How many do their own electric work?
How many people call an electrician for everything? Does anyone do their own simple work? How about anyone that has wired their whole shop?
I have wired my whole new to me shop myself. Added a sub panel and wired about 8 circuits from it for the new shop ares. The building has a 200 amp service at one end (140′ long building). So to get away from voltage drops I added the subpanel 80′ from the main. Also I figured it would save wire in the long run. First thing I did was get a copy of the electrical codes. And talked to my new towns building inspector (no permit / inspections required).
About the only thing I have done incorrect so far was install the cable to the subpanel that is 2 sizes larger than required. I did not do this intentionally, but found out after I purchased it, that it did not have to be as big as it was. Basically costing me an extra $65. By doing research I also found out the original panel was not properly grounded. I know this was done by a professional electrician. As he left his business card with the panel paperwork thumb tacked to the wall next to it.
I don’t mean to sound snobish or a know it all. But basic wiring is not that hard to do. Now getting into 4-way or more switches or maybe three phase wiring might muck the situation up. But 120 and 220 volt power and light circuits are pretty straight forward.
Am I in the wrong. Or do alot of people say have your electrician do it to be politically correct in this day and age of litigation?
Having grown up around the construction trades, I do mine to a limit! I've remodled three houses and done some of it myself i.e. wiring mods, adding outlets etc. I checked with my local govt to see what was permissable. Most cases you can do it if it is your houses, but that was my case. It varies widely. In my shops I have done it in some cases. My first shop I wired a 50 amp sub-panel and then the other outlets. I have a good friend who is a lineman for the power company and he blessed all my plans and taught me a lot. In my 2nd house I paid an electrician because the guy had just been laid off at our plant and needed work. I had lighting to install, and a lot of conduit to to run since the garage was finished and insulated so flushmount was the only real way to go and I still say bending conduit is an art and this guy was good. I would not consider doing a full install i.e. 200A service with long runs, but simple runs i.e. shop outlets no problem. In my current house I had a problem that the current service panel had almost no space(thanks builder). I had to replace several full height breakers with half height (two breakers in one spot) to get room to add my 220 to the shop. I ran two 20A circuits to handle my DC and the other is for TS,BS, & jointer. None run at the same time, so one is enough for me. So I would say yes you can do some things, but understand your limits. And I always make sure the panel is de-energized before I work in it. I DO NOT WORK ON A HOT PANEL! I throw the main and check it with a meter.
If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it.
And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
I've done all of mine, except for installing 100 amp service, about which the local utility is fussy. In this part of Canada you're allowed to do your own wiring with a permit. In general Canada isn't nearly as litigious as the US because the courts here don't award huge settlements to ambulance-chasers. However, you'd have problems with your insurance co. if you screwed up. I don't know that I'd be in a hurry to do my own work if I hadn't some basic knowledge of electronic theory from a couple of college courses I took. I also worked as a hydro lineman for a couple of years, though I suppose that isn't really relevant. So far I haven't put a 400K cable where a #10 wire should go.
I actually asked my insurance carrier. And they stated that they may want to have the work inspected by their guy. But no absolute requirement to do so. Another thing I did learn while talking to them was they said I could lower my rate if I brought the house up to current National codes (adding AFCI's to the bedrooms, remove old knob and tube wiring), that I could get a rate reduction. I asked if I had to get an electrician to do it. They said no, just they would want to verify it was done if I did it myself. I have to do work on the house anyway, so I am going to be rewiring alot of the house for the new plans anyway. So while I do it, I will bring it up to current code and save a bit on insurance as well.
I'd hang on to that insurance company -- they're not all that good. I found it helped to make a friend of the inspector. He gave me a heads-up about a lot of code issues before I even had time to read up on them. He was probably impressed that someone paid 50 bucks for an inspection -- apparently not many do.
If you're going to be replacing knob and tube you'll work up a serious sweat pulling wire through joists. If you don't already have one I'd invest in a right-angle drill to make that job a little easier. They used to be expensive and hard to find, but there's quite a variety out there now.
Good luck, Jim
Yup already have a right angle drill. House is a 100 year old colonial. Need to pull down the plaster walls as there is no insulation in the walls. Father in law keeps trying to get me to just fill the walls with insulation and leave it at that. But I know you can't insulate around knob and tube. Plus the ceilings are showing signs of cracking and time to come down anyway. When we bought the house we fully intended to gut it 1/2 at a time. 1st project was to add a 2nd bath so we could remove the first and still have facilities. Just finished the piping on it. Ready to run wiring and cover the walls.
