Doing your own home wiring can be daunting, but with the right preparation and safety measures, you can successfully wire your home on a budget. Here's a complete guide to help you through the process.
Understanding Home Electrical Systems
Before starting any electrical project, you need a solid understanding of how home electrical systems work. Here are the key things to know:
Power source - Your home wiring gets electricity from the utility company power lines that run along the street. The electricity comes into a meter and then into your home's breaker box or fuse box.
Breaker box - The breaker box has circuit breakers or fuses that control power to all the circuits in your home. Each circuit powers certain rooms or areas.
Wiring circuits - Wires inside walls, ceilings and floors distribute power around your home. Normal 120-volt household circuits use black and white wires for hot and neutral. 240-volt appliance circuits add red for the second hot wire.
Grounding - Bare copper or green wires connect to the grounding system, ensuring electricity flows safely if there's a problem. Proper grounding prevents shocks and electrocution.
Receptacles and switches - Outlets and switches allow you to connect devices and control lights. Receptacles have hot and neutral terminals for plugging in devices. Switches interrupt the hot wire to turn lights off and on.
Electrical load - Each circuit can only handle a certain amount of electric load. Overloading circuits can cause tripped breakers, blown fuses, and even fires.
Gathering Tools and Materials on a Budget
Wiring a house requires having the right tools and materials. With some smart shopping at discount outlets, you can assemble a budget home wiring toolkit:
- Basic hand tools - Hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, cable stripper, utility knife
- Voltage tester - For safely checking wires
- Multimeter - Measures voltage, resistance and current
- Wire cutters and strippers - For cutting and stripping wire insulation
- Claw hammer - For nailing down wiring and boxes
- Power drill - For drilling holes to run wires
- Fish tape - For running wires inside of walls
- Ladders - Making elevated work easier and safer
For materials, you'll need:
- Wire - Check the amperage rating you need and buy wire at least one size bigger for safety. Stock up on various sizes of 12, 14 and 16 gauge solid copper THHN wire.
- Electrical boxes - Buyblankoutlet and switch boxes for each location. Get 2-3" deepboxesfor more room to work.
- Conduit - Use rigid metal or PVC conduit to protect wire runs. Check your local codes.
- Breakers - Match breaker amperage to each circuit's wire size. 15-20 amp for lighting/outlets and 30-50 amp for appliances.
Shop discount electrical supply stores, hardware chains, and home improvement stores for the best deals on these essentials.
Safety First - Avoiding Electrical Dangers
Working with electrical wiring presents serious shock and electrocution hazards. Protect yourself with these safety steps:
- Turn off power at the breaker before working on any circuit. Verify it's off with a voltage tester!
- Wear rubber-soled shoes and keep floors dry for insulation.
- Use eye protection - sparks can happen.
- Avoid wearing jewelry which can conduct electricity.
- Double check connections to be sure they are tight and in the right place. Loose connections cause arcing and fires.
- Connect each wire securely and cap any unused wires with wire nuts.
- Use GFCI outlets or breakers where required by code for added protection from shocks.
- If a circuit trips while you're working on it, stop and figure out the cause. Never just keep resetting it without checking.
- Call an electrician immediately if you feel unsure or overwhelmed at any point! Safety first.
Installing New Wiring and Circuits
Once you understand home electrical systems and have the right gear, you're ready to start the wiring project! Follow these steps to run new wires and circuits like a pro:
1. Plan the New Circuits
Decide what areas or devices need new circuits run based on your needs. Calculate the amperage needed and choose an appropriate wire size.
Draw up plans showing the layout of each new circuit. Mark box and fixture locations, wire routes between them, and the breaker panel.
2. Mount the New Boxes
Shut off the main breaker and verify power is off with a voltage tester.
Mount new electrical boxes for devices using appropriate knockout holes. Anchor boxes securely to studs or structural supports.
Make sure outdoor and wet area boxes are weatherproof models. Use box extenders as needed to make them flush with finished walls.
3. Run the Cables
Decide whether to run cables through conduit or use NM sheathed cable for easier installation. Conduit offers the most protection.
Drill holes through walls, studs and joists to run wires between boxes and to the breaker panel. Use clamps to secure cables to supports.
Use fish tape to pull cables through walls. Leave plenty of extra wire at each box for connections.
4. Connect Switches and Receptacles
Remove knockouts from boxes and attach cables using cable clamps.
Strip insulation from wires and connect to devices using screw terminals or push-in connectors. Follow diagrams.
Use wire nuts to join multiple ground wires to ground terminals. Connect the ground first for safety.
5. Connect the Breakers
Shut off the main breaker again and verify it's dead before touching any panel wiring.
Mount new breakers in open slots and connect hot wires to the breaker terminals. Follow amperage limits.
Finally, attach neutral and ground wires and tightly secure cables to the panel with clamps.
Once everything is securely connected, turn the main breaker back on and test all circuits! Add outlet covers and switches to complete the job.
Doing It Right - Following Codes for Safety
Any electrical work you do must follow local building codes to ensure safety and pass inspections:
Use only approved materials and wiring methods. NM sheathed cable is allowed for most indoor wiring.
Follow code requirements for conduit type, wire types, box mounting rules, wire splicing techniques and more.
Circuit labels or wire markers are required for properly identifying all wires and breakers.
GFCI protection is required for bathrooms, basements, kitchens, outdoors and garages. Know where it's needed.
Maximum circuit capacity and size depends on wire size - don't overload wires.
Outlet spacing and placement rules apply to make them accessible. Kitchen counter circuits need proper outlet layouts.
Getting any required permits and scheduling inspections ensures your wiring passes regulations. Consider having an electrician review your full plans.
Helpful Tools and Resources
These handy resources can help you plan your wiring project and follow proper methods:
Electrical codes - Review your local jurisdiction's electrical code for all requirements. The National Electrical Code (NEC) serves as a national standard.
Cable/wire ampacity charts - List safe amperage capacities for each wire size to prevent overloading.
Circuit load calculators - Add up all your lights, outlets and devices on a circuit to calculate the required amperage and wire size.
Home improvement stores - Consult with staff experts about projects, code rules and picking the right parts.
Online guides and videos - Find step-by-step tutorials for home electrical wiring best practices.
Electrician consult - Consider hiring an electrician for 1 hour to review your full plans and provide circuit labeling.
The more you research and understand about home electrical systems, the better your DIY wiring project will turn out. Follow safety precautions, take it slow, and don't hesitate to call in a pro if you ever feel unsure. Thorough planning and careful circuit installations will allow you to upgrade your home's wiring on a budget.