For most homeowners, rewiring a house conjures up images of ripped up walls, expensive electricians, and major disruptions. However, with some DIY knowledge and unconventional thinking, you can rewire your home in a less invasive and more affordable way. In this comprehensive guide, I'll walk you through the process of using alternative materials to rewire your house room-by-room.
Understanding Electrical Basics
Before diving into a rewiring project, it's crucial to have a solid grasp of electrical basics. Here's a quick overview of some key concepts:
Current and Voltage
- Current is the flow of electrons through a conductor like a wire. It's measured in amps.
- Voltage is the electrical pressure driving the current. Standard household voltage is 120V in the US.
Series and Parallel Circuits
- In a series circuit, current flows through one path. If a connection breaks, the circuit is interrupted.
- In a parallel circuit, current splits between multiple paths. If one path fails, current still flows through the others. Household wiring uses parallel circuits.
Conductors and Insulators
- Conductors like copper wire allow current to easily flow.
- Insulators like plastic coverings resist current flow and prevent shocks.
Familiarize yourself with the National Electrical Code (NEC) to ensure any unconventional wiring meets safety standards.
Choosing Alternative Conductors
Traditional household electrical wire has a copper conductor covered by plastic insulation. However, you can use other conductive materials to rewire if coded properly.
- Aluminum wire conducts electricity nearly as well as copper. It was briefly popular in the 70s.
- Use wiring labeled CO/ALR rated for connecting copper and aluminum. Watch for oxidation.
Copper Plumbing Pipe
- Copper pipes for water supply lines can double as electrical conduits.
- Ensure pipes are properly grounded and use insulation rated for wet locations.
Conductive Metal Tubing
- Flexible metal tubing like corrugated stainless steel can be run through walls.
- Must be properly grounded with end fittings to connect to boxes.
Routing Your Rewiring
Ripping up walls to run new wires is messy, expensive, and disruptive. Consider these less invasive routing options:
Attics and Crawlspaces
- Running wires through attics and crawlspaces allows access without damaging walls.
- Use insulation rated for hot attics and keep wires away from sharp edges.
Along Floor Joists and Studs
- Secure wires to the sides of floor joists and wall studs with insulated staples.
- Be sure to avoid plumbing pipes and other obstructions.
- Wires can be tucked under carpet edges and carpet padding around the perimeter of rooms.
- Use flat, thin conductor cables and nail down edges firmly.
- Cables can slip behind baseboard molding around rooms.
- Replace molding carefully to hide wires. Use wire molding to cover gaps.
Key Safety Tips
Rewiring with unconventional materials takes careful planning and awareness:
- Use GFCI protected circuits for added shock protection.
- Properly ground all conductors to prevent voltage from appearing on metal conduit.
- Maintain adequate wire ratings for expected electrical load.
- Keep wires separated from potential sources of damage.
- Allow for heat dissipation in covered wires to prevent fire risks.
- Examine work with thermal imaging to catch any hidden hot spots.
Switching Out Your Electrical Panel
To complete your unconventional rewiring:
Replace your main panel with a higher capacity model with ample room for circuit breakers.
Use a neutral bus bar appropriate for your chosen conductor material.
Label all circuits clearly on the panel door.
Include plenty of spare spaces for future expansion.
Consulting an Electrician
While portions of a rewiring project can be DIY, it's wise to consult a licensed electrician for:
Evaluating your existing electrical service.
Recommending appropriate wire gauges and circuit capacities.
Ensuring all work meets NEC codes for your area.
Officially inspecting and signing off on the finished rewiring.
By learning basic electrical concepts, using unconventional conductors creatively, routing wires less invasively, and prioritizing safety, you can tackle a major rewiring project yourself and save thousands in the process. Just be sure to get professional guidance so your finished product meets all legal and safety standards. With some upfront planning and elbow grease, you can give your home an electrical upgrade using ingenious unconventional materials.