Many homeowners like to go DIY when it comes to smaller projects around their homes. But when you’re not using a professional, it’s easy to overlook little mistakes. And with electricity, little mistakes can be dangerous, even deadly. We’ve listed five of the most common home electrical mistakes and how to avoid them.
Making Connections Outside Electrical Boxes
This is the first DIY mistake, you always want to avoid connecting wires outside of electrical boxes. Junction boxes protect the connections from accidental damage and help contain sparks and heat from a loose connection or short circuit. Where connections aren’t contained in an electrical box, install a box, and then reconnect the wires inside it.
Cutting Wires Too Short
Another DIY mistake is cutting wires too short, which makes connections difficult. Poor connections can be quite dangerous. Leave the wires long enough to protrude at least 3 inches from the box.
If you run into short wires, there’s an easy fix. Simply add six-inch extensions onto the existing wires. You can find wire connectors that are easy to install in tight spots in hardware stores and home centers.
Leaving Plastic-Sheathed Cable Unprotected
It’s easy to damage plastic- sheathed cable that’s left exposed between framing members. For that reason, the national electrical code requires cable to be protected in these areas. Cable is especially vulnerable when it’s run over or under wall or ceiling framing.
Protect exposed plastic- sheathed cable by nailing or screwing a 1-1/2-inch thick board alongside the cable. You don’t have to staple the cable to the board. If you’re running wire along a wall, use metal conduit.
Poor Support for Outlets and Switches
Loose switches or outlets can look bad, and worse yet, they’re dangerous. Loosely connected outlets can move around, causing the wires to loosen from the terminals. Loose wires can then arc and overheat, creating a potential fire hazard. Loose outlets can be fixed by shimmying under the screws to create a tight connection to the box. Special spacers can be found at home centers and hardware stores. Other options include small washers or a coil of wire wrapped around the screw. While you’re back there, be sure to add some insulation.
Installing a Three-Slot receptacle without a Ground Wire
If you have two-slot outlets, it’s tempting to replace them with three-slot outlets so you can plug in three-prong plugs. But don’t do this unless you’re sure there’s a ground wire available. Use a tester to see if your outlet is grounded. A series of lights indicates whether the outlet is wired correctly or what fault exists. These testers are readily available at home centers and hardware stores.
If you discover a three-slot outlet in an ungrounded box, the easiest fix is to simply replace it with a two-slot outlet. If you have a dead outlet, you can try to to trouble-shoot it. And remember, if you ever feel unsure during an electrical project, call the professionals and Mister Sparky will be there to assist you!
Mister Sparky Electrician Houston, America’s On-Time Electrician, serves Houston, Texas and the cities of Katy, Sugar Land, Cypress, Spring, The Woodlands and others with a team of certified electricians. In addition to emergency electrical repairs, some of the electrician services provided by the company include electrical outlet/switch repair, ceiling fan installation, lighting installation, wiring repair, landscape lighting installation and home electrical inspections. Call us today at: (281) 907-8418.
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