Not the Way My Dad Taught Me to Wire a House
I’m proud to be an electrician. It has taken me years to learn the skills that I use every day to repair or add electric in my clients' homes. I know how to run new wires to the right spot to control a light. I know which outlet box to run my wires to if I need to add something to a circuit. I know that one junction box may not have a neutral, and you can’t feed an outlet off another box because the power to it is switched. I know when to match a black with a white wire. I understand what the red wire is used for. I also think that all of this will change in the near future.
Computer technology is advancing and taking over every aspect of our lives. You can already buy light switches that have microchips built into them. They can receive signals from other devices and control the lights in your home. Groups of lights can work as one to create moods. For example, I like to use my iPhone to control the lights in my house. A three-way remote control switch can be added to a circuit without even adding wires. Ceiling fans come with remotes so you can control them from your bed.
The way we currently wire homes is labor intensive and not very flexible. In the future, houses may become less complicated to wire. The difference could be in how we control the devices in our home's electrical system. Microchip-controlled switches will become cheap enough to incorporate into every light. That would get rid of complicated wiring circuits, such as three-way circuits and switch legs. All any light would need would be a simple feed. That is just a black, white and a ground. So simple, anyone could add a new circuit.
The same thing would be true at the locations where you would want to control your lighting. Instead of light switches in each room, you would have control panels powered with simple feeds. These panels would use your house network to control the switches built into each light. You would be able to tell each control panel to act whatever way you wanted it to act. Every panel could be a timer, a dimmer and a mood setter. They could also work other parts of the house, like the radio or drapes.
All this will affect how we wire a house. The physical wiring will be greatly simplified. All you will have to know is the correct wire size and how to match black and white wires to each other. All the skills and tricks I have learned over the years will become obsolete. It looks like I will have to start to learn to program so I will be ready for the future of home wiring.
Bill Lutz is the owner of Generation 3 Electric, Inc.