Where are cool places to have electricity in a house?
June 21, 2010 7:18 AM   Subscribe

Building a house, we're meeting with the electrician tomorrow to talk about where to put outlets/wire runs. I'm looking for interesting places that we may want to put wiring.

Since the walls are open now, this is the time to do things we really want. I have some ideas (high up outlets above the cabinets for Christmas lights, reading lights above the bed) and some things that I just don't know if they make sense (hiding the Wifi router up high somewhere may make the signal better?).

Does anyone have any advice/suggestions/examples for what we may want our electrician to do?
posted by cmm to Home & Garden (43 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
A weatherproof outdoor outlet on each side of the house is a huge help.
posted by electroboy at 7:26 AM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

When our house was being built, I knew I wanted to have the room that would be my office configured in such a way that I could have a desk in the middle of the room rather than against a wall, so I had them put an outlet in the floor. So now all my stuff plugs in under the desk in the middle of the room, with no wires trailing to the walls or anything.
posted by mothershock at 7:26 AM on June 21, 2010

If you have long hallways, having regularly-spaced outlets in them helps with vacuuming.

An outdoor outlet or two on the roof is awesome if you hang outdoor Christmas lights.
posted by xingcat at 7:33 AM on June 21, 2010

In the middle of a wall for mounted flat screen. Also an HDMI/Coax outlet for cable.
posted by Busmick at 7:34 AM on June 21, 2010

I'm going to second the weatherproof outdoor outlets. I've only got one outlet in the garage, and it makes using corded yard equipment really frustrating.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:41 AM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

In your bedroom it makes sense to have plenty of non-switched outlets near where nightstand tables will be. If you consider lamps, clocks, cordless phone bases, charging mobiles, etc. there can be a lot of things to plugin.

In your kitchen there should be ideally 2 if not 4 outlets in front of each workspace on the counter top. Kitchen appliances often have very short cords. This same advice applies if you have a space in the basement that is meant to be a workshop.

This isn't electric related but you should consider wiring for surround sound as well as running network cables from tv locations to a central place where your network gear will be located.
posted by mmascolino at 7:43 AM on June 21, 2010

While the walls are open, you may as well run Cat5 or Cat6 Ethernet wire to each room. You wouldn't have to worry about wifi strength then.
posted by Gridlock Joe at 7:43 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

2nding outdoor outlets (Xmas lights, power tools, party music ....)

Outlet on/behind any mantles over fireplaces or similar decorative spots; you may want to deck the halls with boughs of holly and Xmas lights, or you may put a decorative lamp there, or a digital photo frame ...

My mom also had outlets installed in the floor in the middle of a family room addition; they're awesome. She had them put near where she knew the end tables would be so lamp cords plug right down into the ground, but they're also great for laptops and things so you don't have cords across half the room!

We have a built-in desk in a dormer window upstairs (it is currently a changing table!) and having an outlet put in the "wall" of the dormer at the desk height was great, both for lamps and for computers. (Not so much for tiny people trying to stick their fingers in it during diaper changes, but that's what outlet covers are for.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:44 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh and double the outdoor outlets on each side of the house.
posted by mmascolino at 7:44 AM on June 21, 2010

n-thing floor and outdoor outlets. And depending on how big your lot is, consider an outdoor outlet away from the house.
posted by allelopath at 7:46 AM on June 21, 2010

Bathroom closet for shaver charger, dustbuster, etc.
posted by buttercup at 7:51 AM on June 21, 2010

I have electrical outlets in a few closets, placed at the same height as a wall switch. They are great when vacuuming (check your local zoning regulations though, some places do not allow this).
posted by bCat at 7:53 AM on June 21, 2010

If you think you might ever want a back-up generator, you could wire for it now.

If you have any built-in bookshelves, a light at the top of the alcove can look nice.

Don't forget to put co-ax outlets in the corners of the living/TV area just in case you want to change the location of your set.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:54 AM on June 21, 2010

Just a basic thing, but having multiple outlets per wall, especially in the bedroom and living room where you're likely to put furniture and have a lot of electronics, is very useful. I think the guy who did our house said one every 6 feet or so. I was skeptical at first but it makes things so much easier.

Make sure to have at least one and preferably two outlets right next to any cable outlets and at least one outlet next to any phone jacks.

