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  #1  
Old 07-27-2012, 12:57 PM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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Wires: 12-ga vs. 14-ga; CAT5 vs. CAT6 vs. ??

Hi. I searched (a little), honest.

So you see, my microwave oven died.

TLDR preramble spoiled for your protection
SPOILER:
Being a reasonable man (contrary to most of my otherposts here) I replaced it. Not with anything that could communicate with alien planets, mind you, just a normal 1000 watt unit that I can make popcorn with or reheat yesterday's coffee faster than just brewing a new pot. Works great. For about a minute, at which point it trips the breaker. And this is where it gets out of hand.

See, the house is ca 1971 which presents a number of problems, most of which you don't find until you replace something like a microwave. One such problem is the plug in the microwave cubby is on the same circuit as the fridge * gasp *. Also on this circuit is half of the living room--the plugs that run the TV, cable box, DVD; and the computer birds nest (PC, monitor, printer, cordless phone, PC speakers, cable modem, network router...probably some other stuff) * horrified gasp *. This causes problems. Not because I can't run the wave long enough to do anything practical like warm up coffee or make popcorn, but because when that breaker trips it shuts down the modem & network router, which has an adverse effect on the teenagers in the house who are Tumbling or killing virtuals on the Xbox downstairs. Even as I'm returning from the breaker box, having reset the circuit, they start filing in asking me when I'm gonna fix that?

So, OK, it's not biggie for a champ like me to leave the living toom on it's own 15 amp (oh yeah, the circuit in question is just a 15 amp) circuit and run a pair of 12 gauge cables to the box for some shiny new 20 amp circuits to the fridge & wave. Except, 1971 100 amp breaker box is full. As is the 50 amp sub panel downstairs.


Answer: new 150 or 200 amp service. *sigh * OK, I know a new panel is beyond me and I'm gonna have to fork out some bucks for the new service. But now my inner OCD is wreaking havoc on me and I need some opinions. See, it's an old house and Gawd knows how many DIY handy's have layered their work on top of each other's. Besides, it used to be a rental and the drywall is already beat to shit. So I'm plotting a room-by-room refit.

It is understood all opinions solicited are secondary to local codes, etc.

1) Normal household stuff is 15 amp on a 14 gauge wire. In my experience, 14 gets brittle and breaks when you try to replace switches/outlets. If I'm willing to pay extra for 12 gauge to service the bedrooms, is that a problem? Can I make it a 20 amp circuit or does it need to stay 15amp?

2) Wireless home network connections are much slower than ethernet. Since I'm prepared to tear out walls & ceilings, this is an ideal time to run some CAT6 (yes, I know there's more to it than just running a wire). Is that already stone-age or should I get ahead of the game and run my CAT6 through PVC conduits so whatever's next is easily rethreaded?
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  #2  
Old 07-27-2012, 06:32 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
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There are no restrictions about using 20 amp circuits instead of the standard 15amp. It's just more money for everything involved. I'd run 20 amp in my own house for any outlets. Lighting circuits can stay 15 because their required loads just keep going down.

Wireless is the new standard for data transfer it will continue to improver till wired transfers are obsolete. Wired is still more reliable but there are no advances being made, so preparing for the next thing in wired is kinda pointless.

The average person will never see any substantial benefit having cat6 over cat5e. Consumer equipment is rarely gigabite rated. Your network is limited by the speed of it's slowest component, be it your Ethernet port or your router. Your internet is still limited by the speed of the service anyway so you aren't gaining in terms of download or upload by using cat6.

If your house is a particularly noisy(electrically) environment or sending videos between computers in 30 seconds instead of 32 is really important to you feel free to pay the extra for cat6.

If you're doing phone lines it is worth it to run cat5e in place of phone cord.

Last edited by boytyperanma; 07-27-2012 at 06:33 PM..
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Old 08-02-2012, 07:47 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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My basic rule is: If you can plug it in, plug it in.

Unless you plan on getting Google Fiber's one-gig service, Cat 5e is plenty for home use. Possibly more important than 5 vs 6 is just handling it properly - no kinks, nails, long parallel runs alongside power wiring, etc.

Given the opportunity, I'd run two or three Cat5 lines to each room, giving a LAN connection, one to four phone lines and a spare for the future.

If you told me a year ago that I'd be running three Cat 5 lines to my living room and that I'd have three gigabit Ethernet switches in the house, I'd have thought you were nuts, but that's exactly what I have with an IPTV system (Uverse), a Merlin phone system and things like a game system, Blu-ray player,media server,etc, all of which want a wired connection to something.

As for the electric, are you just out of panel space, or are you already pulling the maximum amperage through it? If you just need a bit more space, you can use the double breakers that fit two circuits in one space to tide you through until you can fit a service upgrade into the budget.

