How secure is your home's electrical system? The answer might just depend on how good the branch wiring design is.

What Is Branch Wiring Design?

Branch wiring design refers to the circuit design of the circuits that supply electricity to different areas in a home. Branch wiring originates from the service distribution panel that has two hot bus bars and a neutral bus bar.

A circuit can be attached to a hot bus bar or the neutral bus bar or both depending on the quantity of electricity a circuit needs to provide. For example, a circuit delivering 120 volts of electricity needs to connect to only one hot bus bar and the neutral bus bar. On the other hand, a circuit delivering 240 volts of electricity needs to connect to both the hot bus bars.

The Beginning Of Each Branch Circuit: Circuit Breakers

The main circuit breaker controls the main service panel. It's also the first entry point, which means that it would be disconnected if there is any problem in the electricity supply to the main service panel. The main circuit breaker is normally a 100- to 200-amp two-pole circuit breaker that provides electricity supply at 240 volts which are then fed to the two 120 volts hot bus bars that run down vertically through the service panel.

The two rows of smaller circuit breakers lie below the main circuit breaker, and these two breakers act as the beginning of single branch circuits which then run around to different rooms of the house. The single breakers are mainly 120-volt breakers connected to only one hot bus bar. Additionally, in some Chicago homes, you also have 240-volt breakers connected to two 120-volt bus bars.

This means that all the branch circuits in your home are either 120-volt circuits responsible for supplying electricity to all the standard outlets or lighting fixture circuits or are 240-volt circuits that provide electricity to major appliances like boilers, ac units, and stove.

Amperage Of Branch Circuits

Your Chicago home can have different branch wiring designs, and you would need to know the amperage on offer.

120-volt and 240-volt branch circuits can provide different amounts of electrical power. For 120-volt circuits, branch circuits are usually of 15-amp or 20-amp, but sometimes they can have more power too. There is really no steadfast rule here. 

Similarly, in the case of 250-volt circuits, the amperage is usually 30, 40, or 50 amps. You can find the amperage written on the lever of the circuit breakers. It is also important to make sure that the wires connected to the circuit are capable of handling the branch circuit's load. Otherwise, there's a risk of fire due to short-circuiting. If you do not know the type of circuit that is in your home, it is a good idea to check out the initial layout plan or call in an electrician.

Generally, this is not a problem as original branch wiring is designed accordingly. But in case you're extending the circuit you have to make sure the new wiring is done by the circuit amperage gauge. It is not uncommon for people to use the wrong gauge size during wiring.

What Are The Different Branch Circuits Wiring Designs Out There?

A Chicago home has a different types of branch circuit wiring design.

Dedicated Circuit Wiring- These types of branch wiring design is meant for use by a single appliance and are compulsory by Chicago codes. They are usually 120-volt circuits or 240-volt circuits and are meant for appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, as well as air-conditioners. Basically, every appliance that has its own motor will need a dedicated circuit.

Lightning Circuit Wiring- As the name suggests they are meant for the light fixtures in your homes. Generally, a single branch wiring lightning circuit design serves several rooms, and each home has a number of these circuits.  The benefit of separating lightning circuits from outlet circuits is that in case one of the circuits is switched off, the room will still have the lightning available for use.

Outlet Circuits- These circuits are for the use of common-use plug-in sockets. They are either specific to one room or to a number of rooms.

Room Circuits- A lot depends on how your Chicago home has its branch wiring designed. For instance, your Chicago home can have its wiring design supply power to all the lights and sockets in a room by single circuits.

In case you want the versatility of loading a number of electrical appliances in your home, you can follow these methods. These branch electrical channels stand up to NEC guidelines and assure proper load increase for residential buildings.

Circuit Conductors

In case you expect the power load on your house to increase in future use a 12 AWG conductor. Make sure they come protected with 20-amp circuit breakers and have been designed for a 15-amp standard load.

Use Large Conductors

Large phase conductors help in minimizing the heating levels when non-linear loads are powered. Other than that this it also improves the efficiency.

Use Bigger Neutral Conductors

Again, if you want to increase non-linear loads in future in your house, investing in large neutral conductors is a good idea.

Amount Of Receptacles

As per NEC code recommendations, it is recommended to have more than 6 feet of distance between wall points and appliance receptacle.

The biggest problem in this case in determining how furniture is going to be arranged in your house. Other than that there may be less number of outlets in different areas in your home.

So, use Quadraplex receptacles in areas where you are expecting huge loads such as the kitchen, laundry room, living room (home entertainment system). When you reduce the number of receptacles for a single circuit, you're also limiting the installation and use of sensitive equipment. This also affects the voltage drop, the chance of interaction, circuit conductors positively and decreases the chances of consonants expanding to dangerous levels. If you're building a new home in Chicago, don't forget to apply modern engineering design. It can help you solve all your electrical worries.

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