As for the inspector. I can litterally rewire the entire house and not have to talk to him once (found out by talking to him :) ). No permit for interior plumbing work required either. No permit for reroofing, new windows, new doors. Everything we have planned doesn't require a permit. Pretty easy going town.
Edited 1/27/2008 3:40 pm ET by benhasajeep
I do my own and help family members out when asked. If you follow the rules for your jurisdiction, do neat work, get the work inspected, don't take any short cuts consult with your inspector before and during the job, you should have no problems at all. To avoid any litigation or insurance issues, do spend the money on a permit to do the work and have your work inspected by the proper authority.
Don't forget to make a sketch of the circuitry for later reference.
In my part of the world, residential trades people of any craft are getting scarce.
My dad had us doing drywall, carpentry, plumbing and electric when we were wee lads. I do most all of my electric work now, but I do find from time to time that I don't always know the correct way to do things. Some things I learned were wrong, while in other cases, new codes have arisen that I was not aware of.
My bottom line is to do my own work, but be diligent in reading about codes and best practices. Talking to licensed electricians also helps me be confident that I won't burn anything down. I've also seen plenty of really crappy work done by the licensed guys to know that doing electric work isn't rocket science, just another trade where a little bit of learning and attention in practice is often enough.
I just did my own. Then, I got my father-in-law who happens to be an electrical engineer to check my work. I'm only 26 and didn't have much experience at all in wiring, but when you have a knowledgeable friend and an internet connection, all it takes is a little time. The most important thing is not doing ANYTHING that you're not 100% comfortable will be safe and work properly. Electrocution and fires are started this way.
I installed a sub-panel and stuck 6 circuits in it. It has room for 18 more. Got it at Lowe's for $28 back in Decemeber. They had 2 of them on clearance. I'd encourage any of you thinking about adding one to check out the Square D section at Lowe's. Saved me major $$$$$.
Finally, I can run my tablesaw and dust collector at the same time! It's awesome. I'd encourage anyone that can to make the investment and throw in a subpanel. It's so nice to have the entire shop in a seperate box. And there's so much room to add new circuits as I go. In case your wondering, the whole deal only cost me about $400, and that includes 12 new 20amp outlets, 250' 12/2 wire, and 8 4' T8 flourescent shop lights (I used to only have 3 candescent bulbs).
Curt in AL
In the future, will you be able to find breakers compatilble with your discount panel?
First off, I called it a clearance panel, not a discount panel. They were getting rid of that model, not brand or line. Second, it's a Square D of which there are two types, Homeline and some older type which I can't remember the name of right now. Any who, the Homeline is a newer, and easier to use (IMHO) model. The breakers snap right in. There was a huge selection of the compatable breakers at Lowes.
Now, if you're asking whether or not I can predict the future of manufacturing and business strategy and processes at Square D, well I'm sorry, but I can't. So, to summarize...Yes, I checked and will be able to get adequate pieces for future expansion if necessary. But, I bought several extra breakers anyway so unlesss I need to move some major current, it shouldn't be a problem.
I still encourage anyone interested in addin a sub-panel to check their local Lowes for this panel. Save some $$$$$.
I don't think the non-HomeLine panels have a separate name; they're just the "regular" Square-D panels. Their breakers snap in, too.
Ahh, Found it! The older type is called QO. My original panel is that model. The breakers on it were a little more hastle to install. The new panel has Homeline breakers in it.
QO is the "high-end" Square D panel. The breakers trip very fast, an orange flag indicates they've been tripped, breaker mounting is more secure to the hot bus, neutral bus connections on both sides, you can mount multiple ground bars, etc...Homeline is Square D's low-end line of breakers. I can't remember, but I believe it was modeled on one of their competitors (Cutler-Hammer?) that they bought out. No offense intended, I'd just hate to see someone avoid the Square D QO series under the mistaken assumption that it's "old technology." The QO series is probably going to be around for a long time. Unfortunately, you're not likely to find the QO on some sort of closeout. They're spendy.Breaktime offers a lot of good wiring advice, for people that already know a bit about what they're doing.-t
didn't mean to put down your panel or to ask a silly question like that. It seems I can't help jumping in on the electrical discussions. I really enjoy electrical work, as far as work goes . . . have fun with your project.Brian
Breakers are highly standardized and also sometimes interchangable between brands. It is still easy to find breakers for panels that were made 50 years ago. One or two smaller panel manufacturers have disappeared, but Square-D is a major manufacturer and parts for their panels will probably always be available.
