Electricity is a delicate element to work with and requires experience, proper tools, and safety to carry out effectively. Everything from making electrical connections and cutting wires to installing outlets and switches, there is not a lot of room for error when dealing with electrical systems. While not every mistake is going to be catastrophic, if errors are left uncorrected there is always the potential to lead to problems and damage, such as shorts, fires, or electrical shocks. Here are some of the 6 top electrical mistakes that are easy to make that you should avoid.
- Making Connections Outside Electrical Boxes
If you are doing a wiring project such as installing an outdoor light and there is no electrical box, it may be tempting to wire a connection outside where a box should be, or otherwise outside of the box. Always add a junction box to make the connection. These boxes protect the connection from damage and can contain heat and sparks. Simply install the box and connect the wires within it.
- Cutting Wires too Short
This is a common mistake when cutting wires to install a new outlet or switch. Wires that are too short make connections difficult and can be potentially dangerous. Make sure the wires are long enough to protrude about 3 inches from the box. If you have to work with short wires you can extend them with 6 inch extensions on the existing wires.
- Leaving Cable Unprotected
This is also an electrical problem that can cause problems at some point. Electrical code requires that cables between framing members be protected. Cable that is run over or under wall to ceiling framing is vulnerable to damage. Protect cable by attaching a small board alongside the cable to keep stored items from damaging the cable.
- Loose Outlets
Loosely connected outlets can shift and cause the wire to loosen from the terminal. These wires can arc and overheat, potentially becoming a fire hazard. If the screws on the outlet are loose and the outlet shifts, add plastic spacers to the screw to help secure the outlet as it is mounted against the wall.
- Installing a 3 Slot Receptacle without a Ground Wire
This is a common mistake when replacing a wall outlet. If you have two slot outlets, you may consider replacing them with three slot outlet to plug in three pronged plugs. This is a mistake. You must make sure that the outlet is grounded before replacing the outlet. If you are not sure, replace the outlet with another two slot outlet. You can also test the outlet to ensure that it is wired correctly and that no faults are present with special testers.
- Reversing Hot and Neutral Wires
This is potentially a lethal mistake. Connecting the black hot wire to the neutral terminal is a serious problem that can be easy to overlook. Lights and many electrical devices will likely still work, but the system will not be safe. When changing a switch or outlet, make sure to connect the white wires to the neutral terminal. This is identified with a silver or light colored screw, while the hot terminal is usually darker gold. If there is a grounding wire, the terminal will typically be green, while the wire will likely be bare copper. Pay close attention to the wiring when changing outlets and switches.