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Old 08-14-2009, 10:14 AM   #1
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Rewiring with a "Star" configuration


Planning to rewire to replace the existing AL wiring in my house as well as add some fixtures, etc. I've got a bi-level so have have one main living floor with a partially finished basement and attic access to everything. I'm trying to minimize the drywall work that needs to be done, so was looking at pulling from the basement to the attic and then out in a star config. Had a couple of questions. FYI, all work will be to code and be inspected/permitted.

1. For the pull from the basement, was looking at installing conduit in a closet and then boxing it in. I've seen some references to that on here. Would I use PVC or EMT for that? I was thinking a big piece of PVC (2-3"?), but wanted to make sure.

2. For the 3 bedrooms, specifically, does this look sufficient?:
-- 1 x 14/2 for lights
-- 1 x 14/2 for smoke detectors
-- 1 x 12/2 AFCI for outlets (10-12 total)

3. For the "Star" (mostly for receptacles), was looking at having a total of 4 Junction boxes. 1 Junction box would contain the feed from downstairs and feeders to the other 3 Junction boxes which would feed the outlets in each room . I was doing this to not have to deal with a rats nest of wiring down the road in any particular box. Is there any problem (other than cost) from splitting things out this way?

Thanks,

Mike

Last edited by tigereye; 08-14-2009 at 10:16 AM.
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Old 08-14-2009, 10:19 AM   #2
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I am not sure what you mean by "star". Do you mean you will have junction boxes and then branch from them to the receptacle boxes? Are you doing this so you only have one cable in each receptacle box?
If so then you are adding to the work rather than simplifying it. Just go from box to box and forget the extra four j-boxes.
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Old 08-14-2009, 10:26 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tigereye View Post
1. For the pull from the basement, was looking at installing conduit in a closet and then boxing it in. I've seen some references to that on here. Would I use PVC or EMT for that? I was thinking a big piece of PVC (2-3"?), but wanted to make sure.
If your going to run romex, then you don't use any kind of conduit at all. You would just run it in the wall or run them in the new wall you would be constructing by boxing it in. That sounds like a lot of work, why not just drill a hole and stick in a piece of EMT from the basement and run single strand wire in it, or easier yet, drill the holes and fish through flexible conduit like FMC or ENT.


Quote:
Originally Posted by tigereye View Post
2. For the 3 bedrooms, specifically, does this look sufficient?:
-- 1 x 14/2 for lights
-- 1 x 14/2 for smoke detectors
-- 1 x 12/2 AFCI for outlets (10-12 total)
Is this for each bedroom or for all of them?


Quote:
Originally Posted by tigereye View Post
3. For the "Star" (mostly for receptacles), was looking at having a total of 4 Junction boxes. 1 Junction box would contain the feed from downstairs and feeders to the other 3 Junction boxes which would feed the outlets in each room . I was doing this to not have to deal with a rats nest of wiring down the road in any particular box. Is there any problem (other than cost) from splitting things out this way?
No. Just buy the big junction boxes if your going to have a number of connections. They cost $20 or more each, depending on the size.

Note, It takes considerable skill to make a really good connection with more than 3 12 gage wires under one wire nut.

I don't use them for anything other than tempoary work or sometimes fixtures, but lots of people like Wago wire connectors. I would have to say they would be the best option for most DIY people that are going to deal with connecting more than 3 12 gage wires. It took me considerable effort to get really good at making connections with 4,5, or 6 - 12 gage wires.

Jamie
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Old 08-14-2009, 01:27 PM   #4
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The code defines outlets as:a point on the wiring system in which current is taken to supply utilization equipment. Given this, all your circuits will need to be AFCI protected for bedrooms (lights and receptacles) You'll need to check about the smoke detectors or not, some locales don't require them to be AFCI protected, some do.
If you insist on using junction boxes, I'd suggest you get some power distribution blocks to install in your boxes. As Jamie stated, it'll be difficult to wire nut all those together. The pdb's will make for a neater installation and solid connections.

