Consumers are being inundated with do-it-yourself projects for home improvement. Television shows take a room or entire home and show it being renovated before the credits roll. In less than an hour, consumers can see a drab kitchen turned into a modern masterpiece. It looks easy. To the experienced person, it is. However, building trades have safety codes and procedures that need to be followed with electricians being at the top of the list.
Hidden Risks of Common Electrical Renovations
A popular home project is replacing a ceiling light with a combination ceiling fan and light fixture. There are step-by-step books and videos that declare how easy it is to accomplish. However, every instructional method assumes a basic understanding of fundamentals. When it comes to electricity, failing to understand the fundamentals is extremely risky.
The first instruction is always to shut off the circuit at the breaker box. An electrician confirms it using a meter or other testing device. The do-it-yourself type may not even have a voltage tester or know how to use one properly. Also, ceiling fans are heavy. They need to be connected to a sturdy support structure other than a standard fixture box.
Simply replacing an electrical outlet requires following electrical codes for everything from stripping back the insulation on conductors to precise lengths, to making sure the conductors are firmly wrapped around the attachment screws. Novices also often fail to secure conductors appropriately when wire nuts are used. This can create an electrocution and fire hazard.
When Hiring a Professional Electrician is Necessary
Any repair or renovation that goes beyond the skills of an amateur needs to be completed by a professional electrical contractor. Working on electrical circuits requires knowledge of how electricity works and how to keep homes and occupants safe. If there is any doubt whatsoever that a project may exceed a skill level, then leave the work to the pros.
For example, those who are comfortable changing a single pole light switch may not understand how a 3-way switch functions in order to be able to safely replace one. Those who understand how a standard wall outlet is wired with hot and return conductors may not understand how a clothes dryer outlet has two hot conductors that doubles the voltage. When in doubt, hire an electrician.
Replacing Breakers and Service Panels
An inspection is required in most instances where a service panel has been changed or circuits are added. Most amateurs do not attempt to change service panels, but many have chosen to add a new circuit breaker. Failure to have changes inspected can create problems with a homeowner’s insurance policy or even be a violation of a local ordinance or an electrical utility provider’s policy.
Another thing about electrical circuits is that just because no sparks are flying when something is turned on does not mean that every code and safety procedure has been met during installation or repair. It is wise to call a professional whenever there is any question. Also, do not hesitate to call in a pro to inspect and finish a project that turns out to be too involved or difficult midway through it.