We are installing home automation systems, and we have serious problems with electricians. Short: they are stupid and lazy. So, we have to do something.

There're some stories:

  1. We have a spreadsheet with a numbered list of all the wallets, lamps, switches, and also a layout map of the house, all wallets/lamps/buttons/etc. signed on it with these ID numbers. With this list in his hand, our electrician just marked all wires with his own words instead of numbers, e.g. "sleeping room lamp switch". He has made no checklist at all.

  2. We're working at the rack, wiring relays. There are cca. 200 wires coming from the rooms for input/outputs installed by electrician, but after a while we found that about 50 wires are missing, there are plenty of relays left empty. We call electrician, he says: "I have had no more space for wires".

  3. (Not my story.) We mark all swith places on the wall with small sticky papers, writing ID numbers on it. Checking wires, it appears that there is a wire numbered "4" at the place "14". Electrician says "oh, I did not see the '1' before the '4'...".

And so on. Electricians don't do any documentation. The pen and paper is missing from electricians' toolbox.

We're enough. Legendary hard times arrives for electricians. We will don't pay if they don't do their job immaculate (we will ask customers to do so). Sorry, guys.

So, what we need is a simple, easy-to-understand graphical markup system which we can push into the hands of the electrician, and say: that's the job, brother, do it, no more, no else, no less, otherwise you will be surprised at payment.

Is there any standard for it? We should draw it into the layout plan. We should put separate rooms to separate pages, if it helps. Any ideas are welcome, e.g. "make two drawings, one for wallets and another for lamps", "use only prime numbers for IDs", "don't draw, use detailed textual instruction list with checkboxes", "ask him to sign that he understands the plan and the conditions" etc.

The drawing system should contain the following item types:

  • pushbutton,
  • shutter pushbutton (two-way, 3 wires: common + up/dn),
  • wallet 220V,
  • IR/move sensor,
  • shutter motor (3 wires),
  • lamp 220V,
  • wallet 220V,
  • CAT5 ethernet cable (both for computer network and buttons),
  • other power wire (e.g. 12V),
  • etc.

(I will update the question if you have other important requirements I forgot.)

  • 6
    I don't have an answer for you, but I will tell you that the person best qualified to answer this question would be an electrician. And, while it's possible something got lost in translation, your post is quite insulting to electricians so I wouldn't expect to get an answer from one here. Sep 17, 2010 at 12:27
  • 8
    I mean, think about it: what you are saying in effect is "I keep using my made-up methods to tell electricians what I want, and they keep doing it wrong. Can someone else who's not a stupid lazy electrician tell me how to talk to them so they will do it right?" Go find an electrician you haven't insulted yet, and ask them how best to communicate your needs. Sep 17, 2010 at 12:30
  • I can't tell electrician, that don't change blue and brown wires. I can't tell him, that it's not OK to use the phase (the power) as shutter common, and use gnd as up/down. I can't tell him, if there's a problem, it's better to call us and don't freeze. I can't teach him that he should turn off the power after he has finished (the rack was on power when we arrived, and he did not mention it). Anyway, we've already met good electricians, but it's a minority. I must be ready for all kind of them.
    – ern0
    Sep 17, 2010 at 19:35
  • 2
    No communication method or diagramming system is going to turn a poor electrician into a good one. It sounds like you've just found more than your share of poor ones. Sep 18, 2010 at 4:29
  • 1
    "sleeping room lamp switch" will have a meaning to someone 15 years from now digging in the wiring, long after your spreadsheet with its various cryptic code has been lost.
    – Kaz
    Mar 3, 2013 at 7:49

1 Answer 1


I'll go ahead and answer because I think your core question is a good one. It sounds like what your company installs are fairly complex home automation systems, and you're hiring residential electricians to do the wiring. Instead, what you need for applications like this is an electrician with industrial automation experience. They do exactly the type of thing you're asking all day long -- wiring rack-mounted PLCs and relays, labeling wires according to ID numbers on a diagram, high voltage and low voltage wiring and termination.

Another thing you need is a contract. If having your circuits and wires marked a certain way is important to you, then you need to specify that in your contract. You can't just assume that your electrician will know that you prefer ID numbers on your circuits just because he has a sheet with ID numbers on it, especially a residential electrician whose usual clients would have no idea what the ID numbers meant. And then, if something isn't done according to what you spelled out in the contract, you can point it out and the electrician will correct it. The other stories you mention just sound like mistakes that should have been corrected by the electrician, assuming they were his error (was it you or he that ordered the relay panel that didn't have enough room for 200 wires?). Anyway, everyone makes mistakes now and then.

To answer your specific question, there already is a system for diagramming electrical circuits. You should probably already be familiar with these symbols if you're installing home automation.

One last piece of advice for good communication with your electrician if you're working in the U.S. (which you may not be): make sure that what you're calling these devices matches up with U.S. terminology for these devices. For example, in the US, you would never call a switch with an "up" and "down" position a pushbutton. Here, a pushbutton is a button that you push into the surface on which it's mounted. Up/down switches are normally just called switches, at least in a house. I don't know what a wallet is, maybe a wall outlet? And it would be very unusual to have a 220V lamp circuit.

  • 1
    Agreed with everything but the link you gave -- those are circuit diagrams, not the standard symbols for marking electical on blueprints. See the-house-plans-guide.com/electrical-blueprint-symbols.html (and even that's not complete, it doesn't have quad boxes, etc, on it.) Unfortunately, my highschool drafting class was before ethernet, so I have no idea how to mark those types of drops.
    – Joe
    Sep 17, 2010 at 16:20
  • @Joe, the symbols you linked to are the right ones for a residential wiring print, but I believe the OP's application calls for more of an industrial automation diagram. That type of diagram is a lot more detailed and typically shows individual conductors, switch terminals, etc. That said, I don't do home automation so I don't know what's typical in that field and could be way off base. Sep 17, 2010 at 18:13
  • We're in contract with the house owner, home automation is usually just one of the projects running in-and-around the house: new windows, new heating system, new floor, rearranging walls etc. (sorry, I don't know the exact English terms of these jobs).
    – ern0
    Sep 17, 2010 at 19:48
  • @Joe: Note that electrical symbols are entirely different in Europe. Jan 30, 2012 at 19:10

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