The only "safe" time to say "always" is when you preface it with "probably." :)
Like everything else, panel installation should be done assuming it will have to be replaced at some point. Leave enough slack so that you can accomodate a panel by a different maker and label all your circuits. Nothing is forever but Square D is as close as you can get.------------------------------------
It would indeed be a tragedy if the history of the human race proved to be nothing more than the story of an ape playing with a box of matches on a petrol dump. ~David Ormsby Gore
Hi Ben ... I built and wired my own shop, too. The shop was conveniently located close to the entrance panel, but it was full so I had to put in an auxiliary panel for the shop and my ham radio station at the other end of the house.
I've been working in the electronics field my whole life and have done a lot of work on emergency power panels, gen sets, etc, so didn't have a lot of trouble getting things together.
I DID call in an electrician to run the cables to my radio station at the other end of the house through the finished basement. I didn't want to screw up the drywall too much and they had the gear to get it done. They checked my stuff and told me all was code (I knew this since I talked to an electrician to find out the code before I put it in).
Actually, electrical wiring is about as simple and one can get. Knowing the codes for your area is much more difficult. You want to get the codes correct. If there is a fire (and there is always that possibility regardless of who does the work) everything needs to be code for your insurance to pay off.
Barry in WV
Wiring isn't difficult to do, it's just a job that you don't want to take any shortcuts in doing. In Georgia, you can basically do what you want after the panel, but anything done between the panel and the road is tightly regulated.
I've thrown the cars out of my garage and am slowly taking it over, but when I started building my shop, I only had two receptacles in the ceiling, and each receptacle had a garage door opener plugged in it. The overhead receptacle is perfect for the shop vac, drop light, and even the occasional orbital sander, but it certainly wasn't going to cut it for the band saw, jointer, planer...
The great thing about doing your own wiring is you get to put the wiring where you need it, when you need it. Remember 12 gage for 20A, 14 gage for 15A, protect your wiring and make sure your terminals are tight. GFCI your 20A circuits if they're in your garage or basement.
While the code books have all the information you need, sometimes it's difficult to figure out where the useful information is. I suggest one of those wiring books found at any Home Depot or Lowes, since they're more digestible than a code book. But basically, if you feel like you're doing something stupid, you probably are. Back up, be safe, and do it right.
Also, 250' rolls of wire are usually just a couple bucks more than 100' rolls, so if you're running even just a little more than 100' of wire, check out the price of 250' rolls. For example, I just bought 100' of 12-2 for $49, but if I needed it, the 250' roll was $62.
I did everything from the service entrance in the house to the sub-panel in the shop to putting the cover plates on. Good thing I was an electrician in a past life!
That's cheating.John W.
I do all that I feel comfortable with, new circuits, lighting, etc. When we moved 4 years ago, I had the new house panel replaced. Problem was the old panel was made by Federal Pacific, I believe, and breakers and parts were no longer available. So, in the process I had them run service underground to a subpanel in my shop. Previous Owner built the shop but never got around to running the power. Anyway, in the shop I did all the work from the new subpanel. There are so many books and resources available today for just about anything. Now, I'm insulating and drywalling when I find time.
I do 100% of my electrical, right up to the telephone pole (I'm afraid of heights and besides my electrical inspector told me he doesn't want me 'climbing a live pole'.)
In Ontario, you can do all your electrical work for your own house, etc., provided you get a permit. They inspect the work and if it passes it is considered as safe as if done by an electrician.
So, when I built my house, I ran the wire from the pole, installed to the breaker box, did all the sub-panels, outlets, fixtures, and so on and so forth. The inspector was very kind in his assessment, and preceded to tell me horror stories about the stuff he had seen in his career.
They sell a book 'The Ontario Electrical Code Simplified' in most hardware stores here. Its a real bargain - it tells you everything you need to know to do a complete home wiring job.
