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Miscellaneous Electrical Q's & A's

Speaker Wire | Removing Light Bulbs | Power from House to Shed/Garage | Appliances
Other Wire Issues | Outlets
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Codes about Drilling Holes for Speaker Wire?

We recently moved into an older home and I would like to run speaker wire. I'd like to drill holes in our hardwood floor to run the wires from the stereo tuner under the crawlspace and another set of holes where the speakers will be located (a permanent location).

Are there any codes preventing this (I'd hate to run into a problem with an inspector years down the road if we move) or a better way?

You can ask your local building inspector to be sure, but I don't think there are any codes at all that prevent you from drilling holes or running speaker wire anywhere you want. The voltage/current in the speaker wire makes it safe enough to run anywhere and pretty much do anything with.

Under-the-Carpet Speaker Wires

I'd like to install "flat" speaker wire that run under the carpets. Right now, I'm constantly tripping over the wires. I'd like to know what's the best way to drill holes in the carpet that I'll run the wires through . Also, how do I guide the wires from the hole in the carpet next to the stereo receiver to the hole next to the speakers.

You could cut a slit say, an inch, at the receiver location and insert a fish tape there, guide it as best you can to the speaker location and there feel for the end of the fish tape, cut another slit, expose the fish tape, secure your flat wire to it with electrical tape and pull it back..

As an alternative, you could perhaps run your wire around the room between the bottom of the baseboard and the carpet. If you press down on the carpet next to the baseboard using a putty knife, you will notice you can create a gap between the bottom of the baseboard and the carpet.

Running Speaker Wires for Home Theater

I will be running speaker wire from my A/V receiver through the wall, up to the ceiling, across the ceiling and back down the inside of the wall. I have questions about how best to accomplish this. I will need to cut holes into the wall to let the speaker wire pass through but what is the best way to get the wire down from the attic through the walls?

Up in the attic, you need to find the walls top plate.. and drill a hole in it. Take measurements from a known point both below and then above.. an outside wall for instance.. Drill a large hole.. 3/4 inch... and then pass a string down through with a weight on the end. A fishing weight.. or something else. Drop that down though.. Now when you open the wall.. you will be able to find the string by plunking it up and down. You can use a wire (coat hanger) to snag the string and pull it throughout the hole. Then you attach your speaker wire to the string and pull it back up through.

Removal of Broken Light Bulb

Any suggestions on removing a mercury vapor lamp bulb that has been completely broken to the base? I am unable to use pliers, etc. to take out..

I have read many tips that suggest using something firm yet pliable, such as a potato cut in half.First make sure the power is off then try jamming this into the broken base and turning.

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A Better Way To Change a Light Bulb?

Sometimes when replacing a lightbulb, especially those fragile halogen ones, the base of the bulb
really squeaks against the metal of the socket. And sometimes they even break....which leaves me
with two questions 1) how do I get the stub of a broken bulb out of a socket? 2) as a preventive measure, what would happen if I applied a bit of petroleum jelly to the threads of the bulb *before* I screwed it into the socket? is it safe? would it possibly make the bulb easier to change?

First, to get that stub out of there, MAKE SURE THE FIXTURE IS OFF, then use a pair of needle nose pliers to grab it and turn it, backing it out. As for the petroleum jelly, good idea, wrong stuff. You do need the metal to metal contact on those threads to conduct the electricity to make the light work. The petroleum jelly will limit that. I am not sure what to use.... I was thinking of a product called copper anti-seize (It is used to keep mechanical fasteners like nuts from rusting on) but I am worried it may run into the bottom of the socket causing a short.

A Better Way To Change a Lightbulb? (Part II)

How do I get the stub of a broken bulb out of a socket?

With the power off, a good way to get the broken bulb out is to cut a potato in half and jam one of the pieces onto the broken stub and use that to back the bulb out of the socket.

Wiring to Shed

I have recently built a shed and want to put electricity out to it pulling it off of the house. The shed only needs 110 and I have a square D circuit box in the shed with 20amp breakers and I am using 12-2 wiring with a ground. My question is... What do I need to use to bring the power out to the shed and what amp breaker do I need in the house circuit? Can I use the same 12-2 wire to bring power to the shed?

