Some home electrical repairs require a licensed electrician, but the repair or replacement of many electrical components can be done by a do-it-yourselfer. Make safety your first priority, and you'll be amazed at what you can do to maintain and upgrade the electrical devices in your home.
All electrical devices and electrical wires are designed to provide the greatest measure of electrical safety, but you can defeat any built-in safeguards with carelessness and ignorance. To work safely with electricity, be aware of the following hazards and precautions:
Never do anything that would break the conductor's insulation. Do not, for example, staple an extension cord to a baseboard or wall. The staple can cut through the insulation and create a short circuit, which, in turn, can start a fire. Moreover, you should examine all wiring regularly and discard any cord with brittle insulation. Replace the old cord with a new one that has good insulation.
Turn the power off before replacing a receptacle or a switch or doing any other work on a circuit. If your system operates with fuses, remove the fuse for the circuit you're working on and slip it into your pocket or toolbox. If you leave it nearby, someone might put the fuse back in while you're working on the circuit. If your home's electrical system uses circuit breakers, trip the appropriate circuit breaker to its OFF position. Then, to make sure no one accidentally flips the circuit breaker back on while you're working, put a piece of tape and a sign over the circuit breaker's handle telling people what you're doing.
When you work on an electrical circuit, make all wire joints and connections inside an approved electrical box. There are several ways to join wires, but the best way is to use solderless connectors of either the crimp-on or screw-on wirenut kind. Never connect wires together in a behind-the-wall or in-the-ceiling location that is not accessible by simply opening an electrical box. In addition, when joining insulated wires to one another or when fastening them under terminal screws, make sure no uninsulated or bare wire extends beyond the connection. The insulation should go right up to the solderless connector or terminal screw.
Everyone in the family should know where and how to throw the master switch that cuts off all electrical current.
- If there's a chance of contact between water and electricity, do not wade in water until the master switch has been shut off.
- Always assume an electrical receptacle or apparatus is energized until you prove otherwise with a circuit tester or by pulling a fuse or tripping the disconnect plug.
- Use only insulated pliers when working with electricity.
- Stand on a dry board or wooden platform when working with a fuse box or circuit breaker box. Also, use a wooden rather than an aluminum stepladder to minimize the risk of shock when working with electrical wiring.
- You can save time by determining which electrical circuits activate which receptacles in your home and then diagramming or printing the information inside the circuit breaker or fuse box.