How-To Electrical
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Trans 1) Getting Started Trans
2) Electrical System Basics
3) Service Panel
4) Running Cable
5) Outlets
6) Switches
7) Installing Light Fixtures
8) Common Electrical Codes
9) Replacing Switches & Outlets
10) Repairing Lamps & Cords
11) Glossary

Getting Started

Dean Johnson working on outletElectrical systems can seem like a confusing mess of connections, cables, and boxes hidden inside the walls. But with a little common sense and a few precautions, do-it-yourselfers can handle most projects.

Electrical work can be intimidating because it can be dangerous, and some accidents can cause serious injury.

If you're not confident in your ability to do electrical work, continue to learn more about it or consider hiring someone to do the work.

Your project may require a building permit and inspections. It's your responsibility to get the proper permit and schedule inspection times.

WARNING: DOING WORK WITHOUT A REQUIRED PERMIT IS NOT ONLY ILLEGAL, BUT MAY ALSO INVALIDATE YOUR HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE.

electrical recepticals and connectorsWhen you're doing a remodeling job, wiring may be old and outdated. If you're tearing out walls enough to expose wiring, it should be brought up to code. Obviously, that involves more work and money for materials like cable, boxes, switches, staples, but you'll feel much better having newer, safer cable in the house.


circuit breaker boxSafety Steps

Before you do any electrical work on a circuit, make sure the power is off. Turn off the breaker (or pull/unscrew the correct fuse) to the circuit you'll be working on.

Post a sign on the service panel so nobody tries to restore power while you're working on the circuits.

Double-check the circuit with a circuit tester before you touch it to make sure the correct breaker has been tripped.

Labeling or drawing a diagram before unhooking wires will take any guesswork out of how to reconnect them.

Wear shoes with non-conductive soles, use tools with rubber grips and don't stand in water to avoid a potentially dangerous shock.

Finally, never push yourself to finish a wiring job. That's when mistakes happen. If you run into a difficult stretch of work, take a break and think about what needs to be done. If you're still not sure, don't take chances -- contact a professional.

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