FAQ: Electrical Guidelines and Best Practices

Some electrical practices are intuitively well understood by the technically minded. You don’t want too much moisture, for instance, or to use an ungrounded outlet. Other considerations may not be as obvious, for example pneumatic tools may generate static electricity, which can ignite fumes and flammable vapors present in the environment

Care should always be taken to operate any tool properly, and when running electrical equipment the bare minimum is to make sure you are using safe voltage and properly wired circuits. Taking on the challenge of wiring your own circuits is not recommended without training and professional experience, but a little knowledge can help with their use.

Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers keep your equipment from being destroyed or even starting fires. Every electrical device gives off current, which translates into heat moving through the electric circuit. If more current is delivered than the circuit can handle, it shuts off automatically.

Because overloaded circuits can be dangerous and impair the operation of your equipment, you must take precautions to work safely and avoid problems. The amperage of each device you intend to use on the same circuit should be calculated to ensure the breaker will not trip during use.

Circuit breakers are governed by The National Electric Code (NEC). When calculating the load you place on your circuit breaker, you will almost always need to abide by the 80% rule imposed by the NEC.

Because circuit breakers are tested for the heat they give off in specific open air conditions, the 80% rule compensates for the reality that they will often be enclosed in a housing while in practical use, therefore they should never exceed 80% of their load.

Wire Sizing

The proper functioning of a circuit breaker assumes that all connected wires are of the correct size. The size of a wire is known as its gauge. In order for a circuit breaker to function safely, the wires must never be too small for the load.

If the gauge of the wire is too small, it will overheat. Wires should never be hot, that’s a big problem. In extreme cases, the wrong wire could become a fuse, burning up from the heat of the current. If a wire is traveling a long distance, say more than 100 feet, you’ll want to scale up the gauge to account for voltage drops. In general there are no real drawbacks to using a larger gauge wire.