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4 Safety Tips Before Doing Your Own Electrical Work

2012 December 5
by Aaron

do your own electrical workHave you ever wanted to dive in and do your own household electrical work? Even though there was a voice telling you, “you can’t do it – you’ll get electrocuted!” Believe me – I’ve heard them too – and there was one time in particular, I should have listened.

We had just moved into our present home – and we were doing some upgrades to the place which included installing a new oven hood. Now, as I’ve stated before, I am no handyman. But there was something about this oven hood that kept calling my name. Those little voices telling me to stay away from any electrical work were being silenced by Dumb and Dumber in my head. 



I mean, how hard is it to install an oven hood – right? Having almost removed the old hood and exposed the wires connecting it to the wall – I inadvertently grabbed both of the wires and made a connection. A connection that I will never forget.

In an instant I felt my body tense up and a very sharp, tingling sensation go up through my arm – knocking Dumb and Dumber out cold. The little voices started laughing. My wife later told me that my scream sounded like a little girl.

Fortunately the Lord was looking out for me that day – and I didn’t suffer any consequences as a result of the 100s of volts streaming through the veins (though my wife may tell you different). I did learn to respect electricity and picked up a few things since then which I hope will aid you if you decide to ignore those voices and attempt your own electrical work at home.

Here’s a list to check-off before doing your own electrical work:

  1. Is the power shut off to the area you are working on?
    First things first, is to head downstairs or wherever your circuit breaker panelboard (fuse box) is located and shut the power to the area you are working on. Fortunately most breakers are individually labeled for each section of the house. If you want to feel really safe – just cut the main switch in the panelboard.
  2. Check the outlet (or wires) with a voltage tester
    When I was working on the oven hood – I trusted the panelboard to have the circuits correctly labeled. That was my first mistake. And before grabbing the wires, I should have used a voltage testerto see if they were still live. Whenever you have exposed wires you’re unsure about, test them. It never hurts to be overly cautious when you are doing electrical work. In many cases, you can use one that you find at a local hardware store (should be under $20).
  3. What are you wearing?
    It’s important to wear non-conductive shoes or be standing on a non-conductive mat when you are doing electrical work. Also – use tools equipped with rubber grips.
  4. Know when to say when
    Just this past week, our rental property had some issues with the light switches. To save some money – I wanted to investigate the problem first before spending a couple hundred on an electrician. Fortunately, through some trial and error, YouTube viewing and a little experience from past repairs, I was able to solve most of the problems myself. Still – there was one switch that wasn’t behaving for me. And I could only guess as to the problem. When it comes to a place in your repair where you are completely stumped and those little voices are becoming blow-horns - listen up! Proverbs 16:18 (Pride goes before destruction) was put in the Bible for a reason. Sometimes, it’s best to call in the experts.

If you are interested in completing home projects, but lacking electrical knowledge, taking online electrician courses with StateCE is a good way to go. This course is designed to let you study at home, so that your studies won’t interfere with your current job or busy schedule. This program teaches a balance of theory and practical application–which means you read and study how to do a job and then you actually get to apply those skills on your home projects.

Again – I am no electrician here – but sometimes you just might be able to fix a small electrical household problem yourself. Just put safety first, your pride in the backseat and take ‘er slow (Note that some electrical work may require that you get a city permit. If it gets to that point and you’re a beginner – call the experts)

Have you recently taken on any tough household jobs to save money?

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Aaron

Helped start Three Thrifty Guys with his friends Charlie and Mark after being inspired by how they lived their lives “on the thrift”. A designer by day, Aaron was once $40k in debt. After 5 years – he dug himself out and lives to tell about it. Aaron also blogs at the StarTribune

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