Do It Yourself Guide to Home Maintenance March
No that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s time to start thinking about spring. In most places, spring can mean heavy rains and even damaging winds and lightning. This month’s article will focus on preparing your home for wet weather and repairing damage to your home that occurred during winter.
Roofing, Gutters, and Downspouts
Although I have talked about this item in February, I can’t emphasize how important it is to keep water out of your home. With the recent winter storms in the Mid-Atlantic region, heavy snow has ripped gutters off of eaves and fallen branches can alter the pitch of gutters causing them to overflow when the rains come.
Check your downspouts and gutters for any wind related damage. If you have had heavy snow or ice, you should also check that your gutters are not loose. If you have freezing temperatures you may want to make sure that ice has not formed at the bottom of the downspouts blocking the flow of rain water. If this persists, the enter downspout can fill with water during a heavy rain, causing your gutters to overflow. This may damage your eaves and soak attic and wall insulation. Frozen downspouts can also split which will require replacement. You may have to wait until warmer weather before you can attempt any repair, or you may want to hire a qualified roofing contractor to repair them for you.
Damaged Trees and Shrubs
As stated before, ice and snow and strong winds can damage trees and shrubs. Once the snow melts you should try to remove any damaged limbs before it gets too warm. Insects will be out in full force on the first warm day, so the sooner you can cut away any split branches, the better prepared your landscaping will be to fight off any pests.
If you have heavy damage at or near the tops of trees you should ask yourself two questions: Does the condition of the tree warrant repair and can you handle the repair yourself? Heavy damage near the top of a tree can be difficult to correct and usually requires professional assessment. Efforts can be made to maintain a tree’s appearance and value to your property, but if the whole side or top is gone, it's questionable whether it's worth spending the time and money to salvage the tree. This is especially true if it's one with brittle wood that lends itself to similar problems in the future. Certain trees like Bradford Pear can split right down the middle, so even though it will survive, do you really want to look at it?
Broken limbs should be removed if the branch has not split away from the trunk. The broken segment should be removed back to the next major adjacent branch. Do not leave branch stubs since they encourage rot and decay.
Many times a damaged limb may strip healthy bark from the tree. To repair this type of damage, cut any ragged edges of torn bark away from the damaged area. Limit the amount of healthy, tight bark removed; gently pull on the bark to see if it is separated from the sapwood. The repair cut should be made with a sharp knife into healthy bark should leave a wound shaped like an elongated football with the pointed ends of the cut running vertically along the trunk or limb or as near parallel to the initial damage as possible.
Some small to medium-sized trees may have been uprooted in high winds. It is possible to straighten these trees and brace them with guy wires. There needs to be at least one-third of the tree's original root system still in the soil and the remaining exposed roots should be compact and undisturbed for it to have any chance at working. Before straightening the tree, remove some of the soil from the hole beneath the tree so the roots will be placed below the existing grade level. Attach three guy wires to the trunk and anchor the wires 10 to 12 feet away from the tree. Use pieces of garden hose and thread the wire through them to protect the trunk from the wires. Some garden center sell plastic tree tying supplies called “Chain lock” that does not require cushioning. You can also use biodegradable jute strapping which lasts 12 months or Polypropylene tree tie which will last about 3 years. Use wooden stakes inserted into the ground at about a 30 degree angle away from the trunk.
Adjustable tree tie (Use ½-inch ties for tree calipers under 2 inches and 1-inch ties for trees over 2 inches)
Power equipment should never be operated from a ladder or in the tree where firm footing is questionable. Removing hanging limbs should be left to professional tree services.
Inspect you Sump Pump
Again, if you usually experience heavy rain in the spring or you are waiting for the snow to melt. You should inspect your sump pump now to make sure you are ready for any water entering your basement. In places where the ground is frozen, it will typically thaw faster near the foundation due to the heat radiating from the home. This can cause a small gap to form between the ground and the foundation wall and allow water to run straight down to the footing of your basement. If your sump pump is not functioning properly, you will have serious problems.
A good way to see if even thing is working smoothly is to kill two birds with one stone. Attach a hose to your hot water heater’s drain valve and drain off 2 or 3 gallons of water into the sump pit, or until the float activates the pump. Check to make sure that the internal or external float works. External floats can get hung up on the pump or piping, so make sure that it has a clear path up and down. If it hangs up while it is still running you can burn out your pump running it dry in less than an hour.
Inspect the check valve and make sure that it is not leaking while the pump is running and that most of the water stays in the pipe after it shuts off. There will be some water draining back into the pit from the pipe between the check valve and the pump.
Check valves are available any home center or hardware store.
Most check valves are secured by way of hose clamps on either end of the valve. Make sure that these are tight. If the valve passes or is cracked, replace it. Water can spray over 20 feet in any direction if it splits or if one of the clamps gives way. The pump will keep working even time the pit fills with water, so if you aren’t home if this happens, there can be quite a bit of damage.
If you have problem areas at the bottom of your driveway, near your garage where downspouts drain onto your driveway, or any other paved area or sidewalk, consider installing a trench drain to keep water from flowing over planting and potentially getting into your home.
Dura Slope manufactures a trench drain system consisting of neutral and pre-sloped sections of trench drain. Manufactured from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), this trench drain offers a durable alternative to concrete channel that saves time and reduces the cost of installation.
Features and Benefits
• Interlocking tongue and groove joints for secure alignment and easy installation
• Duraloc integral joint lock to prevent joint movement
• No extra screws or clamps needed at installation
• Lightweight sections for easier handling and lowered freight costs
• Blank grate inserts eliminate need for plywood
• Sloped and Non-sloped sections with bottom outlets offers system versatility
• Various grate options
When it comes to air conditioning installations, there is usually very little that the homeowner can do. However if you are relatively handy you can install the electrical service to the outdoor condenser unit and then leave the refrigeration work to the professionals.
