You just bought yourself a nice new clothes dryer! Good for you! How domestic and boring and pathetic. You'll be wanting to plug that in, right? Of course, you'll need to buy a cord for that-- just like, well, like no other appliance you'll ever buy
. When you shell out a few hundred for a dryer, you have to fork over another $25 for a cord to let you plug it in.
Of course, you'll also need something to plug it in to
Let's see what you have here. Your current dryer has conduit connecting directly from the breaker box to the dryer. We call this "hard wiring", and it's not good for some reason. The cord you need to buy has wires on one end and a big plug on the other. You need to install an outlet, which you'll wire directly to the breaker box. This will end up being exactly the same as the hard wiring except now you'll be able to unplug the dryer, which you'll never ever do.
Fortunately, installing a new outlet, or "receptacle", is an easy job you can do yourself. Like any other outlet, it's just a matter of screwing a couple of wires onto a couple of posts on the outlet, and mounting the outlet on the wall. Follow these simple steps:
1. Search online for "installing 240V outlet". You should find a step-by-step guide to installing your own outlet.
2. Okay, so all you found was a bunch of forum posts, people arguing about GFCI, and statements like "I'm not an electrician but here's what I'd consider...". That's okay. We're just screwing a couple wires onto a couple posts, after all.
3. Visit your local hardware store and buy a 240V outlet. You'll need to know if you need the three-prong or four-prong kind.
4. You don't know which you need, do you? That's okay. Try Googling "3 prong vs. 4 prong", and I'm sure you'll find your answer.
5. Did you find a bunch of forums with conflicting answers by non-electricians? That's okay. Go with your gut. 4 prongs sounds better, because it's grounded and newer and seemingly more up-to-code. Good choice.
6. Since you only have three wires in the conduit, you'll need to run an extra wire to the outlet for ground. Remember back to your days in Circuits I, and draw a little diagram. You got your two hot wires, each running 120v out of phase with each other, and your neutral wire, which is a center tap on the transformer. This gives you 240v across the hots, and 120v from either hot to neutral. Your drier needs both. The ground wire connects to the ground strip in the breaker box, and provides an alternative path to ground if, say, the body of the dryer somehow shorts out. That makes sense.
7. You probably want to be extra sure you understand the difference between ground and neutral. Go Google "ground vs. neutral". In a home circuit, the ground and neutral are bound at the main box, and then isolated from each other at all the subpanels. There's a screw on the neutral bar in each subpanel that binds the neutral bar to the ground bar. It's really important that this screw is removed, or else you're basically running the ground and neutral wires in parallel, which means you'll be running current through the ground wire and thus, energizing the very same metal appliance bodies you were trying to ground for safety.
9. Maybe the three-prong route is the way to go. That's what you have now, and the ground is just bolted to a water pipe. They still sell the 3-prong boxes, so it must be kind of up-to-code.
10. It's time to ask your buddies. They're always building garages and installing bathrooms and doing all kinds of complicated work on their houses. Approach each buddy and tell him your situation. Remember, you're really just connecting a couple wires to a couple of screws on the outlet. And maybe running that fourth ground wire, you know, for safety.
11. Your buddies all told you what a piece of cake it is to install a 240V outlet, right? You're kind of embarrassed that you even asked, as if you were asking how to screw in a lightbulb. No? They all got a worried look and said to call an electrician for "that electrical stuff"? These are techie guys, computer guys, house-improving guys, right? Did you explain to them about the simplicity of screwing three wires onto three posts? No go, huh?
12. How about that Don guy? He's some kinda-sorta certified electrician. Not here, but wherever it is he came from. He's certified there. Show him the little diagram you drew of your circuit, and how you just need to pull a fourth wire and connect it to the ground bar. Don will confirm that your circuit, and your understanding of alternating current, is correct. Ask him if this plan to run a new ground wire is actually legal, or just practically acceptable.
13. For an electrician, Don's got some interesting theories about ground wires, doesn't he? Kind of like a dentist telling you that the whole flossing thing is overrated.
14. Go back and read some more articles online. Especially that one that talked about energizing all the metal things in your house. Did you see that thing about how insurance might not cover fires that were the result of amateur wiring projects? That's talking about, like, major wiring projects. This is just connecting a couple of wires to a couple of screws.
15. Why not call a couple electricians and see what they charge for this sort of thing, hypothetically. Not that you're actually going to hire someone to attach three wires to three screws. Just, you know, to be informed.
16. The first company you called says it'll probably cost about $75, but they'll come out and give you an estimate for free. That sounds like a good idea. You can have an electrician look at the three wires, and tell you if it's any more complicated than attaching them to the three screws. If it is, then good thing you called a pro! If not, you can send him on his way and do the work yourself.
17. While the electrician is attaching the three wires to the three screws, chat with him about how the Indians will do against the Yankees, and introduce him to your cat.
18. Write out a check for $75.
Congratulations! You've just installed your first 240V electrical outlet. That wasn't so hard, was it?