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1. the network of wires used in an electrical system, device, or circuit
2. the quality or condition of such a network
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


The connecting of electrical conductors to form circuits to fixtures, outlets, and equipment.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


The installation and utilization of a system of wire for conduction of electricity. Also known as electric wiring.
A forming process in which the edge of a sheet-metal part is rolled over a wire to produce a tubular rim containing the wire.
(science and technology)
A system of wires.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


A system of electric conductors, components, and apparatus for conveying electric power from source to the point of use. In general, electric wiring for light and power must convey energy safely and reliably with low power losses, and must deliver it to the point of use in adequate quantity at rated voltage. Electric wiring systems are designed to provide a practically constant voltage to the load within the capacity limits of the system. There are a few exceptions, notably series street-lighting circuits which operate at constant current. The building wiring system originates at a source of electric power, conventionally the distribution lines or network of an electric utility system.

Systems and service

Wiring systems are generally three-phase to conform to the supply systems. Energy is transformed to the desired voltage levels by a bank of three single-phase transformers. The transformers may be connected in either a delta or Y configuration.

Service provided at the primary voltage of the utility distribution system, typically 13,800 or 4160 volts, is termed primary service. Service provided at secondary or utilization voltage, typically 120/208 or 277/480 volts, is called secondary service.

Service at primary voltage levels is often provided for large industrial, commercial, and institutional buildings, where the higher voltage can be used to advantage for power distribution within the buildings. Where primary service is provided, power is distributed at primary voltage from the main switchboard through feeders to load-center substations installed at appropriate locations throughout the building.

Most secondary services in the United States are 120/ 208 volts, three-phase, four-wire, or 120/240 volts, single-phase, three-wire serving both light and power. For relatively large buildings where the loads are predominantly fluorescent lighting and power (as for air conditioning), the service is often 277/480 volts, three-phase, four-wire, supplying 480 volts for power and 277 volts, phase-to-neutral, for the lighting fixtures.

From the service entrance, power is carried in feeders to the main switchboard, then to distribution panelboards. Smaller feeders extend from the distribution panelboards to light and power panelboards. Branch circuits then carry power to the outlets serving the various lighting fixtures, plug receptacles, motors, or other utilization devices.


Methods of wiring in common use for light and power circuits are as follows: (1) insulated wires and cables in raceways; (2) nonmetallic sheathed cables; (3) metallic armored cables; (4) busways; (5) copper-jacketed, mineral-insulated cables; (6) aluminum-sheathed cables; (7) nonmetallic sheathed and armored cables in cable support systems; and (8) open insulated wiring on solid insulators (knob and tube).

The selection of the wiring method or methods is governed by a variety of considerations, which usually include code rules limiting the use of certain types of wiring materials; suitability for structural and environmental conditions; installation (exposed or concealed); accessibility for changes and alterations; and costs.

Circuit design

The design of a particular wiring system is developed by considering the various loads, establishing the branch-circuit and feeder requirements, and then determining the service-entrance requirements. Outlets for lighting fixtures, motors, portable appliances, and other utilization devices are indicated on the building plans and the load requirement of each outlet noted in watts or horsepower. Lighting fixtures and plug receptacles are then grouped on branch circuits and connections to the lighting panelboard indicated.

Lighting branch circuits may be loaded to 80% of circuit capacity. However, there is a reasonable probability that the lighting equipment will be replaced at some future time by equipment of higher output and greater load. Therefore, in modern practice, lighting branch circuits are loaded only to about 50% capacity. Lighting branch circuits are usually rated at 20 A. Smaller 15-A branch circuits are used mostly in residences.

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Engineering. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.