How to Deal with Unsafe Electrical Wiring

Deal-with-Unsafe-Wiring

Even if you think of yourself as being pretty good with DIY projects, you may want to leave a potential electrical issue to the experts. Anytime there is unsafe wiring, it could cause a fire and severe shock. It’s crucial to understand the hazards and know how to stay safe.

Unsafe Electrical Wiring
Even if you think of yourself as being pretty good with DIY projects, you may want to leave a potential electrical issue to the experts.
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Understand Hazards
It’s crucial to understand the hazards and know how to stay safe.
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What could cause unsafe wiring?

Not all unsafe wiring is caused by old wiring, but damaged, worn, cracked or corroded wiring can certainly increase the likelihood of an electrical accident. These are a few possibilities:

  • Loose connections
  • Frayed cords
  • Pinched, pierced or cracked wire insulation
  • Overheated wires or cords
  • Damaged electrical appliances
  • Wiring that rodents may have chewed

What about electrical outlets and switches?

You definitely want to keep electrical outlets away from water, as water conducts electricity. Never use a radio, hair dryer, phone or anything else with an electrical cord near water—including pools and wet floors. Never plug damaged or frayed cords into an outlet, either.

How do I know if my wiring is old?

Most homes built before the 1940s used knob and tube wiring, named for the insulating knobs and tubes that ran wiring along and through the building’s frame: one black charged wire and one white neutral wire. Splices and wire connections made with tape placed around ungrounded soldered wires were the norm. The electrical tape insulated them and kept them from touching each other.

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Is old wiring always unsafe, and should I replace it?

Before 1960, wiring insulation was made of rubber that can crumble or flake. It’s dangerous if the insulation has worn away, was installed incorrectly or is covered with regular building insulation material (which could overheat and potentially cause a fire). National Electrical Code (NEC) doesn’t require you to replace knob and tube wiring—especially if you live in a historic home. If local code allows it and your wiring needs work, you can splice the old wiring with new NM (non-metallic) cable if you use a junction box, which protects wire connections.

What if I have a short circuit?

If the power suddenly goes out on an appliance or light or you notice a spark or smoke or smell burning wires, you could have a short circuit. If you suspect a short circuit, turn off the circuit panel, check to see which flip is switched and inspect power cords plugged into outlets along the particular circuit for damage. There are other steps you should take to find a short circuit. If you’ve done the troubleshooting and don’t find an obvious problem, it might be in hidden wiring that an electrician should check out.

The thing about electricity is that it always tries to go back to ground through the wiring circuit breaker panels and then through the utility wires. If the connections within the wiring network loosen or break, current can leak and try to take a shortcut to get to ground. That might mean through flammable material or even you!

Is a short circuit dangerous?

When there’s additional electricity flowing through a switch, outlet or appliance, it generates additional heat. If the affected wires come in contact with flammable parts in your home, they can cause a fire. If you or a pet touches a live or damaged wire or cord, you can get shocked because you both conduct electricity. When the current flows through to the ground, it results in electrical shock.

What a short circuit?

Although there are several possible causes, three are most common:

  • Poor circuit wire insulation: If your wiring insulation is old or damaged, a faulty neutral wire connection touching a hot wire can trigger a short circuit.
  • Loose wire connections: When attachments loosen, neutral and live wires might touch, creating unsafe wiring that should be repaired by a professional electrician.
  • Appliance wiring issues: When you plug an appliance into a wall outlet, the wiring in the cord becomes an extension of the circuit. If the cord has issues, they become circuit issues.
short-cicruit
What if I think I know enough to do a wiring job and stay safe?

It’s critical that you make tight electrical connections because if wires loosen, there might be arcing and overheating. That spells potential fire. However, if you make a proper wire nut connection, have reliable terminals and know what else to watch for, it’s possible to make safe connections.

With many electrical wiring projects, you may need to repair the main service panel. That’s the place where utility wires send electricity for distribution throughout the circuits of your home. Again, it’s something that you may be able to do on your own—if you have some electrical experience.

If you know you have unsafe wiring—or even think you may—it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Contact a certified electrician to do the job.

How can I become a certified electrician?

According to O*NETOnLine, the projected job growth for electricians through 2028 is faster than average for other occupations. Have you thought about enrolling in electrician programs in Chicago? Consider taking day and night electrical program classes at Coyne College Chicago. You’ll get the hands-on electrical training and individualized instruction you need to prepare for an in-demand career as an electrician. If you have a day job, Coyne College offers evening electrical classes that could work with your schedule.