The rules of thumb for safety seem to be: if you don't know what you are doing, or you think you know better than the code, you should not touch electrical wiring.
The utility company doesn't want you climbing their poles, either. In the US, at least, the utility company owns the wiring upstream of the meter base (underground feed) or drip loop (aerial feed), so they handle all of that.
I can't imagine my local utility being very happy about me touching any of their wiring (underground, in my case), especially upstream of the 7500 V transformer....
Well they were pretty vague about that initially.
First, it is my pole because I had them plant three of them to get to within 100M of my house. Strictly speaking, they wanted me to run the cables up the side before they even installed the transformer, let alone hooked it up. I chickened out at about 10 feet, so they did the rest 'as a courtesy' after they hooked up the transformer (obviously, they had to make the final connection).
So, when I wanted a hook up for my shop, I was worried they would want to to run up up the side again, but the inspector made it clear that once the pole was 'live' fugedaboudit.
Suited me perfectly: I've been shocked by 120 and 240V, but anything in the kilovolt range would leave a mark. :)
I guess the point I was trying to make was I have done everything you can do as a non-licensed electrician here.
"...anything in the kilovolt range would leave a mark."
Indeed. I used to have such a mark, but it's healed up pretty well now. (This was 2 kV DC inside a large power supply; it arced to my thumb and left the oddest looking second-degree burn: Only about 1 mm in diameter but 5 mm deep.)
I knew a guy who got thouroghly fried, but lived, and had electrical burn scars over much of his body. I believe he was trying to fix something near an HV line, and figured (wrongly) nothing could go wrong.
Anyhow, a few years later, having made a full recovery, we had a power outage in the building we were working in. He discovered that the main electrical panel was accessible and concluded which fuse had blown.
The fuse in question looked like a cylinder about 10" long. So he came to my lab on the 3rd floor and asked me for a piece of wire. I tried to explain that the conductor inside a fuse was very carefully made and that it was very dangerous to simply replace the wire. Besides, you need to know why the fuse had gone.
Nonetheless he took a piece of 14 gage solid strand and soldered it into the fuse and went back to the basement. My lab bench overlooked the main power feed into the building.
I heard the explosion all the way up on the third floor. The power cables jumped into the air and the whiplash continued down the street. Most impressive.
I rushed down stairs into the smokey electrical room which smelled of copper vapor, expecting to finf his body. He was unscathed.
Amazing how people like that can survive themselves.
I once got 15 kV from one hand to the other; the only reason I'm still alive is that it was current-limited to 10 mA. I felt pretty weird for a couple of days after that. That was over thirty years ago, and I still get idiopathic twinges in my left arm and various parts of my torso that might be related to the experience.
My boss back in my cyclotron days was the world's leading expert in cyclotron design. He told a story of when he was a young grad student, working for EO Lawrence at the Berkeley Lab (before it became the Lawrence Berkeley Lab). One day, he was showing some VIPs around one of the big cyclotrons, pointing out the various features. During the tour he pointed at a 220 kV terminal located up in a corner of the room. The last thing he remembered was seeing a long blue spark go from the terminal to the tip of his outstretched finger. The next thing he knew, he was waking up on the floor, on the other side of the room.
I've added several 120/240 circuits in my shop, as well as sump pump, lighting, etc. I actually enjoy electrical work (except for the sump pump in the crawl space!).
It's actually quite easy to pull the permit and request an inspection in my area.
I do all my electrical... everything, and I'm not an electrician. I do have a background in electronics, so I had the theory, and electricity acts the same whether it's driving a transistor or a 7-1/2 amp compressor motor. It doesn't care. You're right when you say it's not that hard, IF you understand electricity and all the components that are there to help direct it to where you want it to go... safely. I've talked with people in retail settings who were getting ready to do some fairly simple stuff (like replacing a switch) and who grilled me for every bit of information they could think of, and STILL they didn't get it because they didn't understand electricity. Of course, my advise to them was, "Have an electrician do it," or at least somebody who knew what they were doing. Scary! I sure didn't want to be liable for anything.
As far as over-gauging on the wire, it sure isn't going to hurt you (except in the pocketbook). I've run bigger stuff before, either on longer runs or to boxes/receptacles that may have to power a machine with more ponies some day. At least you know your wire won't melt!