Remember that you should always check with your local building department to determine what type of permit is required for the total installation of an air conditioning system. Homeowners are usually allowed to perform electrical and plumbing work without a license. By having the work permitted and inspected you will not only increase the chances for a successful installation, you will not void your homeowner’s insurance policy and you will not have any issues when you go to sell your home in the future.
The Electrical Circuit
The electrical circuit needed to power your outdoor air conditioner condenser is typically a double pole circuit breaker in your home load center (panelboard) that goes to an air conditioner service disconnect switch and from the disconnect switch to the condenser.
A 220 VAC circuit requires two (2) vacant circuit breaker positions located together in the panelboard. From the circuit breaker you will run the appropriate size cable to the outdoor air conditioning disconnect switch. From the disconnect switch you run the wires to the air conditioner. The size of the wire depends on a few important factors; the circuit size which is determined by the unit, the length of the run from the unit to the panelboard, and the insulation on the wire. Also check the installation instructions on the condenser unit. Some models may require both 120VAC and 240 VAC; in this case you would need to run 3-conductor wire, red, black, white and a ground.
You may need to make sure that your electrical service has the capacity for new air conditioning equipment if you are adding it to an existing home. Contact your utility for more information.
Wire Size Calculator: http://www.elec-toolbox.com/calculators/voltdrop.htm
Note: The longer the circuit length the greater the voltage drop. Usually circuits over 40 feet in length need the wire size increased to the next largest wire size. For a 30A circuit you may need #10 wire and for a 45A circuit your may need #8 wire.
Tools and Materials
Voltage Meter or Tester
Drill and Drill Bits
Flat and Philips Screwdrivers
Galvanized screws, for mounting disconnect
Wire, #12, #10, or #8 and a ground wire
Flexible Liquid-tight conduit
Double-Pole Circuit Breaker
1. Mount the air conditioner disconnect on the exterior of the home as close to the air conditioner condenser as is reasonable. Ensure that it is securely fastened to the wall using proper fastening hardware for the wall material. The National Electrical Code is typically followed but may be interpreted differently by the building inspector. Usually it needs to be readily accessible and within line of sight which can mean within arm’s reach or within 6 feet. Check with you local code official for clarification.
2. The air conditioner disconnect is connected to the air conditioner condenser with liquid-tight flexible metallic conduit, sometimes referred to as “seal-tight.” The size of the conduit is dependent upon the wire size, for #10 use 1/2” conduit and for #8 use 3/4” conduit. (This is for 2 wire conductors.) Liquid-tight conduit can be purchased at electrical distributors and most home centers.
The conduit is mechanically connected to the disconnect and the condenser using the appropriate straight or 90° flexible metallic conduit fittings. These fittings transition from the PVC coated conduit to a metal fitting
90-Degree Liquid-tight fitting
Add conduit clamps within 12 inches from the disconnect and another at the last point on the wall prior to the conduit heading towards the condenser.
3. Run the appropriately sized wires through the liquid-tight conduit. While you can purchase and run sheathed cable, it is better to purchase individual conductors of the correct wire gauge and length. They can be purchased at electrical distributors and home centers. The length of the wire should be about 24 inches longer than the conduit itself.
Since both wires are conductors in 240VAC circuits, buy wires with black insulation to identify them properly. If you use sheathed cable that has one black and one white wire, you need to wrap the ends on the white wire with black electrical tape.
4. Connect the wires in the air conditioning condenser junction box.
The bare copper wire is the ground wire which needs to be connected to the green wire in the condenser junction box. This may be a lug or screw connection depending on the manufacturer. In either case the ground wire is connected to the metal frame of the air conditioner condenser.
Inside of a Condensing Unit: The liquid-tight conduit is coming in at the bottom (1), the two black conductors are connected to the relay on the left (2), and the ground wire is connected to a lug on the left side of the frame (3).
The other 2 wires supply the 220 VAC to the condenser. The location and method of connection for these two wires will be described in the installation manual that came with the condenser.
5. Connect the wires to the inside terminals or lugs in the disconnect. The bare copper wire will attach to a lug or screw that is connected to the frame of the disconnect. The other two wires will connect to lugs or screws that are identified as “LOAD”. It does not matter which load wire goes to which lug or screw. Check with your local code official to determine if they require a fused disconnect, which is not typical, or a non-fused pullout disconnect.
Pullout Service Disconnect
6. Run the wires from the service disconnect to the electrical load center. If the cable is going through an unfinished basement or in a crawl space under a home you can use sheathed cable. However, anywhere where the cable is in a location where it can be damaged it must be protected. For this reason it is better to run the wires inside rigid PVC conduit or the flexible conduit to an electrical junction box and from that point on to the load center.
Use conduit clamps to fasten the conduit to the wall or joists. In areas where sheathed cable is running through a basement the cable must secured using clamps or staples every 36 inches and within 12 inches of any electrical box or the load center panel.
7. Turn the power "OFF" at the load center. This is accomplished by either turning "OFF" the main breaker or at a disconnect switch located between the utilities electrical meter and the load center. You will most likely need to remove a “knockout” from the load center either at the top of bottom. Use a fitting to protect the wires going through the knockout hole.
IMPORTANT: Turning the main breaker to the "OFF" position does not remove all power from the load center. Power has been turned "OFF" to the individual circuit breakers, but there is still live power on the incoming lugs of the main breaker.
Remove the inner load center panel that covers the electrical connections to the circuit breakers.
IMPORTANT: When you have turned the power to the "OFF" position, ensure that there is no power at the breakers by using a volt meter.
8. You must install a double pole breaker in the load center panel. The size of the breaker depends on the electrical requirements of your air conditioner condenser. It can be 30, 45, or 60 Amp.
Double-Pole Breakers shown with red and black wires.
A double pole circuit breaker takes up two vertical positions in the load center. If you have two horizontal positions available you can move one of the current circuit breakers in order to free up two vertical breaker positions.
Note: Do not install two wires on one circuit breaker in order to free up space.
Note: You must purchase a double pole circuit breaker that is designed for your load center. There is no standard mounting configuration for circuit breakers in load centers. The front of the breaker will have the name of the manufacturer and type which is usually 3 or 4 letters.