Don't forget counter-height outlets in the kitchen and bathrooms. (Have you chosen your counters yet?) But also don't forget floor-level kitchen outlets too. If you have a kitchen island, you'll want to wire an outlet up into that as well. You can really not have enough outlets in a kitchen.

Outdoor outlets are pretty important.

You may want to talk about whether you want any outlets that are controlled by wall switches.

If you have an office, you may consider the floor outlet as described by mothershock.

Also consider if you're going to want ceiling fans, if he's going to want to wire them in at the same time.
posted by Night_owl at 7:55 AM on June 21, 2010

an Outlet INSIDE cupboards / closets for say storing a fileserver / backup hard-drive etc...

or in the kitchen some devices could conceivably be run from insde a cupboard.
posted by mary8nne at 7:55 AM on June 21, 2010

The nice thing about new houses is that code pretty much makes you put outlets all over the place but you're wise to think of specific places.

Think of any special appliances you have. We have a stand mixer in a fold-up shelf in its own cabinet and luckily we thought of putting an outlet in there so when you fold it up it's ready to use. Otherwise we would have had to plug it in every time. First world problem, I know, but it really is a time saver.

Do you use a deep fryer or food processor? Where will you be using it? Put an outlet there. Fryers don't have very long cords.

Where is the Christmas tree going to go? (I know you said lights, so you've probably thought of the tree)

Will your TV be wall-mounted? If so, you'll want an outlet up where the TV will hang. You might want to put in an RJ-45 jack or two in the same spot as more and more TVs now have net access. Better still, put a big fat piece of conduit leading up to where the TV will go for any future cable types.

Do you decorate for Halloween? Put some outlets by the door for the fog machine/spooky music. This stuff sounds silly until you don't have it and you need it.

Will you have a floor lamp in the middle of your living room? You can put an outlet in the floor.

Do you know where your desks will go? Put outlets at desk height so you don't have to crawl on the floor to plug stuff in.

Do you have any rechargeable things like a Dustbuster or cordless drill? Do you use rechargeable batteries for things? Put an outlet in a closet or pantry for these things so they're always charged up and ready to use yet hidden away.

Do you have power tools in the basement? Put an outlet on the ceiling above where the table saw or other tools will live.

Garage door opener in your future? You'll need an outlet in the garage ceiling.

A lot of this will depend on what furniture / appliances you have. Take inventory and think about where things will go.

Put quad outlets at desk areas or anywhere there might be a bunch of things plugged in. Quads where the TV or stereo will go. Even with surge protectors you'll want the extra outlets.

Do you have a fireplace mantle? Put an outlet on top for a small stereo. Will you be using a fireplace insert or anything else with a fan? You'll want an outlet within a foot or two of the fireplace.

Outdoor outlets: Put one near patios or where the grill will be. Where will you plug in your christmas lights? Have an outdoor outlet with an indoor switch so you can turn them off and on.

Bath fans on timer switches RULE. Press the ten minute button, take your shower and don't worry about turning the fan off.

Where will the floor lights go? Do they need to be controlled by switches when you enter the room?

Put an outlet near the electrical panel on its own circuit. If you do any future wiring in the basement (and you will) this allows you to turn everything off and still use power tools and additional lights while you work. I keep my routers/wifi on this circuit.

Outlets in the porch for reading lamps or fans.

Do you weld? Do you expect to ever weld? Put a 220v outlet in the garage near the door.

Do you have kids? Will you have kids? Where will their computers live?

Where do you keep you phone/laptop to charge? Quad outlets.

Nightlights on the stairs landing? Outlet.

Do you need lighting over any artwork? Outlet.

You can get clock outlets, which are recessed so you can put the clock over the outlet to keep from having a cord snaking down.

Any out buildings like a shed or garage? You'll need a trench dug but water and/or outlets in/near these buildings is HUGE.
posted by bondcliff at 7:57 AM on June 21, 2010 [3 favorites]

The previous owners put lights in our pantry and cleaning closets. They are keyed to the door openings, and turn off when you close the door. Both closets are in the kitchen, but a little deep, so the lights are helpful.

The same owners also put a hole in the floor where they put their Christmas tree so that cords could be run down directly behind the tree and managed from the basement, rather than putting an outlet right by the tree (hard to actually get to through branches) or running extension cords through a heavily-trafficked room.

