Home Office Wiring Basics
by Damien Andrews
Home offices are springing up like garden weeds in the springtime. Most often, today’s home offices are installed in an unused bedroom or a small room in a finished basement. Unfortunately, the selected rooms rarely have adequate electrical power to meet the needs of the new office. There’s an easy, relatively inexpensive fix for this frequent problem.
The modern home office has numerous electrical devices such as computers, screens, modems, switchers, copiers, scanners and laser printers. On occasion, home offices also have some small machinery such as folders and labeling systems. All of these devices will use 110-volt power. Many will use transformers. Almost without exception, none of these electrical devices will consume great amounts of power. With this said, let’s fix the problem.
Start by selecting the best wall for the installation of new 110-volt electrical receptacles. The wall should be convenient to the majority of the devices. Once that’s done, decide exactly where on the wall you want the new receptacles installed. Mark that location.
Now you’ll need to contact three electricians or electrical contractors in your area. Always get bids from three different contractors on your electrical work. The installation of receptacles is not a tricky task. Any qualified electrician can do it. Shop for price!
Tell the bidders that you want two “dedicated lines” run from two new 20-amp circuit breakers to the marked location on the wall. The closer the office is to your main power panel, the less costly this will be. Also tell the electricians that you want the heavier-duty 20-amp grounded receptacles, with standard plug configurations. You will want all four of the receptacles (two duplex receptacles) in one 4” x 4” box – not two separate 2” x 4” boxes. This will save you money.
Once you’ve made your choice of electricians, based on the bids, have the installation work done.
You now have four new receptacles on the wall. Each pair of receptacles will be side-by-side. You have oodles of clean power available in your office now – likely as much or more than kitchen.
One of the problems with home office wiring is that many devices use transformers. Multiple transformers don’t fit on receptacles very well because they are oversized. Now we can fix this.
Go to your hardware, computer or electrical store and purchase the necessary number of 110-volt power taps to fill your needs. Power taps plug in and then accept several plugs, providing power to each. I like the ‘relocatable power tap’ that Ace Hardware sells. It has six receptacles, a very long, heavy cord and an on-board power switch with a light. The best thing about this power tap is that the six receptacles are spaced very nicely for plugging in multiple transformers – even large ones. They’re also inexpensive.
Chances are that your home office will need two or more power taps installed for safety and convenience. Plug the power taps into the receptacles you had installed so as to balance the power consumption between the two dedicated lines: left side and right side. Run the power taps’ cords along the bottom of the walls until you get the taps where you want them. Secure the taps to the wall at a convenient height – most taps have provisions just for this. Now, attach the cords to the walls using nice plastic wire clips.
Now all you have to do is plug in all of your office paraphernalia, properly bundle excess wiring with small wire ties and get to work.
Everything in your home office will have plenty of clean power, and since your lines are dedicated, you won’t cause any interference to TVs – and they won’t cause any interference to your equipment. You can add surge protection and/or UPS systems as you desire and require.
NOTE: many laser printers, especially the larger color printing units, are real power gluttons. It is best if you plug these items directly into the receptacle on the wall. This is also true for any heavy machinery. Heavy duty extension cords (12/2 with ground) running directly from the wall receptacles can also be used. Always make sure that any cords are out of harm’s way.