Preparing for New Electrical Outlets
It’s easy to overlook the finer details when moving into a new home. More often than not, one of those details is conveniently-placed electrical outlets. You may decide, for instance, that your television would look better on the opposite wall of where your outlet and cable connection are located, or perhaps you discover that you don’t have enough outlets in your kitchen. Admittedly, these issues can be fixed with unsightly power strips or extension cords, but installing new electrical outlets where they always should have been is your ideal solution. So how do you go about adding new outlets to your home? NOTE: For your safety, your family's safety, and the safety of future occupants in your home (as well as to avoid expensive mistakes) do not perform any electrical work that is beyond your skill level.
1. Obtain an Electrical Permit
You’ll need a permit to perform any extensive electrical work in your home, including installing a new power outlet. Permits are issued by Building Codes Division (BCD) field offices or by your local building department. You must be both the owner and an occupant of your residence to obtain a permit to do the electrical work yourself. You may not perform any electrical installations or modifications on a house or residential unit intended for sale, lease, rent, or exchange. If you do not own or do not intend to live in the unit, a licensed electrical contractor must do the work. A permit is required to do any of the following:
- Install or alter any permanent wiring or electrical device.
- Run additional wiring, put in an electrical outlet or light fixture, install a receptacle for a garage-door opener, or convert from fuse box to circuit breakers.
- Install or alter low-voltage systems such as security alarms or stereo or computer systems.
If you are not sure if you need a permit, call the building department responsible for your area. Any work performed under a permit must be inspected by a certified electrical inspector within 24 hours of completion of any phase of the project.
2. Learn Electrical Code Restrictions and Rules
You probably won’t have to know all of them—just the ones detailing where you can place your power outlets and how many. Ideally, you want to refer to the official National Electric Code from the National Fire Protection Association before embarking on any electrical home renovations. The National Electric Code tells you the dos and don’ts of how to safely complete your own residential electrical wiring. Unfortunately, this manual can cost as much as $175, but Google-savvy types can usually find the information they seek online. Here are a few of the code’s highlights in regards to electrical outlets in general rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens.
- Wall outlets should be placed every 12 feet.
- Outlets can be placed on any wall space more than 24 inches wide.
- Hallways more than 10 feet long must have at least one outlet.
- 15 amp circuits for general rooms.
- Only install GFCI (ground fault current interrupter) outlets. There must be an outlet within 3 feet of the outside edge of sink basin.
- No outlets face-up on countertops.
- Outlets must be on at least one separate 20 amp branch circuit. The reason is because this outlet usually powers high-wattage devices like hair dryers.
- All countertop outlets must be GFCI.
- No outlets can be placed more than 20 inches above countertops. Exceptions are for the physically handicapped and for islands or peninsulas where this isn’t possible.
- Outlets above all countertops 12 inches or wider.
- No face-up outlets.
- At least one outlet for islands or peninsulas.
- At least two branch circuits must supply the countertop outlets.
3. Determine the Exact Location for the Electrical Outlet
After you’ve familiarized yourself with a few guidelines, you can determine the best place for your new outlet. An important thing to consider is the level of difficulty in getting a wire or conduit to the proposed new location. According to DIY experts, it’s easy to add a new outlet to a wall where there is already an outlet in the other side of that same wall (such as facing into an adjacent bedroom) because you can draw power from the same source. If this isn’t possible, you’ll also need to consider your power source.
For an outlet that would be nice to have, but won’t be used very often, you can probably find a way to get power from another nearby electrical outlet circuit. For an outlet you will be plugging something into all the time, you may want to get a dedicated circuit installed by a licensed electrician beforehand. Regardless, as we’ve said before, always consult an electrician before finalizing a place for your outlet.
4. Understand the Different Types of Outlets
Lastly, it’s time to figure out what type of outlet you need. Not all outlets are the same. There are standard outlets, GFCI outlets, and AFCI outlets, among others. Sometimes, the National Electric Code will specify a particular one depending on where you are planning to install it.
- Standard outlets are typically 15-amp duplex outlets. This design has been standard in American homes since the 1960s. Each of the two outlets has a long (neutral) slot, a shorter (hot) slot, and a half-round grounding hole.
- GFCI (ground fault current interrupter) outlets protect from electrical shock much better than standard electrical outlets do. By Code, they must be used in bathrooms, kitchens, basements, outdoors, or anywhere water is present.
- AFCI (arc fault circuit interrupter) outlets provide protection against dangerous overheating that could occur between plugs and the outlet. As this heat could initiate an electrical fire, the Code requires them as a safety precaution in many areas of the home, including bedrooms, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, sunrooms, closets, hallways and similar rooms or areas.
As you can see, there are a ton of decisions and research that go into planning a new electrical outlet. However, we’re sure you’ll find your homework to be well worth it when you can finally mount your TV in the spot that looks best—sans the unsightly extension cords. So, do you have any questions or comments about this week’s article? Let us know below, and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linked In, Pinterest, or Instagram for more great posts!