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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 @

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