How to Save Money By Installing Your Own Home Electrical System

Installing your own home electrical system can be a great way to save money, but it requires research, planning, and adherence to electrical codes and safety standards. As a homeowner, you can legally install new wiring circuits and outlets, light fixtures, switches, and other components of a residential electrical system as long as you obtain the proper permits and pass inspections.

Research Electrical Codes and Safety Standards

The first step is to thoroughly research your local and national electrical codes. The National Electrical Code (NEC) provides the baseline standards that local jurisdictions use as the basis for their own codes. Be sure to check with your local building department to understand all permits, inspections, and other requirements. The last thing you want is to install a system that doesn't meet code!

Some key areas to research in the electrical code include:

Thoroughly studying the electrical code is a must to ensure you design and build a safe, compliant system.

Create Detailed Plans

The next crucial step is to map out detailed plans for your electrical system renovation. Consider sketching layouts showing all circuits, wires, outlets, switches, lights, junction boxes, and the main breaker panel. The plans don't have to be engineering grade drawings, but should provide enough detail that you or an electrician could follow along during installation.

When designing circuit layouts, follow code requirements on the number of outlets per circuit. For example, most 15A household circuits can contain no more than 10 outlets. This prevents overloading the circuit which can lead to tripping breakers, voltage drops, and possible fires.

Carefully plan the placement of outlets, switches, and lighting fixtures for safety, functionality, and aesthetics. Account for existing appliances and where you may add new loads like a home office when determining your outlet needs.

Purchase Materials and Tools

With detailed plans in hand, make a comprehensive list of all the materials and tools you will need. For materials, specify exact quantities of different wire gauges, conduit type and size, boxes, receptacles, breakers, and other parts.

For tools, at a minimum you will need:

Purchase commercial grade tools and high-quality materials from electrical supply stores. Avoid cheap hardware store grade products for safety.

Upgrade the Main Service Panel

Before running any new wiring, consider upgrading your main service panel if needed. Older 100 amp or 150 amp panels may not provide enough power for additional circuits. Upgrading to a 200 amp panel is a smart way to allow for expansion and prevent overloading.

Hire an electrician for this complex task which involves safely disconnecting your home from the utility feed before swapping out the panel. Then the electrician can connect the new panel and re-establish power.

Run and Connect New Circuits and Wiring

Now you're ready to install new wiring, outlets, switches, and other components. Follow your plans, and adhere strictly to electrical codes and permit requirements. Key installation steps include:

Work methodically, test frequently with a voltmeter, and call for inspections at the required stages per your permit. Safety first and quality craftsmanship are critical.

Add Lighting Fixtures, Switches, and Outlets

Finish up by installing all the switches, light fixtures, outlets, cover plates, and other fixtures. Follow manufacturer instructions carefully and use materials rated for damp or wet locations in bathrooms and outdoors. Take time to neaten all visible wiring and ensure components are solidly mounted, level, and plumb.

Flip the main breaker back on once the system is 100% complete. Walk the site testing every light, switch, and outlet. Verify proper voltage, polarity, and grounding using a multimeter. Only minor tweaks should be needed at this point if you followed the plans precisely.

Hire an Electrician for Complex Tasks

As a homeowner, you are allowed to carry out basic wiring projects. However, more complex tasks like upgrading the main panel, running new service entrance wires, wiring detached buildings, and installing generators require an electrician.

While DIY can save money, safety and compliance are paramount. Know your limits, and consult local codes to determine which tasks require a licensed pro. Also consider having an electrician review your plans and inspect the finished work. Smart DIY involves knowing when it pays to hire a pro.

With careful planning, high-quality execution, and adherence to codes, you can take on much of the electrical system installation yourself and save substantially over hiring a contractor. Just be sure to obtain all required permits and pass inspections - the savings are not worth the risk of fire or shock! Use the tips provided here to tackle your next residential wiring project successfully.