Last edited by gotpasswords; 08-02-2012 at 07:49 PM..
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  #4  
Old 08-02-2012, 07:54 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords View Post
If you told me a year ago that I'd be running three Cat 5 lines to my living room and that I'd have three gigabit Ethernet switches in the house, I'd have thought you were nuts, but that's exactly what I have with an IPTV system (Uverse), a Merlin phone system and things like a game system, Blu-ray player,media server,etc, all of which want a wired connection to something.
About a year ago I upgraded my TV/DVD/TiVo/Receiver etc. I was excited because, as part of the upgrade, everything went to HDMI. That meant that instead of having 3 component wires and multiple speaker wires (2 for stereo, 6 for 5.1 or 1 for Optical) I got to replace it all with a single HDMI wire. I was so happy that I was going to get to clean up that rat's nest... but noooo, each of those devices needs an ethernet cable, so now I have a switch back there and a new rat's nest.
If you told me 5 years ago that I'd periodically have to upgrade the firmware on my TV...

Last edited by Joey P; 08-02-2012 at 07:55 PM..
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  #5  
Old 08-02-2012, 08:33 PM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords View Post
As for the electric, are you just out of panel space, or are you already pulling the maximum amperage through it? If you just need a bit more space, you can use the double breakers that fit two circuits in one space to tide you through until you can fit a service upgrade into the budget.
I ended up getting drunk with a master electrician last weekend (he's proud of his homebrew and I was pleased to compliment him on it) and he told me pretty much this. Apparently it's an unusual consumer who needs more than 100 amps at a time, and that there are these double breaker things that I should use. Oh...and 12 ga is fine for wiring bedrooms, but you have to give it a 20 amp breaker. We were pretty wasted when he got around to that part, but I think that's what he said.

CAT5 through a PVC conduit (in case I want to run additional lines from the attic to the outlet) sounds like my answer for the communications puzzle. I wonder though. Do I need to be thinking about HDMI replacing CAT5? And telephone lines? Really? I was under the impression that technology is on its way out. I have telephone service connected with my cable & internet, and a pair of wireless phones kinda 'just because.' But I don't know the house phone number without looking it up. We're all cellular.

Last edited by The Great Sun Jester; 08-02-2012 at 08:37 PM..
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  #6  
Old 08-02-2012, 08:42 PM
Joey P Joey P is offline
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Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post
Oh...and 12 ga is fine for wiring bedrooms, but you have to give it a 20 amp breaker. We were pretty wasted when he got around to that part, but I think that's what he said.
That's slightly backwards. There's no reason why you can't hook 12 gauge wire up to a 15 amp breaker...but if you use a 20 amp breaker you HAVE to use at least 12 gauge wire.
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  #7  
Old 08-03-2012, 12:57 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya
Do I need to be thinking about HDMI replacing CAT5?
No - HDMI is a video signal standard.

Cat 5 is amazingly agile stuff if you terminate the ends with RJ45 jacks using the standard 568B arrangement. This is the usual way for wiring up LAN jacks, and there are devices that let you put HDMI video onto a Cat 5 cable for up to 180 feet or so. There are other similar adapters for composite video, and as long as you keep track of the ends, things like Merlin phone systems will run on it.
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  #8  
Old 10-10-2012, 01:05 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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When we had our house built four years ago, I had them run conduit throughout the house to help future proof it. It didn't cost much more than just having Cat5e, and I know that if ever fiber gets to be dirt cheap, I'll be set.
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  #9  
Old 10-15-2012, 10:31 AM
Sal Ammoniac Sal Ammoniac is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boytyperanma View Post
There are no restrictions about using 20 amp circuits instead of the standard 15amp. It's just more money for everything involved. I'd run 20 amp in my own house for any outlets. Lighting circuits can stay 15 because their required loads just keep going down.
I'm curious about this point. I've always found #12 wire to be significantly harder to run and deal with than #14. It's just that much bulkier and less manipulable. Obviously, in theory, it's good to have your wiring be able to handle heavier loads, but in practice? For a workshop or something, I can see the advantage, but for normal household circuits, especially outside the kitchen or bathroom -- would you really run #12?
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  #10  
Old 10-15-2012, 04:01 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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in the USA the electrical code is #12 or better for nonlighting circuits. electrical heaters which can be used throughout can take up as much and more than heavy kitchen appliances or power tools. people were blowing circuits and being left in the dark.
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  #11  
Old 10-15-2012, 06:41 PM
Sal Ammoniac Sal Ammoniac is offline
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I guess that's true, but where you've got any kind of modern heating system, you shouldn't be needing space heaters.
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  #12  
Old 10-15-2012, 08:04 PM
boytyperanma boytyperanma is offline
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There is all types of load combinations that can exceed 15 amps pretty quickly. It's an easily added precaution.

