Take the Worries and Confusion Out of your Home Wiring. All your Electrical Related Questions can be Answered here


Q&A About Wiring a Tanning Bed, Installing a GFI Receptacle on a Non-Grounded Circuit, Wire Size for a 100 Amp Sub Panel and Troubleshooting an Electric Baseboard Heater

November 30, 2009

Question Erin asks:
We put a commercial tanning bed in our house, an ovation 154 220v/50amp 60hz, we have a double flip breaker box, how do we wire this to get power from the house?

You need to install a 6/3 with ground NM cable (romex) from your breaker box to a new 50 amp receptacle located near the tanning bed. I would use a 50 amp twist-loc receptacle and plug but, you may use a 4-wire range receptacle as well.


Mike asks:
I just installed a GFCI receptacle and the wires are only black and white there is no ground wire. Can I still use the outlet?

Yes. I always recommend installing a new circuit with a ground wire. However, the National Electrical Code® permits installing a GFCI receptacle on a non-grounded circuit.


Louis Mangiacapra asks:
I want to connect from my service entrance to my workshop. I would like to bring 100 or 150 amp service to my shop. I have 2? conduit buried already. My service entrance is a 200 amp panel. My question is how large is the wire that I need to run for either 100 or 150 amp service?

The first thing that you need to do is determine if you are permitted to do this work legally. Some areas do not allow homeowners to install their own electric services or sub-panels. If you are permitted to do this work the you need either #3 AWG copper wire or #1 AWG aluminum wire for 100 amps. You need 1/0 AWG copper wire or 3/0 AWG aluminum wire for 150 amps. I recomend installing a ground wire in this conduit as well. If you install a ground wire, then you need to ensure that your ground and neutral wires are separated in your sub-panel.


Steve asks:
I’ve just had to replace an electric baseboard heater. The original was 8 feet long but I opted to replace it with 10 feet (two five foot lengths wired together). The electrician did the job and everything is working okay. The heater is still new and smells a bit (this is normal). But what I noticed is that the heater really doesn’t get as hot as the old one. I can touch the outside edge and even (momentarily) touch the heat-spreaders inside. Will this change as the heater “breaks in” or is it some new “safer” standard or is it something different all together? The heater is a standard type (not hydronic) on it’s own 220 volt 20 amp circuit.

It’s probably wired wrong. I would check the wiring coming from the thermostat and the terminations in the heater. You need the wiring instructions for your heater. If you do not have these, then you can probably get them from the manufacturer’s website.


Q&A About the Ground Wire on a Dryer, Receptacles in a Closet, Mounting Heights for Receptacles and Circuiting the Bedrooms

November 27, 2009

Question Bruce Chen asks:
I am trying to attach a 4 prong to a Kenmore 70 series equipped w/ a 3 prong. It has the typical red/white/black and then a green wire that is attached to the frame from somewhere in the dryer. I understand to attach the 4 prong cord’s green wire to the frame, but what do I do with the original green wire in the dryer that is attached to the frame? Let it float, keep it where it is on the frame, or attach it to the white wire connection? Thanks for the help!

If it is not connected to the neutral, then leave it connected to the frame. In a 4-wire connection, the ground and neutral wires need to be separated. In a 3-wire connection, the ground and neutrals need to be connected together.


Tim Houser asks:
On the supject of Receptacle spacing in habitable room, are the walls that enclose a closet in the corner of a room considered “WALL SPACE”?

The walls inside the closet re not considered wall space. However, you are required to have a receptacle within 6 feet of the closet opening on each side if there is wall space 2 feet wide or wider.


John asks:
Hi I am currently going to school to obtain my journeymans, in my third year. My question is what year NEC book and section tells you the requirements for 18 inch centers for receptacles mounted above finished floor in residential applications. The 2008 NEC book tells me nothing about what I am looking for.

There are no mounting height requirements in residential applications which require you to mount the receptacles at 18 inches to the center of the boxes. I recommend matching the existing height of your receptacles. In some older homes, you will find receptacles mounted horizontally in the baseboard.


Michael Wright asks:
I am running new romex to my bedrooms in a house that is 150 years old. What is the best way to run a bedroom circuit? I have 4 bedrooms and would prefer to put them all on their own breaker, but what is the best way. Each one will have at least 4 plugs and a ceiling fan, Should I run more than one circuit or split one between 2 bedrooms like 3 circuits per 2 bedrooms. Thank you for any help.

It really depends on what you intend on having in your bedrooms. I typically put the master bedroom on a dedicated circuit and two bedrooms per circuit for “regular” bedrooms. If these rooms are going to be used for teenagers, then you may want to place each bedroom on a dedicated circuit. One drawback to installing dedicated circuits for each bedroom is the NEC requirement to place these rooms on arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) circuits. These breakers are approximately $35.00 each compared to a standard breaker at approximately $5.00 each.


Q&A About Troubleshooting a GFCI Circuit, Wire Size in kcmil, Wiring 3 Lights Controlled by a Single Pole Switch and Mounting Heights for Electric Baseboard Heaters

November 25, 2009

Question John Helfer asks:
I have a new GFCI installed in a bath that won’t get power to it when the power from an existing GFCI in an adjacent bath is connected to the line of new outlet, although new outlet gets power if connected to the load. Checked, rechecked connections in both new outlet and upstream GFCI in existing bath. Everything worked fine, tested fine until couple days ago when I lost power in downstream non GFCI outlets. Circuit breaker did not trip. Any ideas?

