Novice Needs Advice

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  #1  
Old 09-19-04, 04:27 AM
jburd641
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Novice Needs Advice

I live in a house that is in serious need of some minor (and I'm afraid, major) electrical work. I was wondering how difficult it is to change outlets and dimmer switches. I don't know any technical terms for the outlets. I just know they are everyday house outlets in a 22 year old house. Some of the dimmers have ceiling fans and lights in the same boxes or have multiple dimmers. I am planning on buying a book on electrical work around the home and would like some suggestions on which one would be the best for a total novice. I would also like some suggestions on what tools I will need for these minor repairs.
 
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Old 09-19-04, 07:55 AM
J
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If you are careful, changing switches and receptacles is pretty easy. There are a few things to make sure you know:
  1. Record the connections before you move them, and carefully reproduce them on the new device. Disconnect and move only one (or a small number) wire at a time.
  2. Replace single-pole switches with single-pole switches, 3-ways with 3-ways, and 4-ways with 4-ways.
  3. Be aware that screw position means very little. The "lower left" screw on the old switch may not match the purpose of the "lower left" screw on a new switch. You must examine the old and new switches closely and identify "input" and "output", "line" and "load", or "common" before beginning.
  4. Do not use the backstab connectors on your new receptacles and switches, even if they were used on the old ones. The backstab and the adjacent screw are electrically equivalent. If there are already wires on both, you'll need a new wire nut and pigtail wire.
  5. Pay close attention to the tabs on receptacles. Break out the tabs on the new receptacle to exactly match the tabs on the old receptacle.
  6. Don't "fix" what you don't understand. If you think that a white wire should never be connected to a black wire, or that all white wires are neutrals, then don't let your inexperience prompt you into fixing something that ain't broke.
  7. If the old receptacles have no grounding hole on the face, and if there is no grounding wire or conduit grounding in the box, then you must not install regular receptacles with a grounding hole. You must either buy receptacles without a grounding hole (harder to find, but still available), or provide GFCI protection.
  8. Only one wire under a screw. Wrap them clockwise.
  9. Repack the wires in the box carefully so you don't cause an accidental short.
  10. If there is a grounding wire, or a metal box, ground the new device even if the old one wasn't.
  11. If there is anything about this list you don't understand, or even if there isn't, read a few books on home wiring before you start.
 
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Old 09-19-04, 08:14 AM
J
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Buy two books: (1) The Black and Decker Complete Guide to Home Wiring, and (2) Wiring Simplified (a $6 green paperback usually sold in the electrical aisle at Home Depot).

Tools: (1) Wire strippers (good ones), (2) Needle-nosed pliers, (3) $2 Romex stripper, (4) An $8 plug-in outlet tester with a GFCI button. (5) A $2 neon circuit tester, (6) A $15 voltage "tick" tester. (7) Wire cutters. (8) A package of assorted wire nuts. (9) A length of 12-gauge THHN wire for making pigtails. (10) A package of grounding pigtails if you have metal junction boxes. (11) A tiny screwdriver for freeing backstab connections. (12) A screwdriver.
 
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Old 09-19-04, 11:51 AM
G
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And the obvious - kill the power so it don't kill you.
 
  #5  
Old 09-20-04, 03:22 AM
jburd641
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Thanks for your help. I'm going out of town for at least a couple of weeks, so, I'll be reading up on those books and will make my upgrade efforts when I return and shall keep you informed of the results. Once again, thanks.
 
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