Once you have installed the new double pole circuit breakers connect the load wires, one to each of the circuit breaker lugs.
9. Connect the ground wire to the ground bar or lug in the load center panel.
10. Replace the circuit breaker cover panel.
Leave the new double pole circuit breaker "OFF" until the installation of the air condition system has been completed by your HVAC technician.
11. Turn the main breaker or the main disconnect switch back to the "ON" position.
After the system has been completed, call your building inspector for a final inspection.
By taking the time to properly install the electrical service to your air conditioning system you can save yourself a few hundred dollars.
Circuit breakers are over current protection devices (OCPD) that are designed to break the circuit and prevent equipment damage or fire. When too much current runs through a circuit the heat in the circuit exceeds the breaker's load rating and it trips, shutting off the electrical power. Proper sizing eliminates overloads and insures safe electrical operation. Circuit breakers are designed to carry 100% of their rated current while the NEC dictates an 80% application.
A commonly misunderstood fact about circuit breakers (CBs) is related to the percentage of loading permitted by the NEC and the CB design, and why the two may be different. Let's investigate both aspects.
Circuit Breaker Design
A circuit breaker (CB) is designed and evaluated to carry 100% of its rated current for an indefinite period of time under standard test conditions. These conditions, per UL 489, Underwriters Laboratories Standard for Safety for Molded-Case Circuit Breakers and Circuit Breaker Enclosures, include mounting the CB in free air (no enclosure) where the ambient temperature is held at 40 degrees C or about 104 degrees F. Under these conditions, molded-case CBs are required not to trip at rated current.
However, a CB most frequently is applied in equipment at 80% of its rated current under NEC Sec. 384-16(c). If you understand why this requirement is in place, you'll be able to apply CBs correctly.
Since the current path, both the CB and the conductor, reacts to heat, the overall operating temperature of the equipment becomes a factor in sizing a CB in an enclosure.
Other factors that may affect this equipment operating temperature include:
1.) Size and location of the enclosure.
2.) More than one current carrying device housed in the same enclosure.
3.) Level of current each device is carrying.
4.) Environmental conditions in the area of the equipment
A circuit breaker either carries a standard rating (80%) or a 100% rating. The standard rating is subject to the NEC sizing rules. CBs that are 100%-rated are permitted to be loaded continuously at their full rating as long as the assembly is listed and conductors are properly connected.
Determine the total electrical load required for the circuit you are sizing. All electrical appliances and equipment list the operating load they need to operate properly somewhere on the component, usually on an attached sticker or plate. For example, if you are planning operate a refrigerator rated at 8 amps, a toaster oven rated at 6 amps and a microwave rated at 6 amps on the same circuit, you need a breaker that that will safely carry a 20 amp load.
Calculate the size of the circuit breaker needed to safely carry the load. Circuit breakers are most commonly found in 15, 20, and 30 amp sizes. For the load calculated above, 20 amps, the smallest circuit breaker you could install would be a 20 amp breaker. However, following the NEC 80 percent rule, the proper breaker for this application would be calculated as follows: 20 (amps) times 1.25 (125 percent) = 25 (amps). This application requires a 25 amp circuit breaker.
Wire size is a very important part in sizing a circuit. For circuit breakers up to 15 amps, use 14 gauge wire or larger. For a 20 amp breaker, use 12 gauge wire or larger. For up to a 30 amp breaker, use 10 gauge wire or larger. These are the most common sizes for household use.
Wire is manufactured to a specific group of sizes that are designated by numbers known as gauges. The gauge of the wires that carry the power from the transformer to your home and within your home are chosen in size to ensure that they do not overheat at their rated amperage. In fact, there should be no noticeable heat on the wires at any time.
For this reason simply increasing the size of a circuit breaker without also increasing the wire size can lead to a potentially dangerous situation that can result in fire and death.
Choosing the correct wire gauge within your home, wires that run from the electrical distribution panel to various appliances and receptacles is crucial. You do not want the wire to act as a fuse and burn should a short circuit occur.
The table provides the correct gauge of wire for electrical circuits in your home depending on the rated load.
It is also very important not to use devices labeled for copper only on circuits with aluminum wire. Look for these markings on your existing circuit breakers and receptacles and if you have aluminum wiring in your home it is best to hire a licensed electrician to make any alterations to your electrical system.
Installing a ceiling fan/light combination is a common home improvement project. The part of these projects that confuse many new do-it-yourself persons is how to wire the electrical wiring, so the fan and the light can be controlled by separate, wall-mounted switches. Many handy persons who are ready to tackle any carpentry, painting or plumbing project without any hesitation shy away from tackling electrical projects. There is no reason to pay a professional electrician $50 to $100 an hour when you can do it yourself. After reading this how-to guide, you will know how the fan/light circuit works and will be able to wire your fan/light switches with confidence.
How is the home Cable Run?
In the electrical trades, “home-run” refers to the cable bringing the power from the service panel. Depending on whether the service panel is closer to the ceiling outlet box or the device box that will house the switches, the home-run cable will either enter the ceiling outlet box or the wall-mounted device box. The way you wire the switches will depend on whether the power is brought to the ceiling outlet box or to the device box that will house the switches.
What type of single-pole switch to install
You will install 15-Ampere, 120-volt, single-pole toggle switches, but their physical configuration will depend on whether they are being installed in a single-gang or a double-gang device box. If they are to be installed in a single-gang device box, the device box normally occupied by a single switch, you will need to use a double switch. A double-switch has two switches mounted on a one mounting strap. If you are installing them in a double-gang box, a box designed to hold two switches or two receptacles, you will install two separately mounted switches. For this tutorial's illustrations, I'm using a double-gang device box and two separately mounted switches.
How to wire the switches: With the home-run terminating in the device box holding the switches.
When the power is brought to the switches, a 12/3 w/Gr Romex cable is run from the switches to the ceiling outlet box. The 12/3 w/Gr cable contains three insulated conductors—one red, one black and one white—and one bare copper conductor.