I'm with Jamie, if you're going to build a chase for the wiring, I wouldn't worry about using conduit. Just nail up some 2X4's to the wall about every 4' and staple the wires as you go up. You can always make your chase somewhat accessible if you want to add more circuits later.
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Old 08-14-2009, 01:48 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Speedy Petey View Post
I am not sure what you mean by "star". Do you mean you will have junction boxes and then branch from them to the receptacle boxes? Are you doing this so you only have one cable in each receptacle box?
If so then you are adding to the work rather than simplifying it. Just go from box to box and forget the extra four j-boxes.
Pete,

Perhaps "star" isn't the correct terminology. Maybe octopus. I'm an IT guy, so I'm used to thinking in terms of network topologies. But, yes. a wire from the jbox to each receptacle.

Wasn't trying to simplify anything other than a need to do drywall repair. I can't figure out how to go from box to box without needing to cut into the wall.

Mike
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Old 08-14-2009, 01:58 PM   #6
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Jamie,

Thanks for the reply. I don't have any overriding need to go with Romex from the basement. I'm fine with THHN. Just making sure I've got the best way to get it from the basement to the attic. Would I still box it in if I used
FMC or ENT? The only real reason I hesitated on those was because I wasn't sure where those are appropriate vs EMT.

The numbers I listed were for all 3 rooms total. Do I need more? I'd prefer to over-wire than under-wire, so I've got no problem pulling more circuits if I need to. I didn't realize that bedroom lights were AFCI as well, but no biggie, I'll go ahead and make the light circuit and smoke circuit AFCI just to cover myself.

Thanks for the heads up about the wagos. I know there's a lot of differing opinions on those, but sound like they'll work for me.

Mike
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Old 08-14-2009, 02:04 PM   #7
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I'm not married to the star/jbox a`pproach, if you guys have better ideas, let me know. I'll look into the pdbs, though, as I agree, seems to make for a neater install. Almost looks like a network hub, which I can definitely relate to .

My main concern is not needing to repair oodles of drywall, as that's one skill that I can't seem to master.

Mike

Quote:
Originally Posted by wirenut1110 View Post
If you insist on using junction boxes, I'd suggest you get some power distribution blocks to install in your boxes. As Jamie stated, it'll be difficult to wire nut all those together. The pdb's will make for a neater installation and solid connections.

I'm with Jamie, if you're going to build a chase for the wiring, I wouldn't worry about using conduit. Just nail up some 2X4's to the wall about every 4' and staple the wires as you go up. You can always make your chase somewhat accessible if you want to add more circuits later.
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Old 08-14-2009, 10:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tigereye View Post
Jamie,

Thanks for the reply. I don't have any overriding need to go with Romex from the basement. I'm fine with THHN. Just making sure I've got the best way to get it from the basement to the attic. Would I still box it in if I used
FMC or ENT? The only real reason I hesitated on those was because I wasn't sure where those are appropriate vs EMT.

The numbers I listed were for all 3 rooms total. Do I need more? I'd prefer to over-wire than under-wire, so I've got no problem pulling more circuits if I need to. I didn't realize that bedroom lights were AFCI as well, but no biggie, I'll go ahead and make the light circuit and smoke circuit AFCI just to cover myself.

Thanks for the heads up about the wagos. I know there's a lot of differing opinions on those, but sound like they'll work for me.

Mike
I would just run a piece of 1/2" or 3/4" EMT from your panel to the attic. You can buy pull elbows,45's 90's, etc if your not comfortable bending it yourself. fyi. A cheap bender is about $30.

What I would do is find a wall cavity that is pretty empty of other items. Then I would locate the same spot in that cavity in the basement and in the attic. Then Drill about a 1.5" hole. (a larger hole will make it easier) Them feed the EMT up from the basement, use a connector once you have 1 stick up,and then feed up the next. If your ceilings in the basement aren't high enough you will need to use pieces that are shorter than 10'.

In all honesty, there is a learning curve with dealing with any conduit system. You could do the exact same thing I described above with romex. Fishing wires through a wall cavity is much easier than fixing drywall imo.

FMC, ENT, Romex, MC, all need to be protected from physical damage in your house, most of the time that means being in walls. EMT, RNC, RMC, IMC, can all be run anywhere in your home and be fully exposed.

Smoke detectors often use 14/3, and you use one wire as the signal wire between the units.

