Which shock would you rather have: a high electrician’s bill or a lethal dose of electricity surging through your body? I am all for saving money, but before beginning an electrical job, ask yourself a simple question – Could I die from this?” If the answer is yes, then you might want to call in a pro.
Electricity is more difficult to work with because you can’t see it. I don’t want to plug this too much, but all it takes is one spark to light a fire. Know your own limitations and treat electricity with healthy respect. Taking basic common sense precautions can help you avoid damage to yourself and your home.
TURN IT OFF
Did I say that clearly enough? Turn the electricity off before you attempt anything, then double check that the electricity is off. OFF.
WHERE DO I TURN IT OFF?
You need to find your service panel, also known as the electrical panel or load center or circuit board or breaker box. This is the box that takes the electricity from your power company and sends it to all the plugs, switches and circuits in your home. It is usually located near the electricity meter. The service panel also protects your home by shutting off the electricity automatically if safe levels are exceeded.
On the panel, there is a main larger breaker that allows you to turn off all the electricity to your home at one go. Grab the handle and flip it the opposite way.
The panel has a series of dedicated breakers that control different appliances and areas of your home. Take the time to mark what each circuit breaker controls. This will enable you to isolate the area you are working on, without having to turn off all the electricity.
INVEST IN A VOLTAGE TESTER
For about $20 you can buy a volt alert pen to check whether electricity is present or not. With the tester turned on, you simply touch any wire, appliance or outlet and the pen will start ringing or buzzing and flashing if electricity is present. This removes any guesswork.
CHECK FAULTY APPLIANCES
When an appliance repeatedly trips a circuit breaker, it is trying to tell you that something is wrong. When a circuit breaker constantly trips, this also tells you there is a malfunction somewhere. Don’t just ignore it, as it could be a safety issue. Call in an electrician to investigate the cause.
DRY YOUR HANDS
Water and electricity are a deadly combination. Don’t go anywhere near an electric socket or appliance with wet or sweaty hands.
NEVER THROW WATER ON AN ELECTRIC FIRE
The water acts as fuel and makes it worse. Use a fire extinguisher.
Wiring that is worn or corroded is a fire risk and needs to be replaced as soon as possible. It will only get worse. Don’t attempt to replace it yourself unless you are confident and knowledgeable about what you are doing.
DON’T OVERLOAD YOUR CIRCUITS
Some appliances are more power hungry than others. Don’t operate too many at the same time from one socket.
KEEP LITTLE FINGERS OUT
There is nothing more fun for a child than sticking fingers and toys into electrical sockets. Cover your sockets with plastic closures or, for a more permanent solution, install Tamper Resistant Receptacles. These have a built in safety shutter that blocks foreign objects from being inserted. The shutters only open when a two bladed or grounded plug is inserted.