I have decided to take on the project of wiring my home with scrap copper. As an amateur electrician with some experience working with copper wiring, I believe this project will allow me to save money on materials while learning new skills. In this comprehensive guide, I will walk through all the key steps, considerations, and best practices for wiring a home using scrap copper.
Sourcing and Preparing Scrap Copper for Wiring
The first step is acquiring scrap copper wiring and preparing it for use in my home. Here are the main things I need to do:
Find sources of scrap copper wire. I can get it from demolition sites, scrappers, friends in the trades, or online sources. Solid core copper wire with thicker gauges like 12 or 14 AWG will work best. I'll inspect it and cut off any damaged sections.
Strip off the insulation. I'll use wire strippers to remove the rubber/plastic insulation to expose the inner copper conductor. I have to be careful not to nick or cut into the copper.
Straighten and clean. Once stripped, I need to straighten out any kinks or bends in the copper using pliers. I'll also scrub off any residue or corrosion to get down to shiny copper.
Cut to length. For each circuit run, I'll measure and cut the copper to the required length using a hacksaw or angle grinder with a cutting wheel.
Label. Using tape and a permanent marker, I'll label each wire with its circuit and connection points to avoid mix-ups down the road.
Proper sourcing and prep work takes time but will prevent headaches later. I only want clean, undamaged wire to install.
Safety Gear and Precautions
Working with open electrical wiring carries risks like shocks, burns, cuts, and eye injuries. I will be very careful and use appropriate safety gear:
- Electrical gloves to insulate my hands and prevent shocks
- Safety goggles for eye protection
- Work boots to prevent cuts and electrical shock through my feet
- Face mask to avoid breathing in copper dust
I'll make sure to:
- Turn off power at the breaker before doing any work
- Discharge capacitors on old circuits to prevent shocks
- Work one circuit at a time to avoid confusion
- Use fiberglass ladder when accessing the attic and avoid water
Safety is the top priority, especially since I'll be working on live electrical systems. I'll get help if needed rather than take unnecessary risks.
Wiring Basics and Planning
Before I start wiring, I need to brush up on some fundamentals:
- Current rating - Match wire gauge to expected amperage load to avoid overheating
- Voltage - Home wiring is 120V. Match voltage rating of devices, switches and outlets
- AC vs DC - Alternating current is used in homes, direct current for low voltage like doorbells
- Single vs multi-phase - Home circuits are single phase 120V. Larger appliances like stoves are multi-phase
- ** Series vs parallel** - Most home wiring is parallel with multiple outlets on one circuit
I also need to plan out my wiring strategy:
- Make a circuit map marking all outlets, switches, and light fixtures
- Group rooms and devices into separate circuits like kitchen or bedrooms
- Have a main service panel with breakers controlling and protecting all circuits
- Use thicker gauge copper for high draw appliance circuits like stoves
- Include a ground wire in all circuits for safety
Good planning ensures proper sizing, efficient routes, and safe installation of the scrap copper wiring.
Running and Connecting Circuit Wires
Now for the hands-on part - running and connecting new copper circuit wires throughout my home. Here are the steps:
- Secure the wire using staples for accessible areas or running boards in attics/crawlspaces
- Drill holes through joists, studs, and headers to route wire between rooms and floors
- Fish wires between cramped spaces using fish tape or by attaching a strong string
- Connect wires to receptacles and switches securely matching hot, neutral and ground
- Use wire nuts to join wires from multiple connection points and circuits
- Label everything at both ends for easy identification and troubleshooting
I'll be very systematic in my process, completing one run at a time. For existing wiring I'm reusing, I'll clean, straighten, and re-connect it properly.
Testing and Troubleshooting My Work
Once the new copper wiring is installed throughout the home, I need to thoroughly test and fix any issues before turning the power back on:
- Visual inspection - Check for loose connections, crossed wires, gaps in insulation
- Test for continuity - Verify all wires are connected using a multimeter
- Check for shorts - Use a multimeter to test for unwanted connections between wires
- Perform polarity tests - Confirm hot and neutral wires are correctly configured
- Verify grounding - Test that all outlets are properly grounded for safety
I expect to encounter some problems like faulty terminations or incorrectly wired switched outlets. I'll methodically troubleshoot any issues until everything checks out.
Safety Validation and Turning Power Back On
As a final safety validation, I will:
- Have an electrician friend double-check my work
- Replace any suspect or damaged wiring
- Turn power on gradually - Start with a single outlet and work up circuit by circuit
- Test GFCI outlets using the test and reset buttons
- Check that all lights, switches and outlets work properly
Once all the circuits are live and functioning correctly, I can relax knowing my home is now safely wired using scrap copper! This project took planning, care, and attention to detail, but the savings and knowledge gained make it all worthwhile.