Friday, January 25, 2008


You will be dealing with wires in your electrical projects. The black, white, and bare wires will be in a flat cable, often referred to as “Romex”. It got the name Romex because of the company that used to be the primary manufacturer of house wiring.

The cable may be different colors, but they are labeled by the wire size and whether there is a ground conductor. I use 12/2 W Ground. This means that there are 2 number 12 conductors (black and white) and a number 12 ground conductor that is bare.

In many cases it is OK to use 14/2 with ground. But you cannot use this for anything other than a 15 amp circuit. The best all around wiring (120 volts) to use is number 12, as it is safer and will handle a 20 amp circuit.

Typical cable with white, black, and bare copper in the middle.

When you are replacing outlets or switches you will encounter wire in cables. In some cases, it may be necessary to strip more insulation from the cable.

This is a simple cable stripper. You place the wire inside and a tab slices the cable.

These are simple wire strippers. Inexpensive and very effective. If you need to strip wires to wrap around a screw terminal, there are a few things to remember.

1. Strip the wire so there is about an inch of conductor showing.
2. Always bend it to the right as shown.
3. Wrap it around the screw
4. Continue as shown and tighten screw as show:

When you wrap the wire to the right the screw will pull it tight. This is due to the right hand threads. Wrap it to the left and the screw will try to pull the wire off of it.

Sometimes you will need to remove wires from a quick connect receptacle or switch. It is quite easy as shown with the back of a receptacle:

There’s really not much to it. If you are replacing a screw terminal outlet with a quick-connect, snip the wire and re-strip about ¼ inch of copper. Many quick-connect outlets show you how much to strip on the back.

If there is not enough wire to snip it, then you will need to straighten out the wire and snip it off till it is about ¼ inch showing.

You will notice that outlets and switches are in boxes. That is the next subject.

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