Distribution and use of electricity throughout the home. Electrical standards vary greatly worldwide, so providing your location in your question or your profile helps ensure you get answers that are relevant to you.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

12
votes
1answer
2k views

How do I know if my wiring is aluminium or copper?

In this answer, Chris has mentioned that, before replacing a worn-out electric outlet, it is important to know whether the building has an aluminium or copper wiring. How can I get this information? ...
12
votes
1answer
353 views

How to make this electrical main safe

An older home has a strung electrical main. The main connects with exposed lugs on the roof above the deck. Not only is the height and location unsafe, while working on the roof today I noticed that ...
12
votes
2answers
5k views

My house was hit by lightning. What should I do?

A huge thunderstorm passed by the other night and lightning hit the condo building I live in. The fire department came out and inspected the attic, and removed the antenna that was hit. Inside the ...
11
votes
7answers
904 views

What's the least intrusive way to find out what's in a wall?

I'm getting ready to mount a flatscreen TV on our living room wall and would like to route various cables through it (e.g. surround sound speakers, HDMI, etc). I appreciate the AWESOME tips here, but ...
11
votes
3answers
13k views

What's the minimum depth that an electrical box can recess into a finished wall? Does it have to be flush?

Do electrical boxes have to be flush to the finished surface? Can they recess any depth into the wall by as much as 1/8" or 1/4"? Edit: I appreciate everyone offering alternative solutions to ...
11
votes
4answers
9k views

What is simplest strategy to map circuits to breakers in the panel?

My breaker box is very poorly labeled and I want to figure out which circuits may have overloaded (or close to it) and which could reasonably handle a little more. In the past I have just tried ...
11
votes
3answers
3k views

Is this electrical junction up to code?

I was up in my attic a few days ago, and I noticed a pretty ugly electrical junction that wasn't in a junction box. Here's the pic: Is this up to code? FWIW I live in north Alabama, outside city ...
11
votes
4answers
4k views

How can I detect reverse polarity on an ungrounded receptacle?

Recently moved into a 1950s-built house and am swapping out some of the older receptacles. On one particular ungrounded circuit there are four receptacles. The first two are as expected - the two ...
11
votes
3answers
25k views

What is the proper way to run wires along/across basement ceiling joists?

I want to add an electrical outlet in my unfinished basement. It makes sense to run the wire along the ceiling because that's where all the other wires are. What is the proper way to install NM ...
11
votes
5answers
60k views

How do I install a GFCI receptacle with two hot wires and common neutral?

In my kitchen, I want to replace a regular 120V receptacle with a GFCI-protected receptacle. The instructions describe what to do with a regular 2-wire + ground feed, with and without daisy chaining ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

What size extension cord should I use for multiple computers?

We're hosting a LAN party (several computers, 50+) and I had some questions about power draw; I hope this is the right place to ask. Currently, we're assuming each PC will draw an average of 3.5 ...
10
votes
7answers
7k views

Is there any legitimate reason you would NOT connect the ground wire on a circuit?

I've been doing some remodeling on my house and had the need to move some electrical outlets. While doing so, I noticed that the ground wire wasn't hooked up on any of the outlets in the circuit ...
10
votes
3answers
12k views

Do I really have to fasten interior-wall electrical wire to a stud to keep it from moving?

I am fresh out of cable staples and would rather not go all the way to Lowe's just to get a box. What are the implications of not fastening loose electrical wires to a stud? It's not like there's ...
10
votes
8answers
9k views

Does a homeowner need a permit for electrical work in Massachusetts?

Does a homeowner need to obtain a permit from the town in order to do electrical work on his own house in Massachusetts? The unofficial answers I can find online (e.g., this forum and the websites of ...
10
votes
4answers
2k views

Would running a new subpanel in parallel meet NEC requirements? If not, what should I do?

Background U.S.A. Voltages/power present. My house has a 125A Power Mains breaker at the street. A buried line runs from the street breaker to my main panel on exterior wall outside of house. The ...
10
votes
4answers
33k views

Is using 15 amp components on a 20 amp breaker against code?

I have noticed in a few different houses in Oklahoma that 20 amp breakers are used, but all of the outlets and switches only seem to be rated for 15 amps. This goes against everything I know to be ...
10
votes
4answers
684 views

How do I use three-prong appliances when my outlets are mostly two-prong?