In reading your question, I am still left with a few. What distance from house to shed? What type of material between house and shed (i.e. concrete, dirt, etc..)

You cannot use the 12-2 w/ground wire (NM type wire I am assuming) anywhere where exposed to weather, sunlight etc.. I am sure that your shed is NOT attached to your house, therefore the 12-2 wire would be exposed. You are going to be using "Stranded" individual wires with a THW, THHN rating from your local supplier, inside of conduit. DO NOT PUT NM type wire INTO CONDUIT!

Here's some examples:
You said your shed has breaker(s), are they all 12-2w/ground. Square D does make sub panels, but most I've seen are equipped for 220v.
As far as wiring, do you need multiple breakers in your shed (you said breaker(s)), what type of appliances are you going to run?
Just as a stab in the dark if distance was say around 75 feet or less for ONE circuit, SUPPLY new circuit from house to shed with a 20 amp breaker and 3 #10 wires (black, white and green) to combat voltage drop. Also use stranded wire, it's much easier to pull. Depending on local codes I would come out of the house and go underground with appropriate conduit for area. If short run just use rigid conduit the whole way. If longer you could come off the box at house with EMT transition to gray schedule 40 conduit (UL listed only) come back up from ground at shed then transition back to EMT and "tie" into you panel at shed.

If you have a sub-panel in the shed with 2 x 20amp breakers and the incoming wires are attached to common bars for distribution (the "hot" wire connects to a bar and the breakers plug into it) then you can use a run of #8 wires for HOT AND NEUTRAL and downsize the GREEN wire to #10 to save a buck or two and use a 40 AMP breaker at house.

You are correct that the shed is not attached to the house. The distance IS approx. 75 feet from the house and there is dirt between the shed and the house. In the shed/workshop, I have a table top table saw, Table top drill press, an air compressor, a grinder, etc. I also have shop lights and two gable mounted fans for circulation. I don't plan on buying any tools that require 220 to run for my shed.

I have wired the shed with 12-2 NM w/ ground for all the electrical outlets (split up into 5 different circuits). All of the breakers that I bought for the shed are 20 amp. Do I need to make a supply run for each of the new circuits?

Are you using a sub-panel in the shed? (If not, maybe you should). I have to assume yes. What is the sub-panel rated for (in amps). A small sub-panel may be only 60 amps or so. I had somehow gotten the impression that there was only two breakers. Sorry. That's why I had made suggestions in the manner I did before.

To answer your question about multiple feeds, NO.
That would be inefficient at best to have a separate breaker from house for each circuit in shed. The most common way would be to buy a sub-panel, install sub panel in shed, install new circuits to sub panel and then FEED the sub-panel with the appropriate wires to sub panel. You are going to feed the subpanel (if like most common) with a 220 (both sides of the buss)style breaker and appropriate wires from house to sub panel.

#6 stranded for that distance would allow you a 40 amp double-pole breaker (per NEC table 310-16->19) to keep voltage drop within 2%. You could probably use a 50 amp breaker if need be, just assume slightly more voltage drop. A good basic wiring book should help answer more questions.

How do I Run Power to a Detached Garage?

I am in the process of running power to a detached garage (new construction house and garage). I'd like to be able to run a welder in the garage. The garage is about 75 feet from the house's 200 amp breaker box. Should I trench 6-3 rated for underground 18"s deep to a 100 amp service box in the garage? Any help appreciated, as I am a novice!

Run conduit not UF cable, it will allow you to make changes or repairs (if needed) in the future and PVC is very cheap. The proper size wire for 100 amp is no. 2 gauge, not no. 6. You could probably run no. 4 gauge with a 60-amp sub-panel. It would be plenty to run a welder as long as you're not running a ton of other major equipment at the same time. Consult a qualified electrian, because safety is the main thing!

You might also want to run a spare conduit for telephone lines, alarm system, or whatever future needs. It would be easy and cheap enough to do when you trench, rather than if it had to be done later.

Running an Electric Line out to My Shed.