Register now for electrical programs at Coyne College.

Must-know Tips for DIY Electrical Wiring and Switching

DIY Electrical Wiring

People take on DIY projects in their own homes for a number of reasons. Whether they want to save money, feel more independent or enjoy fixing things themselves, any DIY project requires some basic know-how to be done properly. Installing or replacing electrical switches and wiring is no exception. These DIY Electrical Wiring tips can help make the process of installing electrical wires and switches a breeze, especially for a DIYer.

Have the right tools handy

Like any other DIY job, you want to make sure you have the right tools to do the job. They can include a multimeter, a non-contact voltage detector (tests the heat of wire without touching it) and a combination sheath and wire stripper. Being equipped with the right tools will help you be prepared for anything throughout the electrical switch wiring process.

Know your wires

When connecting electrical wiring to an outlet, it’s important to not confuse your wires or put them in the wrong terminal. The white wire is the neutral wire and goes into the neutral terminal, which is marked by silver/light-colored screws. The black wire, on the other hand, is the hot wire and goes into the hot terminal, the one opposite the neutral terminal. If there’s a ground wire, it will be a copper wire held in place by a screw on the same side as the neutral terminal.

Knowing the difference between the wires will allow you to wire your home correctly and avoid the high voltage of swapping the neutral and hot.

Three-inch rule

It’s always better to have too much wire than not enough. There are wire extensions available if you end up cutting them short, but the wiring will work better if it is intact.

As a rule of thumb, you’ll want to have wiring that is long enough to extend 3 inches outside of the electrical box.

Hide gaps in drywall with oversized plates

When you’re installing electrical switches, it’s pretty easy to cut a hole in the drywall that is too big. Thankfully, there are oversized plates available at hardware stores that you can use to cover your switches.

They are typically in sizes up to 3/4 inch wider and longer than regular switch plates. Most people won’t be able to tell the difference, unless they’re professional electricians or fellow DIYers.

Quality switches and outlets are worth it

While it might be tempting to scrimp on some supplies as a DIYer, electrical switches and outlets aren’t one of them. They tend to be only slightly more expensive, but also last longer. A good way to tell a quality switch or outlet is by the presence of a back-wire feature.

Quality switches and outlets are worth it

Test the voltage

Be sure to test the voltage of wires and circuits before touching them. Testing electrical components with tools such as a wire sniffer or a multimeter will tell you if they are safe to touch or if an electrical current is flowing through them. Electrical work can be a dangerous job, especially if you’re unsure about what you’re doing. Always test before touching.

Do proper research

In today’s age of the internet, you can learn how to do anything online. For that reason, there’s no excuse not to do your homework before installing electrical wiring and switching in your home.

Searching for tutorials on how to wire a light switch is a great way to learn more about how to do it. On YouTube there are countless tutorials on DIY Electrical Wiring, from electricians and home improvement pros available that literally show you how it’s done.

Get an education

As great as internet learning is, it does have its limitations, and it’s no substitute for a trade school program. Learning how to do electrical work in an educational setting is the best way to ensure you know what you’re doing in home DIY electrical wiring.

What’s more, you can also make a career of electrical work. Electrical education programs are readily available at trade schools across the country. If you’re in Chicagoland, Coyne College is a great option.

Get an Electrical education

Spark your career at Coyne College

Coyne College in Chicago offers two programs for aspiring electrical workers: Electrical Construction and Planning, and Electrical Construction Maintenance.

Our Electrical Construction and Planning program can be completed in as few as 78 weeks, while the Electrical Construction and Maintenance program can be finished in 42 to 56 weeks, depending on whether you take day or night classes.

As a student in Coyne College’s electrical programs, you will gain a comprehensive knowledge of electrical work by taking courses such as:

  •     Electrical and Electronic Principles
  •     Electrical Test and Equipment Safety
  •     Electrical Construction – Residential
  •     Electrical Theory and Applications

You will learn the ins and outs of the electrician trade in a setting that focuses on your individual success. Coyne College’s highly knowledgeable instructors have years of real-world experience under their belts and are eager to help you make the most of your education.

Discover everything Coyne College’s electrical programs have to offer by visiting https://www.coynecollege.edu/ or calling 800-720-3990 today.