The home-run cable from the circuit breaker panel is brought to the switches when the switch location is closer to the circuit breaker panel than the ceiling outlet box. As a rule, you will run a 12/2 w/Gr Romex cable from the breaker panel to the two-gang device box as the home-run cable. You could run a 14/2 w/Gr Romex cable and protect it with a 15-Ampere breaker, but few professional electricians install anything less than 20-Ampere branch circuits today. It is sound practice to install 12/2 and protect it with a 20-Ampere breaker because you may want to add other loads to the circuit at some time in the future. The home-run cable contains three conductors—one black insulated conductor, one white insulated conductor and one bare copper conductor.
As you see in this diagram, the black wire bringing power to the switches is connected to the bottom brass color screws on the switches by black pigtail wires that are connected to the black circuit wire in a three-way splice.
How to make a pigtail splice
- Making a pigtail splice is a straight forward process. Here, is how to do it like a professional electrician.
- Cut each pigtail wire 6 to 8 inches long. Looking at diagram 1, you will see that you will need two black pigtails and two bare copper pigtail wires.
- Remove ¾ of an inch from each end of the insulated pigtail wires.
- Make an open loop on one end of the pigtail wires, the loop will be used to connect the pigtail wires to the switches.
- Hold the other end of the pigtail wires next to the stripped end of the circuit conductor of the same color and twist tightly together with Electrician's (Lineman's) pliers. Twist them together in a clockwise twist. Remember that every solid electrical connection starts with a solid mechanical connection. Complete the splice by screwing a wire nut on the spliced end.
- Double-check to be sure that no bare copper is showing from beneath the wire nut when splicing an insulated wire. If bare copper wire shows outside the wire nut, remove the wire nut and cut the stripped splice as needed, then replace the wire nut.
Connecting the white, neutral wire
As you will see from diagram 1, the neutral wire from the breaker panel is spliced together with the neutral wire from the light. Splice the two neutral wires together in the same manner as you spliced the pigtail wires to the circuit wires.
Connecting the switches
- Connect the black pigtail wires to the bottom, brass colored screws on the switches. The loops should be placed around the screws in a clockwise direction so that the wire will be pulled tighter under the screws as the screws are tightened down on the wire. Never placed the loops in a counterclockwise direction because the wire will be forced out from under the screws as the screws are tightened.
- Connect the red wire traveling on to the ceiling outlet box to the brass screw on one switch and the black wire going to the ceiling outlet box to the top brass screw on the other switch.
- Attach the bare copper ground pigtails to the green, octagon-shaped screws on the switches.
- Connecting the fan/light unit.
- Connecting the fixture is a straightforward process of splicing the circuit wires to the fan/light unit's fixture wires. Splice black to black, white to white, red to red and bare ground to bare ground.
How to wire the switches: With the home-run terminating in the ceiling outlet box
Wiring the switch-leg
When the home-run cable enters the ceiling outlet box, the 12/3 w/Gr Romex cable running to the switches is referred to as a switch-leg. Normally, the National Electrical Code (NEC) only permits a white, insulated wire to be used as a circuit neutral. There are a few exceptions to that rule. One of those exceptions permits a white, neutral wire to be used a hot wire when it is properly re-identified by painting it or wrapping it with a color tape. In this case, you will see that it has been re-identified by wrapping it with black, plastic electrical tape. We could have used any color tape except white or green tape because white is for a neutral conductor, and green is for a grounding conductor. In a switch-leg, the re-identified neutral is used to carry the power from the black, home-run wire to the switches.
Wiring the switches
Connect the re-identified white, neutral wire to the two, bottom brass screws on the two switches using black pigtail wires. Connect the red and black switch leg wires to the top brass screws on the switches and the bare ground wire pigtails to the two green, octagon-shaped screws.
Wiring the light/fan unit
Connect the home-run neutral wire to the white fixture wire. Connect the home-run bare, copper ground wire in a three-way splice with the fixture ground wire and the switch-leg ground wire. Connect the red and black switch-leg wires to the red and black fixture wires.
Low voltage lighting transformers have become commonplace in many of today’s homes with the increase awareness in energy efficient lighting systems and decorative accent lighting. A low voltage lighting transformer is a device that converts the standard 110V or 120V household voltage to a lower voltage such as 24V or 12V. Low voltage transformers can be installed outside in a weatherproof enclosure, or in a basement or garage to power low voltage landscape or deck around the home. The transformer can be hard-wired to the home’s electrical system or plugged in to a receptacle to power the transformer and then a smaller gauge cable distributes 12V to various lighting devices.
The purpose of a low voltage lighting system is to reduce the size of the wiring, increase the number of lights on a circuit, and make installing light fixtures quick and easy for the do it yourselfer and professional alike. Lowering the voltage supplied to the fixtures reduces the chance of injury in the event a wire is damaged, but other problems can occur that can reduce the effectiveness of the light system.
Typical Low Voltage Lighting Circuit
The Lighting System is Completely Off
If the whole lighting system is off the first item to check is that there is power to the transformer. If the transformer is plugged in, make sure that the circuit is not tripped to the receptacle. Transformers installed outside are typically plugged into a GFCI receptacle, so make sure that the receptacle has not tripped. After several years the GFCI receptacle may need to be replaced. Check the electrical panel and verify that the breakers are not tripped or turned off. Use a volt meter to check if there is power to the receptacle or transformer. In some cases the timer has not been set properly, or if there has been a power outage, the time may be off by several hours. Reset the timer inside the transformer and verify that the lights are on.
Fuses, Breakers, and Overloading
Another common problem that may cause an issue is a blown fuse or tripped internal breaker that may be installed in some units. Transformers have a power rating in Watts, such as 600W, 900W, and 1200W. The system may be overloaded with too many lights, or lights that exceed the recommended wattage. Reduce the number of lights and replace the fuse or reset the breaker to restore power to the lighting system. A damaged wire may also cause the breaker to trip. If you have too many lights installed on your system you can installed a new transformer with a higher capacity as long as you do not exceed the amperage of the circuit in your main electrical panel.
