Meeting the challenges of electrical wiring from an electrical contractor’s view

The demands placed on electrical wiring are diverse and intricate regardless of the use, but there are some highly important differences between wiring for residences and commercial needs. The electrical contracting team at San Luis Obispo’s Electricraft, Inc., summarizes the main differences and why it’s important to know them.

The job of an electrical contractor is to fully understand the wiring requirements for every project, be it residential, commercial, or a special project. A full-service electrical contractor needs to be knowledgeable and skilled to solve every electrical wiring challenge that comes along and to be able to explain the why and how to those who want to know. 

To begin, here are the basics that all electrical wiring has in common:

  • Insulation—Wires are covered with an insulated covering material that has a high resistance to electrical flow to protect the wiring and help prevent shock.
  • Location—All wiring has specific locations, depending on the application.
  • Load—What levels of electrical energy do the different components of an electrical system need to operate?

What are the differences?

For residential wiring, the insulation can be lighter form than for commercial, typically PVC. The insulation used in commercial wiring, called THHN (thermoplastic, high-heat resistant, nylon-coated) needs to be high-heat resistant for high-performing cabling systems.

In residential settings, the wiring is usually hidden from view in walls and attic crawl spaces. In commercial settings, the wiring is run through conduits, providing an extra level of protection but still easily accessible for servicing.

Residences are wired for 120 volts (single-phase circuits) and 240 volts (2-phase circuits), the latter of which is needed for household appliances such as HVAC Units and dryers. Commercial wiring typically needs to carry heavier loads and uses a 3-phase electrical system that combines wires running 120 volts with wires running 208 volts (with the proper insulation, of course).

Different wiring for different needs

With the basic information just given in mind, the San Luis Obispo electrical contractor team presents the following scenarios:

  • Owners of homes built before 1970 may find themselves living with wiring that isn’t up to delivering the loads required by today’s appliances. Just the presence of electronic devices in the home has changed residential wiring needs over the past 30 years. Combining computers, home offices, digital devices that need charging, and the technological advances in household appliances, there’s a good chance what was adequate in 1969 isn’t today.
  • The term “commercial electrical wiring,” can be a bit misleading because the needs depend on the businesses that are occupying a building or business complex. For example, while a retail/business office complex has basic wiring needs that are the same as a medical complex, the differences require a great amount of knowledge and experience from the electrical contractor.
  • In multiple-use retail/business office complexes, flexibility is key. The electrical wiring must accommodate a variety of businesses with differing power needs and configurations. Here, a robust electrical infrastructure capable of supporting diverse loads and powering various equipment is crucial.
  • Medical complexes, for example, have stringent electrical requirements due to health and life-saving services. Precision, reliability, and redundancy are paramount to ensure continuous patient care and support critical medical equipment. The loads that are carried over the wiring have to service critical medical equipment, surgical rooms, and emergency equipment and provide safety and comfort for patients and employees. Sections of a medical complex, such as offices, have different requirements than diagnostic clinics. The wiring must be carefully planned out before construction begins. Detailed schematics are an absolute necessity to make sure everything is done correctly and to code, and to make it easier for any future repairs or upgrades.

There are different requirements among medical complexes, corporate complexes, and manufacturing, warehousing, and other industrial complexes. This is why we see clusters of medical centers, general commercial complexes, warehouses, and industrial/manufacturing complexes while we are driving around our hometowns. Part of the reason is government planning and zoning; the other reason is that clustering similar electrical needs makes wiring to supply electricity for different needs simpler and provides a higher level of service.

Electrical wiring in any setting must comply with strict regulations such as those outlined by the National Electrical Code (NEC). There’s much more involved than simply running electrical wires in the correct configurations to different appliances and equipment. Every electrical system has power distribution systems equipped with circuit breakers, surge protectors, outlets, and switches. Where a single-family residence may have only one breaker box that houses the circuit switches and connections, a commercial operation may have multiple panels and switchgear.    

The more versatile the electricians with an electrical contracting company are, the more reliable the quality of the work. The electrical contracting team from San Luis Obispo’s Electricraft has the experience and skill to meet any electrical wiring challenge that comes along.

Serving the electrical and solar needs of California’s Central Coast since 1984, the team is trained, experienced, and licensed to meet the demands of every electrical wiring need, from rewiring a living room lamp to complex new construction, inspections, troubleshooting, repairs, and upgrades.

Every project is unique and presents challenges different from the last project. Electricraft has been meeting every challenge with excellence for over 40 years. Projects include residential, and apartment complexes, a wide range of commercial and public works projects, public and residential EV stations, solar installations, medical, airports, and more.

Reach out today for a consultation about your electrical wiring questions and project!