Electrical

Service

As I'd related in my battle for electricity, getting service to the house was not a trivial process. Indeed, it was made many times worse owing to new technical requirements established in January 2018 by JCP&L.

Wiring

I'm doing all of the electrical work inside the house—in fact, it's already finished, although some of what I did wasn't by choice, because of code requirements. Specifically, I've got three or four 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 (i.e., every 12 feet). That meant having to embed outlets in the columns on the windowed wall in the living room, which was not a trivial process by any means—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 kitchen countertop (i.e., every 4 feet). Thus I also have a surfeit of outlets in the kitchen that I'll never use: at most I might need one, maybe two, but code dictates I must have seven, five of which are seen below. Plus, there must be at least one outlet on an island.

As far as the electrical inspector is concerned, my "pantry" is not a pantry; if it was, it would have the same requirements as a kitchen—or a total of about six 20-amp outlets! The thinking here, evidently, is that a pantry may be used as an ad hoc food prep or cooking space. Seriously? So, my pantry will be a "closet" since I'll most certainly not be using any appliances in it.

Like the main living space, 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 on diagram at right; photo below left), next to the roll-up door and directly adjacent to the electric meter 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.

By the way, these must be special new "arc fault" breakers, which are three times the price of ordinary breakers. This is the consequence of manufacturers looking for ways to boost profits: they participate in establishing the electrical codes we must follow, so they get to force us to use new products, regardless of whether or not they're truly necessary or effective. For instance, I must also have "tamper-resistant" outlets everywhere, even though there will never be any (human) children living here. That's just the way the system works.

Some code requirements can leave you scratching your head. For instance, the breaker box labels cannot be written by hand, no matter how neat and legible your writing may be! Instead, they must be printed by some means, such as a labeling machine or computer-generated artwork.

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, I've recently reconfigured all of the kitchen lighting, as well as some of the bathroom lights, as detailed in Chapter 9.

Fire Detection

The electrical system sort of includes the smoke and CO detectors—I say "sort of" because code now requires AC-powered units with battery backup and inter-unit connections, so if one unit goes off, they all do. But code doesn't take into account a new breed of combination smoke/CO detectors with permanent, sealed batteries rated for at least ten years of use that also interconnect wirelessly. So, I will need to investigate whether or not they're acceptable to local authorities. In case they aren't, I've installed ceiling boxes to provide AC power to the detectors.

Another conundrum I face is how many detectors I need total. According to strict interpretation of code, I only need two: three feet from the bathroom door on the main living level, and one outside the garage. The question mark is the middle level: the language is vague as to whether or not a "level" is four or more feet, or more than four feet. So at a minimum I need two detectors, and at most three. To be on the conservative side, I've included a ceiling box on the middle level.

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