Residential wiring diagrams

Residential wiring diagrams

Residential wiring diagrams are diagrams for completing Electrical wiring projects in a home. An electrical wiring diagram can be as simple as a diagram showing how to install a new switch in a hallway, or as complex as the complete electrical blueprint for a new home.

Although household electricity is nothing to play around with, in many ways, wiring is simpler than other repair and remodeling skills such as carpentry. Once some basic skills such as installing boxes, running cable, and splicing are mastered, determining which wire goes where is all that’s left to do. A good wiring diagram shows the placement of the various wires so the project can be completed in a safe manner.


The wiring diagram is based upon a known set of standards that become a series of reference codes that serve as the guide to wiring methods.

The standards and codes are based upon information that is produced by laboratories such as Underwriters Laboratories. Manufacturers of electrical components submit their products for testing and if the item passes a series of tests based upon the purpose of the product and the integration of their product, it is put into use.

For example, a light switch must pass certain tests based upon its particular function. Other factors could include what type of lamp the switch will be rated for, the voltage, and the number of watts of energy the switch will be allowed to operate safely.

Drawings that contain wiring diagrams also contain symbols which are recognized and adopted as an industry standard within each category or application. The symbol for a common single pole light switch used in homes will not be the same as a transistor that switches smaller amounts of voltage in electronic circuits.

Components found within a circuit are manufactured according to standards that ensure functionality for a given purpose. Categories are often used to identify the particular purpose for electrical parts making it easy to understand what circuit requirements and codes will be adopted.

One of the responsibilities of an Electrical engineer is to design circuits based upon a required task that is typically just one component of a larger design needed to operate a large piece of equipment.

After the electrical engineer designs the circuit it is placed into the overall circuit design which in most cases becomes a blueprint.

The blueprint becomes the plan that is used to build a device, piece of equipment, or a building for that matter.

In large projects the blueprints are produced for each trade or craftsmen who will be building the project.

Many times specifications known as cut-sheets and installation manuals are gathered and placed into binders where these documents can be reviewed for a clear understanding.

Inspectors who are educated in the codes and standards, and in some cases have experience in a particular field of work, are then used to oversee and inspect the project to make sure that the project is being built according to the specifications shown on the blueprints and plans.


Wire Colors

Electrical wiring diagrams that are in color have an advantage over ones that are black and white only. The wires are colored the same as the actual wires being used. Commonly, the green wire is ground, white or off-white is neutral, and black, red or other colors indicate the hot wire. In some instances, such as some switch legs, the function of the wires is indicated by colored electrical tape.


There should be a chart on the diagram showing the different symbols being used, much like a legend on a map. Understanding the symbols being used is essential to understanding the rest of the diagram. The electrical symbols not only show where something is to be installed, but also what type of device is being installed.

For example, a surface ceiling light is shown by one symbol, a recessed ceiling light has a different symbol, and a surface fluorescent light has another symbol. Each type of switch has a different symbol and so do the various outlets. There are symbols that show the location of smoke detectors, the doorbell chime, and thermostat.


Some of the most common questions electricians receive involve switches and switches are the subjects of the most commonly used residential wiring diagrams. Examining a diagram for different switching configurations not only gives instructions to complete projects, but also helps determine which type of switching is needed in a particular location. Even a Single-Pole Switch, that sounds so simple, can be wired different ways and a set of electrical wiring diagrams explains each of them clearly.


As important as electrical wiring diagrams are to the successful completion of wiring projects, safety and respect for electricity are essential. Although wiring diagrams give detailed instructions on completing a wiring project, they can’t replace common sense. Neither can wiring diagrams replace a licensed electrical contractor, someone with years of knowledge and experience in the field.

See also

* Electrical wiring
* Light switch


* cite book
last = Erickson
first = Larry
title = Ortho’s All About Wiring Basics
publisher = Meredith Books
date = 2000
isbn = 0-89721-440-4

* cite book
last = Richter
first = Herbert P.
title = Practical Electrical Wiring, 13th Edition
publisher = McGraw Hill, Inc.
date = 1984
isbn = 0-07-052390-8

* cite book
last = Staub
first = Catherine M.
title = Wiring 1-2-3
publisher = Homer TLC, Inc
date = 2000
isbn = 0-696-21184-x

External links

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