Friday, November 2, 2012

Home Electrical: DIY or Professional?

Most homeowners approach electrical jobs in their home themselves with some anxiety. After all, if you mess up a plumbing job, it’s just a puddle of water on the floor; but when doing the wrong thing with electrical wires, the results can be more serious.

Of course, I’m not allowed to do electrical work at my house any more. My wife, Jennifer, threatens that if she ever sees me take electrical tools out again, she’ll take all the kids and pets off to the ER to wait for me there. In the past, I’ve had sparks fly across the room, and I’ve felt that eerie voltage sting creep through my body.

“Some homeowners get worried about doing electrical jobs, and they should be,” said Joel Wheeler of Wheeler Electric in Glendale. “If you make a mistake with electrical wires, even if nothing goes wrong at first, eventually something could catch fire.”

Still, plenty of homeowners are confident about their knowledge of electricity and successfully change outlets and install new lighting fixtures. “They can do that if they have a little know-how and common sense,” said Michael Bensel of the Mighty Electricians in Phoenix. “But sometimes they go down to the hardware store, and ask someone what to do and he tells them the wrong thing.”

We’re not going to give details on any difficult jobs, but we do have suggestions about handling some basics involving electricity at your house that can be important to you in future:

To start with, get familiar with your electrical service panel and relabel the circuit breakers – Usually, the panel is outside the house on a wall or inside a garage. In most older homes, a few marks or labels have been scratched on the panel to indicate what areas breakers serve, but that doesn’t provide the detail on all outlets served by individual breakers. Often the labels are nearly unreadable.

The easiest way to fix this is to have two people – one inside the house and one outside -- both on cellphones and talking back and forth.


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