48 Electric System Design

You need to make carefully thought out choices during new build and renovation projects. It starts with choosing the bricks for the outer walls, followed by the floor tiles or another type of floor covering. Next, you need to choose a kitchen, a bathroom, radiators, etc. For each of these choices, you will spend a couple of hours or even a half a day in a showroom, and that settles it.

Making choices about how your electric system should look and which functions it should have is much more difficult. In most cases, it is left up to the installer to make choices. Based on their experience, they will determine the number of power sockets, lighting fixtures and switches and where each should be placed. But will their choices meet your expectations? It’s a safe bet that the answer will mostly be no, even if the installer’s intentions were good. It is better to make your own design beforehand and then talk it through with the installer. They can give you the appropriate advice to make some changes or suggest some extensions. In the end, you will get a blueprint of an individualised system that will serve your needs far better.

Let’s be clear

We are assuming that a professional installer will build and install your electric system. They have the expertise and can ensure a safe installation. The DDIY (Don’t Do It Yourself) philosophy again applies here. Your design does not involve the electrical conduits and safety; it only concerns the number, location and functions you require.

How to get started

It is wise to put together a list of the various rooms in your home beforehand. List which fixed or mobile devices you want to use in each room. Locate the connections (power sockets, data sockets, coax connections, telephone sockets, etc.) for all of these devices on the floor plan (in pencil). We suggest you use the symbols illustrated to the right of this article.

Next, for each room, determine where and how many unused power sockets and other unused connections you want to add, and locate them on the floor plan as well. Bear in mind that the connections and power sockets are not useful when located behind furniture.

Lighting

You should start by locating the lighting fixtures in every room. Just add the right symbol on the floor plan. In the case of a wall-mounted lighting fixture, add the appropriate symbol right next to the wall.

If you opt for a traditional system, you can proceed by adding the switch symbol to the locations where you want to control a light. Use an arched line to connect the switches with the lighting fixtures they will operate. These lines have nothing to do with the conduits. They only visualise which switches are connected to which lighting fixtures. If you want to dim a light, use the appropriate dimmer symbol. When mapping the switches, you should carefully consider how you will walk through your home.

For systems with distance switches, draw a button instead of a switch, and also connect it by means of an arched line with the lighting fixture it will be operating. There is no need to draw arched lines in the event of an IHS (Integrated Home System). In this case, use the button symbol and add a number. The lighting fixtures also get a number. In the spread sheet, list the numbers of the buttons, and in each row add the lighting fixture or group of lighting fixtures it will operate and with which function (on/off, time-controlled, dimmed to a certain percentage, local atmosphere, etc.).

Other symbols

Finally, add the symbols for the shutters and sunscreens (motor symbol), fans, air conditioning, speakers, motion detectors, door communications system, etc. to the floor plans.

A tool as a resource

An easy tool to help you with your design, is the independent, ECI-developed ‘Checklist for the electrical installation in the home'.

Finally

When you have finished your preparatory work, you go through it all with your installer. They can eliminate all of the mistakes and suggest additional functions, numbers and locations. Following this approach will give your installer a clear understanding of what the installer needs to foresee, enabling them to supply you with a customised offer. This will ensure you know what you will get and at what price.

Common electric symbols (E&D Systems)
A list of commonly-used electric symbols. Click to enlarge. (Courtesy of E&D Systems.)
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