A schematic shows the plan and function for an electrical circuit, but is not concerned with the physical layout of the wires. Wiring diagrams show how the wires are connected and where they should located in the actual device, as well as the physical connections between all the components.
Most symbols used on a wiring diagram look like abstract versions of the real objects they represent. For example, a switch will be a break in the line with a line at an angle to the wire, much like a light switch you can flip on and off. A resistor will be represented with a series of squiggles symbolizing the restriction of current flow. An antenna is a straight line with three small lines branching off at its end, much like a real antenna.
Each type of switch has a different symbol and so do the various outlets. There are symbols that show the location of smoke detectors, the doorbell chime, and thermostat. On large projects symbols may be numbered to show, for example, the panel board and circuit to which the device connects, and also to identify which of several types of fixture are to be installed at that location.
Associated circuit protection, control and distribution devices within a building wiring system are subject to voltage, current and functional specification. Wiring safety codes vary by locality, country or region. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is attempting to harmonise wiring standards amongst member countries, but significant variations in design and installation requirements still exist.
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