillip Fry at
phil@moldinspector.com. You can also email pictures of your mold problems in jpeg file format as email attachments.

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Do-It-Best-Yourself Mold Solutions

Phil can help you fix your own property’s mold problems at low-cost, more safely, and better-in- results than what is done by many mold inspectors and mold contractors.  How can Phil help you?

     1. Read Phil’s five plain-English,
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     3. Get FREE mold advice, mold help, and/or answers to your mold questions, by emailing mold expert Phillip Fry at
phil@moldinspector.com . You can also email pictures of your mold problems in jpeg file format as email attachments.

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