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Flexibility of Electrical Installations

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Flexibility of household electrical installations is partly necessary because people’s needs change over the time they live in a home, and because houses and flats are sometimes leased or sold. The new occupants want the electrical installation to be adaptable to their needs and wishes as far as possible.

With a strictly conventional electrical installation there is virtually no flexibility. It is usually difficult to add a switch somewhere if you are not prepared to open up the wall, to cut off and install new wiring. However, there are a number of techniques and solutions to overcome this problem, although they must be planned when the system is originally designed.

This white paper is one of a series of thematic white papers covering various aspects of electrical installations in houses, flats and residential units. They are aimed at architects, designers, specification writers, decision makers, installers and students.

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Flexibility of Electrical Installations

  1. 1. FLEXIBILITY OF ELECTR ECI Publication No Cu0241 Available from www.leonardo-energy.org WHITE LEXIBILITY OF ELECTRICAL INSTALLATIONS energy.org HITE PAPER ICAL INSTALLATIONS Guy Kasier April 2016
  2. 2. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page i Document Issue Control Sheet Document Title: Flexibility of Electrical Installations Publication No: Cu0241 Issue: 01 Release: Public Author(s): Guy Kasier Reviewer(s): Carol Godfrey Document History Issue Date Purpose 1 April 2016 Initial public release 2 3 Disclaimer While this publication has been prepared with care, European Copper Institute and other contributors provide no warranty with regards to the content and shall not be liable for any direct, incidental or consequential damages that may result from the use of the information or the data contained. Copyright© European Copper Institute. Reproduction is authorised providing the material is unabridged and the source is acknowledged.
  3. 3. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page ii CONTENTS 1. Introduction................................................................................................................................................ 1 2. Sufficient connection points for portable appliances .................................................................................. 1 2.1. Electrical socket-outlets...................................................................................................................................1 2.2. Television connections ....................................................................................................................................3 2.3. Telephone connections ...................................................................................................................................3 2.4. Data connections.............................................................................................................................................4 3. Flexible Socket-Outlets ............................................................................................................................... 4 4. Secondary Distribution Boards.................................................................................................................... 4 5. Structural Measures.................................................................................................................................... 5 6. Electrical Circuits......................................................................................................................................... 5 7. What about Renovations? .......................................................................................................................... 6 8. Useful Links................................................................................................................................................. 7
  4. 4. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page 1 1. INTRODUCTION This white paper is one of a series of thematic white papers covering various aspects of electrical installations in houses, flats and residential units. They are aimed at architects, designers, specification writers, decision makers, installers and students. In this white paper we discuss the flexibility of household electrical installations in more detail. This flexibility is partly necessary because people’s needs change over the time they live in a home, and because houses and flats are sometimes leased or sold. The new occupants want the electrical installation to be adaptable to their needs and wishes as far as possible. With a strictly conventional electrical installation there is virtually no flexibility. It is usually difficult to add a switch somewhere if you are not prepared to open up the wall, to cut off and install new wiring. However, there are a number of techniques and solutions to overcome this problem, although they must be planned when the system is originally designed. 2. SUFFICIENT CONNECTION POINTS FOR PORTABLE APPLIANCES One of the main requirements of the home electrical installation is to provide ample socket-outlets for portable appliances. This primarily applies to electrical socket-outlets but, in a broader sense, it also includes TV, computer and telephone connections. Let’s begin with the electrical socket-outlets (or “power sockets” as they are also known). 