Only thing you've gotta watch with using too big of a wire gauge is that some outlets aren't really made to handle oversized wires, so the clamps don't clamp well, or the screws don't hold well, etc..
I usually run much heavier guage wire, especially when running a 240 volt line inside a wall, just in case, for exactly the reasons you describe. Then I connect the outlet using a pigtail of the gauge the outlet is designed for.
I have a similar background as you. Some electronic background. but there a lot of rules in wiring a house that you don't hear about in electronics. My brother and I built a house forty some years ago and it became my job to do the wiring. Oh, I wish I knew then what I know now. Since then I've wired several houses and have even gotten in discussions with electricians who needed a little brush up. One was a retired electrical inspector. I was in a hurry when wiring the barn (shop) and hired an electrician who sent his help to do the job. They knew a lot more than I did about underground wiring but weren't to swift about some of the interior wiring.
Yep, that's what books are for. I've had inspectors say my work was better than most electricians they know. Like a previous poster said, "hobbyists" can do better work than the professionals. I know code and I know how to do it. What more does one need?
Well I have to give a lot of credit to luck and probably to a narrow range of rules.
Edited 2/3/2008 1:14 am ET by Tinkerer3
I just have the electrician check my work. I don't like paying a guy to run lines since any shmuck can do that. I'm of the opinion that all the information needed to do a job is available to me. It just takes me two or three times the time to actually do the job properly. I don't mind taking all day to do a job that a plumber or electrician would do in a morning.
Once you really know what you are doing, I think a homeowner/handyman can do an even better job than a busy electrician. The pro is so concerned with cost and time; doing the minimum. I guess the question is whether a person is confident, experienced and interested enough to take it on, and if they can give it the time it deserves, and are willing to learn knew things along the way.
My whole house is wired by me.. the sole exception was the installtion of the meter and bringing power into the panel.. The power company required a licensed electrician to do those tasks.
Doing electrical wiring is fundamentally simple and safe.. start at the outlet and work back to the panel.. if you are worried about going into the panel hire an electrician to do that task for you.
There is no real need if care is used.. Black to hot, white to neutral and green to ground.. Pull the circuit braker you intend to wire, carefull route the neutral and ground wires connect the hot wire and snap the breaker back into place. Keep the panel tidy so tracing circuits can be done safely.
Size your wires for the load you are going to carry ( don't be afraid to spend extra for thicker guage wires than what will be called for, that way if you do need to carry a heavier load in the future all you need to do is change the breaker).. and use breakers close to amp draw for quick triggering..
I do all my own electrical work, with the exception being to connect the service from the road to the meter. ComEd won't let a non licensed individual touch it.
Otherwise, I hung the panels, dug the trench from the house to the shop, ran the cables, and wired everything. If you take your time and check your work before flipping the breaker on, it's not difficult at all.
Besides, I do a much better job of labeling both the panel AND the wires than any electrician has on any house I've worked on.
My house is a rehabber from 1946. It had the original cotton wrapped wires with no ground when I bought it, and a 60 amp fuse panel, if you can believe it. 3800 square foot house with a 60 Amp panel. Every time my wife turned on the vacuum cleaner, something blew. Two weeks of that, and I re-wired the whole house. You wouldn't believe the unbelievable crap I found when I got into the walls.
"sixty amp breaker?"
I can beat that one. I once acquired a four unit apartment house by default once that had a sixty amp single leg service so was only 110 volts. To make matters worse, about 80 percent of the house was on one thirty amp circuit, and I will bet it was #12 wire. Whew! Although I have done most of my wiring, I had that one done pronto.
Edited 1/31/2008 9:18 pm ET by Tinkerer3
I moved the 60 amp panel out to the garage, where it is now the sub-panel I use for the garage opener, lights, as well as for all the electrical for my swimming pool.
Mr. Ben and your Jeep! Now I'm not much of a woodworker but have some decades of experience as an electrician. You are right that basic electrical circuits and the like are not rocket science and can be properly done by most folks who are competent with tools and instructions. But let me tell you: Don't think that 120 volt or 220 volt power is harmless!!! I've seen the results personally and watched the videos in safety class. A simple mistake working on a residential panel caused the dropped tool to explode showering the manikin with vaporized copper and steel. It burned the face off of the manikin and ignighted the shirt.
So please be careful. Pleasant dreams, KDM
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