If you intend to wire your new or present home and you wish to secure a maximum of convenience and satisfaction from the use of electricity, you must look not only to your present but to your future needs. Study carefully the wiring plans of your architect and do not hesitate to add any outlets that you feel you may need in the future. Usually we rely too much on the builder or on the architect, and give too little attention to our actual wiring needs.
1 Adapted from House Wiring and Lighting for Service. New York: Good Housekeeping Institute, 1930.
Remembering that electricity is not only a source of light, but is also a source of heat and power, your planning problem may well be divided into two parts. The first will have to do with the arrangement and nature of your lighting, and the second with the provisions for heating and power devices. The kind of lights, their location, and the type of fixtures will depend largely on the decorative scheme you are following. The number of receptacles for the connection of devices such as percolators, toasters, grills, vacuum cleaners, etc., will depend on which of these you are planning to use, and the location of the receptacles will depend upon the layout of your rooms and the arrangement of the furnishings.
Secure a floor plan which will show clearly the relationship of the rooms in your home, and mark on this plan the location of the furniture that you intend to use. A convenient way to do this is to cut small pieces of cardboard to represent the various pieces of furniture, using the same scale as is used for the floor plan. Shift these around on the plan until you get an arrangement that suits you. If you follow this plan, you will find that it is relatively easy to determine where you wish to place your lighting fixtures and the receptacles for attaching devices. This procedure will eliminate a thing that frequently occurs; namely, the placing of fixtures and receptacles in locations that are either inaccessible or in the way of furniture. Plan the wiring in this way for each room in the house, keeping in mind just what devices you intend using. It is well to remember that each year additional types of labor-savers appear on the market, and in laying out the receptacles it is best to be liberal, particularly as the cost of added wiring is usually in access of the cost of providing it initially.
When you have an idea of what you want, it will then be advisable to call on your electrical contractor for his advice. A contractor who knows his business can give valuable assistance in laying out your wiring. Be as careful in choosing the man to do your electrical work as you are in choosing your builder or plumber. There is just as much variation in the class of work done in the electrical field as in any other, and, although regulatory bodies such as municipal inspection authorities and fire underwriters prescribe certain standards that must be met in wiring homes, there is a wide difference between the contractor who does his work so as just to pass inspection, and the one who gives you the best. It is well to be suspicious of the contractor whose only recommendation is the cheapness with which he can do the work. If you are not acquainted with the contractors in your neighborhood, consult the local lighting company, which doubtless can tell you who will do a satisfactory job.
After you have decided on your layout, it will then be time to choose the type of construction. There are various kinds of house wiring, all of them made necessary by the fact that the wires which actually carry the electric current must be protected from injury. The class of wiring that is considered the best for practically all conditions is the so-called rigid conduit system. In this type of construction iron pipe similar to gas piping, but specially treated against corrosion, is run between the walls and ceilings from the fuse panels to the various outlets for fixtures and receptacles. The piping system is continuous between the outlets, which are themselves specially-designed metal boxes. Insulated wires of the proper size are drawn through the pipes and connected with the fixtures and receptacles. This type of construction gives a maximum of protection and is considered the best for a permanent installation, but is not generally feasible for finished houses. Under certain conditions flexible metallic conduit is used instead of the rigid type.
Another excellent system of wiring, particularly for finished buildings, uses so-called flexible steel-armored conductor or cable. This consists of insulated wires permanently encased in a double layer of steel armor that is wound spirally around the conductors in such a way as to make the whole fairly flexible. This armored conductor is pulled from the outlet to outlet in walls or under floors and is entirely concealed. In completed buildings this type of wiring can be installed, if done carefully, with practically no marring of walls or woodwork. In finished rooms, where it is not practical to run concealed wiring, it is still possible to get outlets for lights, or device receptacles by using metal moldings on walls or ceilings. This molding is unobtrusive and makes a very satisfactory installation. In some localities it is permissible to use other types of wiring, such as wiring in wood molding or so-called knob-and-cleat wiring in partitions and under floors. These latter, however, are not generally considered the best types of construction for homes.
The next step in your wiring plans is the choice of fixtures and fittings. Almost always considerable thought is given to the selection of lighting fixtures, for the form, style, and finish of these must harmonize with the surroundings. Very few people, however, give a thought to the lamp sockets, the switches, the device receptacles, etc., which are really a very important part of the wiring system. To most of us one switch is just like another, and a socket is simply a socket. However, there is a wide enough difference in the quality of fittings of this sort to warrant the prospective purchaser in insisting that the contractor shall furnish those made by manufacturers of experience and good reputation in this line.
