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General DIY Electrical Safety

on May 13, 2016

Do-It-Yourself Electrical SafetyWe’ve probably all done it at one point or another.  Take one look at the couple of wires on that new electrical socket or light switch and thought “Hey, I can fix this myself.”  For some projects, this is true.  There are countless guides and how-to processes for simple repairs and inspections you can do yourself.  But never forget that, when you’re working on anything tied to your house’s wiring, you’re working with a potentially dangerous circuit.

Before you start working on your next DIY project, stop and consider what the project will entail and save yourself by following a few extra safety precautions.

Systems to Never Touch

Small systems that are easily disconnected (or are even sold with their own “how to replace” instructions) are usually fine for doing repairs and replacements on your own.  But there are some systems in your home that you should never touch.

Your electrical panel is first on this list.  Any time that there is anything wrong with it such as arcing, constant tripping, or simple a dead breaker, you should call a professional electrician.  Appliance circuits and high powered appliances are also on this list.  Avoid trying to repair anything that uses a heating element.  It’s not that they’re necessarily more dangerous during the repair, but a failed repair on a flat iron or space heater can compromise that appliances safety systems.

Anything related to power generation should be avoided when it’s tied into the utility grid.  If your home has solar panels, an automatic backup generator, or any kind of small wind turbine connected to its electrical system you should stay away.  Your repairs or improvements can, if they aren’t done properly, affect the city grid as well.  Not to mention the fact that when you work with these systems you’re also dealing with voltages that are much higher than standard home circuits.

Safety Devices

Using the right tools for each job is the best thing you can do to stay safe.  Circuit testers, volt meters, and insulated equipment are all mandatory when you’re performing any kind of electrical work (from fixing a toy to replacing an electrical outlet).  Even more important, when you’re working on something at home you should take a page from a technician’s handbook, lock out the system you’re working on.  Close and lock the breaker box to make sure that no one else even has a chance to accidentally turn the power back on mid-project.

Standard safety equipment is always a good idea as well.  Using safety eyewear (not a pair of every-day glasses) and insulated gloves will protect your eyes and hands from electrical arcs.  Make sure that any clothing you are wearing is made from natural fabrics instead of synthetics.  Natural fibers fall away from the body as they burn, turning to ash, while synthetics melt and stick to the skin, compounding fire-related injuries.

Best Practices

Knowing what’s safe to work on and how to do the work are as important as any safety tool.  Of course, if you aren’t sure of what you’re doing, it’s always better to seek the help of a professional electrician.  It’s safer and you can be certain it was done correctly.

So, for any DIY electrical work, from replacing a ceiling fan to fixing a flashlight:

  • Turn off power to the area you’re working on – unplug the device or flip the circuit breaker to deactivate power
  • Make sure that no one else can turn the power back on
  • Use a voltage tester or meter to make sure power is no longer active
  • For home repairs, double check NEC guidelines for the item you’re fixing – keeping all work up to code will ensure an easier time selling the home in the future
  • Do not proceed with anything you still have questions on, seek professional guidance

Do your research ahead of time and make sure you know exactly what you’re doing, all steps, before you start.  And remember, only use guides delivered from actual electricians, never work on a live circuit, and your safety is priceless. #DontDieforDIY


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