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Never Assume Power is Out: Avoiding a Shocking Revelation

June 12, 2013

receptacle tester Although we would love to live in a perfect world where the wiring within a home is soundly assembled by the builders and/or previous residents, it’s not always the case. While the common man may think that a wiring project may have some kind of individual logic behind it, circumstances cause previous installers to change plans accordingly. This could mean that although a circuit breaker may be labeled “bathroom,” the room itself could also be tapped into a separate power line other than the one labeled.

1. Lights Out – As you flip the break switch, the lights may go out in the room you wish to work on. This is in no way a guarantee that the power in the room is completely off. The lights could have simply been on a separate circuit other than the power sockets. You would be shocked to realize how often corners are cut when it comes to installing wiring, especially within units that have been built with room extensions at a later date.

2. Socket Tester – Once you’ve flipped the breaker switch, it is always a good idea to plug an inexpensive tester into the socket you are working on. This will immediately tell you if the power is on or not. Of course, if the socket is bad and the reason why you are working on it, you may have to utilize other methods to test the lines. Meters can be purchased for less than $100 that will notify you of existing power as you touch the probes to the actual copper lines connected to the socket. Just make sure you buy one that can handle the load as you can easily blow the meter out if improperly used.

3. Clearly Labeled – If you have a situation where breaker circuits are leading to various parts of the house, make sure you clearly label what is being controlled by the switch as you discover the true shut-off point. Sometimes, we can be in a hurry to complete a job and not realize that future problems can be avoided if the switch is true to the location in question.

Never write these labels in pencil, either. Pencil-lead will breakdown faster and make the label difficult to read as time passes. For situations that require re-writing labels, use actual sticky labels to cover up old pen descriptions. Keeping this information as current as possible can save yourself and the next person a great deal of time looking for the right switch.

4. Master Switch – If your electrician did his or her job correctly, there should be a master switch that disables the power in your home. This switch could be in a variety of locations including the attic or basement and not necessarily located with the actual breaker-box. Once this switch is flipped, all power within the home is completely shut down. Aside from having the power company disable your power, this is the only sure way to know that there is no longer electricity flowing throughout your home or office.

When it comes to electricity, assuming the power is off could put yourself at grave risk. Unless you installed every line yourself, there is no way to tell where actual lines lead without tearing into your walls and ceiling. Many of us take for granted the true potentials of electricity beyond that it’s used to make our TVs work. Always use caution as it is prudent to spend the time ensuring the power is off before you put the screwdriver to the socket for repairs.
This is a guest post by Liz Nelson from She is a freelance writer and blogger from Houston. Questions and comments can be sent to: liznelson17 @

Things you Need to Know before Installing an Irrigation System

April 6, 2013

sprinkler head Kentucky Bluegrass, Red Fescue, Bentgrass, Buffalograss, clay soil, sandy soil, there is a lot to take in regarding your lawn. Knowing just how to water your lawn to achieve that optimal color and health can be an exact science depending on your soil and grass type. The easiest solution to create your dream lawn is to install an automatic sprinkler system. While this will help ease your burden, there’s quite a bit that needs to go into planning an irrigation system. If you’re ready to do the planning and preparation needed to install your sprinkler system, here are a few things you’ll need to do before you install your system.

Check for Underground Utilities
Before you even think about planting your shovel into your yard, you need to check for any underground utility lines that may be in your yard. Not only is this a serious safety measure a homeowner must take, but it is a requirement by law. Before you ever begin digging on your property, you must contact your utility providers, as some utilities are not very far beneath the surface. If you think you can get away with digging, stop; even a shallow dig can get you in a world of trouble with law enforcement, and can create an immense headache for you if you do hit a utility line.

Digging before you know where your utilities are located puts you and your family in danger. Calling your utility providers and having them map out where all of your utility lines run underground will protect you from injury and prevents damages to your utility services, disruptions, and potential repair costs. You may have called your utility providers for a past dig, but don’t assume because your providers have come out to your home before that you’re in the clear. Every job requires a call to your providers to ensure your safety and the neighborhood’s utility services.

Do you Need a Permit?
Did you know that most localities require you to obtain a building permit in order to install an irrigation system? Most homeowners overlook this process, and find themselves paying a large fine as a result. You may be wondering, “Why do I need a building permit if I’m installing something underground on my own property?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

When it comes to irrigation systems, you aren’t just laying pipe in the ground and connecting it to a hose. The fact that your system requires a significant amount of electrical wiring is reason enough for most counties and cities to meet set requirements before you begin this project. If you plan on hiring a contractor to install your sprinkler system, they will most likely take care all of your permit needs prior to installation. But if you plan on tackling this yourself, you need to do your part and obtain all necessary permits.