.... It is just as true with house-wiring fittings as with most other things, that a low initial cost may not mean the cheapest in the long run, for the cost of replacing a defective switch, socket, or receptacle is usually much more than the difference in first cost between one that will just pass inspection and the best that can be purchased.
The company furnishing the electrical power usually owns and controls the service wiring outside the house, but the house owner has everything to do with the wiring inside the house. He can plan and operate it as he chooses, so long as he stays within the rules and regulations formulated for his own and the community's protection by municipal and other authorities having jurisdiction.
Although the meter that measures the current consumed is generally installed by the lighting company, the mounting for it must be put in place by the house builder. Right at this point it is possible, by using a little care in the location of the meter, so to plan that many steps will be saved for the housekeeper. Mount the meter at right angles to, or facing, a cellar window that is accessible from the outside of the house, or in a box or cabinet that can be built and secured to the outside of the building. This arrangement will make it possible for the lighting company's representative to read the meter without disturbing the household or tracking dirt through the rooms. If there are no cellar windows accessible from the street, have the meter mounted where it can be reached readily and, preferably, close to the point at which the service enters the house. Such a place frequently can be found in an extension or outside vestibule.
From the meter the main feed wires are carried to a distributing panel and connected to the various wires that go to the fixtures and outlets throughout the house. Each circuit is here equipped with fuses designed to protect the wiring against excessive amounts of current. The distributing, or fuse panel should always be placed so that it may be easily reached when a fuse blows. In many houses the fuse panel is mounted on a ceiling, where it is extremely difficult to get at, but there is no excuse for this. Have the fuse panel mounted on a side wall high enough to be out of reach of children, but convenient for those who may have to change a fuse Frequently a better location than the cellar can be found for the fuse panel - for example, space at the head of the cellar stairs or in the pantry. In large houses having many circuits, it is generally desirable to have more than one fuse panel - perhaps one on each floor, or one in each section of the house. The fuse panel selected should be of the design in which no live wires are exposed, for with this type fuses may be changed without any danger. These safety fuse panels are most desirable, and for his own protection the house owner should not countenance any other kind. A simple arrangement that further adds to convenience is a light so mounted that it will illuminate the face of the fuse panel. This should be on a circuit by itself, so that it will not be affected if trouble occurs and the fuses blow on any other circuits in the house. Another provision for convenience, which apparently is not generally appreciated, is the labeling of circuits and fuses so that they may be easily identified in case of trouble. Any one who has attempted to replace a fuse in the darkness, standing on a damp cellar floor, where the fuse panel was of the antiquated type with exposed wires carrying current, will most appreciate the type of equip ment we are suggesting.
From the fuse panel let us trace the circuits to the various parts of the house and see what measures can be taken to get a maximum of convenience. Starting with the cellar, you will want sufficient lighting outlets on the ceiling to give good general illumination and perhaps additional outlets for wall brackets or drop lights near the work bench or storage shelves. At least one of the cellar lights should be controlled from a switch at the head of the cellar stairs. This is indeed a convenience and well worth the slight extra cost of the switch and wiring. The cellar is frequently neglected from the standpoint of appliance outlets - or "conven-ience" outlets, as they are now being called, but this is unfortunate, for sooner or later there is certain to be a need for them. For example, the use of automatic furnace regulators is becoming more and more popular.
One type of these operates the furnace dampers by an electric motor, which gets its current from the house service and, of course, an outlet would be required for this. Again the handy man of the house would appreciate an outlet by his work bench for the connection of a motor operated drill, lathe, or an electrically-heated soldering iron or glue pot. Then, too, many oil burners for furnaces have an electric motor for which an outlet is required. While you may not have all of these devices at this time, it is well to look into the future and plan your wiring accordingly.
The laundry, being one of the work rooms of the house, should have ample provision for the connection of labor-saving devices. A convenience outlet should be installed for the washing machine and, because it is often desirable to be able to iron while the washer is in operation, at least one additional outlet should be provided for the ironing machine or the hand iron. The lighting outlets should allow for a ceiling fixture to give general illumination, and perhaps for wall brackets placed high enough so that they will be out of reach, but so located that more light will be had over the work centers, particularly the ironing machine or ironing board. Both for safety and convenience it is desirable to have these lights controlled by wall switches.