1 Circuit for all the outlets maybe a bit light. At a minium, I would put the master bedroom on it's own circuit, but thats just a personal opinion.

If GFCI is required in your area, then you will likely want to get the combo breakers, that are GFCI and arc fault.

Hope this isn't all too confusing.

Jamie
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Old 08-15-2009, 09:12 AM   #9
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Jamie,

Thanks again for the great info. It's not confusing at all. I'm right with you so far.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jamiedolan View Post
I would just run a piece of 1/2" or 3/4" EMT from your panel to the attic. You can buy pull elbows,45's 90's, etc if your not comfortable bending it yourself. fyi. A cheap bender is about $30.
Great! That simplifies things greatly. I've got a bender that I picked up a few months ago when I was first starting this rewiring adventure so that I could run my new garage wiring. Not great with it, but I can get by.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jamiedolan View Post
What I would do is find a wall cavity that is pretty empty of other items. Then I would locate the same spot in that cavity in the basement and in the attic. Then Drill about a 1.5" hole. (a larger hole will make it easier) Them feed the EMT up from the basement, use a connector once you have 1 stick up,and then feed up the next. If your ceilings in the basement aren't high enough you will need to use pieces that are shorter than 10'.
Glad you said this. It made me start re-evaluating the path I was going to take between the basement and attic. I found a much more appropriate wall to steal space in. It's currently got nothing in it as far as I can tell (electric/hvac/plumbing). Should be a straight shot to the attic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jamiedolan View Post
Smoke detectors often use 14/3, and you use one wire as the signal wire between the units.

1 Circuit for all the outlets maybe a bit light. At a minium, I would put the master bedroom on it's own circuit, but thats just a personal opinion.

If GFCI is required in your area, then you will likely want to get the combo breakers, that are GFCI and arc fault.

Hope this isn't all too confusing.

Jamie
Ok, 14/3 for the smokes sounds easy enough. Just to make sure we're on the same page, let me recap what i think I hear you saying.

- EMT from the box through the wall into the attic.
- THHN in the EMT as appropriate listed in () below
- Circuits:

- 14/2 x 1 - AFCI (just to be safe) - for power to first smoke (3 - 14 Ga THHN - White/Black/Grn)
- 14/3 x 3 for smoke to smoke
My wiring book says 14/2 to the first smoke and then 14/3 between the others for the signal, correct?

- 14/2 x 1 - AFCI - for lights (3 - 14 Ga THHN - White/Black/Grn)
- 12/2 x 3 - AFCI - for recepts (7 - 12 Ga THHN - White x 3/Black x 3/Grn x 1 or 3?)

If I'm going to split out 1 bedroom, I figure I might as well split all 3.

That looks like 15-20 wires in the conduit. Should I look at a bigger size (1" or 1.5") or plan to run more than 1? From my calculations, I'd still be within code for a 3/4" for fill purposes, but not sure how hard it would be to pull all that.

I'm not comfortable with my ability to rely on the conduit for the ground, so I plan to pull grounds. Can I share grounds between the 3 bedroom circuits and between the smoke & lighting circuit or do each need to have dedicated grounds pulled through the conduit?

Thanks again for the help.

Last edited by tigereye; 08-15-2009 at 09:17 AM.
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Old 08-15-2009, 09:45 AM   #10
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No offense to anyone, but this has gone from a moderately messy octopus design, to a complete cluster$%^$ in the making

If you can fish one cable down a wall, you can fish two. Run romex from the panel, up your chase, and cut it long enough to reach the first receptacle. Then make a head with your homerun and the other end that was cut, and fish them together down the wall. Do this to each receptacle. No junction ox required.

Run your lighting home run to the first light box, and then 14-2 between each light. From each light, drop a switch cable down the wall (a 3-wire maybe, in case some fancy switch needs a neutral) in each room.

If you have a smoke detector in the basement that is already interconnected to all the other smokes in the house, run a 14-3 from it to your new smokes, and that will keep them all interconnected in the entire house.
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Old 08-15-2009, 09:56 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tigereye View Post
Glad you said this. It made me start re-evaluating the path I was going to take between the basement and attic. I found a much more appropriate wall to steal space in. It's currently got nothing in it as far as I can tell (electric/hvac/plumbing). Should be a straight shot to the attic.
We kind of jumped all over the place here, building a chase to protect the wires,having conduit exposed, etc. Now that you have access to this new wall cavity, you can just fish through romex.

