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.

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115
votes
2answers
9k views

What is the purpose of these holes on my wire stripper?

I have been using this wire stripper for a while, but I have always wondered what was the purpose of those holes in the center and above LOOP, and those teeth on the handles.
34
votes
4answers
21k views

How can I fix electrical outlets that don't “hold” plugs that are plugged in to them?

In short, most of the outlets in my house have one working receptacle and one that any cord plugged in will immediately slip out of. Some of my outlets don't have any working receptacles (I hope I'm ...
32
votes
8answers
14k views

When I turn down the dimmer switch on my lights, do I actually use less electricity?

My wife and I have several lights on dimmer switches throughout our home. We generally prefer the ambient lighting provided by dimmed lights. I am curious, though, if we are saving any electricity by ...
32
votes
8answers
6k views

Which way is up? (electric outlet)

My house has electric outlets in both orientations. Which one is correct? Should the ground hole be at the bottom or the top? OR
32
votes
9answers
60k views

How do I run wires for a wall-mount flatscreen TV?

Like a lot of you, we have several wall-mounted LCD HDTVs in the house. The TVs have two wires -- power and HDMI -- running down the wall to the power outlet and cable box. I've historically been too ...
26
votes
9answers
9k views

Should old knob and tube wiring be replaced?

I have been doing some electrical work in my house and I noticed it has old knob and tube wiring that is still hot, should this be replaced as found or is it fine to just leave it? It seems really ...
23
votes
9answers
52k views

How long should I wait before plugging in a new refrigerator?

Today I received my new refrigerator, and I've been told not to plug it in until a couple of hours have gone by. Some people told me a couple of hours was enough, but others have told me up to 12 ...
22
votes
3answers
1k views

If DC adapters are so prevalent, why is AC used in construction by default?

I'm not sure if there's a better place to ask this or not. Why, at least here in America, is the standard electrical system set up for alternating current (AC) rather than direct current (DC)? I'm ...
22
votes
1answer
8k views

What does a “1 Gang” mean when talking about electrical boxes?

What does a "1 Gang" mean when talking about electrical boxes? Example: CARLON 1-Gang Metal Adjustable Electrical Box (Lowes.com)
21
votes
6answers
3k views

How best can I discover what is up with my electrical bill?

This might be subjective, I don't know. However, it's a serious problem for me. My electrical bill is outrageous. It's three times as large as my next-door neighbor, and four or five times the size of ...
20
votes
4answers
11k views

Would you ever wire white and ground together?

I was replacing some outlets in my house with tamper-resistant ones, and came across one where the white and ground were wired together, as seen in this picture. Why? Is that okay or appropriate ...
19
votes
4answers
2k views

How can I get a wire that is outside a wall to be inside a wall

I recently removed an abominable drop ceiling from my dining room and found this close to the ceiling on the one side of the room. There is definitely a stud between these two holes. On the other ...
19
votes
4answers
4k views

Is it OK to borrow a ground wire from a different circuit?

I've got a circuit in the basement carrying a handful of outlets. This circuit has no ground wire. I want to add a couple of outlets and want them to be grounded. I may even want gfci outlets on ...
17
votes
11answers
3k views

What should we look for when buying a fixer-upper house?

My fiance and I are considering buying a fixer-upper house rather than an apartment when we get married. Obviously things like location, neighbors etc. are important, but; what should we be looking ...
15
votes
7answers
1k views

How do I safely replace a worn out electrical outlet?

I have a number of outlets that are old and worn out (plugs fall out of them mainly.) Obviously I need to turn off the breaker to replace them safely but any guidance on how to rewire them, how to ...
15
votes
13answers
3k views

How do I prepare my home for a power outage?

With several storms in the Northeast United States and more storms predicted this week, there have been lots of extended power outages. What are things to do to prepare your house for a power outage ...
14
votes
4answers
6k views

Is there a way to simply splice in an additional length of 12/2 NM-B cable?

Is there a way without using junction boxes to simply splice in additional length of 12/2 NM-B cable? Can I use twist caps? I'm putting in a dog door and as it so happens, there is some 12/2 right in ...
14
votes
7answers
9k views

What's the best way of replacing a plug or switch in a house with aluminum wiring?

My house has aluminum wiring, which from what I understand isn't recommended any more. How do I replace a plug or switch since the new unit only takes copper wiring?
14
votes
3answers
29k views

How should I rewire a miswired 3-way switch?

I have a 3 way switch that was wired incorrectly when the switches were replaced with a different color switch. Is there a methodical way for me to identify which wires represent which piece of the ...
14
votes
7answers
9k views

Why are “Wire Nuts” not used in the UK?

I have never seen a wire nut used in the UK, but they seem to be very common in the USA, why?
14
votes
1answer
23k views

What do I need to install LED strip lighting?

I've been looking to install LED strips, either RGB or white for lighting and ambiance. It wouldn't be the main lighting of the room, so no necessity for high power LEDs. The perimeter of the room is ...
14
votes
4answers
7k views

Are push in connectors up to code?

Just came across a neat product at the local hardware store, but I wonder if they are up to code and safe to use. They are a wire nut that allows you to simply push the wires in, instead of twisting ...
13
votes
6answers
4k views

What is the right way to strip power wires?