Fuse in the bottom of a Lighting Transformer
If there is only one light out, the issue may not be the transformer but a loose bulb or connection. To troubleshoot this problem, verify that the bulb is connected properly in the socket and that the filament is intact. If the light is still out, inspect the wire connecting the light bulb to the main cable and verify that it is not broken. In order to check if the wire is not broken, you may need to use of an ohmmeter. Shut off the power and check if the reading is high or low. The wire is broken if the reading is very high and will require a change in wiring. A string of lights may also be out if there is a break similar to Christmas lights.
Dimmed and Flickering Lights
Dim lights are the result of an overloaded transformer, but not overloaded to the point of tripping the breaker or fuse. To solve this problem a new transformer with a higher capacity needs to be installed since all transformers have a power capacity. Other problems that can lead to dimmed lights are undersized wiring between the transformer and the lighting devices and poorly spliced and terminated wires. The length of the wire is also a factor as very long runs will reduce the voltage to the light and cause it to be dimmer. Review the installation manual for your transformer to determine the proper wire sizes and quantity of lighting devices.
You may be able to install an additional transformer and separate a few of the lighting runs. The problem with this is that the timers will need to be synchronized so that the lights go on at the same time.
One of the few appliances in the kitchen that is wired directly to a dedicated circuit is the dishwasher. Aside from the heating element which draws a considerable amount of amperage, the dishwasher is connected to a water source which can pose an elevated risk to shock and circuit overload. Having other items connected to the same circuit can cause the breaker to trip.
As long as the circuit breaker is turned off the connection can be made fairly easily. If you are not comfortable with making the electrical connections for the dishwasher, you should hire a licensed electrician to install the appliance on the dedicated circuit.
Tools and Materials
This article goes over the electrical connections for the dishwasher and does not focus on the plumbing connections such as the water supply hook-up and drain hose. Make sure to shut off the water supply to the dishwasher before attempting any electrical work on the dishwasher or circuit.
The electrical connection for the dishwasher is usually on the wall behind the dishwasher opening, in the cabinet under the sink, or sometimes there will just be a wire sticking out of the floor or wall.
Electrical cable (white wire with yellow wire nuts) and no junction box
1. Turn Off the Power
Locate the breaker for the dishwasher and turn it to the OFF position. If there is a junction box installed, remove the cover plate and test the black wire to ground to determine that the power is off. Use a voltage tester to test the wires to make sure the circuit is off before you start working.
2. Preparing the wires
If you have an old dishwasher you are replacing, you should be able to use the existing wire. Inspect the cable sheathing and wiring to make sure that there are no tears, crimps, or scorch marks present. If there is any damage to the cable, cut it back to a good section and install a junction box on the wall. Cut a new of cable (12-2 gauge) about 4 feet long to feed the dishwasher from the junction box. Use a utility knife to remove the last 6-inches of sheathing from the cable to expose the wires. You may want to tape the end of the wire to the floor since the electrical connection is made in the front of the appliance.
Damaged wiring at the cable connector
Strip about ¾-inch of insulation from the ends of the white and black wires.
When the ends of both wires have been stripped, slide the cable connector over the end of the cable and secure it in place over the sheathed portion of the cable with the threaded end facing outward. Remove the locknut from the threaded end of the connector.
3. Secure the Cable
If you have installed a junction box you need to remove two knockouts; one for the cable coming from the panelboard and one for the cable going to the dishwasher. To remove the knockouts, hit the edge with a flat screwdriver or a pair of needle-nose pliers then grab the knockout with the pliers and twist it until it breaks free.
Take the wires and guide them into the box until the cable connector’s threads are on the inside of the box. Slide the locknut over the wires and secure the connector to the box.
4. Complete the Wiring
- Take the ground wire and secure it to the green ground screw on the dishwasher and tighten the screw.
- Make the connections for the black wire from the circuit and the black wire from the dishwasher twisting the wires together with pliers and capping them with a wire nut. Repeat this for the wire wires.
3. Wrap each wire nut with electrical tape.
4. Carefully bend the wires so they fit inside the dishwasher junction box and replace the cover plate.
5. Complete the water line hook-up and drain hose to the dishwasher. Check for leaks after turning on the water
6. Carefully push the dishwasher into the opening and secure it to the countertop with the screws supplied with the dishwasher.
7. Level the dishwasher by adjusting the feet in front with an adjustable wrench and 2-foot level.
8. Test the dishwasher operation.
Sometimes when a light is not working it isn’t always the bulb.
Some recessed lights use a transformer that is mounted to the light above the ceiling. Low-voltage recessed lights use transformers to convert high-voltage electricity to a low-voltage power supply, usually 120V down to 24V or 12V. Replacement transformers must match the recessed light's old transformer's input and output voltage ratings. Placing standard voltage on a low-voltage light bulb causes its filament to burn up almost instantly.
If you have a remote transformer for low-voltage track lighting or low-voltage halogen lights you need to locate the enclosure where the transformer is installed and replace it with a matching one. These transformers can be susceptible to voltage spikes and surges caused by lightning strikes and power outages.
Always use caution when working with electricity.
1. Turn off the electricity to the recessed light at electrical panel by shutting off the circuit breaker that controls the lights. You may have to shut off the power to the entire room if the lighting is not on a separate circuit.
2. You may be able to access the light's electrical box from the attic, if possible, or from the room. Transformer access from below the ceiling requires removing the trim cover and light bulb and unscrewing the can from its mounting bracket with a screwdriver. Trim covers pull straight down and unsnap from the housing. The housing of the light, called a “can”, screws to a mounting bracket near the bottom, usually with a 1/4-inch hex-head screw. After unscrewing the can, push it up into the ceiling and turn the can until the electrical box can be seen through the hole in the ceiling.