On the first floor of the house, also, it is possible through little things to add to the convenience of your wiring. For example, you may have a light over the front door or on the porch ceiling operated from a switch mounted on the outside of the house just high enough to be out of reach of prankish children. This arrangement will eliminate fumbling for keyholes in the dark, an annoyance unnecessarily suffered by most of us. The same light can also be controlled by another switch indoors, so that it may be used to welcome the visitor or light him safely on his way. It is now quite a common practice to have the lower hall lights so wired that they may be lit or extinguished either from the upper or lower hall. This is accomplished by means of so-called "three-way" switches and a special arrangement of the connecting wire. It is not generally realized, however, that this same idea can be used to advantage in many other rooms. When you are going from one room to another - for example, from the living room to the dining room and then to the kitchen - if the lighting circuits have three-way switches, you can switch on the lights in the room ahead of you and switch off those behind you without retracing your steps. These three-way switches are truly step-savers and if the housewife realized their value from this standpoint, they would no doubt be much more frequently used. It is generally desirable to have an outlet in the hall to which the vacuum cleaner may be attached so as to eliminate the necessity for connecting it to a lighting fixture or else running the cord across the floor to the adjacent rooms.
In the living room, outlets should, of course, be provided for portable lamps. While the convenience of having enough of these is becoming more appreciated, it is a fact that too few are provided in most homes. When portable lights are used exclusively for illuminating the room, it is desirable to have the convenience outlets to which they are connected wired to wall switches. This arrangement makes it possible to control the lights from a central point, which is not only a convenience but permits quick changes in the lighting effects. If you have a piano or phonograph operated by an electric motor, it is desirable to have a conveniently located outlet.
Almost every one is familiar with the many electrical appliances, such as percolators, toasters, grills, and waffle irons which are so well suited for use in the dining room. The maximum satisfaction from these will not be realized, however, unless adequate convenience outlets are provided to which they may be connected. One outlet is hardly enough, because it is generally desirable to have two or more of these devices in use at one time.
So many electrical devices are made for assisting the housewife in her cooking and kitchen work that ample thought should be given to the provision of facilities for the connection of these. There are electrically-operated mixing and beating devices, electric tireless cook stoves, refrigerating machines, dishwashing machines, and a host of cooking devices that may be connected to convenience outlets. If an electric range is to be used, heavier wiring will be necessary, as the current requirement is in excess of that permissible on convenience outlets and their wiring. Your range circuits should have a separate switch and fuses, and here you will find it convenient to install a so-called "safety" switch and fuse box, so that the fuses may be replaced easily and with absolute safety. Besides an outlet for a ceiling light it is frequently desirable to have outlets for wall brackets over the sink and other work centers so as to give a more concentrated light at these points. Both winter and summer the kitchen needs ventilation, and an electric fan or permanently installed fan ventilator unit will provide a satisfactory means of obtaining it.....
Electricity is finding extensive use in bedrooms, for devices as well as for illumination. Curling irons, electric warming pads, milk bottle warmers, vibrators, etc., are conveniences for bedroom use. Portable lamps are used frequently, and in some cases lighting fixtures are being attached to, or built into, the furniture. Naturally, outlets must be provided if it is planned to use any of these things. Both in the bedroom and bathroom, it is a comfort to have an auxiliary electric heater to take away the chill on cool mornings, especially when the house heating plant is not in operation. There is one type of heater that may be built into the wall, and this is a desirable form for the bathroom. Due consideration should be given to the provision of lights in large closets and storerooms, controlled by switches adjacent to the doors.
Care should be taken in the location of convenience outlets, otherwise they may be convenient in name only. Those outlets to which devices are to be attached will usually be most convenient if located at about elbow height, eliminating the need for stooping. Such outlets are those used in the kitchen, the laundry, for table devices in the dining room, and perhaps for special purposes in some of the other rooms. Those outlets to which more or less permanent connections are made, such as for floor lamps, are better placed low, so that the connecting cords will be out of the way and inconspicuous.
What constitutes good lighting for the kitchen? The foremost requirement is that the quantity of light shall be sufficient for the accomplishment of work with accuracy, speed and comfort. The next is that the source of light shall be so placed or located that there are no deep shadows falling on the work. A further requirement, linked with the others, is that the source of light itself shall not be so prominent that it attracts the eye or produces an exceptionally bright spot or glare.