I am living in a house where most electrical outlets are two prong. There are a smattering of three prong, in particular where an addition was put on. Am I hosed when it comes to where I can plug in ...
10
votes
2answers
933 views

Can I use old abandoned iron pipe as electrical conduit?

I have an older house (1920) and I have been planning on doing some rewiring to get rid of some k + t stuff. Anyway, I just noticed today that there are some irons pipes that used to be part of the ...
10
votes
1answer
8k views

How exactly does a 3-way switch work?

I just finished replacing all of the switches and outlets in my apartment, after fighting a long war with a weird 3-way switch. Needless to say, I won, but I'm still trying to grasp the concept of how ...
10
votes
3answers
11k views

Do all wires on basement walls have to be in conduit?

I need to know if, when a basement is unfinished and an outlet is on the wall, is it required to put all wires in conduit?
10
votes
3answers
2k views

What do I do with receptacles behind built-ins?

When installing built-in furniture, what should I do about the receptacles on the existing bare wall that will be covered up by the built-in? How would I handle a receptacle covered by a bookcase ...
10
votes
1answer
7k views

Can I add a standard receptacle on a GFCI circuit

So, I want to add a receptacle in the bathroom (I tend to run out of batteries on my phone while crapping at the end of the day). There's a GFCI outlet on the other side of the crapper wall that ...
10
votes
1answer
8k views

What is the correct way to wire a 4 prong oven receptacle?

I think I wired this the right way but I can't find an online reference that I trust enough to flip the breaker back on. This is how I wired it. Is this correct?
10
votes
1answer
619 views

Humming Ceiling Fans

I have two Harbor Breeze 52in. Builders Series Ceiling Fans. Under normal operation these fans are smooth and quiet. However, during power outages like we've had recently, I use a Devilbiss 6000 ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

Should I install my own electrical service panel or hire an electrician?

I'm getting electrical service to bare land. This is not temporary service but permanent remote service to a pressure treated 6" x 6" post instead of a building. I already have covered the work to ...
10
votes
2answers
2k views

Can disconnected knob-and-tube wiring be left in place?

The house I recently bought (over 100 years old) has had almost all of its wiring replaced with a new elctrical board. However, in two cases the new wiring has been connected to existing knob-and-tube ...
10
votes
2answers
4k views

Can I change a 1-gang electrical box to a 2-gang electrical box?

I live in a house built in the 50's in Maryland, US. Each bedroom contains 4 electrical outlets - configured in two 1-gang electrical boxes on opposing walls. However, with all the modern ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

What is this drill guide/template used when fixing electrical sockets called and where do I buy one?

My dad used to have one, you use it as a drill guide/template when fixing electrical sockets, but I cannot find anywhere that sells them, and as I don't know the name Google is not much help! ...
10
votes
1answer
537 views

What are “termination points” and why do I need them on my electrical supply?

An inspection of my electric supply service on the outside of my home in Maryland said I need 3 termination points and two grounding rods. The grounding rods I can get but I have no clue about these ...
10
votes
1answer
5k views

How many wires is too many for an outlet?

I keep finding outlets in my house that are wired in ways I've never seen. Today's find is an outlet in a bedroom with 4 hots and 4 neutrals. All connected to one outlet using the push-in connectors. ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

Is it “normal” for a vacuum cleaner to trigger an arc fault breaker?

We recently had our main electric service panel upgraded (from a 50 year old 100 AMP panel to a 200 AMP panel). As part of the upgrade, the electrician installed an arc fault breaker on the bedroom ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

How to replace a standard 2-gang light switch with an electric dimmer switch

I'm looking for a some assistance in fitting a new electric dimmer light switch. I'm in the UK if that makes a difference. I am trying to replace my existing two-gang light switch with a LightWaveRF ...
10
votes
2answers
6k views

How should I address my bathroom's flickering lights and GFCI tripping mysteriously? (Schematic included.)

So I inherited a bit of a nightmare for wiring in my bathroom. I'll be calling in an electrician, but wanted to have an understanding of the problem first, as not to be ripped off, lead astray, etc.. ...
10
votes
2answers
1k views

How can I install a ceiling fan that needs a 4“ box where I only have a 3” box?

