How to Wire Your Home Without Dying: Forgotten Methods Our Ancestors Used
I have decided to take on the daunting task of wiring my home without professional help. While this may seem dangerous, our ancestors did it all the time using methods that have been forgotten in the modern era. With some research and caution, I believe I can revive these techniques to safely wire my home and save money.
Understanding Electrical Basics
Before I can start stringing wire, I need to understand some electrical basics. This will help me avoid mistakes that could literally be shocking. Here are a few key things I will research:
Ohm's Law - This explains the relationship between current, voltage and resistance. Understanding this is crucial for selecting the right gauge wire and circuit breakers.
Circuit types - Homes use both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). I'll learn the difference and how to work with each.
Current capacity - I need to understand how much current different wires can handle so I don't overload them.
Circuit breakers - These safety devices cut power if there's a surge. I'll learn how to properly size and install them.
Grounding - Proper grounding prevents shocks and protects equipment. I'll research best grounding practices.
Electrical code - While not strictly bound by code as a homeowner, understanding relevant codes will help me avoid hazards.
Wiring a house requires an assortment of supplies. Here are some essentials I'll need:
Wire - Multiple gauges will be required for different applications. I'll use thicker 12 or 10 gauge for high draw appliances like the stove or dryer. For lights and outlets, 14 or 12 gauge is sufficient.
Conduit - I'll run wires through conduit for protection. Both metal and PVC tubing have advantages.
Boxes - Plastic or metal junction boxes provide access to wiring for devices and fixtures. The right sizes are important.
Circuit breakers - The capacity should match the wire gauge and intended use for the circuit. Common sizes are 15, 20 and 30 amps.
Receptacles and switches - Standard duplex outlets and light switches are fairly interchangeable, but dimmers and GFCIs require special models.
Tools - Wire strippers, cutters, volt meter, tape, staple gun, drill and more will be indispensable!
Working with electricity is inherently dangerous. Our ancestors handled it with caution, and so will I by observing these precautions:
- Turn off power at the main breaker before starting any work. Verify it's off with a voltage tester!
- Read all manuals carefully and follow manufacturer instructions.
- Wear insulating gloves and eye protection when handling wires.
- Keep flammable materials away from electrical boxes and wiring.
- Use GFCI outlets near wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms.
- Label all wires and terminals clearly.
- Check all connections for tightness and insulation integrity.
- Only work on small sections at a time to avoid crossed wires.
- Get permits and inspections for major work like new circuits.
Tapping into Existing Wiring
One of the easiest ways to expand wiring in my home is to tap into existing lines. I can add new branches by:
- Identifying live wires in the attic, basement or crawlspace. Check markings on the insulation.
- Turning off the power and cutting into the sheathing to access the hot wire.
- Adding a junction box at the cut point if one doesn't already exist.
- Running new wire to outlets or fixtures from the junction box.
- Splicing the new wire into the hot lead with plumber's tape or wire nuts.
- Replacing the sheathing and securing everything neatly.
This allows me to run new outlets or lights without having to pull wires through finished walls. Our ancestors commonly bus-tapped existing electrical runs when adding fixtures. The key is using adequate wire gauge and junction boxes to avoid overloading.
Fishing Wire Through Finished Walls
When existing lines aren't available, I'll need to fish wires through finished walls. This takes more work but isn't impossible:
- Find the shortest route between endpoints. Look for existing holes or removable baseboards to feed wire through.
- Use a fish tape or wire coat hanger to push cables through. Seal holes with fireblock caulk after.
- For solid walls, cut outlet and switch boxes into the drywall and drill holes to route wire. Patch holes neatly after.
- Attics and crawlspaces allow access to drill down through top plates or up from base plates.
- Look for hollow wall cavities created by old chimneys or plumbing lines to snake wire through.
- Use wire lube and minimize tight angles when pulling wire to avoid kinking or breaking.
Patience and persistence are required for fishing wire. Our resourceful ancestors improvised tools like hooks and rods to weasel wire through cramped spaces. Taking it slow and steady will enable me to replicate their success.
Installing New Circuits
When I need to add major new circuits with heavier loads, more extensive work is required:
- Plan circuit routes from the breaker panel to outlets/fixtures. Avoid crossing circuits or sharing neutrals.
- Mount a new breaker in the panel and run cable through the knockouts to new boxes.
- Make sure wiring is secured neatly at regular intervals according to code.
- Use junction boxes to split the circuit and provide access to wiring.
- Pigtail the hot wire to split it between outlets in parallel.
- Label all wires clearly and make tight but not excessive connections.
- Secure outlet and switch boxes and install all covers.
- Test each receptacle polarity and GFCIs. Check lights and appliances on the new circuit as well.
Our forefathers knew how to split and extend electrical circuits to add capacity. By replicating their methods while adhering to modern code, I can help my home grow.
While daunting, wiring my home without a professional is possible by reviving techniques from the past. With research, caution and methodical work, I can replicate our ancestors' success at expanding electrical capacity. Their resourcefulness and attention to safety will guide me in avoiding hazards and sparks. By taking it slow and steady, I'll get the lighting, outlets and appliances my home needs without getting zapped!