How to connect wires?

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Hi,
Could someone decribe or direct me to a site where I can read about how to connect the following. Apologies for not using appropriate terms.
I have a "new work" set up. A three gang plastic electical box in a remodeled bathroom. I want to install three switches that will control:
1. One switch for two sconces. 2. One switch for the fan 3. One switch for the ceiling light.
The electrical box now contains 4 sets of wires that goes to each of the above devices plus a cable that delivers power.
I've got three switches that kinda look like this:
http://www.azponline.com/amazonstore/iws?request=8&asin 003S1MCO&merchantId92&browse_idW706&parent_id No idea how to proceed.
Many thanks in advance!
Aaron Fude
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com spake thus:

http://www.azponline.com/amazonstore/iws?request=8&asin 003S1MCO&merchantId92&browse_idW706&parent_id=
First of all, congrats for supplying all the necessary info. Makes answering this one a piece of cake.
1. Do the grounds: cut 3 short (~6") "pigtails" from the same gauge bare solid copper wire as the cable used (12 or 14 gauge), one for each switch. Connect one to each ground screw (the green one attached to the frame of the switch). Now connect *all the bare ground wires* from all cables, plus the pigtails, together. There are now probably too many wires to do this, so cut one more pigtail as a jumper, divide the ground wires into two bundles, and connect the, with the jumper connecting the two bundles. You're now grounded!
2. For the 2 switches that each control just one device (fan & ceiling light), connect the black wire (from the cable to the device) to one screw on the switch (doesn't matter which one).
3. For the switch that controls the two sconces, you'll need a jumper as above, but this time, it must be a piece of wire, the same gauge as the cable used, but with black insulation. Cut a piece about 6" long, strip the ends, connect one end to the switch (either screw), and connect the other end to the two black wires from the cables going to the sconces.
4. Cut 3 more black jumpers as above, 6" long. Strip both ends. Connect one end to the other terminal of each switch.
5. Connect all remaining unconnected black wires in the box together.
6. Connect all white wires in the box together.
You should be good to go.
Tips:
If the electrician hasn't already done so, you need to strip the jacket off the cables (I'm assuming you have Romex here), and cut the internal paper insulation off. For this, the best tool is a "cable ripper", a cheap-looking sheet metal tool with a "tooth" that strips the cable without cutting into the wire insulation, available at any home-improvement place. Strip the jacket back as far as you can reach into the box.
Neatness counts. Try not to make any sharp bends which might kink the wires. It helps to coil the wires neatly, then press them into the box. Remember to leave enough room for the switches to fit in.
I like to use the red wire nuts with the little molded-on handles, to get a good tight squeeze on the wires.
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Hi,
Thanks for such a great response!
A couple follow up questions on my part: 1. Rather than connect the wires to the screws, my switches also have those little holes where you can stick the wires in securely. Can I use those. 2. When you say, for instance, connect all white wires together, what exactly does "connect" mean. (I'm a total novice, a picture would be nice!)
Once again, thanks a lot!
Aaron Fude
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com spake thus:

You can; I don't like to. Those are made for "production electricians" who get paid, apparently, by the switch/fixture/box. Makes things go faster, but also makes taking the wires out if needed later a lot harder. See below for connection details.

Yeah, pictures would be nice; you can probably find those on some home-improvement web sites out there.
Anyhow, about making connections: what's meant by this is making a good *electrical* connection, so all the juice that's needed will flow through all the wires. A good electrical connection also happens to mean a good *mechanical* connection: the idea is to have as much metal touching as possible.
*Making wire-nut connections: Most of the connections here are made by means of wire nuts, which you can buy at any hardware or home-improvement place. They're molded plastic cones that come in different colors, corresponding to different sizes. Inside is a metal (usually aluminum) ferrule that grabs and binds the wires.
To make the connection: 1. Strip the wire if it's insulated: Best tool for this is a wire stripper made for the purpose, though you can also use an ordinary pair of wire cutters if you're careful. You want to remove about 1/4"-3/8" of insulation, being careful not to nick the wire which can make it break. The stripper will have several rows of "teeth", each corresponding to a different gauge (thickness) of wire; just pick the correct set, put the wire in the teeth, squeeze down, and the insulation will be cut but not the wire (on a good day, anyhow).
2. When all wires are stripped, gather all the wires you want to connect in a bundle. You want to get them pretty well lined up, so they're all more or less even with each other. This may take a bit of bending, twisting and cajoling. When they're lined up, put the bundle into the wire nut and twist the wire nut tight onto the bundle. You want a nice, tight connection (but don't overdo it). Test each wire to make sure you can't pull it out; sometimes there'll be a loose wire, in which case twist the wire nut off and re-do it.
To connect wires to switches (and other devices with screw terminals): Strip a little more of the insulation than above, close to 1/2". Using a needle-nose pliers, make a nice little half-loop at the end of the bare wire, just the right size to slip *under* the screw around its shank. Put the loop under the screw and tighten the screw.
Tools--you'll need: * Wire cutter (diagonal cutter, or "dikes") * Wire stripper * Cable ripper * Utility knife (to cut away jacket & insulation) * Screwdriver
Does that clear things up?
--
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II. The United States won in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan.
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I spake thus:

Forgot
* Long-nose pliers
You might want to pick up a circuit tester while you're at it, in case (god forbid) something goes wrong; this is just a little neon test light with two probes you can connect to something to see if it's "hot".
(STANDARD ADMONITION: Never never never work on any circuit while it's hot! Make sure the breaker is turned off first. But you already knew that, didn't you?)
Also, regarding wire strippers: I like the fancy kind that cuts the insulation *and* strips it off in one squeeze (with the simpler kind, you have to squeeze to cut the insulation, then pull it off). They're a little expensive; however, I bought a Chinese pair ($3.49) from a local cheap-tool place, and they work plenty well.
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II. The United States won in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan.
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On Wed, 20 Sep 2006 00:51:36 -0700, David Nebenzahl

The problem is likely to be worse if it's hot but you think it's not (turned off the wrong breaker?). Test it anyway.

