House Wiring Specifications
Whether you live on or off the grid, use wind, solar or conventional electrical power, basic specs can help guide your wiring purchases and home installation. The most common type of electrical wiring used throughout the U.S. is the110-volt electrical system. Insulated wiring is available in several sizes and provides homes with enough electricity to run a household.
Plan the wiring job prior to implementation both for new home construction and remodeling jobs. Planning specifications means that you or your electrician develops an electrical wiring scheme and diagram that follows the architectural floor plan -- both inside and outside of the house. This way, you'll know where to position the wires to reach each electrical component. The wiring scheme should complement the overall expected electrical capacity of the house.
The wire gauge refers to the thickness of the insulated metal wiring and the smaller the gauge, the thicker the wire. Thicker wires with gauges like 6, 8 or 10 are used to supply current to common household appliances, especially ones that supply heat, like ovens, water heaters and clothes dryers. Size 12 or 14 wire is used for general household applications like lighting, with 12-gauge used for small appliances. Wire gauge is also commonly denoted by two numbers: the first gives the gauge, and the second gives the number of service wires inside. For example, a 12-2 gauge wire can support two small apartments or two sections of a medium house, while 12-3 gauge wire has three internal wires to supply more electricity through its circuits.
Clothes dryers, ovens and water heaters are some examples of appliances that require dedicated circuit breakers. Water heaters and clothes dryers use 30-amp breakers with 10-3 gauge wiring, while oven/range combinations will need a dedicated 50-amp breaker. Electrical oven/ranges typically are the big electrical consumer appliances in a house. They usually require a separate 240-volt circuit breaker. To reduce voltage drop while using this consumptive appliance, locate its breaker box within 20 to 30 feet of it.
Single-strand aluminum wiring was commonly used for home construction during the 1960s and 1970s. Because aluminum wiring heats up considerably when electrical current runs through it, it tends to contract and expand causing connectors to loosen at important junctions and become physically unstable. Prolonged use coupled with oxidation build-up at connectors promotes more heat generation and creates a potential fire hazard. To avoid this situation in remodel jobs, wiring should be inspected by a qualified electrician. Any aluminum connectors should then be exchanged for copper ones.