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DIY electrical repairs require more caution and know-how than many other types of home improvement projects. Whether you are installing a new electrical outlet or simply changing a light bulb, you need to be sure you are not putting your home at risk of a fire. Here are four mistakes to avoid when fixing electrical problems around your home.
Connecting Wires Outside Junction Boxes
Junction boxes are one of the most important components for protecting your home from an electrical fire. Junction boxes help to prevent accidental wire damage that could lead to a short. They are also essential in the event that a short occurs, as they contain arcing and sparks that could set fire to nearby flammable materials.
No matter what type of fixture you are installing, be sure to always make your wire connections inside a junction box. In addition to minimizing the risk of fire, junction boxes conceal loose wiring and can greatly improve the appearance of your installation. It can also be a good idea to look for junction boxes that have a safety disconnect, so you can turn off power to the installation in the event of an emergency.
Using the Wrong Light Bulb Wattage
Almost every homeowner has used the wrong light bulb in their home at least once. While this may seem to be a harmless mistake that only causes the room to be a little brighter for a while, light fixtures are rated for bulbs of specific wattage for a reason.
The problem with using a light bulb with a higher wattage than your fixture is rated for is that it causes the wires in the fixture to generate more heat as they attempt to meet the wattage demands of the new bulb. Over time, this can melt the plastic shielding off the wiring in the fixture and create a fire hazard. Any new fixture that you buy will have a wattage rating on the packaging, and most will also be labeled near the light socket. Be sure you know the right bulb to buy for each.
Forgetting to Secure Cables With Clamps
Overhead lights, ceiling fans, and other hanging fixtures should never place weight on the wiring itself. To avoid this problem, it is important to use wire clamps on any hanging fixtures that you install. Wire clamps anchor the wiring against the fixture's junction box to prevent the wires from moving and avoid strained connections.
If wires are allowed to move too much inside the junction box, loose connections are bound to occur at some point on the circuit. Moving wires are especially problematic if you are using a metal junction box, as they can rub against the semi-sharp edges of the box and become frayed over time. If your junction box doesn't have built-in clamps, purchase clamps separately and install them at the point where the wiring enters the junction box.
Don't Install Ungrounded Three-Slot Outlets
Many homes that were built when computers and other energy-hungry appliances were less common have few or only two-slot outlets. If you have many appliances with three-prong plugs, you will likely want to replace the two-slot outlets with updated three-slot models. Unfortunately, you cannot simply reconnect the wires inside the outlets' junction boxes and call it a day. Instead, you will need to run a new grounding wire to your electrical panel for each three-slot outlet that you install.
Simple DIY repairs can be accomplished by virtually any homeowner who is willing to research electrical safety. Keep these tips in mind so you can upgrade light fixtures and fix electrical outlets without putting your home at risk. Click here to read more about electricians and electrical safety tips.