Deep Dive: Electrical

As I'd related in my battle for electricity, getting service to the house will not be a trivial process. The transformer on my property is too far away, which means another one is required. While the new transformer and its installation won't cost me anything, for some reason I still need to pay for a 750-foot trench running along the driveway to connect the two transformers.

Although the straight-line distance between the transformers is just a little more than half the length of the proposed trench (red line), it must follow the driveway because the electric company requires a road along any buried line, and building a new road between the two transformers was totally out of the question for countless obvious reasons.

Beyond getting electricity into the house, which will require the coordination of two contractors and JCP&L, I'm doing all of the electrical work—indeed, it's already finished. And it was a lot of fun, although some of what I did wasn't by choice, because of code requirements.

Specifically, I've got perhaps three times as many outlets as I really need, because they're mandated by code. In any living space, there must be an outlet no further than six feet from any point along a wall. That meant having to install outlets in the columns on the windowed wall—unsightly outlets that I'll never use:

Also, there must be a 20-amp GFIC outlet no further than two feet from any point along a countertop. Thus I also have a surfeit of outlets in the kitchen that I'll never use: at most I might need two, but code dictates I must have seven, five of which are seen below.

My office and studio are likewise bristling with outlets that I not only don't need, but will eventually cover up with built-in cabinetry. On the other hand, the outlet requirement for a garage is pretty minimal—only one is necessary—whereas my garage includes a workshop, so I've installed eight. Half of them can be seen below, along with boxes for six 4-foot overhead light fixtures.

The garage is also home to the main breaker panel (#1; below left), next to the roll-up door and directly adjacent to the future transformer outside (#2); it handles all of the utilities, such as the HVAC system, water heaters, appliances, etc. Located conveniently next to the inside garage door, a sub-panel (#3; below right) has all of the general lighting and outlet breakers. This actually simplified the wiring by pulling a half-dozen circuits out of the main panel and placing them closer to the living space. Oh, and these must now all be special new "arc fault" breakers, which are five times the price of ordinary breakers. That's the effect of manufacturers looking for ways to boost profits; since they participate in establishing code, they get to force these new products on us. That's just the way the system works.

Although the wiring is all done, I'm still doing a little tweaking here and there, and will probably continue to do so until the house is done. For example, given the benefit of a fresh perspective, recently I've reconfigured all of the kitchen lighting, as well as some of the bathroom lights, as detailed in Chapter 9.

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