If you're raring to go get started on your first home project that involves electrical work, you may need to hold your horses for a minute and make sure you're really ready to start. If you've never done this kind of work before, here are a few tips that will help keep you and your wallet safe throughout the whole process.
First, Get Your Permit
Unless you want your project to land you in legal hot water, it's a good idea to find out if you'll need a permit. Rewiring parts of your home and installing new appliances will typically mean you need permission, but smaller projects like replacing an existing appliance can be done without hassle. If you fail to get a permit for your work and are caught, you could end up facing not only expensive repairs, but also steep fines for breaking the law.
On the plus side, work that requires a permit will also be inspected by the agency that gave you permission to build. Inspections can help you avoid dangerous or costly mistakes by letting a pair of trained eyes evaluate your work. In many cases, something as small as using a single wrong part can result in a house fire, so be sure to take whatever the inspector says to heart.
Test, Test, Test
Current should always be shut off at the circuit breaker before you start to work. Depending on the appliance, you may need to turn off the electricity to that part of your home and then wait to make it's safe to begin. For beginners, accidentally leaving the electricity on is an easy and yet costly mistake to make.
The best protection against accidental electrocution is to carry your circuit tester with you at all times and use it before touching any new wire. For good measure, test everything twice before touching it if this is your first project. If the tester lights up, you'll need to go back to your circuit breaker and confirm you've shut off the power to the right area of your home. If you have, you may need to drain power from the fixture or appliance in question, which you should do according to the specific instructions for that item.
Take Your Time
When taking apart old fixtures or rewiring a section of your home, it can be slow going. Corroded, rusty, or dusty screws and nuts may be difficult to loosen, and unfamiliar parts may not function how you expect them to at first. In situations where the work is new to you, it can be easy to get frustrated. Unfortunately, if you get worked up, you may push too hard on a part or twist too hard on a screw and accidentally break something.
Be sure to take breaks whenever you start to feel frustrated with the project. If you don't recognize a part or know how to do something, stop right away and check the instructions you have. If you're still confused, check for help with the problem online by looking up the problem part. Don't try to figure out how to attach or detach things by yourself.
Save Your Receipts
If you're working with unusual, unique, or antique fixtures, it may be harder than you anticipate to find the exact parts you need at the hardware store. In addition to making careful notes about what you need when you go to the store for parts, you should also meticulously save your receipts.
All too often, a socket that looked just right in the store is actually just a little too big to fit, or perhaps the wire you initially chose is no longer strong enough to handle the voltage you want to pass through it. In these situations, you can save yourself a pretty hefty sum by returning the parts you initially bought in exchange for the correct ones. If you don't hang onto your receipts, however, you might make your wallet cry and have only a box of unusable spare parts to show for it.
Getting started on your first electrical project can be a fun adventure, but it can also be dangerous if you don't take the right precautions. Make sure you protect your wallet and your life by following these steps during your novice work. On the plus side, one day you'll have enough experience for all of this to be rote.
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