How can we obtain this good lighting? Obviously to get sufficient light we must have enough light energy available at the source. In other words, we must use lamps of sufficiently high candle power. To soften the shadows a diffusing shade or reflector should be used, and to shorten the shadows the source of light should be located as high above the work as possible. To eliminate the disagreeable effect of exceptionally bright spots of light which produce glare, the reflecting or diffusing globe should be of such material or so designed that the lamp itself cannot be seen.
There are three general systems of lighting that are applicable to the kitchen. The first of these is the so-called "direct" system in which fixtures - or "luminaires" as they are sometimes called - are designed to throw the major part of the light directly upon the surface of work to be illuminated. This system is perhaps the most common and is exemplified usually by a bell-shaped open-end shade or globe suspended from the ceiling or from a wall bracket. The second system uses a luminaire of such design that no light is transmitted through it but all is reflected to the ceiling, which in turn acts as a reflector to distribute the light to all parts of the room. This is known as "indirect" lighting. With the third system, a luminaire is used that permits some light to pass through it but still the greater portion of the light is reflected to the ceiling as in the indirect system. This form of lighting is known as "semi-indirect." By a proper selection and correct location of fixtures satisfactory illumination can be obtained in the majority of cases with any one of these three general systems.
If the direct system is employed, the general illumination of the kitchen may be obtained by having a central luminaire installed close to the ceiling. In large kitchens, particularly those that are long and narrow, two such fixtures will probably be necessary. It is important that the luminaire be mounted close to the ceiling so as to eliminate long shadows which result if the source of light is low. Generally speaking the major part of the work in the average kitchen is done at work centers placed along the wall, for example, the sink, the range and the kitchen cabinet. At these points the worker has her face to the wall and her back to the central luminaire. Now if the light source is hung low, her shadow will of course fall on the work she is doing. Even with a well-designed central fixture at the proper height the shadow cast by the worker may be deep enough to require additional lighting at the work center. This can be taken care of by installing another luminaire in the form of a drop light or wall bracket over the sink, the range, or the kitchen cabinet where needed. In this case an open glass shade with a diffusing bulb lamp will answer the purpose satisfactorily. This auxiliary light should be high enough, at least above the worker's head, and far enough from the wall so that the direct glare will not be in the worker's eyes. An enclosed type central luminaire and small deep shades of the open type for the individual lights over the work units frequently make an effective arrangement.
For the direct system of lighting there are two general forms of globes or shades, namely, the bell-shaped open type and the enclosed type. Both of these are generally made of an opalescent glass in order to diffuse the light. There are many different shapes of both the open and enclosed types, the distribution of light being more or less dependent on the shape.
In the indirect system, which is dependent entirely on the ceiling and wall surfaces for the diffusion and reflection of the light, it is necessary, of course, to have these surfaces of such a character that sufficient light is obtained on the work without the necessity of using lamps of excessively high candle power. Experiments conducted by the laboratories of the Edison Lamp Works of the General Electric Company show that the reflection factor for ceilings tinted with various colors varies from 86 per cent for flat white to 72 per cent for a flat silver grey. For sidewall tints there is a variation of from 71 per cent for a flat ivory tan, to only 36 per cent for a medium blue. These figures indicate the percentage of the light falling on the ceiling or walls which is reflected to do useful lighting in the room. Obviously if the indirect system of lighting is to be used the lighter colors should be chosen for ceiling and walls to permit of economy in lamp consumption, for with the darker colors appreciably more light must be provided at the source in order to get the same effect on the work. What has been said about the effect of color in the indirect system of lighting applies just as well to the semi-indirect system which, as already stated, depends to a large extent upon the reflection from ceilings and walls for its effectiveness.
As previously stated the foremost requirement of good lighting in the work rooms is that the quantity of light shall be adequate. Lighting experts through many observations have determined just what illumination is generally required for doing many different kinds of work. For the work done in the kitchen it is usually considered that 8 to 10-foot-candles are necessary. The foot-candle is a unit of illumination and represents the light that would fall on a plane or surface one foot from a source of light of one standard candle power. Eight- or ten-foot-candles' illumination is equivalent to the light that would fall on a surface one foot from a light source respectively of 8 and 10 candle power.