I completely agree with Inphase the setup he describes is much cleaner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tigereye View Post
Ok, 14/3 for the smokes sounds easy enough. Just to make sure we're on the same page, let me recap what i think I hear you saying.
- 14/2 x 1 - AFCI (just to be safe) - for power to first smoke (3 - 14 Ga THHN - White/Black/Grn)
- 14/3 x 3 for smoke to smoke
My wiring book says 14/2 to the first smoke and then 14/3 between the others for the signal, correct?
Yes, between all smoke alarms. If you already have some alarms somewhere in the house that are 120v,then you connect to them, not to a new circuit.

For some of us that have done this a few times or more, conduit doesn't seem like a big deal, but there is a huge list of issues that I can see you going to run into and unless your really dedicated to / enjoy this type of work, there really is no reason for using conduit. Romex is going to save you many hours of learning.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tigereye View Post
If I'm going to split out 1 bedroom, I figure I might as well split all 3.
Thats a good plan.

Jamie
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Old 08-15-2009, 11:11 AM   #12
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The wiring between smoke alarms is blk/wht/red and a ground. The red is the interconnect wire to allow all the alarms to sound.
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Old 08-15-2009, 01:34 PM   #13
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No offense to anyone, but this has gone from a moderately messy octopus design, to a complete cluster$%^$ in the making
No offense taken. This seems to be a common theme to my projects.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InPhase277 View Post
If you can fish one cable down a wall, you can fish two. Run romex from the panel, up your chase, and cut it long enough to reach the first receptacle. Then make a head with your homerun and the other end that was cut, and fish them together down the wall. Do this to each receptacle. No junction ox required.
Agreed, now that I've found a better wall to use, sounds like romex in the wall is the right option. I understood the lighting description, but I'm not sure I get what you're saying about the receptacles. I think what you're suggesting to go receptacle to receptacle in sequence like a "normal" install, but go down the wall and back up instead of to a jbox? Just want to make sure I've got you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by InPhase277 View Post
If you have a smoke detector in the basement that is already interconnected to all the other smokes in the house, run a 14-3 from it to your new smokes, and that will keep them all interconnected in the entire house.
Right now, I've only got a battery powered smoke downstairs and one up, so this is all new. Sounds easy enough, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by jamidedolan
We kind of jumped all over the place here, building a chase to protect the wires,having conduit exposed, etc. Now that you have access to this new wall cavity, you can just fish through romex.

I completely agree with Inphase the setup he describes is much cleaner.
Agreed, we did jump around, but I appreciate the help working through the options.

Thanks again,

Mike
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Old 08-17-2009, 09:51 AM   #14
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Jamie or anyone else reading. Had another, different idea for routing my wiring and wanted to run it past you guys to see if it was ok or if I'm overthinking things again.

One of my other projects is to create a linen closet in my bathroom by stealing space from the bedroom closet on the other side of the wall. When I frame this in, I'll be left with a bit of dead space between the back of the new closet and the front of the existing closet. Wondering if it would be ok to throw up another wall in that dead space and fish the wires up through there instead of using an existing wall. I didn't know if there were any restrictions about walls that the wire could be fished through. I thought about doing that instead of using the blue or red walls to isolate this wall from the finished surface in order to give me some level of nail protection since there may be shelves and things hung on the blue walls.

A crappy drawing (definitely not to scale) is below let me know what you think. The existing bedroom closet runs from the red block all the way to the right wall. The new bedroom closet will run from the blue block to the right wall.

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Old 08-17-2009, 02:46 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tigereye View Post
Jamie or anyone else reading. Had another, different idea for routing my wiring and wanted to run it past you guys to see if it was ok or if I'm overthinking things again.

The goal is to protect wires from physical damage. How you do this, more or less doesn't matter. i.e. frame it in, fish it through a wall, run in between joists etc. All get the job done. Running THHN in EMT that is exposed is just another way of protecting the wires from physical damage, as the EMT is strong enough to provide that barrier and can take the place of a wall.

Jamie
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