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Electrical safety 101
If you have some small electrical projects to complete around the house, you may wonder if it is safe to do the work yourself. Unfortunately, even a simple task like replacing a light switch or repairing a small appliance involves the risk of electrocution. This is a scary reality. The following electrical lessons can help you know your limits, and be safe rather than sorry.
Electrical safety lesson No. 1: Respect the danger
Each year, 300-400 people are electrocuted and countless more are hurt in electrical accidents. Does that mean that you can’t tackle any electrical home repairs on your own? Not necessarily. However, knowing the risks and educating yourself is key to staying safe and avoiding electrical shock. Consumers without extensive electrical training can complete small projects in their home if they take proper electrical precautions. Assumptions lead to problems, and ignoring safety warnings can be a recipe for disaster.
Electrical safety lesson No. 2: Do your homework
Another important tenet is to always do your homework and obtain advice before getting started. Some basic recommendations include:
Visit home improvement stores. Employees of such stores can often provide step-by-step directions and advice for safely completing small household projects.
Buy a book or watch a video online. You should find countless resources that cover how to complete upgrades and repairs.
Minimize risk by shutting down the power. If you perform electrical work, such as replacing plugs and switches, make sure the correct breaker is switched off—and then test the switches or plugs to make sure they’re actually off. If you’re uncertain how to perform this important step, seek out the help of a qualified professional.
Unplug appliances. Before starting any project, make sure that everything is unplugged.
Avoid moisture and adverse weather conditions. Wet conditions and electricity don’t mix. Stay away from any water and poor weather when working with any sort of electricity.
WARNING: Unplugged appliances, such as microwaves, can still carry a charge in certain parts, presenting the real risk of electrocution.
Electrical safety lesson No. 3: Avoid risk
The average homeowner may be able to complete a variety of household projects, even if he or she isn’t a seasoned professional.
However, taking steps to avoid risk and using the right tools is essential, as is the willingness to walk away if you realize you don’t have the necessary knowledge to complete the job.
Some DIY projects that can often be completed with a little homework include:
- Replacing plugs
- Replacing switches
- Replacing existing fixtures, such as lights.
WARNING: When you start to get into conduit and running wire to various places in the house, this typically requires professional expertise. Contact a qualified service professional.
Note: Working with small appliances can be a tricky business, particularly since manufacturers usually don’t intend for their products to be repaired by their consumers. You can certainly replace batteries, top off fluids, clean appliances (as directed by owner’s manuals) and replace parts that don’t require disassembly; however, when it comes to tinkering with the inner wiring of various types of appliances and equipment, be careful. You not only risk danger to yourself and further damage to the unit, but you could also void your warranty in the process.
Electrical safety lesson No. 4: Know your limits
Knowing your limits is another extremely important aspect of electrical safety. When it comes to electricity, it’s better to be humble and safe than overly confident and sorry. Obviously, it’s frustrating to pay someone to do something that you think you can do yourself. However, when it comes to dealing with electricity, the potential risk often outweighs the potential savings.
Any project that requires getting into inner electrical components and handling wires is not recommended. Even if you’re the least bit unsure about what you’re doing, even after completing research, call a qualified service professional. It just may save your life.