Electrical Safety

5 Common Electrical Mistakes Homeowners Make


There are many home maintenance projects that homeowners can undertake to add value to their home while saving money at the same time. However, when it comes to electrical projects, it is always to best to leave them to the pros. Even what seems to be small electrical mistakes could result in electric shocks, damage to properties, and in worst cases electrical fires.

Here are five of the common electrical mistakes that homeowners make and what you can do to fix them:

1. Reversing hot wire and the neutral terminal.
Connecting the hot wire to the neutral terminal of a receptacle can result in a life-threatening electrical shock. Now, the problem is that you may not realize this electrical wiring mishap until someone actually gets shocked or electrocuted. This is because lights and most other appliances will still work when you plug them into the outlet, but they won’t be safe to use.

What You Can Do:

You should connect the white wire to the neutral terminal of the outlets and light fixtures at all times. The neutral terminal is usually indicated by a silver or light-colored screw. Connect the hot wire to the other terminal. If there is a green or bare copper wire, that is the grounding wire. The ground wire must be connected to the green grounding wire or the grounded box.

2. Cutting wires too short.
Cutting the wires too short result into difficult wiring connections and in turn will highly likely make poor connections. They can pose risks for various electrical hazards.

What You Can Do:
When cutting wires, remember to leave enough wire to strip adequately and to make proper wiring connections. Wires should be long enough to protrude at least 3 inches from the electrical box. If you encounter short wires, you can splice them and add extensions into the existing wires.

3. Leaving the cables exposed.
Leaving the cables in a home’s framing unprotected is a violation against the electrical safety code. Exposed cables are both shock and fire hazards, and are especially vulnerable when they run under or over the framing of the wall or ceiling.

What You Can Do:
You can fix the problem by using a conduit to protect the exposed cable from getting damaged. You can use either a metal or flexible conduit which should not cost you that much per linear foot.

4. Loose switches and outlets.
Loosely connected switches or outlets are not only annoying, but they can also be serious potential electrical hazards. Over time, the wires at the terminals will loosen which can lead to overheating and power arcing, creating risks for electrical fires.

What You Can Do:
It is crucial to address issues with loose outlets immediately before the problem could escalate. You can fix the problem by shimming under the screws to create a tight connection to the electrical box. You can also buy inexpensive individual spacers to provide support for the loose receptacle.

5. Overfilling electrical boxes.
Having too many wires stuffed into an electrical box is dangerous and can result in overheating, short-circuits and even electrical fires. This is also a violation against the National Electric Code.

What You Can Do:
You should consider installing a larger box. Plastic junction boxes are typically stamped with their approved volume inside or at the back. Steel boxes often come with no label, so you will have to calculate the volume on your own by multiplying the height, width, and depth of the interior to determine if it is the appropriate size for your project.

Electrical projects are often complicated by nature. Due to the apparent dangers associated with electrical works, it is always recommended to contact a licensed electrician who will make sure that the electrical project is done following the safety codes and the best practices in electrical wiring to prevent serious problems that may arise later on.