We put outlets in our medicine cabinets for charging electric toothbrushes and shavers without having to leave them out by the sink all the time. Linen closets and kids closets are also good candidates for lights since they can get overfilled easily. An outlet in the cleaning closet would be great for keeping the dustbuster charged. If any of your tools are cordless, think about whether you could build the outlets into their storage spaces. That way you can pull them out fully charged, rather than having to leave them out on the floor or counter somewhere while charging.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:58 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Crawlspace and/or attic.
posted by iamabot at 8:05 AM on June 21, 2010

Signal wiring and electrical wiring are two different things, of course, but consider installing a structured wiring panel in a closet (or garage, whatever). And of course, installing an electrical outlet in that closet (the panel itself may have a punchout for an outlet). You can even get fancy medical-grade power-conditioning outlets to avoid cluttering the closet with a surge suppressor.

These panels are normally hung between two studs, so you'll need to ensure that the studs line up so that when the panel is installed, it is accessible.

Also on the signal-wiring tip, you might want to run speaker wire in the walls so that you can have a second set of speakers somewhere else in the house. Wireless products like Sonos exist to make this unnecessary, but running your own wiring before the drywall is up is cheaper.
posted by adamrice at 8:08 AM on June 21, 2010

My garage has a closet for a freezer with a dedicated circuit for the outlet (house was built by an electrician). Too bad our freezer doesn't fit...
posted by galadriel at 8:08 AM on June 21, 2010

Oh, the electrician who built our house also put in wiring for an alarm system to all the doors and windows when he built it. Another thing to consider while you've got the walls open.
posted by galadriel at 8:09 AM on June 21, 2010

We used to have an outlet that my husband wired up by the bathroom ceiling. It was hooked to the bathroom main light switch. For bathroom ceiling Christmas lights. Of awesomeness.

Also, my friends got closet lights that turn on when they open the door, like a refrigerator. Not good if you want to get in the closet and close the door, though.

Wire lots of kitchen cabinet lights - in them, under them, anywhere you can put them.
posted by artychoke at 8:10 AM on June 21, 2010

Lots of outdoor outlets sounds good. I would probably ask to have the outdoor outlets on switches as well. If you don't ever need to switch the power, nothing lost. But if you do ever need to switch the power, it will be nice to have.

I don't know what it does for the cost, but in my home, there are a number of walls where code required one outlet in the middle. In almost all cases, I would have preferred two outlets on those walls. I just hate the look of a lamp on a table with its cord hanging off to one side, stretched to the one side to reach the outlet.

For home entertainment stuff, I would do two things. One, yes, have him install facilities for surround speakers and whatnot. But don't just have him run speaker cable- have him install fat conduit so you can run wires later for whatever future ideas you might have. Same thing for coax and network cables. Nothing is nicer than being able to easily fish that second cable you didn't think you'd need at a later date. Second, I'm sure you know where the TV is going to go, right? Well, think about where you might want to move the TV at some later date. I know I'd hate to spend the extra money to have outlets placed for a TV, only to realize a year later that I'd have preferred the TV on the other wall.

In a perfect world, I'd have him install a power outlet in the middle of each wall at TV height, along with those empty junction boxes right next to each one. If you aren't going to use that wall for a TV, you might want to use it for an LCD picture frame. You can cover the ones you aren't using with standard pictures too. Further, the empty junction boxes in the corner of each wall so that speakers can be placed there if the need arises.

Speaking of empty conduit, if you have a basement or a mechanical room, think ahead to how you are going to lay it out. Have the empty conduits all terminate in one place where you can install the cable modem, router, etc., that is out of the way.

Also run some empty conduit up to the corner of the house where you might someday want to install a satellite or antenna.

I also love the idea of strategically placed floor outlets, that's a great idea. Those are the kinds of details that make a home "feel" a lot nicer and more usable.

Also, more outlets than you think you'd need in the garage. You never know when the woodworking bug might strike...
posted by gjc at 8:11 AM on June 21, 2010

The greatest closet I ever had in all of ever had a spring-loaded pressure switch in the jamb. When you open the door, light goes on. Close the door, light goes off.

Also, the light was old school and hung down on the wire with the twisty-off thing, so you could turn if off manually if, say, you really wanted to chill with your closet open for a long time.

