Electrical codes and their implemen­tation are normally not very flexible. But costs can still be reduced by several methods within the codes.

Floor plans can often be adjusted to reduce electrical costs by reducing length of wiring or eliminating outlets while staying within the code. For example, since one outlet is needed for each 12 feet of wall, shortening or eliminating walls or moving door locations can reduce wiring, recep­tacles, switches, etc.

If all points requiring heavier appli­ance circuits are clustered and located close to the distribution panel, expen­sive heavy cable can be minimized.

Check the house during construction to make sure extra outlets are not arbitrarily installed. Relocate closet doors or other openings to avoid short walls over 24 inches wide which will require an outlet. Remember outlets are not required in hallways.

In some locations, entire homes are traditionally wired with #12 wire and 20-amp devices for general wiring. However, most codes allow the bulk of a house to be wired with #14 wire and 15-amp devices.

Each required lighting point can be switched by a single switch. Also, bath fans can be switched with the bathroom light. Light fixtures that are not required by code can be pull – chain operated and need not be separately switched.

Smaller homes do not need heavy service load centers. Many can be served by a 100-amp load center. A switched receptacle may be substituted for overhead lights in habitable areas. Only one light fixture is required in a basement. Attic storage or equip­ment service areas require light fixtures. Otherwise, attic lighting is not required.

Extra branch circuits are often routinely installed by electricians to simplify the arrangement of breakers in the panel. Maximize the number of devices on a circuit, and normally one or two circuits per home can be eliminated.

Separate circuits are not required for the refrigerator or garbage disposal. Extra circuits cost about $25 each for additional home run wiring and breakers.

Heavy 240-volt circuits are required for the range, clothes dryer, water heater, electric furnace, and heat pump or air conditioning unit. If house design permits, locating as many of these heavy circuit appliances near the load center will reduce costs.

The large feeder cable required for an electric furnace is very expensive. In addition, if the furnace is located near the breaker panel, a separate discon­nect is not required at the unit, saving between $75 and $100.

Plastic utility boxes reduce costs by about $1 per wiring point and are allowed by most codes.


Phoenix, Arizona

Homes were designed with duplex outlets located at points of probable use rather than the arbitrary 12 foot minimum. About three outlets per house were saved. Because extra care was taken not to eliminate useful outlets nor to endanger safety of the occupants, the city building department allowed the variance.

In addition, because the units were small and expansion possibilities few, service entrance panels were reduced from 200 to 100 amp. Total electrical costs were reduced by $108 per unit.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

As in Phoenix, the builder was required to comply with all electrical code provisions except the arbitrary spacing of outlets. A well-thought-out layout was submitted based on logical use patterns along with the rationale for outlet locations.

In addition, garage ground-fault interrupters were loop-wired to bathroom outlets, thereby eliminating ground-fault interrupters in bathrooms. Bathroom exhaust fans were eliminated along with overhead light fixtures.

Total electrical savings amounted to $320 per unit.

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