2.1. ELECTRICAL SOCKET-OUTLETS Nothing is quite as frustrating as having to live in a home where you are constantly confronted with a shortage of electrical socket-outlets. As a result, occupants resort to extension cables and trailing extension leads. Cables are criss-crossed everywhere or sometimes tucked away beneath a rug. The latter can be quite dangerous because the heat dissipated by the extension cable is trapped, which can lead to overheating. An adequate number of socket-outlets, thoughtfully installed over the available space, is essential. It’s far better to have too many power points than not enough. A few basic rules and tips: On the floor plan, mark the locations where socket-outlets are definitely necessary for various items of equipment: kitchen appliances, radio, television, digital recorder, media player, computer, printer, hard drive, hair dryer, washing machine, dryer, vacuum cleaner, moveable lighting fittings, and so on. For each of these locations, decide how many devices will be used and then add one or two sockets to this number. Install at least one double socket in the corners of each room. Install a power socket for the vacuum cleaner at the same height as the switch next to the doors (opposite the hinge side). If the hinge side of a door is located adjacent to a longer section of wall, you should also install a double socket on this side. Additional power sockets can be provided every two to three metres on long walls. In addition to standard 230V power sockets, install a few USB sockets in certain easy-to-reach places. You can use these to charge your cordless devices (mobile phone, tablet, MP3 player, etc) without a charger - all you need is a USB cable.
  5. 5. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page 2 Figure 1: Now that homes have so many portable devices, there is a greater need for USB charging outlets. Combination outlets, such as the one shown above, are also available. (Illustration source: Busch-Jaeger) The location of furniture also needs to be carefully considered as a power socket behind a cabinet is of little use. In rooms where television sets will be located, provide sufficient electrical outlets on opposite walls to give the occupants more choice in deciding where to put the television set. In an office with a computer, printer and other devices, it is recommended to provide an installation duct located a little higher than desktop level. The electrical outlets are then readily accessible, and the duct will allow the addition of extra sockets if required in the future. The height of the outlets is also important. In the kitchen the general-purpose electrical outlets are placed 10 to 15 cm above the worktop and other electrical outlets are generally placed 15 to 20 cm above the finished floor level. However, if you want to build a home that will last for a lifetime, it is advisable to increase the height to 40 to 50 cm above the floor. This is particularly beneficial for older people who cannot bend so easily. For the kitchen appliances, the height and location naturally depend on the kitchen layout and the kitchen installer should make provision for this in his plans. Figure 2: This is obviously somewhat exaggerated, but economizing on electrical outlets in a home is not a good idea. (Illustration source: Fotolia)
  6. 6. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page 3 If you need some help deciding on the number of electrical socket outlets and other connection points, many electrical fittings manufacturers offer a checklist. At the end of this paper there is a link to an independent and extensive electronic checklist in spreadsheet format. 2.2. TELEVISION CONNECTIONS Nowadays occupants want to watch television in more than one place. It is therefore important to provide outlets not only in the living room, but also in the master bedroom, children’s rooms and guest rooms, and possibly in the kitchen and office. The specific type of outlet currently depends on the provider and the technology they use (coax cable or phone line). To ensure flexibility, it is a good idea to provide a phone connection as well as a coax outlet so that the occupants are always free to choose their preferred provider. A data outlet should also be provided next to the television connection, because an increasing number of television sets and digital set-top boxes are being equipped with an Internet port. Some manufacturers have cleverly responded to this trend with combined coax and data outlets in the same enclosure. Figure 3: This switch manufacturer launched the combination coax and data outlet for digital television sets in 2016. (Illustration source: Niko) 2.3. TELEPHONE CONNECTIONS Even though we all now have smartphones, it is still important to provide outlets for landline phones in the home, especially for workstations and in offices. However, we also tend to provide telephone connections in the living room, the kitchen and the bedrooms although the home phone system can be programmed so that incoming calls at night are not routed to the children’s rooms. In addition to routing outgoing calls and accepting incoming calls, the home phone system acts as a home paging system, meaning you no longer have to shout up the stairs to tell the kids that dinner is ready.
  7. 7. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page 4 2.4. DATA CONNECTIONS At home we use Wi-Fi for most of our portable devices. However, it is advisable to provide wired data outlets for some devices, including computers, network printers, network hard drives, laptops, smart TV, Integrated Home System, and so on. In one of the next white papers we will discuss the differences between wired and wireless networks and show that wired networks score better for speed, performance and security. 