Recessed Lighting Fixture with Transformer Mounted on Electrical Box
3. Open the recessed light's electrical box with a slotted screwdriver. Remove the wire connectors from the old transformer and the electrical wiring. Separate each set of wires. There are two high-voltage and two low-voltage wires. The two low-voltage wires go to the light socket and the two high-voltage wires enter the electrical box from above the ceiling.
4. Unscrew the transformer's mounting screws with a screwdriver or 1/4-inch nut driver. Remove the old transformer from the electrical box.
5. You may need to take the transformer to a home center or electrical supply house to match the ratings. They are common so there are usually in stock. The label on the transformer lists the ratings and shows the wiring guide. Pay special attention to the primary and secondary voltage ratings and the wattage. For track lighting systems you can overload undersized transformers if higher wattage bulbs are installed in the fixtures.
6. Note the new transformer's wiring guide. The wiring guide lists each wire, its insulation color and its function. Usually there is a black and white wire for the primary coil that is connected to the black and white wiring from the house. The low-voltage wires are red, blue, or yellow and are connected to the low-voltage wires going to the light.
7. Attach the new transformer to the recessed can light's electrical box with the screws that held the old transformer.
8. Connect the high-voltage wires from the transformer, labeled “Primary,” to the high-voltage wires that enter the box from above the ceiling and secure them with wire nuts. Often the transformer uses black and white colored insulation for the high-voltage wires. If so, then connect black to black and white to white. Otherwise, connect the transformer wire labeled "Hot" to the black wire and the transformer wire labeled "Neutral" or "Common" to the white wire.
9. Twist the transformer's low-voltage, labeled "Secondary," wires to the low-voltage wires that connect to the light socket and secure them with wire nuts. Many transformer manufacturers use blue and yellow insulation for the secondary wires. The low-voltage wires can be connected either way and do not have to be matched to the wires going to the light.
10. Replace the electrical box's cover. Screw the can to its mounting bracket, replace the light bulb and trim piece.
Note: Transformers may or may not have a green ground wire depending on the manufacturer.
Many times people would like to have an outlet controlled by a switch to be able to turn on a lamp or some other device. Sometimes they have a switched outlet, but it is in the wrong location, or they would like to plug in another device that they would like to remain on all the time. A situation like this calls for a half hot outlet where a switch controls the top half of the outlet and the bottom remains hot all of the time.
As always when working on electrical systems turn off the power to the circuit at the breaker panel or remove the fuse for older electrical systems.
If you have an outlet that is switched, you will still need to run a new wire with two hot conductors and one neutral and one ground, 12-3 or 14-3 wire. The “3” stands for 3 conductors, black, red, and white. The red wire is required to keep one half of the outlet hot at all times.
Traditionally the black wire is used for the hot portion of the outlet and the red wire for the switched portion, but it will work either way. The outlet will share the neutral, white wire, in this case.
Half-Hot outlet Wiring Diagram
To run the new wire you will need to either cut a few access holes in the wall board new the studs to run the wire from the switch to the outlet. I you are lucky it will only require two of three small holes to get your hand inside. Cut the holes to straddle the stud, you can use the switch box and outlet box for the beginning and ending holes. If you have access from the basement, you can run the wire straight down, staple it to the floor joist, and then drill a hole up into the stud bay of the outlet. Make sure that you have the location marked accurately.
1. With the power off to the circuit, remove the switch and outlet from the wall boxes.
2. Remove the wire nuts off of the wires. Strip the insulation from the insulated wires according to the strip gauge on the back of the outlet. Use you wire strippers or pliers to make a hook on the end of the ground wire so it can be attached to the ground screw of the outlet.
3. There is a tab that joins the upper and lower sections of the power side of the outlet together. This is a flat brass piece of metal; the hot side of the outlet is the side with brass colored screws. Leave the other side intact.
4. By using a pair of needle nose pliers you can grip the flat tab of metal and with a side to side motion bend it until it breaks off.
5. Connect the red half of the outlet you want controlled by the switch and the black for the half of the outlet which is hot all the time. (Typically the top is the switched part of the outlet) It is best to use the side screw terminals to make the wiring connections. The white wire is connected to the white (aluminum) screw on the other side. The tab remains in place to share the neutral connection. I like to use electrical tape to wrap the outlet and cover the screw terminals for the hot and neutral.
Red and Black wires in place.
6. At the switch, the white wires are connected together with a wire nut.
a. The black wire coming into the switch is normally hot; connect it to the top of the switch with the new black wire going to the hot part of the outlet.
b. Connect the red wire to the bottom terminal of the switch that is connected to the switched portion of the outlet.
c. Connect the bare or green ground wires to the ground terminal screw on the switch.
7. The wiring is folded back into the outlet box being careful that the ground wire is not near the screws of the outlet's hot or neutral side.
8. Use the outlet mounting screws to secure the outlet firmly to the wall adjusting the outlet from side to side as necessary and replace the outlet cover.
9. Turn on the power to the circuit and test the operation by plugging in a lamp and radio into the switched and hot portions of the outlet.
While this job may not add much value to your home, it will offer you great flexibility and convenience for the rooms you choose to make this electrical modification. Check with your local building inspector to determine if you require a permit before you start the work.
Standard doorbells are not powered by 120 volt electric typically used in the home. Most doorbell chimes use a transformer to step down the voltage from 110/120 VAC (volts alternating current) to 10 to 24 VAC. A small transformer is installed in the basement near the door or on the side of the panelboard to power the device. Older 10 volt transformers are used for buzzers and 16 volt and higher are used for doorbell chimes. If the distance from the transformer to the button and chime is long, the transformer is usually increased to 24 volts.
If you are installing a new doorbell, the transformer typically comes with the doorbell chime. If you are replacing the transformer, you need to locate the transformer and check the voltage marked on the side of the frame. If you have a hot water heating system you may have a transformer to power zone valves, or the transformer may supply power to the heating system and doorbell, so make sure that you have located the correct transformer.
Before you start a replacement, verify that the transformer has power by checking the terminals with a voltage tester. If the meter is reading over 10volts, you may have a damaged wire between the transformer and the doorbell.