Watering Ordinances
In line with needing a building permit, many localities require residents to abide by watering ordinances. Many municipalities have implemented laws restricting how many times each week you can water your lawn, how long your sprinkler system can be running, and some have even created laws stating hours that are suitable for watering. Many of these laws have been created in response to droughts and water shortages, so they are not to be ignored. You can do an online search for your city and county water restrictions to see which apply to your location.

Choosing the Right Sprinkler
You can achieve the perfectly healthy lawn and garden with the right irrigation system and watering habits. But before you begin to think about your dream yard, you need to know which type of sprinkler is best for your property. There are many factors to consider when choosing your new sprinklers, and you may discover that you need a few different types of sprinkler heads in order to properly water different sections of your property. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you’re shopping for the right sprinkler heads for your yard.

  • What types of soil are in my yard? Clay soils require more time (and water) for your grass and vegetation to receive the water needed to thrive.
  • How large is the area I need to water? Knowing your soil types and area to water will help you narrow down your sprinkler head selection.
  • How does our climate impact my watering needs? Depending on where you live, you will need different sprinkler heads than someone living in a more tropical area.
  • What are the hard-to-reach areas of my yard? How will I ensure they receive enough water? Sometimes, a drip irrigation system works best for areas you feel your sprinkler couldn’t reach.

Rachael Jones is a blogger for DIYMother.

If you would like to write a guest post for this site, then please visit guidelines and suggestions for guest posts at Ez DIY Electricity.

Maintaining Electric Heaters

May 14, 2012

electric heater Electric heaters provide an inexpensive way of heating your home but they can also present risks, mainly in the form of fire hazards. For that reason it is essential to give proper maintenance to your heater.

1- How old is your heater?

With the passage of time, electric components can become damaged or dysfunctional, raising the risk of fire associated with electric heaters. In addition, many of the older models do not have safety elements, such as automated turn-off features. These are important as they are designed to prevent overheating, and with it, potential danger.

It is also wise to pay attention to the general condition of the plug and the sockets to which the heather is connected. If they are loose in any way, have them replaced. It is better to be safe than sorry.

It may be worth spending a little more on a model with a digital “smart” regulator that will know when elements within the heater are broken and will shut down accordingly.

2- Storage conditions

When storing portable electric heaters, try to put them back into the box in which they came when you bought them. Close up the box so that no dust, air or water vapour get in and damage the heater. When the winter arrives and you need to use the heater again, ensure that you vacuum it thoroughly. Any dust or debris left on the insides could spark a fire once the heater is plugged in. Also, before plugging you heater back in, and after a period of storage, check the cord and the plug. There should not be any damage to these components. Minor scratches to the cord can be fixed by wrapping it in electrical or insulating tape, but anything more than a scratch is a potential fire hazard, and so the heater must be disposed of. For wall mounted heaters, connected to the mains you will also want to vacuum around any opening to pick up any dust or dead insects that may have worked their way in there.

3- Routine checks and maintenance

As with any other electric heating systems, electric heaters must be routinely inspected to ensure they are safe to operate. If the heater is wall mounted and goes months without use then it is recommended to turn the heater on for short periods of time to make sure it is in good working order. If you want a more thorough inspection, this can be done by hiring the services of a domestic electrical testing company, who can perform checks on all your electrical goods.

4- Keep it clean

Ensuring cleanliness does not only apply to storage periods. While the heater is in use it is wise to regularly check for obstructions to the air flow, such as plants, fabric or paper. There are health reasons for cleaning your heater to as, by circulating warm air, electric heaters can spread allergens or bacteria if they are not clean. Use the vacuum cleaner and lint free cloths for this. Obviously do not use water, as this will damage the heater, but a damp cloth can be used on the outer areas.

Kevin Ball is a blogger and writer. I have recently been concentrating on radiators, storage heaters and electric central heating. You can find me on twitter @KevinBall1982

If you would like to write a guest post for this site, then please visit guidelines and suggestions for guest posts at Ez DIY Electricity.

Answers to Electrical Questions About Wiring a Ceiling Fan, Disconnecting a Receptacle in a Staircase and Wiring a Tanning Bed

January 24, 2011

DIY Electrical Wiring Help Mike asks:
I have installed a ceiling fan and light in my living room. I have a three way switch that controls one receptacle that I have a lamp plugged into that gives me light in the living room. One light switch turns the lamp on when you enter the house and the other one turns it off when you go in the kitchen. I can turn the lamp on or off from either side of the room. I need help getting power to the fan and light. Can you help me get my fan and light to work?

Yes I can make this work, but I need more information. Do you already have a light box in the ceiling where you plan to install the fan/light? I believe that your best solution is hire me to walk you through the process. Please visit my DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Licensed Master Electrician. I recommend option #2.