It’s tough to say without more information. I recommend checking voltage at each device on this circuit. Trace the entire circuit back to the breaker box if you need to. There are several things that could be wrong here. A GFCI could be wired wrong, there could be a loose connection, broken wire, bad breaker, etc.

I can help you solve this problem, but I need more information. Please visit my DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Master Electrician page.


Ahmed Kadhem asks:
According to NEC 2008 Chapter 9, table 8, that we can get cross section area of conductor (circular mils) from 18 AWG to 4/0 AWG. What is the cross section area of conductor (circular mils) 250 AWG?

250,000 circular mils. You’ll notice in the “Size” column it states “(AWG or kcmil)”. One thousand circular mils = 1 kcmil. Two hundred fifty thousand circular mils = 250 kcmil and 250 AWG.


Wayne Carver asks:
I want to install three different lights into my ceiling in my building. How do I run the wires into one switch?

Run power to the switch. Then from the switch to the first light. Then from the first light to the next light; etc. I wrote a few articles with step by step instructions which may help you.

  1. Wiring Diagram and Instructions to Wire a Single Pole Switch
  2. How to Wire a Recreation Room in Your Basement – Part 2: Installing the Cables
  3. How to Wire a Recreation Room in Your Basement – Part 4: Terminating the Lighting Circuits


Annalisa asks:
Hi, we recently had our basement done, carpet was removed and tile was installed. Our contractor raised our baseboard heaters off of the ground and it is now about 1 foot from the floor (probably a little less). It looks strange to me and I was wondering if this is normal or even safe? Do you think we should have him move it closer to the floor like normal?

Does your basement flood? This is the only reason I can think of to raise the heaters. There is nothing in the National Electrical Code® regarding height limitations for electric baseboard heaters. Mounting electric baseboard heaters one foot or so above the floor is not normal. We typically install these heater right on the finished floor.

The only safety issue that I can come up with is clearance from drapes. Typically, electric baseboard heaters are installed directly under windows. So mounting them approximately one foot above the floor would place the heaters closer to your windows and drapes. They also can’t be placed under a receptacle.

If you would like the heaters moved, then yes, I would call the contractor back to lower them. I would have them moved if they were in my house.


Dual Sensor Smoke Alarms Recalled by Kidde; They Can Fail to Warn of a Fire

November 24, 2009

Kidde smoke alarm On July 9, 2009 Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc., of Mebane, N.C. recalled approximately 94,000 Kidde model PI2000 dual sensor smoke alarms because an electrostatic discharge can damage the unit, causing it not to warn you of a fire. Kidde has received two reported incidents of smoke alarm malfunctions involving electrostatic discharge during installation. No injuries have been reported.

This recall involves Kidde dual sensor smoke alarms model PI2000. The alarms can be identified by two buttons, “HUSH” and “PUSH AND HOLD TO TEST WEEKLY,” which are located on the front/center of the alarm. The model number and date code are on the back of the smoke alarm. Only date codes 2008 Aug.01 through 2009 May 04 are included in this recall.

These units were retail, department, hardware stores and through electrical distributors nationwide from August 2008 through May 2009 for between $30 and $40. They were manufactured in China.

You should contact Kidde immediately to receive a free replacement smoke alarm. For additional information, contact Kidde toll-free at (877) 524-2086 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit their Web site at http://www.kidde.com/utcfs/Templates/Pages/Template-66/0,8070,pageId%3D64200%26siteId%3D384,00.html

This is a good time to test your smoke alarms. Go push the button on each of your smoke alarms to ensure that they work. If your system is interconnected, then ask someone to help you to check the detectors on a different level.

Check all of the batteries in your smoke alarms. If you can’t remember the last time that you changed the batteries, then change them now. If your smoke alarm is beeping, then this means that the battery is bad and needs to be changed.

You should have a smoke alarm on each level of your home, one in each bedroom and one in the hallway of each bedroom at a minimum. I also recommend

Q&A About Wiring a 30 Amp Twist-Loc Plug, Installing a Phone Jack and Bonding to Your Water System

November 23, 2009

Question Zack asks:
I have a 30 amp 240 volts L630p and I need to know which wire goes were I have a black, white, green and blue.

You need to test which wires that you have 240 volts across. I’m guessing that you should connect the black, blue and green wires. Then place a wire nut on the white wire and tuck it back into the box. However, you need to test the wires to determine this. I have a wiring diagram for a L6-30R receptacle on my wiring diagrams page which may help as well.


Rachel asks:
Can I change an electrical outlet to a phone jack for a computer?

No. Telephone jacks require different wire. I recommend installing a new CAT5e cable from your new phone or data jack location to the network interface box (telephone box on the outside of your house).

I’ve also read that in some areas of the US people are running high speed internet over the electrical wires in your home. We do not have that here in Montana so, I do not know much about it. I’m guessing that you need to subscribe to an internet service provider which provides this service and you probably need some type of signal converter box.


Stan asks:
At my cabin the washer drains into a dry well. The main electrical service is underground and enters the house very near that dry well. If we do several loads of laundry and I use the outside faucet in the same general area, I sometimes get a slight shock if wet or if on wet ground and touching the metal handle. (I have measured this at 4 to 7 volts AC). My electric system is grounded also in that general area. Would this go away if I ran a ground line from the main circuit box to the laundry cold water pipe? Or would this just make it worse?

You shouldn’t have any voltage on the ground wire. I recommend finding the source of this voltage first and correct this problem. If your water system is metallic pipe, then I recommend bonding this to your electrical system. Grounding and bonding is very confusing and should be completed by a licensed electrician to ensure it is done properly.


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