Issue # 28: Electrical Systems
ISSN 1703-5597
April 28, 2004

Issue #28 Electrical Systems

  1. The Basics: Glossary, Electricity, Electrical Systems
  2. Codes & Standards: Canadian, BC, Local Inspectors
  3. Wiring: Symbols, Wires, Switches & Receptacles
  4. Products: AFCI, Structured Wiring, Surge Protectors
  5. Renovation: Existing Walls, Raceways, Circuit Map
  6. Issues: Aluminum, Knob & Tube, Old Fuse Boxes, Wiring
  7. Resources: Safety, Backup Power, BC Trade Association
  8. Ken’s Top Pick: If You Have Time To Surf Only One Site

1. The Basics – Glossary, Electricity, Electrical Systems

Glossary Of Electrical Terms
Do you know what a goof plate is? Find out at this PBS Hometime site where they have a glossary of common electrical terms used in residential construction

Electricity Basics
The basic concepts of electricity are explained in a way that even I can grasp (which means pictures as well), in this online tutorial from the Smithsonian Institute.

Home Electrical Systems
For an overview of residential electrical systems components, along with some code references, planning guidelines, and installation tips check out this Rona Web site.

2. Codes & Standards: Canadian, BC, Local Inspectors

Canadian Electrical Code
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) develops our national electrical codes and product standards. Here is a summary of their electrical products and resources.

BC Safety Authority
In BC, the BC Electrical Safety Program regulates electrical equipment and installation safety. Their site has info on acceptable certification marks, permits, fees and more.

Ask The Inspector
The Electrical Inspectors Association of BC provides a forum for local interpretation of the electrical code. Their site has an Ask the Inspector form that you may find worth a try.

3. Wiring: Symbols, Wires, Switches & Receptacles

Electrical Symbols
If you ever have a hard time figuring out what some of those symbols on electrical wiring diagrams mean, this chart from the Electricians Toolbox site will come in helpful.

Cable & Wire
This brief article from Electrical-online provides you with an overview of cable and wire types, how wire is sized, and lists the most common cables and their uses.

Switches & Receptacles
Lowes offers you info on switches and receptacles (outlets) including how to decode the labels, GFCI, single and double pole, 3-way, dimmer, time based switches, and more.

4. Products: AFCI, Structured Wiring, Surge Protectors

Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters
There has been strong debate whether AFCIs should be made mandatory. To better understand what they are and how they operate check out the Handyman Wire site.

Structured Wiring
This NAHB Toolbase report explains how structured wiring can provide voice, data and video from any wall outlet. It also lists benefits, limitations and a number of product suppliers.

Surge Protectors
To protect sensitive electronic equipment from damage due to unavoidable surges in electrical systems, install surge protectors, as described in this online booklet from NIST.

5. Renovation: Existing Walls, Raceways, Circuit Map

Running Cables Through Existing Walls
Installing switches and receptacles in finished walls doesn’t necessarily mean drilling a whole bunch of holes. Fine Homebuilding gives you some good tips in this article.

Electrical Raceways
If running wires through existing walls is too much hassle, use electrical raceways to encase electrical or communications wiring. This PATH Report offers an overview and resources.

Mapping Electrical Circuits
To label circuits, or to find out if an existing electrical system can handle more outlets or equipment, try mapping out what each circuit now serves as per this Easy2 How-To tutorial.

6. Issues: Aluminum, Knob & Tube, Fuse Boxes, Wiring

Aluminum Wiring (PDF FILE)
The BC Electrical Safety Program issued a bulletin explaining that aluminum wiring is safe if properly installed. But it does require specific types of switches and receptacles.

Knob & Tube Wiring
Properly installed knob and tube wiring is not a problem in and of itself, but handy homeowners, critters, and time are enemies of this vintage wiring system. It is the belief of this home inspector when asked in The Old House Web, that this type of system should be replaced.

Old Fuse Boxes
Are old fuse boxes a fire hazard? It depends, and this article from The Old House Web tells you how to check out whether there is likely to be any cause for concern.

Ten Common Wiring Problems
This article from Fine Homebuilding details mistakes and solutions for panels, wrong cables, staples, cable trimming, outlet boxes, power supply, back-wiring and series wiring.

7. Resources: Safety, Backup Power, Trade Association

Electrical Safety
The WorkSafe BC site has a number of free online booklets, reports and links that cover different issues around electrical safety and electrical hazards on your jobsite.

Backup Power
If you or your customers are considering a backup power system this report from CMHC will be helpful. It offers ten tips for planning and explains six types of backup systems.

BC Trade Association
The British Columbia Electrical Association serves the electrical community in BC. Their site has info on what’s happening in the industry, member’s listings, and more.

8. Ken’s Top Pick: If You Only Have Time To Surf One Site

Electric Smarts
Content experts from Electric Smarts have reviewed thousands of electrical Web sites for their “Best of the Web” Resources. You can search them by the topic of your choice.

Dittie For Today: On Asking
He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever. 
      - Chinese proverb

 © Copyright 2004               Ken Farrish               All Rights Reserved