Home Electrical Wiring & Connections: What You Need to Know

electrician and wires
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It's time to tackle some wiring projects in your home, but where do you begin? It's important that you know what you're dealing with before you start, so a little lesson in 'Wiring 101' is in order. From understanding the different types of wires you'll find to installing switches, outlets, and a few major appliances, let's look at the basics of home wiring.

  • 01 of 09

    The Common Wires in Your Home

    Before you begin your first DIY electrical project, you should learn a little about the wires you'll be working with. Wires vary greatly and each is designed for a purpose.

    The wiring in your home is chosen to accommodate the load it must carry as well as the conditions it will be exposed to. Some are designed for indoor use while others can be buried. Some are for your panel while others hook up your lights and outlets.

    It may be confusing at first, but you will probably deal with only a few types of wire in your home.

  • 02 of 09

    Understand Colors and Labeling

    Electrical wire has very convenient ways of telling you what it is. Most of the coding is standard, so with a little study, you'll be able to figure out what you have to work with.

    Wiring does not come in a variety of colors to make it look good. No, there is a wire color coding system that applies to most wires in your home. Most importantly, you need to know that the black, red, blue, and yellow wires are hot and green is often the ground.

    If you look, you will also find a series of letters on a wire. These labels are also standard and will tell you more information about the makeup of the wire. For instance, the code may tell you whether it's aluminum or copper or whether or not it is heat resistant.

    As you learn more about wiring, you'll realize just how often you need to know these things.

  • 03 of 09

    Wire Size Matters

    It is critical in any wiring project that you match the gauge of the wire with the amperage rating of the circuit. Failing to do so can lead to a fire.

    A wire's gauge is the physical size of the wire, but the scale is opposite of the wire's circumference. This means that a 2-gauge wire is actually larger than a 14-gauge wire. The size determines how much current can pass through, so the larger wires will be used for your heavier loads.

  • 04 of 09

    Installing an Outlet

    Many homeowners want to take care of the basic wiring needs for their house. Among the most common projects is installing an outlet. It's a basic project that almost anyone can do if they take the time to understand the process.

    You may also want to understand how to wire a split outlet. This comes in handy if, for instance, you want to plug a lamp into an outlet and be able to turn it on from a wall switch.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Simple Installation of a Single-Pole Switch

    Light switches are the other electrical installations you might want to handle yourself. The majority of these in homes are what is known as a 'single-pole switch.' They're just as easy to replace as an outlet.

    Somewhere in your home, you may come across an odd looking switch that makes you stop and wonder. It's likely that this is a three-way switch. They're a little more complicated and used when multiple switches control a single light.

  • 06 of 09

    When You Need to Install an Electrical Panel

    The majority of homeowners will not mess around with the electric meter or service disconnect and leave these up to the utility company or hire an electrician. However, you might work with the electrical panel.

    Whether you're installing a new panel or making repairs on an old one, it's important that you get it right. After all, this is the hub for your entire home's electricity.

    Be sure to properly label any connections you make and update them with any changes. Accidentally turning off the lights on your wife in the bathroom when you meant to disconnect the kitchen may lead to some choice words.

  • 07 of 09

    Installing a Dishwasher

    New appliances come with their own electrical challenges, which is why many people choose to pay for the installation. If you're a true DIY-er, you can install a dishwasher without problems.

    The dishwasher comes with two hook-up challenges: the wiring and the water and drain lines. That's why it's a good idea to choose a location near your sink. It will save you time and money.

  • 08 of 09

    DIY Wiring for Your Oven

    Your electric range may also require your electric prowess. You might find yourself replacing the oven bake element, which is a relatively simple project.

    You may also need to connect the cord. The exact method you need to follow is going to depend on whether you have a 3- or 4-prong cord.

    Keep in mind that these large appliances carry heavy voltages, so read up on the safety tips. For instance, plugging a loose cord into a receptacle to check the fit can give you a deadly shock. Don't do it.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Installing Dryer Cords

    Why oh why do you have to buy a dryer cord separately? It's one of the great mysteries of home improvement, but it's a fact of life. Next time you need to install that new dryer, you'll be prepared after this tutorial.