Here is a general overview of what needs to be done to make this happen. I’m going to assume that there is no light box or power to the location where you plan to install your fan/light. First, you need to determine which switch box has the power supply in it. Now I would remove this switch box and enlarge the opening to install a larger switch box which will accommodate 2 more switches (1 to control the fan and 1 to control the light). Then install a 3 conductor cable with ground from this box to your new fan/light box in the ceiling. At the ceiling location, you need to securely install a “fan rated” box. You can’t use just any light box for a paddle fan as it will eventually fail and your fan will come crashing down onto someone.

Now hang the fan and connect the wires. Connect the green wire from the fan to the bare copper wire in the 3-conductor cable with ground. Connect the white wire from the fan to the white wire in the 3-conductor cable with ground. Connect the black wire from the fan to the black wire in the 3-conductor cable with ground. Connect the blue wire from the fan to the red wire in the 3-conductor cable with ground.

Now go to your new switch box, make the terminations, install the switches and cover plate.

Ella asks:
I would like to know if a hot electric outlet found in the staircase wall can be disconnected and if so how much would if cost? Average price please.

Yes it can be disconnected. I would charge you a maximum of $34.95 for my service. Please visit DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Licensed Master Electrician. I recommend option #2.

To disconnect this properly, you need to trace the cable which supplies power to this receptacle back to the source and disconnect it there. This is probably fed from a nearby receptacle or light switch box. I can walk you through this process.

Julie asks:
I just purchased a tanning bed and the problem that I am having is I was told it would run on the same outlet as my dryer….well, not true. Both cords are 3 prong but the one on the tanning bed is a different type of 3 prong. What can I do to fix this problem, or better yet what would be the easiest & safest way to solve it without having to hire an electrician. I live in an apartment and the landlord is OK with the tanning bed as long as I don’t have to have BIG electrical work done. Any and all help would be great…I would like to be tan before summer but want to do it the safe way… Thanks!!!!

I really need more information to help you solve this issue. I need the power requirements from your tanning bed. I also need the NEMA configuration marked on your power cord. It should be something like 6-30P or 14-30P. Again, I think you would be best served by visiting my DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Licensed Master Electrician page.

Answers to Electrical Questions About Conduit and Wire Size for Sub-Panels and 240 Volt T-Stat Rating

January 10, 2011

DIY Electrical Wiring Help Doug asks:
I am running power to my detached workshop and need some advice.
Here’s some detail: Installing 90amp dbl breaker in main house panel for power-up at workshop. Distance: 100 ft. Plan to use #3 Cu stranded x 3 runs for power and neutral/ #8 solid Cu for ground from main panel to ground bar in sub panel. Wires to be buried 18? in conduit. Have a Seimens 125amp external sub panel with 8 possible circuits. Will use 4 total circuits: 2 for tool power @ 20 amp; 1 for workshop lighting@ 20 amp; one for loft and external security lights @ 20 amps.
My issue is this: I can run feeders from the main panel in conduit to my crawlspace: should I run conduit through my crawlspace as well or can I secure the wires to the floor joists? What would you do? Crawlspace is secure. Also: how high should the bottom of the sub panel be from the floor of the workshop? It will be INSIDE the workshop – I got an external box mainly for protection of the circuits and lockability to prevent curious fingers from being hurt. Do I have a workable plan? Suggestions are always welcome! Thanks for the help!

I would try to run conduit all the way; from the main panel to your sub-panel. However, this can sometimes be very challenging through wood framing. If you can’t run the conduit all the way, then you need to install a junction box to change over to NM (romex) or SER cable. Then you will need another junction box where you change back to conduit.

From what you have described, your plan looks good. If you install gas, phone, internet or CATV from your house to your workshop, then you need to install ground rods at your workshop.

Walter asks:
How many baseboard heaters (240 Volts) can you install on one wall thermostat?

A wall mounted t-stat is rated for 22 amps. However, it is rare that you will place this much load on one t-stat. Typically, there is one t-stat per room with only a couple of heaters controlled by it in a residential application.

D Stewart asks:
Need to know the size and type of wire needed to run less than 75 feet from main service (200 amps) to 100 amp panel in house—–under ground.

I’m going to assume that the 100 amp panel is a sub-panel. If you install direct burial cable, then you need #1 URD aluminum with a #6 USE aluminum ground wire. You will need to sleeve the wires in 1 1/4″ PVC schedule 80 from the main service box to 18″ below grade and from the sub-panel to 18″ below grade.

If you use conduit, then you need #3 THHN copper wire with a #8 THHN copper ground wire. Install this in 1 1/4″ PVC schedule 40 underground and schedule 80 where exposed to physical damage as indicated in the paragraph above.

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