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How to: DIY Electrical Work Safely

We’ve previously talked about what electrical work is safe to DIY and definitely isn’t safe to DIY. However, when you are DIY-ing an electrical project, it’s important to make sure you take all precautions necessary to avoid injuries and accidents. Our master electrician, Bryan Butler, gave us a few suggestions on how you can stay safe when you do electrical work on your own.

Types of Safe DIY Work:

A few projects that most people can safely do on their own include changing a lightbulb, replacing a light fixture, and replacing an outlet cover. Sometimes, we change lightbulbs to get a more energy-efficient bulb and save money. Replacing a light fixture or an outlet cover can help improve the appearance of your home if you are trying to sell it. We suggest that, if you are unsure whether you are capable of handling an electrical project on your own, err on the side of caution and ask a professional for help. If you are a renter of a home or commercial space, you should not attempt any electrical work on your own. Contact your landlord or maintenance department for any electrical concerns in order to ensure things are completed to the property owner’s specifications. For further direction on what electrical work you should or shouldn’t handle, feel free to contact us at 616-643-8287.

Where to Find Trustworthy Sources for Electrical Project Tutorials:

There are tons of tutorials online, but not all of them should be trusted. Bryan Butler suggests looking at resources like This Old House, a home renovation show led by experts that share their knowledge and tutorials (including electrical) on their website; trade-based organizations, like Leviton; and home supply retailers like HomeDepot. These resources offer a variety of content and how-to’s on installation, safe practices, and ideas for home improvement projects. Bryan Butler highly recommends Wiring 123, a book from HomeDepot that thoroughly explains multitudes of electrical projects. This can be found on ThriftBooks and Amazon.

What Equipment You Need for Electrical Projects:

A majority of electrical projects will require the following equipment: wire cutters, pliers, wire strippers, screwdrivers, electrical tape, wire nuts, and an Ohm meter.

Wire cutters are used to cut wire or cable with minimal damage to the wire/cable’s internal conductors or insulation. Wire strippers are used to pull the insulation off of the conductor, allowing access to the internal copper inside. For a screwdriver, we suggest using a Robertson square-drive screwdriver or a hybrid screwdriver when you are doing electrical work. The design of these screwdrivers allows them to “lock” into the screws of a light switch or a receptacle, making for easy tightening or loosening. Electrical tape is insulation tape that has resistance to corrosion and moisture. Electrical tape should be used with electrical wiring to insulate electrical wire and other electricity-conducting materials, or to make minor repairs to damaged electrical wires. An Ohm meter is especially useful because it can sense the electrical current of live wires, allowing you to check whether or not the wire has the potential to shock you.

Clothing should be intentionally chosen so that you are not conductive, meaning that electricity cannot travel through the materials that you are wearing. You should be wearing shoes (rubber soled) and gloves. The worst thing you can do is be in a wet environment without shoes while doing electrical work; water conducts electricity, and without anything between your feet and the water, you will get shocked.

Maintaining a Safe Environment for Electrical Projects:

Make sure that the area surrounding the electrical project is lit well and clean. Remove any breakables from your working space, and make sure no young children are around. Most importantly, make sure you shut off the breaker for the circuit you are working on. By switching the breaker off, electricity should stop flowing on the circuit you are working on. However, it is not uncommon for a fuse box to be mislabeled, so use an Ohm meter to make sure that there is no electricity going through the circuit.

Unsure about whether or not you can handle an electrical problem on your own? No worries! Give us a call at 616-643-8287. We take pride in being transparent about electrical issues. If you can do the project by yourself, we will let you know. If not, we are happy to help!


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