I was wondering how I would go about running electricity out my shop without have to use an extension cord all the time. Is it possible to run a line from and existing fixture on the exterior of my house, should I bury the line in a PVC pie, or make a high line?

You can run UF (stands for Underground Feeder) cable ... You will need to bury it under 24" and back fill with sand. least to cover the cable.

Talk to your building inspector. However, you should wire up your shed if you use it often. You can post more specific questions on this topic with Dave in our Electrician forum.

Can't Hear the Doorbell in the Backyard

We purchased a new 2-story house and subsequently built a screened-in pool. We find that when we are in the backyard - (since we cannot leave the slider open) and when someone rings the bell, we cannot hear it !! The bell receiver is on the first floor. Is there anyway to 'extend this receiver and put something outside in our patio-area so that we could hear the doorbell from there ?? Is there some kind of wireless doorbell that we could replace our current doorbell with (with 2 receivers) or could we add something to our existing doorbell to make it wireless ? FYI - We are in Florida, so the second floor is concrete block construction and it's pretty difficult to gain access between floors....

It is possible to simply add another bell in parallel with the one inside the house. To do that you would just run a wire either from the transformer that provides power to the original chime or from the chime itself, to the new one outside. And a wire from the button or the original chime, to the new one. Basically what I am trying to describe is just wiring it in parallel to the original chime. Not knowing how easy it would be to run the wire means I don't know where best to tell you to connect it, but the simplest from a description point of view is from the old chime to the new one. Connect the two screws labeled "trans" or "transformer" on the two chimes and the two labeled.

Wiring Water Heater

I have an old water heater I'm putting in a little cottage of mine. I always thought that I should use a three wire cable with a ground but the old wire on the heater was two wire with ground. It appears that they used the ground wire as the neutral. Is this legal?

"Normal" water heater wiring is two wire. 220v. White is one leg. Black another and the ground is ground.

Can Cable Run Next to Electrical Wires?

I want to run an extension of my Cable TV cable to a new room in the house. Does it matter if I run the cable near electrical wires? Will the electrical wire interfere with the Coaxial line?

The electrical wires should not interfere with the cable signal. More importantly, be sure to use at least 18 AWG size Coax. The smaller coax (numbers greater than 18 AWG) will result in loss of signal at the higher channels.
The coax cable has a copper core for the signal, which is surrounded by a wire mesh that absorbs noise and crosstalk.

Wiring Sumbmersible Well Pump for a Shallow Well

I have a 230volt 3/4 hp 2 wire flotec pump I am trying to install and of course, the directions are for every pump the company makes. I need to know how to wire it without a control box ("straight to the pressure switch on the pressure tank").

Check that you have 230 volts to the pressure tank's pressure switch contacts. Throw the breakers to off and check for no voltage then connect the pump wires, probably one red, one black, to the companion set of pressure switch contacts such that, when the tank calls for water, each of your 230v source wires connects to the pump wires via the pressure switch contacts. Connect the bare ground wire from the pump to the pressure switch metal frame.

Raising a Chandelier

My chandelier hangs too low. I'd like to raise it up real high with an S hook. Does raising it cause more pressure where it is hooked into the ceiling -- could raising it too high actually make it come loose or fall down?

No, have no fear. Raising the chandelier will not increase its weight at all. Raise it as much as you wish.

Typically, the chandelier is not actually supported by the ceiling itself, but by a box which is secured to the ceiling joists on either side, which will have no trouble carrying the load.

100 Amp Service Upgrade for AC?

We have 100 Amp service and would like to install central air. The furnace is a forced air Bryant gas furnace with electronic ignition and side-of-the house venting. 1. Do we need to upgrade to 200 Amp service to install the air? 2. What sort of ventilation changes will have to be made when the central air is installed?

In my climate (NW Pa.) I regularly install A/C in homes with a 100 amp box. Normal size is 2 to 3 ton systems. If you live in the south and need a larger system consult with a trusted electrician.

Wiring a 3-Switch Box

! Have one power line and three light switches coming into one 3-switch box. How do I wire all three switches to the power? Do I bobtail all 3 and then combine all three together with the power? Doesn't this make for a huge connection? I have all the wiring already ran to each light.

