Here’s the modern way to wire your house

At times, people don’t pay attention to how surrounding wires or electricity poles have been placed, yet, as seen in the picture, could be an accident in the making.

What you need to know:

Electricity is essential, yet, even when accessing it takes a lot of time and monetary investment, rarely do people pay attention to how they wire houses. Some will make decisions such as multiple sockets when they don’t need them but have seen others do it.

Immediately Juma Kanyike got the resources, he did not hesitate to embark on building a house. Entering his three-bedroom house last year was a huge relief having rented in Kibuli slums while studying at university and a few years into his working life.
Kanyike was specific on his tastes. “I only used double sockets,” he told us. But seeking the comfort of accessing power in almost every spot of the house, Kanyike ended up installing many more sockets than he needed. “It wasn’t worth it,” he realises, just a year after wiring his house.

Yet many others need to overhaul their wiring systems to fix even bigger errors due to wrong choices, quack engineers or outdated technology.

First things first
Lawrence Ssemakula, a seasoned electrician, whose clientele includes a big supermarket chain in Kampala, says that wiring is done in three phases.
The first involves fixing the conduits and MK boxes in the walls before the walls are plastered.

The second phase is when the cables are fitted into the conduits. And in the third and final phase, is when the switches, sockets and the lamps are installed.
Likewise, Ssemakula says, even labour is charged in phases, but recommends using the same electrical engineer through all the phases.
You might need solar power for the lamps and TV, and leave the high-wattage appliances like fridges and cookers, on hydro. So, Ssemakula adds, you need to incorporate the solar power system into your wiring, “such that whenever you want to use it, you don’t need to dig up the house.”

Put what where?
For the TV unit or data point in the sitting room, you need two double sockets, which give you four outlets for the audio-visual appliances like TVs, home theatre, DVDs, decoders and computers, instead of using extensions.
Inside the bedroom, you need a switch and a socket on either side of the bed (for husband and wife) for the bedside lamps which substitute the ceiling lamp. “If you need an additional lamp, fit it on wall brackets, not the ceiling.

“In the master bedroom, we install additional TV sockets and switches on the wall against your feet.”
Ssemakula adds, that you need at least one socket in the corridors for vacuum cleaners.
He recommends the main switch is installed in the kitchen, where you need one lamp; and four sockets, three above the worktop.
In the bathroom, you shall need a lamp above the basin and the mirror (the shaving unit).

Outside the bathroom, you might also need a socket for the bathroom heater, mounted on the wall or the ceiling.
Every pillar of the gate and every side of the house should have security lamps.
Outside the pillar nearing the minor gate is the ideal slot for the bell push, while the bell itself should be fixed in the kitchen, where there’s usually someone to answer the bell.
Meanwhile, the number and pattern of garden lamps depends on the size, terrain and shape of your compound.

Avoiding mistakes
Mistakes are hard to avoid. You either miss the important or insist on the irrelevant.
Kanyike has five double sockets in his bedroom and seven in the kitchen—those are 24 outlets in just two rooms.
“Now I know I didn’t need all these sockets, yet they cost me a lot,” he says.

Kanyike had also installed a double socket on the front shed but a neighbour advised him that that would be aiding intruders like burglars in case they attacked with drill machines. “We removed it before plastering,” he says.
Ironically, he had installed just one security light behind the house. “Yet I needed more,” he adds.

 Like Ssemakula recommended, Kanyike installed solar power to supplement the hydro system but forgot to do the earthing for the solar system. Recently, lightning burnt the solar panel and affected the people at home.
The electrician should be involved in the procurement process to advise on price, quality and quantity.
But some clients prefer buying the equipment themselves. However, sometimes they end up buying substandard equipment because it is cheaper.

Ssemakula understands the clients’ distrust “because many electrical engineers are quacks.”
“I have ever been hired to fix a house whose lights had failed because the electrician had not inserted the cables,” he says.
He also warns: some electrical equipment is expensive because it’s fancy but not worth it.
Equally important in every electrical system is earthing, to protect people from electric shocks and preventing damage to electrical appliances and devices by preventing excessive electric current from running through the circuit.

But Ssemakula discourages the “outdated technology” of adding salt to the earth rod or copper mat and charcoal dust.
“We used salt when I had just started, but on many sites we wired 20 years ago, occupants call us complaining of electric shock everywhere.
“Electricians should know that salt is no longer necessary, because, with time, it reacts with copper.”
Meanwhile, wiring should follow a parallel pattern to protect the conduits from being damaged by plumbers.
And most of the plumbing work, Ssemakula recommends, should be done at the back of the house.

Necessary luxuries
In modern homes, cameras are becoming as much a necessity as the barbed wire fence or the gateman.
Cameras don’t only record your errant house help but also catch burglars, kidnappers, trespassers among other intruders.
Ssemakula suggests one camera in the sitting room facing the entrance; one in the corridor; another in the face of the house and another facing the main gate.
Intra-house communication is equally important nowadays. Even in this age of the cellphone, housemates need intercom systems.

Lately, there are wireless cameras and intercom models but the wired ones are more affordable. “So add them to your wiring budget,” Ssemakula prescribes.
“It’s also better to add some USB compliant sockets, especially in the kitchen for one to charge their phone as they make the meals.”
Overhaul necessary, but expensive
Abubaker Byakika, a civil engineer for over two decades, observes that a lot in the electrical engineering sector has changed over the years. “Some types of wires and metallic conduits we used are now worn out and faulty; and must be replaced.”

Back then, Byakika adds, the inverter was the most affordable alternative to hydropower amid frequent blackouts, “But the inverter could only give you about 50 percent of the power it stored, yet you had to pay for all the units.”
Nowadays, solar power, which was very expensive about 10 years ago, is slowly becoming a cheaper option, “But fixing all that means digging up the house which is expensive.”
“I look at my sitting room and feel I need to change almost everything. The cupboards were designed with a space to accommodate the old-fashioned TV sets before the flat screen age.”