As part of a home renovation project I discarded my old ceiling fan and have bought a new one. When installing the new one the electrician tells me that I have a 3" junction box and that I'll need a ...
9
votes
3answers
4k views

How do I install an electrical outlet on a live circuit?

In my dorm room closet, there is a junction box with a blank plate (no outlet). Inside there are three wirenuts (hot, neutral, ground). I know it is generally unsafe to do any work on a live ...
9
votes
5answers
19k views

Why does my shower switch keep burning out?

I have a Mira Shower 10.8 kW. My switch is a 45A switch. I have a 50A fuse for the shower. The shower uses 10mm2 cable. 9 months ago the switch sparked and refused to turn off and the fuse ...
9
votes
3answers
6k views

What is electrical code for number of wires in a breaker?

US, Georgia I am adding some new ciruits to add some additional outlets. The closest place is to run a wire to the main panel box. My question is, can I connect more than one wire to a breaker and ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

Why did my electric bill climb suddenly?

So we had a little mishap a couple of months ago involving some flooding. We had some folks come in and "dehydrate" our house. It involved lots of fans running for a couple of weeks. We expected ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

What are the pros and cons of different types of smart switches (that are on the US market) ?

When putting in a new switch for a light it is often less work to put in a smart switch than run the mains cables. However, how do you choose the type of smart switch to use? See also "What are ...
9
votes
5answers
49k views

How do I add more circuit breakers once the breaker box is full?

My house was completely rewired by the previous owner. They tore out all the old knob-and-tube and replaced it with modern wiring. I definitely appreciate this, but unfortunately they left ...
9
votes
2answers
3k views

Is this fluorescent light fixture a major electrical problem / fire hazard?

(I am a new homeowner.) I went to replace a some fluorescent tubes that looked like they burned out, but after disassembling it a little to get the tubes out, I saw something a little alarming: ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Is a high electric bill for a pump house caused by a well pump running constantly?

I recently had to turn on the electric for a shared well in my name. I got a bill and it's as high as what my house bill is. The well is the only thing connected to the electric in the well house. We ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

How do I tell if a light switch is live?

I have a light switch that I want to get rid of. I don't know if it is active or not. I want to wallpaper the wall. How do I tell if the circuit is "live" and if so how to turn it off so it is safe ...
9
votes
2answers
5k views

How can I add a circuit breaker when there are no openings available in the neutral bus bar?

I'm trying to add a 20 amp circuit breaker into my existing main panel. The main panel has one vacant slot to put the breaker, but the neutral and ground bars have no more vacant slots. My question is ...
9
votes
5answers
15k views

Should I put a dimmer switch on a ceiling fan?

I have a ceiling fan on our bedroom's vaulted ceiling. Since we don't want 7' pull-cords, the speed is stuck at full-tilt, which is no good. The fan has separate switches on the wall for lights and ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

How can I determine the maximum wattage that I can hook up to a breaker?

All of my heating is on one breaker, 240V on a double pole breaker, each marked 20A (it's a small condo). I wonder how I can determine the maximum wattage I can hook up to that breaker.
9
votes
5answers
5k views

Why would there be a 50 amp plug on a 30 amp appliance?

I have an old conveyor dryer, which my office purchased used some time ago, just sitting in storage. The dryer is for silk screen t-shirts and has a large heating element and a variable speed conveyor ...
9
votes
4answers
7k views

Why does my microwave keep throwing the circuit breaker?

I have a circuit that powers several things in my house: Kitchen microwave Basement lights Basement sockets Sump pump Recently, this circuit has been thrown with alarming frequency when I use the ...
9
votes
4answers
22k views

Do the breaker amp readings sum up to dictate my current panels total / possible amperage?

So I know practically nothing about houses having rented for many years, just bought a house and was told by my inspector the panel is only a 70 amp panel and will need to be upgraded before I go to ...
9
votes
3answers
33k views

What do I do if there are only two wires coming from my ceiling electrical box?

I'm about to install several Hunter ceiling fans. This will be the first time I've done anything electrical past changing a bulb. The instructions that came with the fan show three wires coming from ...