Adding a New Electrical Circuit

I was promised help on an electrical project by relatives who have helped other family members install new roofs on their houses. I thought I was asking for something pretty small! Apparently I was very, very wrong. The “helpers” decided that help wasn’t on their agenda, leaving me to figure out an electrical project on my own. Electrical engineering classes in college weren’t about the practical stuff I needed for adding new circuits in my house.

Enter my wonderful big brother, who talked me through a list of the items I needed from the DIY store. Off I went. Some items were easy to find, some were not (or I was less confident about), but the store’s employee helped me find what I needed.

I started the project and sent a quick email to my brother, who sent back a very detailed step-by-step set of instructions instead of just answering my piddly little questions. That was fantastic! At that point, I thought “I can do this!”

How very wrong I was.

In the end, I merely placed the receptacle box (the part the outlet goes into) and ran the wire. Hammering little nails into wood isn’t usually difficult, but I managed to have problems with some of that. I searched the usually helpful internet to get an idea of how to hook up wires to the receptacle (I call it the outlet or socket, but apparently those aren’t proper terms), but Google failed me. How was I supposed to hook up four wires to a receptacle with room for only three?

I wish I’d thought about it in those terms – it would have told me something wasn’t right. The store only had one receptacle fitting my requirements (from the shopping list), so I was certain that was the correct item.

I’d already learned there are different gauges of wire. I didn’t understand why the 12-gauge wire in one town was $50 cheaper than in another, but in each store I only saw one 12-gauge wire option. It turns out that 12-gauge is not the full story. You have to get either 12-2 or 12-3. What’s worse is you have to add one to each of those secondary numbers to determine how many wires are encased in the wire’s cover. The receptacle I had needed 12-2 wire, yet I had 200 feet of 12-3 wire already tacked up through my walls and ceiling.

My brother arrived to tell me how to finish the project in a patient, instructive manner. Finishing tacking the wire was OK. Finding out the wire and receptacle were incompatible was not. He presented us with a few different options on how we could make things work. Of course, he recommended a solution he doesn’t like, so we didn’t feel so great about it. In the end, we bought a different type of receptacle and created two circuits using a single wire, thus sharing a ground wire. And we’re terrified of using the second outlet. In all likelihood we’ll plug in our new appliance and place it in front of the outlet so that the second circuit can’t be used without moving a large piece of equipment. And that’s too bad – we really need some extra outlets in that space!

I learned how to wire the receptacle and how to install new wiring into the electrical box, how to shop for circuit breakers, etc. But I don’t think I’ll ever try to use this newly found information ever again. In the end, that saves me a bit of money, I suppose. I saved money for a sauna, but I’m not going through this very trying ordeal again just to have one. The good news is maybe I can instead spend that money on a vacation to avoid a permanent trip to the funny farm later.

As for those electrical engineering classes I took in college? One taught me how to make wiring one thingamajig to another look neat and tidy, so the newly installed circuit breaker doesn’t look like a sub-amateur such as myself installed it. I’m not sure the homework in that class really paid off.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by kermode on 2011/01/05 at 17:04

    I found this website which shows how to wire various receptacles. I may want this in the future. Maybe it can help you, too!

    http://www.do-it-yourself-help.com/wiring_receptacles.html

    Reply

  2. Never say die! — especially for this. Next time, we’ll use Home Depot’s book, Basic Electricity 1-2-3. This skills learned on this project apply equally across the board. You already have the tools too!

    Let’s not send an electrician on vacation.

    When all else fails, we’ll look at the displays at Home Depot!

    I’m glad you recovered.

    I look forward to hearing about your success next time!

    PS. You didn’t start with polynomials with exponents when you started with math. I believe you’re in Algebra I but not Algebra II on this. Let’s stick the basics for awhile. Then there will be no need for a vacation to avoid the funny farm.

    Reply

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