Basics of Electrical Connections

You don’t need to be an experienced electrician to do most home improvement wiring, such as adding on to an existing line or run a conduit outside for a lamp post, but you do need to learn some basics and respect them. A few of the basics are how electricity is made up. Electricity is made up of small particles called electrons. These flow through the wire to create an electrical current. The electrons charge when they enter a system through one end of the wire and exit out the other end, terminating at a plug or light.

Usually, the utility company provides two 120-volt lines and a neutral line to supply you’re your home with 120/240 volt service. The wires come in through your meter box then feed to your service panel. At this point they divide into each breaker and run circuits. A typical circuit will run your bedroom for instance. Another circuit will run your appliances and so on.

If you’re going to run a new line to an outdoor location, you will need to add on to an existing line or create a new circuit. If you are going to add a line outside, you must take extra caution in wiring because of exposure to the elements. Exposed wiring outside must be sheathed in conduit or PVC, unless you buy UF wire, it can be buried directly into the ground.

No matter what type of connection you are going to make, you will need to connect wires together. The ends of these wires must be stripped back 8 to 10 inches. The colored wires inside should be stripped back of insulation ½ inch to ¾ inches. Remember that red and black wires are hot. White is neutral and green or bare copper is the ground. It is absolutely important that you always turn off the power at the breaker before doing any electrical work. Always test the wire with a power meter to see that the wire is not hot.

To strip the cover off of the wires you can buy a cheap sheathing stripper from your local hardware or electrical supply company to help with removing the covering with damaging the wires underneath. When you get to the wires themselves, a wire stripper does the job perfectly without damaging the bare copper underneath.

Once you have the wires exposed you will need a pair of lineman’s pliers. Holding two matching wires together, grip them with the lineman’s pliers and twist them together clockwise. After they are twisted together, snip off the excess so you will have enough to place into a wire nut without any wire exposed. Screw on the wire nut so it fits snug. Pull on the wires and cap to make sure you have a secure connection. If any wires are exposed or if the wires are loose inside of the wire nut, then start over and redo the connection. Some people use wire nut grease that prevents water and corrosion from occurring in the wire nut. This is a good idea to use this product if you are making connections outside or in a humid location such as a basement.

Above all be safe using electricity, it is deadly if not down right painful. Always turn of the breaker to the circuit you are attempting to use. Testing with a power meter and wearing gloves are always a good idea before attempting any electrical home improvement.

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