--
96 days until the winter solstice celebration

Mark Lloyd
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com spake thus:

It occurred to me that since you are a novice, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to make a drawing for yourself showing how everything connects together. Maybe I can throw one together and post it somewhere. Should be able to make one from my description; basically, what wire goes where.
For this situation, just keep in mind one simple rule: NEVER connect a black and a white wire together. (There are some times you do, when switches are involved, but not here.)
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II. The United States won in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan.
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I've got (no idea) what the public liability is for persons who have no idea what they are doing working on mains supply.
It's not like plumbing, you (or the person buying the house from you) may have a serious accident.
Is it so hard to get an electrician, or do a night course?
spake thus:

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glenn P spake thus:

Well, all I can say is, it ain't rocket science, and lots of people do it. Couldn't be much worse than the mess I recently cleaned up, where a *licensed contractor* left an absolute rat's nest of wiring on a remodeling job; wires sticking out of boxes everywhere, no notes, and mostly done wrong.
And no, not hard to get an electrician, just expen$ive.
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It's actually a lot more expensive to die, or to be sued by their relatives than to hire an electrician.
Each to their own, though I guess.

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Hi,
I think the job sounds pretty straight forward! I have two remaining questions:
1. How to connect the two bundles of ground wires? (What's a good way to do it mechanically securely?)
2. What to do with excess wire: coil it up in the box, cut it, or push it out of the box into the wall?
Thanks a bunch for all the help!
Aaron Fude
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

You probably would not ask this kind of questions if you even read one book on electrical work. There are plenty of those books from libraries or book store. And they comes with nice color pictures to show you how.
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DONT FORGET to GFCI protect all of this.
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Use wire nut. The more wires you have, the larger nut you use.

Leave 6-8 inches of excess wires inside and coil them up. And there should be wire clamp or something to prevent the wires from rubbing against the edge of the openings.
When you are done with the wiring, I suggest you take pictures of everything and post a link.
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peter spake thus:

Yes; that's why I advised you may have to group the wires into 2 bundles and run a jumper wire between them. Of course, if you *can* jam all the wires into a big (red) wire nut, then do that. Just make sure it's all secure, with no loose wires.

He said this was new work with plastic boxes, so that's not a problem: the Romex just sticks through the holes in the box, which have built-in spring clamps.

Not a bad idea.
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II. The United States won in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan.
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Hi,
Thanks for all the advice. I would be happy to post a picture but, with about 20 wires I doubt that it could be helpful.
So far I'm rolling merrily along except for the three (overcomeable?) problems:
1. Home depot did not have guage 12 wire in any color other than black, so I'm using black for ground and tagging it with yellow electric tape.
2. The contractor already had a mixture of 12 guage and 14 guage wires in there. Power came in on 12 and all but one of the devices are 12 and the remaining one is 14. I've been so far operating on the assumption that continuing using guage 12 is ok.
3. The power wire actually doesn't have enough slack and it's hard to unite those wires in bundles with others. Is it OK to extend the power wire via "pigtails"?
Thanks!
Aaron Fude
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com spake thus:

That'll work; but I'd probably pull the wire out of its jacket. It's bad practice to mix insulated and bare ground wires; too easy to mix up the insulated one as a hot wire. Is there any cable left over from the electrician's work? Usually you can scrounge short lengths of wire from that.

Yes; it's always OK to use a heavier gauge wire (smaller gauge #). It's also OK to use smaller gauge wire (14) for short runs to fixtures, even though the incoming power feed is #12.

Yes. That was a mistake on the part of the contractor. Just extend it with a pigtail and a wire nut.
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II. The United States won in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan.
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I commend you on your persistence to learn a new skill. However, learning via a newsgroup how to do everything electrical scares the bejeesus out of me. Sure, I ask some clarifying code type questions here and there but I also worked as an electrical apprentice years ago so have an idea of at least how things work etc... Be Careful! It can't hurt to ask some friends who know this stuff to inspect your work. One question though. You mention that HD didn't have 12 ga in anything other than black. Are you indicating that you are using single strands of wire through some sort of conduit or raceway? If not, and you're just stringing the individual wires along inside the wall, you're violating code as far as I know. Wires need some form of protection be it EMT, etc... For residential the most common is NM cable (Romex) where the sheath is considered it's protection. Cheers, cc
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James "Cubby" Culbertson spake thus:

Two things:
1. Chill. 2. Re-read the OP's post: he had an electrician rope the cables in the walls. He just needs to connect the wires in the box.
Sheesh.
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Oh I'm pretty chilled alright. I'm not the guy asking how to wire nut two wires together!
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