Testing the transformer for output voltage
Tools and Materials
18 AWG wire, 2 colors usually red and white
Simple wiring diagram
Check the instructions that are included with your doorbell chime to confirm the wiring requirements.
Since the transformer is a low power device, it is often installed on an existing circuit on the side of a junction box. The transformer should be located near the doorbell. If you are installing it onto an existing junction box, make sure that the circuit or circuits feeding that box are off and test the wires.
2. Mounting the transformer
Remove a knockout on the side of the junction box by tapping the edge with a flat screwdriver and twisting it off with a pair of pliers. If your transformer has a threaded nipple you can slide this into the hole and secure it with a locknut. Other transformers need to be mounted to a new electrical box sized for a switch.
Remove the wire nuts from existing circuit and connect the black wire from the transformer to the black circuit wire and connect the wires with a larger wire nut. Repeat for the white and green wires respectively. Carefully bend the wires into the box and replace the junction box cover plate.
4. Run low voltage wiring
The wiring from the transformer to the doorbell button and chime are usually 18 gauge (AWG) or larger depending on the voltage requirements. For existing systems 2-wire thermostat wire is often used to complete this circuit.
A. If you are replacing the transformer you simply need to reconnect the wires to the terminals on the outside of the transformer. (Go to #5)
B. If you are installing a new doorbell, you will need to run the low voltage wire to the door bell and the chime. If the transformer is in the basement you can drill a 3/8-inch hole up through the floor into the wall cavity where you want the chime located. Cut a 2 inch square hole in the drywall and push a fish tape up from the basement to the hole. Attach 2 pieces of 18 AWG wire, the same color, to the end of the fish tape and secure it with a piece of electrical tape and pull the tape back down through the hole. One wire should reach to the doorbell button and the other to the transformer.
Running the wire for the doorbell to the outside can be more difficult. You need to drill a ¼-inch hole through the trim on the side of the door for the button. It is best to remove the trim and run the wiring behind it. Drill a 3/8-inch hole down through the plate of the wall and use your fish tape to pull one wire from the chime and another 18 AWG wire of a different color from the transformer through the hole. Leave the wire stick out about 4 or 5 inches. Slide the wire through the hole in the trim and reattach the trim to the door.
5. Complete the wiring
Strip ¾-inch off the end of each doorbell wire using a wire stripper. It is important to keep track of which wire is going to the chime and which is going to the button.
For the doorbell button – Connect the white wire to one terminal screw on the back of the button and the red wire to the other terminal. Screw the doorbell button to the trim.
Connect the red wire from the button to the “hot” terminal of the transformer.
The white wire from the button is connected to one terminal on the doorbell chime. The other white wire is connected to the other terminal on the chime and then to the neutral terminal on the transformer.
Loosen the two screws and wrap one wire around each screw post. Tighten the screw down to secure the wires in place.
Restore the power to the circuit and test the doorbell operation.
A circuit breaker that trips open intermittently may be indicative of a circuit overload or an intermittent short circuits. Two reasons a circuit breaker trips open are circuit overloads and short circuits. Circuit breakers, like the older, Edison-based fuses, are designed to protect electrical writing against circuit overloads and short circuits.
Short circuits occur when a hot wire comes into contact with the circuit's neutral conductors or when it comes into contact with some grounded surface. Short circuits are relatively easy to diagnose because the circuit breaker will not hold after resetting until the short circuit is located and repaired. Circuit overloads, on the other hand, are not so easy to diagnose because, depending on the amount of the overload current, the circuit may hold after being reset until the heat building up from the overload current causes the thermally operated circuit breaker to trip open once again.
A third possible cause for a circuit breaker to trip open is that the circuit breaker itself has become defective. Circuit breakers becoming defective is not a common problem with residential wiring systems, but it can happen. There might have been a manufacturing defect with the circuit breaker that the QC inspections did not catch. This kind of problem usually makes itself known relatively soon after the CB is newly installed. Another cause for a CB to become defective is a power surge that causes so much heat in such a short period of time that the bi-metal strip in the CB is weakened or damaged in some other way.
How much circuit current constitutes a circuit overload?
Residential 120-volt branch circuits are either protected by circuit breakers rated at 15-amperes or 20-amperes but that does not mean that these circuits can be loaded down at constant 15 or 20-amperes current. The reason for that is that most circuit breakers are designed to only carry a continuous current of up to 80 percent of their rated current. In other words, a circuit protected by a 15-ampere CB has a load rating of 1,440-Watts or 12-Amperes.
A circuit protected by a 20-Ampere CB should be loaded to 1,920-Watts or 16-Amperes. These maximum safe loads are not only required by the CB's design, they are requirements of the National Electric Code (NEC). There is one exception to this rule, some circuit breakers are designed to carry 100-percent of their rated current and those CB's are so marked on their cases.
Troubleshooting and Isolating circuit overloads
If you do not already own a clamping ammeter, now is the time to procure. There are many quality clamping meters on the market today at very reasonable prices but one of the best sources of tools for the do-it-yourself person is Harbor Freight. You could spend hundreds of dollars for a clamping meter but the Cen-Tech 7—Function, clamp—on multimeter sold by Harbor Freight for less than $30 will be all the meter the average do-it-yourself person will ever need for residential electrical work. This meter tests resistance and AC and DC voltage without splicing wires or puncturing insulation. The meters 17-test ranges include
- DC Voltage—4 ranges 200mV/20V/200V/1000V
- AC CurrentAC Voltage—2 ranges 200V/750V—3 ranges 20A/200A/1000A
- Resistance—5 Ranges 200Ω/2kΩ/20kΩ/200kΩ/2MΩ
- Diode Test
- And a Continuity Test.
The actual product/operating manual is available in pdf format here.
One of the very first rules that every do-it-yourself person is taught when doing an electrical project is to always turn the electricity off first by switching the circuit breaker to the off position. But, as James Thurber (1894-1961), the writer and cartoonist once said, “There is no exception to the rule that every rule has an exception.” This is one of those exceptions for electrical safety rules. When performing an electrical circuit load test, just as when performing circuit voltage tests, the power must be left on.
