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Electrical Extra Touches

If you are like the average homeowner, I doubt you will do any deep thinking about electrical outlets, switches and other electrical needs as you plan your new home. Typically many of these decisions are left to the electrician or the architect. Many electrical outlet locations are mandated by the National Electric Code, but there is usually nothing stopping you from exceeding this wonderful set of rules and guidelines.

For example, lets talk about the mundane subject of your garage. Sure there will be receptacles in the garage, but are they in the right place and worse yet, will they eventually be hidden by things stacked against the wall? Have you ever worked on a project just outside the garage door on the driveway apron? I'll bet a convenient outdoor receptacle by the garage door would have come in handy. Are you going to have a workbench in the garage? You need perhaps four receptacles in and around this area.

Bathrooms are a pet peeve of mine. The power outlets should be immediately adjacent to the spot where appliances will be used. I don't want the hot curler cord stretching across a sink any more than you do. Think about what you might use in a bathroom and where it will be used. The electrician can almost always put the receptacle where you want it.

Where do you set your cell phone down when you come in the door? Well, that is exactly where the charger should be and of course it needs an outlet. Do you decorate for the holidays? If so, you want strategically located outlets on top of mantles, next to handrails and any place where you think you might have light displays or strings of lights. If you think these things through now, you will never have to rely on an extension cord. Do you think I bend over twice a day to plug in and then unplug my Christmas tree lights? No way. I simply flip a wall switch.

Exterior holiday lighting needs multiple outlets as well. Your electrician can put any number of exterior outlets under soffits, hidden in overhangs and other places that will allow you to minimize the amount of spaghetti extension cords that drape all over your home. Once again, these outdoor lights can be easily operated by an indoor wall switch or two.

End tables at couches and night stands in bedrooms are also a sore spot with me. I want my outlets centered at the exact table location so that I am not reaching behind a couch or a bed to find an outlet. I also prefer to place these outlets 16 inches above the floor so that the lamp cords can be bundled up behind the piece of furniture. When you do this, no wiring can be seen when you walk around the room.

If you have special wiring requirements as I do for a special glass-covered coffee table that has two miniature working model trains under the glass, you may need a floor outlet located directly under a table such as this. Extending an extension cord under a carpet is a very dangerous thing to do. You want to plan now for these highly-specialized electric needs.

Home office needs are also important. I prefer to have my printer and a few other machines up on shelves just above my desk. I can easily reach the printed papers and this frees up desk space. But the electrical outlets need to be high on the wall and behind or next to the machines. Once again, if you plan out where your equipment will be, the electrician can almost always accommodate you.

Last but not least, keep in mind your actual circuit breaker panel, the actual wire that feeds each circuit and future wiring. Be sure you have six or even ten empty spots in your panel for future circuit breakers. You may discover that 20 amp circuits throughout the house makes more sense than lower capacity 15 amp circuits. My own home has all 20 amp circuits wired with 12 gauge wiring. Be sure the electrician installs several blank conduits that allow him or a future electrician to quickly feed wire from the electrical panel up into an attic or a crawl space. You can also install blank conduits into remote walls so that getting a wire to a hard-to-reach location is a breeze.


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