I've been working with electrical circuits as a DIYer for years, including electronics and powerline work. But one thing I always feel like I do a terrible job at is stripping wires: both the outside ...
13
votes
4answers
3k views

Why is this box constantly tripping?

After some heavy rain in Cornwall electricity does not work in the barns. This trip box seems at fault, though it costs 100+GBP to replace it I'm told. Can anyone give me more information on what ...
13
votes
2answers
2k views

How do I join two cables outside so that they're safe and kept dry?

I have a new pond with a pump but the cable on the pump is far too short. I have some similar cable which will do the job to extend the length. My only concern is the junction outside. I need to make ...
13
votes
4answers
4k views

What should I use to secure/organize data cable runs?

I am running Cat-6 and Coax in new construction. I am looking for advice/best practices on how to organize and secure the cables during the runs. I will be running 2 Cat-6 and 1 Coax to a ...
13
votes
5answers
1k views

Is there a lifetime failure count for a breaker?

I have an external cutoff for my air conditioner that has two physical fuses (TR-50's, time delay 50 amps) outside. This is between the condenser unit and the main power panel, where it is protected ...
13
votes
3answers
18k views

Which Kitchen outlets do NOT need GFCI?

I have the 2 circuits in the kitchen with GFCI outlets, but I'm not quite sure which other ones do NOT need GFCI. Other circuits in the kitchen include Microwave, Fridge, and Dishwasher. It makes ...
13
votes
3answers
956 views

Can I safely use a switch rated for “1A at 125V” with 240V, assuming I stay below 125W?

I recently purchased a foot switch for a standing lamp. The switch is rated for 1A at 125V. I would like to use this switch with a low energy lamp (typically 10W or below) but with a 240V supply. Is ...
13
votes
3answers
3k views

Is there a device that will allow a bathroom fan to run for 5 minutes after it is switched off?

There is one switch that controls the lights and fan in the bathroom. Users turn the light/fan on when they enter, and off when they leave. I'd like for the bathroom fan to run for a time after they ...
13
votes
1answer
1k views

What are the disadvantages of having electrical conduit penetrate my foundation below-grade?

I'm having an electrician wire a lamppost in the backyard. His initial proposal was to do something like this picture shows: (The diagram is from this article.) The conduit's rise from the ground ...
12
votes
4answers
9k views

Extension cord and power strip safety

I've heard that there are some safety and building code issues involved with using extension cords or power strips (surge protectors) for anything other than temporary use. What are the issues, and ...
12
votes
5answers
925 views

Is it dangerous to run electrical cords through heating vents?

I'm living in old apartment and my roommate has fed electric cords through heating vent from living room into bathroom. I see this as a double hazard and illegal. The heating vent exits on wall behind ...
12
votes
3answers
553 views

What is “knob and tube wiring”?

I assume this is some USA wiring system, am I right?
12
votes
4answers
928 views

What is this 110/24V 60Hz transformer in the breaker room for?

My friend sent me a photograph of this transformer, which is installed above the main breaker panel, with leads running from the panel into the transformer. The stamped labels read PRI. Volts: 110 ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the right way to connect 7 conductors in an electrical box?

What is the "right" way to join 7 different wires in a single electrical box? Here's the situation. I opened up a four-gang light switch. There were four switches controlling five lights. As ...
12
votes
3answers
12k views

When to use holes instead of side terminals to wire an outlet

This question comes from Shirlock's comment on this GFCI wiring question. When and why should you use the holes on the back of an outlet rather than the side terminals? I always assumed the holes on ...
12
votes
5answers
9k views

Why do my new dimmable CFL bulbs hum?

I just spent $100 upgrading our dining room lighting from regular incandescent bulbs with a dimmer switch to a CFL friendly dimmer switch with specifically marked dimming capable CFL bulbs. At full ...
12
votes
4answers
43k views

Is it ok to have mixed grounds and neutrals on bars in a breaker box?

So to continue my line of electrical questioning (and perhaps narrow down my flickering light problem), I took a look through the two panels in this house. There is a 200amp main service in the ...
12
votes
7answers
2k views

Is there a wall outlet power meter that I can interface with from a computer?

I'm wondering if there is a wall outlet power meter that I can somehow interface with from a computer. I'm aware of all the google power meter products, but those are for an entire house. I'm trying ...
12
votes
1answer
300 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
4answers
34k views

Can I backfeed a portable generator into my house's electrical system?

Is there a safe way to power my house using a portable generator? The power rating for the generator is 6kW, and I want to run my electric water heater (4.5kW) and my refrigerator (0.5kW) and possibly ...
12
votes
2answers
3k 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
4answers
5k views

I have a 3-pronged receptacle but no ground wire connected to it. Is this ok?

I removed the plates from outlets to paint walls and noticed that some of my electric boxes have ground wires connected to outlets while others do not have a green wire at all. Is this ok? I know ...
11
votes
7answers
857 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
6k views

Are both legs of a home's power supply equally used?

This is basically just to satisfy my curiosity. Please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this: I believe power supply to a home's main panel usually consists of: A neutral wire A hot wire 120 ...
11
votes
3answers
10k 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
27k views

How do I properly wire GFCI outlets in parallel?

I have two countertop outlets in my kitchen that I am in the process of replacing with new, GFCI-protected outlets. These two outlets are on a circuit together, and they are the only loads on that ...
11
votes
3answers
2k 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
3k 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 ...