That's not an outlet---but it's something that's awesome and it involves electricity.
posted by TomMelee at 8:16 AM on June 21, 2010

Consider sub-panels in various closets of the house. It is much easier to turn circuits on and off if you are in the same area of the house. No more yelling, "Did it go off? How about now?"

With those weatherproof outlets under the eaves, have them run to a single switch inside the house so you can turn your Christmas lights on and off from one spot in any weather.

In the kitchen, decide how many outlets you need over the counter space and then double it.

Consider outlets in strategic places throughout the house dedicated to plugging in rechargeable flashlights. When the power goes out there is always a fresh flashlight close at hand. Ours come on automatically when the power goes out.
posted by Old Geezer at 8:22 AM on June 21, 2010

I've got a light-switch in our front closet for the outside Christmas lights (if you're into that sort of thing).

If you have hardwood floors, electrical outlets on the floor make it a lot easier to place furniture, especially in the bed room if you want to have furniture/beds right up against the wall.

If you're a computer nerd, get a random closet (or space under the stairs) outfitted with electrical plugs, and presto: Instant server/electronics rack. Running cat5e cable here is very useful as well. I keep our wireless router, cable modem, and network storage here.

If you're thinking about building a home theater room, put an electrical plug in the ceiling near where your projector will go.

Electrical plugs and or lights under kitchen cabinets.

Your profile doesn't list your location, but if it's a cold climate, get a plug put in near where you park your car outside in case you need to plug in a block heater.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:32 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Put one GFI outlet right over your workbench: I use mine to run the chargers for my hand tools when the batteries die, but it was also handy for running the pump when the entire state of Rhode Island flooded 90 days ago and our basement flooded. :7(

If you put in exterior outlets, consider adding a switch inside the house so you don't have to go oustide to turn on your lights: sweet!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:33 AM on June 21, 2010

Oh, also, under the sink for a garbage disposal. Special outlets for a built-in-vacuum cleaner and/or air conditioner and furnace-attached humidifier.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:34 AM on June 21, 2010

When we built our house, I thought to put dual light switches by both the front entrance and by the kitchen to control all the lights in the living room from both the sides of the room. I never thought to p ut switches at the bottom of the stairs and now every night when I go up to bed I kick myself for not thinking to put them there as well. Also "switched outlets" can be a pain, unless you are positive you are going to use that outlet only for plugging in a lamp that you will want to switch on and off by a wall switch. The developer really pushed "switched outlets" and if not thoughtfully placed, they can be annoying as hell.
posted by Lylo at 8:46 AM on June 21, 2010

Make sure there are sufficient outlets in your master bathroom. We have only one for a double vanity, and it's very limiting.
posted by FergieBelle at 8:48 AM on June 21, 2010

Door bell / Chime kit - hard-wired into the main electrical system

Inter-locking hard-wired smoke detectors

have them run all phone and cable TV wires - then the wires will be in the walls.

3way switches - that is a light that is controlled by more than one switch. electricians are only required to have one switch per light - but sometimes, in halls and some other rooms, having multiple switch locations for one light is a good thing

light, switch, and receptacle plug in the attic.
posted by Flood at 8:59 AM on June 21, 2010

I read somewhere to put kitchen outlets on the underneath side of the upper cabinets. Looks sleeker and easier to install backsplash.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:01 AM on June 21, 2010

If you have a shop of any kind, I prefer my outlets at bench height rather than low on the floor.
posted by mearls at 9:05 AM on June 21, 2010

Consider an outlet that you would use for a charging station for electronics (cell phones etc). You'd plug in a extension bar with a switch. You'd flip the switch when you were done to cut the demand from the power supplies.
posted by notned at 9:06 AM on June 21, 2010

Get more power than you think you'll need. When we had our wiring redone, we went for 200 amps as opposed to 100, with about 10 empty slots on the circuit panel, for room to grow.

Also think about how you want the circuits wired. Do you want to do one for each room, so you can shut off the living room electricity, while still keeping the dining room power?

If you get ceiling fans, don't put them all on the same circuit, as the room, so again, if you have to shut off power to that room, there's still a ceiling fan for a breeze. Not a big thing, but can matter for those rare times you need it.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:11 AM on June 21, 2010

mary8nne writes "an Outlet INSIDE cupboards / closets for say storing a fileserver / backup hard-drive etc...

