Hot Wire Problems - Five Things to Do BEFORE Solving Electrical Problems

Many DIY projects are trial and error. You can still laugh at your first attempt at false finish or shelves that crashed five minutes after you triumphed the last time.

Electrical projects are not part of the trial and error category. However, all homeowners must perform some basic electrical repairs. Before attempting to solve electrical problems, follow the steps below to ensure a safe and successful repair.

Do I have your permission?

Depending on where you live, you may need permission from your local power authorities to do electrical work at your home. According to the Oregon Business and Consumer Services Department (ODBCS), homeowners do not need a license "to replace electrical appliances or to maintain an existing electrical installation". However, the ODBCS states that a license is required for:

install or modify any permanent electrical wiring or appliance

install additional wiring, connect a power outlet or fixture, install a receptacle for a garage door opener, or convert the fuse box to a circuit breaker

install or modify low voltage systems such as security alarms or stereo or computer systems

Permit laws vary from state to state. So be sure to check with your local office whether you need a license or not.


Turn off the power at the source, through a circuit breaker. Even if you operate a wall switch, the device or the associated jack will still be turned on. Although many electrical distribution boards have a diagram detailing the circuit connected to the circuit breaker, do not trust them.

Check yourself that the circuit is dead using a voltage tester. For this part of the process, an assistant can be very useful to avoid you rushing to and from the circuit breaker or fuse box to test the circuit and vice versa. Tape the circuit breaker to the "off" position to make sure that no-one is trying to restore power while you work. Do not restore power until your work is done.

Although you can turn off a switch or breakers, you can not turn off the main wires entering an electrical panel from the outside. Do not touch these wires or approach them with a metal object. If you think the problem lies in the service cables, contact the utility company.

Being shocked puts a brake on things.

Do not stay in water on moist soil. This could result in a very dangerous or even fatal shock. If water is on the floor, lay a rubber mat on which you can stand. Make sure you do not get wet while wearing dry clothes. As always, if you have doubts about the security of the situation, call a professional.

Metal or rubber?

The metal is bad. Rubber is good. The metal conducts electricity, which means that if you simultaneously touch metal and a live wire, your body conducts the current from one to the other. Not nice or healthy.

Rubber, on the other hand, is a non-conductive material and thus isolates you from electricity. Use tools with rubber or plastic-coated handles and wear rubber-soled shoes or sneakers. Safety glasses and gloves are not a bad idea, when it's workable.

Test it.

Once your repair work is complete, turn the fuse or circuit breaker back on to restore power to the area. Use a voltage tester to check if the proper amount of electricity is flowing. Lights, sockets and conventional appliances consume 120 volts of electricity. Large appliances such as air conditioners and electric ovens require 240 volts. Some devices, such as doorbells and telephones, use transformers that convert the standard power supply to a lower voltage (usually between 6 and 12 volts) for safety reasons.

To improve your electrical skills, many DIY stores offer clinics and workshops. Ask the professionals and ask questions so that you feel better prepared the next time electrical work is needed. If you have doubts about your abilities or the security of the situation, entrust this task to experts. Start by repairing your faux finish or building new shelves while waiting for the arrival of your friendly local electrician. And when he or she comes to the rescue, observe and learn.

About the author - Yoann
An international traveller with 55+ countries and a year long solo world tour, businessman and fashion industry consultant, he created this website to simplify fashion codes for everybody, while helping them looking like world class for the occasions that arise. "Even a man can learn about fashion and refinement"

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