Performing the load test
Ido not believe in reinventing the wheel. I have already published a step by step guide called “How to Tell If You Have a Faulty Breaker in Your Breaker Box” on e-How.
If the circuit is actually overloaded, the meter indicates a load of more than 12-Amperes on a 15-Ampere circuit or a 16-Ampere load on a 20-Ampere circuit, you will need to reduce the load by moving some of the plugged in loadsto a different branch circuit.
Replacing a defective circuit breaker
If the load current is 80 percent or less of the circuit breaker rated amperes and the breaker continues to trip open, you will need to replace the circuit breaker. For a good step-by-step guide for removing and replacing a defective branch circuit CB, go to Replacing a Breaker in Your Panel.
Many homeowners attempt plumbing repairs from time to time. This article covers some of the most common mistakes made when soldering copper pipes to brass or copper fittings.
Copper pipe and copper or brass fittings must be clean for the solder to create a watertight bond. The outer surface of copper pipe must be cleaned with emery cloth until the protective coating or oxidation is removed. The inner surface of fittings and valves and the outer surface of copper pipe should look like a new penny. It is also important to remember not to touch the cleaned surfaces with your hands or fingers. Dirt or the natural acids that are on your fingers can prevent the flux from flowing properly and hence the solder from properly bonding the pipe and fitting together.
The inside of a copper pipe needs to be deburred with a pipe deburring tool. Most pipe cutters include a deburring tool as part of the pipe cutter assembly. If your tubing cutting does not have a deburring attachment you can purchase a separate deburring tool. Removing the burs from a cut pipe allows the pipe to slide easily into fittings and prevents solder from flowing into the pipe and away from the fitting.
A thin layer of flux needs to be applied to the outside end of the copper pipe and the inside of the copper or brass pipe fitting. Without flux, solder will not flow into the fitting to form a bond; the solder will melt and adhere to the copper unevenly. Too much flux will cause the fitting to become weak overtime and fail.
Never use your finger to apply the flux as the natural acids on our fingers will have a chemical reaction with the flux causing it not to do its job and you can cut your finger if there are burs remaining on the edge of the pipe.
Note: Flux is harmful if it gets into your eyes or if it is ingested. Always protect your eyes with safety goggles.
Copper pipes must be inserted into fittings to the proper depth; this is referred to as mating. Fittings and valves typically have a ridge or stop to stop the pipe at the proper depth. Some fittings called slip couplings do not have a ridge so that the fitting can slide down the pipe when there is not enough room move the pipe.
Bad seating of pipes into fitting
Good seating of pipes into fitting
Cutting Copper Pipe
Copper pipe should be cut with a pipe cutter not a hacksaw. Hacksaws tend to deform the pipe and create a ragged edge that makes it difficult to insert the pipe into the fittings. The deformed end will also make it difficult to form a tight solder joint.
The blade on a pipe cutter must be sharp in order to create a smooth cut without distorting the copper pipe. If you do a lot of soldering or plumbing work, you may want to purchase a good quality pipe cutter that allows you to replace the cutting wheel.
Draining the Pipe
Pipes must be drained of all water before soldering. If the water is too close to the pipe it will boil away and form steam which cools the pipe and prevents the solder from forming a bond with the pipe. Water is a heat sink that will absorb the heat from the torch.
Water can be drained away from the solder joint by shutting off the water to the pipe and opening up a faucet at the lowest point to drain out the water. In some cases it may be necessary to angle the pipe up to stop the water from draining into the solder joint.
Note: Ensure that appliances that require water for safe operation, such as boilers are turned off when the water is turned off and has been drained.
Proper Flame Position
To create a good solder joint it is necessary to place the tip of the flame at the proper position. This will heat up the fitting quickly and evenly. The longer it takes to heat up the fitting and pipe, the better the chance for the flux to flow away from the joints and prevent the solder from adhering to the copper.
Heat the joint with your propane torch, moving the cone back and forth to heat it evenly. Hold the solder against the joint on the side opposite the flame until it melts and flows into the joint. The joint should appear full on all sides.
Heavy brass fittings or valves require five to six times as much heat to raise the joint to the solder melting point. Heat the joint from several sides if possible. Always leave valves at least partially open when soldering them.
Heating the Flux Directly
Do not allow the flame from the torch to melt the solder. The solder must melt when it comes in contact with the joint between the copper pipe and the fitting. Applying heat directly to the solder will not allow the solder to bond to the copper pipe and copper or brass fittings.
A good test is to remove the flame from the pipe and touch the solder to the joint. If the solder melts without the flame on the pipe, the joint is at the correct temperature to take the solder. If it does not melt apply more heat to the pipe and fitting and test again.
Feeding the Solder into the Joint
Be careful not to apply too much solder into the fitting, called overfeeding. About 1/2 in. of solder wire is enough for a 1/2-in. copper joint, 3/4 in. of solder for a 3/4-in. copper joint. Overfeeding can clog the tube, cause the joint to leak overtime, and shows poor workmanship. Remember to use lead-free solder in your home. If you have old, lead solder you should dispose of it in a hazardous waste pick-up location in your town.
Heat the Pipe Evenly
It is important that the pipe and the fitting have an even heat distribution from the torch. If for some reason the torch is only heating one side of the copper pipe, the solder will not flow all the way around the joint and you will not have a sealed joint.
After the solder has filled the joint, allow it to cool for a few minutes. You can wipe off any excess flux from around the joint with a slightly damp cloth. Solder joints are not designed to take weight and stress. Pipe straps should be installed on the pipe to hold the pipe in position and take stress off the soldered joint. You should use copper pipe straps instead of steel to hold the pipe in position and prevent galvanic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion occurs when two dissimilar metals come in contact with one another.
Copper pipe strap
Remember to temporarily hang a flame protector cloth or a steel plate over wood and other flammable materials when soldering nearby and always keep a fire extinguisher or bucket of water nearby in case you start a fire.