3. FLEXIBLE SOCKET-OUTLETS Socket-outlets usually have three wires: two for power and one for earthing, but one or two additional wires can be installed to increase flexibility. This is very important in installations with remote switches or in Integrated Home System (IHS) installations. The additional wire or wires then allow the socket-outlet to be connected and operated by the user. This is particularly useful in situations where you want to connect a moveable light fitting to a specific power socket. With IHS or remote switches, the light source can then be incorporated in a so-called lighting mood configuration. Due to the larger number of wires, it is necessary to use deep flush-mount installation boxes. Figure 4: An electrical outlet circuit with five wires. The blue and brown wires can be used to switch or dim specific electrical outlets. (Illustration source: E&D Systems) 4. SECONDARY DISTRIBUTION BOARDS Conventionally only one distribution board is installed in the home, which means that additional cabling from the distribution board must be installed for any desired extension. That is not very convenient if the occupants decide to convert the attic into extra bedrooms, for example. In such situations it is more convenient to have a separate secondary distribution board on each floor. The supply cables can then be routed from the distribution board on the same level in the event of an extension, instead of running cables all the way back to the main distribution board. The same applies to the kitchen. After a number of years it is quite probable that a new kitchen will be installed to meet the new or altered needs of the occupants. In most cases the existing sockets for the kitchen appliances will not be in the right places. To avoid having to run several new cables to the main distribution board in this situation, it is advisable to provide a secondary distribution board in the kitchen right from the start. That way the scope of work can be limited to the kitchen, avoiding damage to other rooms or areas for the installation of additional cabling.
  8. 8. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page 5 Figure 5: A flexible design when installing a kitchen leaves all options open for renovations at a later date. (Illustration source: Dovy) 5. STRUCTURAL MEASURES There are a number of technical building provisions that can increase the flexibility and lifetime adaptability of a home. The first of these is a vertical shaft where additional cables can be installed if necessary. This can be extremely useful when cables have to be run all the way from the roof to the ground floor at a later date because the occupants want to install solar panels to generate some of their own power. Providing horizontal shafts is slightly more difficult but it can be done by fitting false ceilings in the hallways to the various rooms. Any additional cabling can then be installed in the concealed ceiling space, avoiding the need to run cables through other rooms. Cellars that extend across the whole property can also increase flexibility, certainly with respect to the ground floor. You should remember to provide suitable passageways, conduits and/or cables for the garden and garden shed. And of course you should install a secondary distribution board in the shed. 6. ELECTRICAL CIRCUITS A fully utilized distribution board provides little or no opportunity for expansion. It is therefore recommended to provide adequate spare capacity at the time of the initial installation for later expansions on the distribution board. Usually you should allow for 30% spare capacity. In certain countries a set number of electrical outlets are allowed per circuit. In that case it is advisable not to install the maximum number initially so that another socket-outlet can be added to the circuit later on if necessary. Several circuits for lighting are also desirable. In larger spaces, such as the living room, it is advisable to connect the lighting to at least two different circuits, so that the room will not be completely dark if one circuit fails. It is better to keep lighting in hallways and staircases separate from lighting in the adjoining rooms. If the lighting circuit in the bedrooms does not work for some reason, sufficient light can still be taken from the adjoining hallway.
  9. 9. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page 6 7. WHAT ABOUT RENOVATIONS? In the event of a thorough, total renovation, the answer to this question is easy: you can renovate the entire installation and update it to provide the same functionality as you would in a new-build home. In the case of minor renovations or extensions, where it is not desirable to open up the walls and embed new wiring, you can use plinth systems and installation ducts instead. Plinth systems are usually installed above existing skirting boards; however, there are also configurations that can replace the existing skirting boards as the wiring is concealed in the hollow skirting. Matching plinths are available for vertical sections which, for example, may be placed along a door frame. Small rectangular channels are also classified as plinth systems. Plinth systems are too compact to accommodate electrical fittings such as switches and socket-outlets. However, several modules that fit nicely with the plinth are available for this purpose. When compared with plinth systems, installation ducts are larger, allowing for all sorts of switch materials to be installed directly in the duct. They are ideal for mounting directly above a work area, such as a desk, workbench or kitchen worktop. One of their main advantages is that additional sockets can be installed if necessary. All sorts of accessories are available for both plinth systems and installation ducts to give them an attractive appearance, including flat corners, outside corners, T fittings, end caps, etc. Some plinths and installation ducts can also be painted to harmonize with the colours and materials of the interior decoration. Figure 6: Plinths and installation ducts can be used for various purposes. (Illustration source: Legrand)
  10. 10. Publication No Cu0241 Issue Date: April 2016 Page 7 8. USEFUL LINKS Checklist for the electrical installation in the home: http://www.leonardo-energy.org/checklist-electrical-installation-home Do you have enough outlets in your home?: http://pitchbook.copperwire.org/do-you-have-enough-outlets-in-your-home# USB charging sockets: http://www.leonardo-energy.org/white-paper/usb-charging-sockets Are your wall plugs flexible yet?: http://pitchbook.copperwire.org/are-your-wall-plugs-flexible-yet# A flexible kitchen installation: http://pitchbook.copperwire.org/a-flexible-kitchen-installation# Renovating with plinths and installation ducts: http://pitchbook.copperwire.org/renovating-with-plinths-and-installation-ducts#

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