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I am remodeling my basement, currently I have 5 light fixtures and each one has its own switch. I would like to make it so when I turn on the switch at the bottom of the stairs all the lights turn on. I would also like to add several more light fixtures. I am new to electrical work. I have a solid background with framing and drywall. The basement is not finished so I have great access to all ceiling joints and current fixtures. I have been reading online about 2 wire nm. I am curious though how you run wire to one fixture, hook it up, and then run the wire to the next fixture.

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Call an Electrician. Curiosity electrocuted the cat. –  Tester101 Jun 28 '12 at 0:09
@Tester101, if you're never a beginner, how are you ever going to begin? –  ArgentoSapiens Jun 28 '12 at 18:43
@ArgentoSapiens If you're a "beginner" Electrician, you're an Apprentice and you're trained by a Master Electrician. Or at the very least, you have somebody who knows what they are doing watch over you. –  Tester101 Jun 28 '12 at 18:51
@ArgentoSapiens the beginner who needs to ask such questions ought to practice with a book rather than with a house. –  Matthew Jan 24 '13 at 17:55
@MatthewPK, that's a more reasonable response than "call an electrician." Thank you. –  ArgentoSapiens Jan 24 '13 at 18:17

2 Answers 2

Basically, you want to start with a switch. You run a black and white wire in from the bottom of the switch box (from the panel). This will take the form of 12/2 or 14/2 cable. You run another 12/2 or 14/2 cable from the top of the switch box to the first light. You connect the black wire to the switch. You connect the 2 white wires together, and then connect the other terminal on the switch to the black wire of the cable leaving this junction box towards the first light. The ground wire should also be connected together in this manner, but to the ground terminal on the switch. Each light will have a cable "entering" (from the switch) and "exiting" (away from the switch). At each light you'll connect the entering and exiting black wires together, as well as 1 terminal on the light. Do the same with the white wires. If there is a ground terminal on the light, do that as well, otherwise just connect the incoming and outgoing ground wires together. At the last light, just connect the incoming black wire to 1 terminal on the light, and then connect the white wire to the other one. This method is called wiring in parallel, so if one light blows, the current can still continue to the other lights to light them up.

Some other things to be aware of:

Most home wiring is either 12 or 14 gauge, corresponding to either a 20 amp or a 15 amp circuit, respectively. The maximum "design capacity" is 80% of that. Let's say you're using a 20 amp breaker with 12 gauge wire. This circuit should run at no more than 16 amps. Let's assume you're using 100 watt bulbs at 120 volts. Using watts/volts = amps, for 600 watts/120 volts = 5 amps. So this would work fine on a 15 amp breaker, depending on what else is on that circuit. http://www.thecircuitdetective.com/ is also a superb reference for novice electricians to get an idea of how things work.

Something like this is what you're looking for the end result to be:

enter image description here

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How do you determine how many lights you can connect to a single circuit? How do you determine which size wire to use? Which way do you wrap the wire around the screw terminals? Do you have to connect the ground wire to the junction boxes, and if so how do you do that? How do you secure the cable between and at boxes? How much wire should be exposed inside the junction box? How do you protect the cable from physical damage? What do you do if a stud/joist is in your way when you're running the cable? –  Tester101 Jun 28 '12 at 0:04
@Tester101 42. Green. 7. Depends. No. Purple. Aaron's answer isn't bad, but Tester101 has a point, which is that you need a competent electrician watching you, correcting any mistakes you might make. You should probably take a course on residential wiring to get your feet wet, and then you'll have a much better understanding of how it works and learn some of the do's and don'ts. Electrical work can be unforgiving. –  Michael Jun 28 '12 at 6:29

Instead of needing to do electrical work there are power strips that have a wireless remote controls. Belkin creates the product and they are sold at Office Depot or Staples.

Belkin Description:

Control Standby Power to Your Whole Electronic Systems.
Now you can control power to your whole electronic systems with a single click. The Conserve Switch AV Surge Protector with Remote lets you shut off power—including standby power—to all your entertainment electronics with one touch of the wireless remote switch.

One-Click Control.
The wireless remote controls six Remote-Switched outlets for all your entertainment components—your TV, DVD player, VCR, gaming console and more. Two Always-On outlets stay on for devices that need continuous power, like your DVR. Place the remote on a table or shelf, or mount it on the wall, for the convenient way to save energy.

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Light fixtures don't plug in with power bars. –  gregmac Jan 24 '13 at 22:30

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