You don't need to connect them all together in one big wire nut.. you can split it up a couple times. Wire 1 nut with three wires in it.. one the incoming power, one to the first switch and one to another 3 wire nut.. with the those, two going to the other two switches.

2 Panels of Wiring

I have a 3-season cottage with a new electric panel, there is a 220 circuit breaker for the electric heat. I recently found a remote panel with old cartridge fuses and glass fuses connected to each of the baseboard units. My question is do I still need this panel if the circuit breaker is present on the new panel and if not how should I wire the units together?

Wow.. who would wire in a new box and leave the old one in place??? IF that is a capital IF, IF the baseboard units are wired to the breakers (after passing through the fuses as well) and if the breakers are sized right for the wiring, then by all means you can bypass the old box. What you will need to do is install some junction boxes to run the wires into instead of the old fuse box to bypass the old box.

Before you do that though... just check to see if you can determine why it was left in place... There doesn't have to be a reason.. but you would like to think so.

Splicing Severed Wire in Wall

When the satellite TV installers drilled a hole through an exterior wall they severed an existing AC wire. How should I "splice" this severed wire? I am comfortable making wiring repairs, I just don't know how to do this particular job according to code.

You might want to post your question to the electrician, but I think the proper way is to install a metal junction box and make the connection inside it.

How Do You Drill Through the Header to Drop Wires?

I want to drop wires down an inside wall in my 1991 home with 10' ceilings. My header in the attic has 4 2x4's laid out like this standing, flat, standing, flat. It looks like the center, hollow part of the wall is under the third (standing) 2x4. Is this the right place to drop wires? Can I drill through this without weakening the structure?

I am not clear on the header you describe.  In the attic, you should find the top plate of the wall you are over. It should be lying flat. There are usually two, on on top of the other. If you see the narrow side of the board, then you may be over a door way.

You can drill a 3/4 inch hole to drop the wire though without weakening the wall.

Replacing 2-Prong Outlet w/3-Prong

What would be required to replace a 2-prong electrical outlet with a 3-prong electrical outlet? Is it as simple as replacing the wall cover of the outlet, or is there some type of rewiring that needs to be done?

No not usually as simple as changing the outlet. It depends on whether there is a ground wire running to the box. They used to run 2 wire without ground.. now we run 2 wire with ground.. the ground is the third prong. If you look in the Electrical forum... Dan Richards discussed this topic at length in a question posted by Tony on"how to ground and outlet" Basically the options are to run a ground wire to the box or to wire in a GFI outlet. But check out that question for a whole gamut of info.

Hot/Ground Reversed Reading on Outlet Tester..

I have five outlets that just stopped working they are all on the same circuit breaker.. there is no gfi outlet.. I located the first outlet in the chain and put in an outlet tester and the results are that the hot/ground are reversed..also the only way to get a volt reading is by using the black and ground (green) wires.. there is no reading with white/black.. any ideas??

I got it.. the neutral wires at the breaker box were fried for this line.. trimmed and reconnected the neutral wires to the ground block in the breaker box.. also installed a gfi outlet at the first outlet on the circuit..

I hope you also checked that the wiring size matched the breaker size... the neutral lead "frying" at its connection does not sound good.

Converting Existing 15 amp Outlet to 20 amps

I have a dust collector in my woodshop that says it should be plugged into a 20-amp time lag fuse. In that area of my house, I just have 15 amp circuits. Is there a way to make these plugs 20 amps (that your average person can do)?

If you check the wiring.. and it is 12 gauge.. you can just replace the outlet with a 20-amp outlet and replace the breaker with a 20-amp breaker. You need to make sure ALL the wiring on the circuit is 12 gauge though... It may be much easier and better for you to wire in a new 20-amp circuit. You can use it for the rest of your shop equipment.

While you are at it. think about adding a 220V circuit. Many shop tools have motors, which are able to be switched to 220V. This usually gives the motor more power since the losses in the wiring and the motors themselves is less (the current is halved) and while you are doing the wiring or having it done.. it makes good sense.

Click here for our Grounding Your Outlets Article
Click here for our Electrical Tips Article
Click here for our Wiring A 3 Or 4 Way Switch Article

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