Electricity is the driving force behind virtually everything that we do today. Nowadays, nothing is produced or consumed without the use of electricity. In this section you?ll find everything you need for electrical applications, from beginning to end. From outlets, receptacles, switches and plates to conduits, fittings, wires, and fuses; as well as the tools and testing equipment needed to make it all work.
Basic Electrical Safety for the DIY Consumer
Though electricity is a great benefit to our world, it can also be extremely destructive when things go wrong. Here are some basic tips for performing common electrical installation tasks:
When installing receptacles, the power to that receptacle should first be cut from the source. Be sure to use the correct wiring (printed on most receptacles) and tighten all connections securely. Strip only what you need, leaving the least copper exposure possible. You do not have to screw the cover in before testing, but always place it on the wall as if you are about to fasten it to the wall.
Most electrical codes require GFCI receptacles for wet areas such as the bathroom and the kitchen. These are the areas where electrical safety is most important. If you need to replace these receptacles, always replace them with another GFCI! Never add an extension cord to a power strip or daisy-chain power extensions in any way. This could cause a serious overload and lead to a fire. The curious nature of children can lead to the amazing discovery of a new planet or the very unfortunate discovery of an electrical outlet. If you have small children in your home, take a look at our Child Safety Kit. It contains many products that will allow you to let your children explore safely! Complex structural wiring repairs should NEVER be done by someone without the proper training. Don't risk serious injury, fire, or power outages just to save a few bucks! For professional work, always find a reputable licensed electrical contractor.
10 Easy Ways to Prevent Home Electrical Hazards
Never mix water and electricity. Always keep electrical appliances away from water and moisture. Whether it's on or off, if a plugged-in appliance falls – or is accidentally dropped – into water, do not attempt to retrieve or unplug it. Go immediately to your home's panel board and shut off power to the corresponding circuit. Once that's done, the appliance can be safely unplugged and removed from the water. Once the device has dried thoroughly, have an electrician evaluate whether or not it's fit for continued use.
Pay attention to what your appliances are telling you. When an appliance repeatedly trips a circuit breaker, blows a fuse, or gives you shocks, it's not just a coincidence – these are signs that something is wrong. Prevent further – and possibly more dangerous – malfunctions from occurring by immediately unplugging the appliance and discontinuing use until a professional electrician can inspect it, make repairs, and ultimately declare the appliance safe.
Install Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI). In new construction homes, GFCI receptacles are a requirement anywhere that electrical outlets and water will be in close proximity to one another. GFCIs detect current leakages (or ground faults) in electrical circuits – such as would occur when a powered device made contact with water. The GFCI then shuts off power to that receptacle almost instantaneously, preventing electrical shock, burns, and electrocution. If you live in an older home that didn't come standard with GFCIs, installing them in place of traditional outlets in your bathroom, kitchen, and garage is an easy way to prevent severe electrical injuries – and at very little cost.
Make sure you're using the right size circuit breakers and fuses. If fuses and circuit breakers aren't the right size and wattage rating to match the specifications of their circuits, they're going to fail right when you most need them to perform. Read packages carefully when shopping for replacements. If you're not sure which size to buy, have an electrician take a look at your panel box and label it with the circuit breaker or fuse size needed (for easy future reference). And as long as you're making a trip to the hardware store, stock up with a few extra – you'll be happy to have them on hand when the next need arises.
Protect kids with outlet covers. Outlet covers prevent babies and small children from sticking their fingers and other objects into unoccupied receptacles, protecting them against shock and electrocution. You can either use the plug-in type, or opt for special child safety wall plates, which feature built-in, retractable covers that automatically snap back into place when outlets aren't in use.
Avoid cube taps and other outlet-stretching devices. Cubes taps – those little boxes that allow you to plug several appliances into a single outlet – may seem like a major convenience, but they can actually put you on the fast track to circuit overload, overheated wiring, and even fire. If you absolutely must use one, do the math before plugging in. Know the maximum power demand that the cube-tapped receptacle can handle, and be certain that the collective pull (power requirement) of the devices you're plugging into it doesn't exceed that rating.
Replace missing or broken wall plates. They're not just there for the looks – wall plates also protect your fingers from making contact with the electrical wiring behind them. Broken wall plates, or the absence of them altogether, can be especially dangerous in the dark – when trying to locate a switch by touch, you may end up being shocked or electrocuted if you miss the mark and end up hitting live wires instead.
Keep electrically powered yard-care tools dry. Whether it's raining, just finished raining, or you've recently run the sprinklers, never attempt yard work with electrically powered tools in wet conditions. Protect yourself from shock and electrocution by keeping your electric hedge trimmer, weed whacker, and lawnmower safely unplugged and stowed away until precipitation has stopped, grass and foliage is dry, and puddles can be easily avoided.
Match the light bulb's wattage rating to the lamp. Whenever choosing light bulbs to use with a lamp, be sure to consult that lamp's maximum wattage specifications (they're often printed right around the light bulb socket). Always opt for a light bulb with wattage that’s equal to or less than the maximum wattage listed on the lamp – too strong a bulb can lead to overloaded lamp wiring, as well as fire.
Be kind to you cords. Take care to treat power cords gently – never nail or tightly tack them down, and regularly check to make sure that they're not pinched between or underneath furniture. Excessive pressure on power cables can damage insulation (exposing the conductor), or compress the conducting wire, which can lead to overheating and put you at risk for an electrical fire.