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Electrical Wiring FAQ (Part 1 of 2)
Section - What does an electrical service look like?

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Top Document: Electrical Wiring FAQ (Part 1 of 2)
Previous Document: A word on voltages: 110/115/117/120/125/220/240
Next Document: What is a circuit?
See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

	There are logically four wires involved with supplying the
	main panel with power.  Three of them will come from the utility
	pole, and a fourth (bare) wire comes from elsewhere.

 	The bare wire is connected to one or more long metal bars pounded
 	into the ground, or to a wire buried in the foundation, or sometimes
 	to the water supply pipe (has to be metal, continuous to where
	the main water pipe entering the house.  Watch out for galvanic
	action conductivity "breaks" (often between copper and iron pipe).
	This is the "grounding conductor".  It is there to make sure that
	the third prong on your outlets is connected to ground.  This wire
	normally carries no current.

	One of the other wires will be white (or black with white or
	yellow stripes, or sometimes simply black).  It is the neutral wire.
	It is connected to the "centre tap" (CEC; "center tap" in the
	NEC ;-) of the distribution transformer supplying the power.  It
	is connected to the grounding conductor in only one place (often
	inside the panel).  The neutral and ground should not be connected
	anywhere else.  Otherwise, weird and/or dangerous things may happen.

	Furthermore, there should only be one grounding system in
	a home.  Some codes require more than one grounding electrode.
	These will be connected together, or connected to the neutral
	at a common point - still one grounding system.  Adding additional
	grounding electrodes connected to other portions of the house
	wiring is unsafe and contrary to code.

	If you add a subpanel, the ground and neutral are usually
	brought as separate conductors from the main panel, and are
	not connected together in the subpanel (ie: still only one
	neutral-ground connection).  However, in some situations 
	(certain categories of separate buildings) you actually do
	have to provide a second grounding electrode - consult your

	The other two wires will usually be black, and are the "hot"
	wires.  They are attached to the distribution transformer as

	The two black wires are 180 degrees out of phase with each
	other.  This means if you connect something to both hot wires,
	the voltage will be 220 volts.  If you connect something to the
	white and either of the two blacks you will get 110V.

	Some panels seem to only have three wires coming into them.
	This is either because the neutral and ground are connected
	together at a different point (eg: the meter or pole) and one
	wire is doing dual-duty as both neutral and ground, or in some
	rare occasions, the service has only one hot wire (110V only

User Contributions:

Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 21, 2011 @ 12:00 am
In a fire protection circuit, circuts are shown witha no example 6,8,4etc. what it mean?these circuits are connected between smode detector,junction box etc
Report this comment as inappropriate
Dec 24, 2011 @ 12:12 pm
My daughter dropped a small necklace behind her dresser. The necklace crossed a plug terminal and shorted the receptacle.
I bought a new receptacle and installed the same. I still have no power I suspect there could be a bigger problem,this is aluminum wiring.
I've killed the breaker and call an electrician but am curious as to what happened.P.s. there is a dimmer switch on the same circuit.
Report this comment as inappropriate
Feb 24, 2012 @ 11:11 am
Regarding new construction wiring and running 12/2 and 14/3 wire in the same box.

I have multiple switches to lights. Ran 12/2 and 14/3 into switch box and inspector wrote correction needed.

What should I have done instead?

thank you
Report this comment as inappropriate
Nov 26, 2012 @ 9:21 pm
Does a grounding electrode facilitate the operation of a OCPD, to clear a ground fault ?
Report this comment as inappropriate
Mar 18, 2013 @ 10:10 am
Assuming you are installing two switches in a two switch box, you probably should have used 14/2 and 14/3 instead of replacing 14/2 with 12/2. If you are only installing one switch in a one switch box, you should only have one cable in the box.
P k
Report this comment as inappropriate
Jan 26, 2014 @ 10:10 am
I prefer to use nothing smaller than12 awg /the smallest sized wire on a circuit determines the allowable ampacity
Ex: 15 amp-14awg. 12awg-20amp only rule for thumb other factors such as continuous load,heating and others if you do not know the safe NEC rules then please call a qualified journeyman Electrician better be safe
Report this comment as inappropriate
Sep 11, 2014 @ 6:18 pm
Someone wrote this:
"Don't bother asking in Quebec - DIY wiring is banned throughout
the province."

The statement above is not true.
You can do anything you want as long as you follow the electrical code... just like in any other province.
Not following the code may not technically make you unsafe in the real world, but it may nullify you insurance claims if your house burns down because of your sloppy work. If you're not sure, get an expert to sign off on it. ;-)

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Top Document: Electrical Wiring FAQ (Part 1 of 2)
Previous Document: A word on voltages: 110/115/117/120/125/220/240
Next Document: What is a circuit?

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM