The Top Five Mistakes Made by the DIY Electricians
We live in an age where everyone is surrounded by Pinterest inspiration boards, online guides, and Youtube video tutorials – so it’s no surprise, we have turned ourselves into the do-it-yourself generation. It certainly is a good feeling to accomplish something and be proud of our own work. But how safe is it to approach electrical work as a DIY electrician?
With the given nuances to electrical work, we are needlessly putting ourselves at risk. Here are the top five DIY homemade electricians’ mistakes and how to properly fix them:
- Installation without a junction box – Do not attempt to connect wires without an electrical box. Junction boxes shield the connections from unintentional damage and contain sparks and heat from a loose connection or short circuit. Add an electrical box. Be sure the installation is done properly and the box is flush. If the outlet is wiggling or loose, it’s not adequately installed and needs repair.
- Outlet overload – Every outlet is prepared to handle a specific electrical load. For instance, you’d never want to plug a refrigerator in your sitting room, as you know the general purpose of that circuit isn’t designed to handle such a large electrical power draw. Placing a high demand on a circuit creates an unnecessary hazard of shock and fire. Be wary of the demand placed on circuits and how much equipment you are plugging into each outlet (including those plugged into extension cords and power strips).
- Securing Electrical Wires – Properly securing electrical wires does not mean stapling and hammering a wire too tightly. If the insulation is accidently pinched or perforated, you are prone to a serious fire risk. Accidentally pinching or piecing an electrical wire can create an arc fault, resulting in a possible fire. Inspect wires and avoid piercing or hammering these – they should be secured properly without being too restrictive and always use specialized staples and staple guns and/or fasteners.
- Stuffing electrical boxes – Do not overstuff an electrical box. Every electrical load has a minimum box size. Calculate the proper electrical box size. Use the following formula to help you:
-Add 1 for each hot wire and neutral wire going into the box
-Add 1 for all the ground wires combined
-Add 1 for all the cable clamps combined
-Add 2 for each connected electrical switch or outlet
Take that figure and multiply it by two for a 14-gauge wire, and by 2.25 for a 12-gauge wire. This figure establishes the minimum box size required in cubic inches – choose a box with this amount of volume.
- Incorrect wiring type – To an inexperienced individual, wires look almost the same, but they’re intended to be unique and purposeful. Each wire (copper, aluminum, residential and outdoor) has a type, rate amperage, and specific use. Choose the appropriate wiring type. Incorrectly using these can place you at risk for shock, electrocution or fire.
Wiring mistakes and problems are far too common, and when ignored have the capacity to cause short circuits, shocks, electrocution and even fires. If you’re in doubt, don’t do it yourself, as a lot can and will go wrong. Hire a licensed professional, who is specifically trained to perform and recognize the hazards associated with the job.
Written by: Vania Silva. Vania is an electrical safety advocate and enjoys reading and writing about electrical related issues.