Electricity & Safety
November 1, 2005
When it comes to electricity, safety should be your primary concern. Although most basic home wiring repairs are simple and straighforward, always use good judgement when working with electrical wiring or devices (plugs, switches, lights, etc…).
The first rule of electrical safety is to turn off the power to the circuit or device you are working on. Always turn the power of at your fuse box or circuit breaker panel. Never trust a light switch to kill the power for you.
Light switches can be wired a number of different ways. The power could originate in the light box you are working on. If this is the case, turning off the light switch will not shut off the power in the light box you are working on. In some older homes, you may even find that the neutral wire is being switched instead of the hot wire.
If you have a fuse box, you would simply turn off the power by removing the fuse of the circuit you are working on.
If you have a breaker panel, you would simply turn off the breaker that controls the circuit you are working on. However, someone could come right behind you and turn it right back on. Be sure to lock the door to the electrical panel or put some type of note on the door stating that you are working on the circuit and not to touch.
After you have turned off the power, go to the circuit or device you are working on and test it to be sure the power is off. Never assume the power is off or the panel is labeled correctly. Always test to ensure the power is off before touching any wire or device.
Always wear rubber soled shoes when you are working on your residential electrical wiring project. If you are going to work on a damp floor, then stand on a rubber mat or dry wooden boards.
Always use fiberglass or wooden ladders while working on electricity; especially if you are working near your overhead power. Never use an aluminum ladder or a wet wooden ladder while working on or near electricity.
Never touch metal pipes, faucets or fixtures while working on electricity. These items may provide a direct path to ground allowing the electricity to flow through your body.
Never alter the prongs of a plug, so it will fit into a receptacle. I have seen many people remove that ground prong so the cord will fit into their old 2 wire receptacle. Never do this, always buy an adapter or replace the receptacle. If there is not a ground wire in your receptacle box, you can’t just install the newer style of grounded receptacle. We highly recommend hiring an electrician to do this for you.
Always use extension cords for temporary connections only. Never run your extension cord under a rug, of fasten them to walls, baseboards or other surfaces. Using extension cords in these manners has started many fires.
Always use common sense when working with electricity. Never tackle an electrical project if it is beyond your confidence or skill level.
Always check with your local electrical inspector or authority having jurisdiction before beginning any electrical project. Most jurisdictions require you to pull an electrical permit before beginning any electrical work. Some jurisdictions will not allow home owners to work on their own electricity. Others limit what you can work on.
Good luck and be safe!
Do you need assistance with your electrical wiring project? Please visit my DIY Electrical Wiring Help from a Master Electrician page. Where I provide electrical wiring tips, expert electrical advice, answers to your electrical questions and electrical consulting & design services over the phone, via instant messenger or via email.
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