Basic Electrical Connections

There’s just nothing like mastering electric wiring! As children we marveled at the “magic” of electricity, but even now as adults, we still can’t help but stand in awe at its power. We may not know exactly how and why it works, but we do know that it does. By following some basic wiring concepts, you can more than just realize its power. You will have in your arsenal the ability to harness that power and use it as you see fit. I have covered safety in previous articles so I will assume you are aware of the potential dangers of electricity and how to avoid them.

I will be going over some basic connection techniques that you can incorporate immediately in your personal home wiring. In theory, most home electric wiring is simply extending wire from you main breaker panel to all the various outlets and lights around your house. So let’s say you have 20 20 amp breakers in your main panel and you’re already using 10. You want to draw power to the new room you’re in the process of building and you’re wondering how to go about it. Now if there was only 1 outlet you needed power for, this wouldn’t involve any mid-way connections.

Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’d say for most rooms you’d want at least 1 outlet and 1 light. And already here you’ll be needing your connection. The tricky thing about lights is that you usually want to attach a switch as well – which makes the

electrical diagram

Power-in splitting off to switch & oulet

connection a little more complicated (refer to the diagram on the right for details). Once you get used to the concept it won’t be so difficult. The diagram details the “how” as far as what to connect to what, but it doesn’t cover how to actually connect the wires safely. Before we begin, you’ll be needing the following:

1. Crimper. This is to crimp 2 or more copper wires together.

2. Wire stripper. For stripping the thin insulation off individual cables.

3. Utility knife. Use this to slice away thick outer insulation.

4. Crimp connectors. You’ll be needing a generous load of these little guys. By the way, these are the little triangular shaped things at the ends of the connections on the diagram which you’ll be crimping 2 or more cables with.

5. Electric tape. For taping connections together after crimping.

6. Nylon bands. These might be considered an overkill, but I take safety seriously.

Ok, so we have what we need, and we’re about to start wiring. But before we begin I need you to pay careful attention: Remember to only connect to the main breaker after EVERYTHING else has been attached and there are no naked wires. Connecting to the main breaker should be the LAST thing you do! Alright, here we go:

1. With your utility knife, strip away an appropriate amount of outer insulation (5cm), exposing the individual “colored” cables inside.

2. Now with your wire stripper, strip slightly more than one crimp connector’s length of insulation from each of the cables. The idea is to bare only what’s necessary and no more.

3. Take your connectors and begin crimping them together with your crimper tool. There will be varying connector diameters depending on how many cables you are crimping together, so select the correct sizes. Note that crimping properly is just as important as the crimping act itself – ensure that the connection is rock-solid and that there is zero movement when you tug forcefully on the cables. You should crimp the connector in several points to ensure maximum bond. You shouldn’t overlap cables in an “X” fashion when crimping, but should aim for a parallel connection.

4. Thoroughly tape all connections with electric tape.

5. Tighten bands around all taped connections and clip off excess. This ensures the electric tape doesn’t come loose over time – which CAN happen otherwise. Adding an additional band around the conjoined cables 10 or so centimeters below the connection ensures the individual cables don’t accidentally get “pulled” apart.

Push-in connector

There you have your connection! Note that there are alternatives to crimping such as little connector boxes (see left), but they’re more expensive and not suitable for outdoor use – rainwater gets trapped inside and can lead to shorting. If you do use these, make sure to stick only to indoor use and bend the connection upward so the “entrance” is facing down. The pros to these connectors is that they make connecting cables extremely fast and simple.

*Another important point is evenly distributing your electric load to your individual breakers as this can save you money on your electric bill over time.

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