"or in the kitchen some devices could conceivably be run from insde a cupboard."

Watch what you call these and avoid in the kitchen. Code in Canada anyways requires outlets in kitchen cupboards to be part of a commercial listed enclosure that ensures the outlet is turned off when the door is closed. This is to reduce the chance of fire from toasters and other heat producing appliances if they were to accidentally be left on and the door closed.

gjc writes "I don't know what it does for the cost, but in my home, there are a number of walls where code required one outlet in the middle. In almost all cases, I would have preferred two outlets on those walls. I just hate the look of a lamp on a table with its cord hanging off to one side, stretched to the one side to reach the outlet."

It costs about $15 (parts and labour) for each plug added at the rough in stage. Canadian code requires a plug every 12' on any wall longer than 3'. Personally I'd drop that to every 6' in general rooms, every 4' in offices and every 2' in kitchens and workrooms. Bathrooms should have double outlets

A 30A 110/220V receptacle (IE: 4 prongs on the plug) on the outside of your garage/carport/parking space will allow one to plug a welder in and an RV. A water and sewer hoop up there too is really handy.

Run 14/3 for wired in smoke detectors in each room.

Run 14/3 into every ceiling fixture from every switch box so you can add either ceiling fans or two level lighting when ever you want.

An outdoor switched outlet(s) is nice. If your main floor isn't the ground floor it is nice to be able to turn on your outdoor light from the main floor.

Run wire for A/C even if you don't have A/C.

A wall clock outlet can be tapped off you fridge circuit.

Set up a com closet with multiple outlets and coax and network feeds.
posted by Mitheral at 9:18 AM on June 21, 2010

Lylo writes "Also 'switched outlets' can be a pain, unless you are positive you are going to use that outlet only for plugging in a lamp that you will want to switch on and off by a wall switch. The developer really pushed 'switched outlets' and if not thoughtfully placed, they can be annoying as hell."

The best way to do this is to only switch half the outlet. Also this is less of a problem if one just installs more outlets.
posted by Mitheral at 9:21 AM on June 21, 2010

If you have any vaulted ceilings and code requires you to have smoke detectors placed at the top of the ceiling...you may be like us, without a ladder tall enough to reach it. Get the electrician to either wire the detector to run without batteries or even run a wire to a box so you can change the battery on the ground rather than spend two weeks trying to borrow your brother's 13" ladder for a simple yearly chore. I don't know if the remote battery change is up to code, but it sounded like a brilliant idea at the time.
posted by ninjakins at 10:09 AM on June 21, 2010

Remember that nearly everything is now rechargeable—shaver, sweeper, phones, flashlights, cameras, etc, etc. Think about where you want to charge these things. Then put outlets everywhere else, too.

I read about an electrician that installed an outlet in a nightstand drawer, for the rechargeable sexy-time toys.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 10:57 AM on June 21, 2010

I wish I'd have placed an outlet box under the eave at each corner of my house for motion activated floodlights.
posted by torquemaniac at 11:45 AM on June 21, 2010

Where might you put a dehumidifier? I wish I had a convenient outlet for mine. Near the door you'll use most, or in a central hall, put in a plug for a charging station for mobile phones. I have a tv, dvd player, stereo, and wii using a metric crapload of plugs. Max out the outlets near any entertainment area.

It might save some electricity to have a good combination of switched and non- outlets for "power zombies," all that stuff that stays plugged in, gets a trickle of juice, and does nothing.
posted by theora55 at 1:00 PM on June 21, 2010

While rooms should have a lot of outlets, one thing you should probably aim for is that they are on at least two separate circuits.

This helps if you ever want run more than heavy power user in a room, and still gives you some power in a room when a circuit trips or is on the fritz.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 6:43 PM on June 21, 2010

While the walls are open, you may as well run Cat5 or Cat6 Ethernet wire to each room. You wouldn't have to worry about wifi strength then.

Please, please do this. Really!! In fact, you might as well make it a pair of ethernet wires and one or two coaxial wires. Two ethernet because it also makes great phone/intercom wire, if that is relevant. The second coaxial might be overkill nowadays, but at one time it was very useful for feeding camera signals from baby monitors and such.
posted by Chuckles at 7:33 PM on June 21, 2010

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