12 gauge wiring just isn't that hard to work with for those that do this for a living. A majority of my electrical work is commercial. In a commercial building 12 is the smallest allowed by code, along with a metal clad requirement for most buildings. Working with 12g romex works out to be incredibly easy by comparison.

I actually tend to be slower at wiring 14 gauge receptacles because I have to take caution when bending my hooks because it's so much softer than what I'm used to.
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  #13  
Old 10-17-2012, 08:17 AM
Munch Munch is offline
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I'm not sure why you'd go with CAT5e over CAT6 - there's a $25 difference for 1000 feet of it.
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  #14  
Old 10-19-2012, 08:46 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Munch
I'm not sure why you'd go with CAT5e over CAT6 - there's a $25 difference for 1000 feet of it.
As boytyperanma mentioned above, there's very little need for it in a home as there's not much consumer-grade gigabit equipment, and there's no point in spending extra for it when it's all being fed by a 3-meg DSL line.

It's also more sensitive to being damaged in installation. Pull on it too hard when running it, bend it too sharply, untwist too much of it at the jack, etc, and the extra cost is wasted.
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  #15  
Old 10-29-2012, 12:06 PM
Kevbo Kevbo is offline
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Originally Posted by Sal Ammoniac View Post
I guess that's true, but where you've got any kind of modern heating system, you shouldn't be needing space heaters.
Very few central heating systems are configured to heat less than a room, so it can still be handy and economical to create a warm corner if that is where one person is spending a lot of time.

A high powered hair dryer pulls the same amount of current, and folks use those in bedrooms as well as bathrooms when number of bathrooms << number of people.

I am always depressed by how people scrimp on such things. A few hundred dollars more at most, for something that will be used for decades to come, and either be a source of trouble the whole time, or trouble-free if done right.
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  #16  
Old 11-03-2012, 02:48 PM
Mdcastle Mdcastle is offline
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I had to rewire my house because with all the computer and A/V equipment the 1960s vintage wiring wasn't up to the task, plus I wanted to add safety grounds (the greenfied casing being used as such is now reckonized as a bad idea). Not only did I run #12 to all the receptacles, every room has a seperate 20 amp circuits for the receptacles.

I'm also a believer in seperating lights and receptacles, for lights I used #14 and several rooms share a circuit.

(The codes that say #12 is required for receptacles in and limit the number of outlets on a circuit apply to non-residential applications in the US in general, but local codes may extend their application to residences. In most of the country 20 amps is required only for baths and kitchens, even though I think it's a good idea everywhere. Ditto 200 amp residential services)

Last edited by Mdcastle; 11-03-2012 at 02:52 PM..
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  #17  
Old 11-05-2012, 07:07 AM
The Great Sun Jester The Great Sun Jester is offline
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Thanks for the input y'all. One more thing: is it generally frowned upon to have a main breaker switch just before, and in a separate unit from, the main panel? So in the future when I want to fiddle about with my main box I don't have to choose between working with live bus bars and having the power company switch off the house?
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  #18  
Old 11-06-2012, 10:46 AM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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you can get a main breaker that is part of your meter socket. you can have a main breaker inside before subpanels. just make sure things are clearly marked as to what they are.

in a breaker box with a main disconnect when the main breaker is off the bus bars are not live, the lugs feeding the main breaker still are live.
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  #19  
Old 11-13-2012, 10:03 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post
Oh...and 12 ga is fine for wiring bedrooms, but you have to give it a 20 amp breaker. We were pretty wasted when he got around to that part, but I think that's what he said.
He might have been talking about AFCI breakers which are now required by code for all receptacle circuits in bedrooms.
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  #20  
Old 12-03-2012, 10:29 AM
Chefguy Chefguy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inigo Montoya View Post

1) Normal household stuff is 15 amp on a 14 gauge wire. In my experience, 14 gets brittle and breaks when you try to replace switches/outlets. If I'm willing to pay extra for 12 gauge to service the bedrooms, is that a problem? Can I make it a 20 amp circuit or does it need to stay 15amp?
14 gauge wire doesn't get any more brittle than 12 gauge wire. Copper anneals (or work-hardens) when it's "worked", i.e. bent, twisted and manipulated. Additionally, not everyone uses a stripper to take off insulation and the wire gets scored in the process, creating a weak point that will break much sooner. Over the course of decades of replacing devices, the wire just naturally becomes annealed to the point of failure. 14 gauge may reach this point more quickly because there is less material, but the difference is going to be minimal. When changing out devices, it's always best to avoid bending the wire any more than is absolutely necessary and to straighten kinks slowly.
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