As a homeowner, one of your top concerns is safety. From burglar-proofing your home to installing an alarm system, there are plenty of safety measures you can take.
However, electrical wiring is another concern that can lead to accidents and injuries. That’s why it’s essential to follow these 7 electrical wiring tips for homeowners.
1. Know Your Wiring
If you’re an electrical contractor, or planning on doing some DIY work, knowing your wiring can save you time and money. It will help you select the proper wires for your project and make sure they’re installed safely.
Wires are usually sold in packages that include the outer sheathing, or jacket, as well as bare or insulated conductors inside. Each wire has a color that helps you identify the type of circuit it’s used for.
Most modern homes use non-metallic (NM) cable, which is made up of two or more wires wrapped in colored sheathing. It contains a hot wire, a neutral wire and a ground wire.
The sheathing may be green, black, red or blue and there are markings on the sheathing that tell you what the wires do. The color coding also helps you identify the type of insulation and the number of wires within a package.
Using a voltmeter or multimeter, plug one probe into each slot and test the voltage. This will indicate whether your outlet is grounded properly. If not, it could mean that the fuse or circuit breaker has blown.
2. Check Your Outlets
The number one rule to avoid overloading an outlet is never to plug in appliances that produce heat (irons, hair styling tools, kettles, toasters). Unplugging these types of equipment and allowing them to cool down after use is essential for avoiding a fire.
Likewise, never force a plug into an outlet if it doesn’t fit properly. This can lead to a fire or even an electrical shock.
You can check the wiring in your outlets using a multimeter. These devices can tell you which cables feed power to each outlet, whether the white and black wires are reversed, and whether the receptacle is grounded properly.
If you have a multimeter, place the red and black probes into the hot and neutral slots on the outlet and measure the voltage. A properly grounded outlet should give you a reading of 110 to 120 volts.
If you don’t have a multimeter, use a voltage detector in place of a voltmeter or a continuity tester ($6, Home Depot) in place of an ohmmeter. If you can’t get a reading, or if the outlet doesn’t work at all, call an electrician.
3. Unplug Appliances
One of the most effective ways to save electricity is by unplugging appliances when not in use. This can be a bit tricky to do with large appliances, like the refrigerator. However, unplugging smaller kitchen appliances, such as toasters and coffee makers, can help you save energy while not affecting your day-to-day life.
The idea behind unplugging appliances is that they will use less power when in standby mode, thereby saving you money and reducing your carbon footprint. The amount of energy you can save depends on the appliance and how often it is used.
Another way to cut down on wasted power is by installing outlet covers, which completely cover the outlets into which you plug your devices. This makes them hard for children to pull out, and it can also save you a lot of time when you need to unplug something from a wall outlet.
Many of these box-shaped covers come with translucent plastic so you can see what’s plugged in. Depending on the manufacturer, these box covers can be installed on all types of outlets.
4. Install Outlet Covers
Outlet covers are a great way to make sure children don’t get too close to electrical outlets. They protect kids from inserting their fingers into the wall sockets, which can lead to shock or death.
These covers are available in several designs to fit different types of outlets, and they’re made from durable plastic so they don’t break easily. They also stay firmly in place, making it difficult for small children to pull them off.
Unlike traditional outlet cover plates, this one doesn’t have a screw on it, so you won’t have to worry about the screws showing in the wall paint. It’s also a great option for bathrooms and other moisture-prone zones because it’s waterproof.
You can also find a switch or outlet plate that’s specially designed to blend in with your wall paint. These can be made from thermoplastic or decorative materials like ceramic or wood.
In addition to protecting kids from the dangers of open outlets, these covers can help reduce energy costs. Sealing outlets helps keep airflow and prevent cold and hot air from escaping through them, which can drive up your electricity bill. It’s a simple and easy way to keep your home safe and save money.
5. Install Light Fixtures
One of the best ways to add some life to a room is with a new light fixture. There are a variety of options to choose from, including chandeliers, wall sconces, and more.
Before you begin, make sure to disconnect the old light fixture. You will need to remove three wires – the black (live) and white (neutral) wires, plus a ground wire.
The ground wire is usually green or exposed copper and connects to a green screw on the electrical box’s metal grounding bar, but it may also be connected to a dedicated copper wire in the ceiling.
Once you’ve disconnected the old wiring, follow your instructions to connect the new fixture to the circuit box. This process isn’t difficult and most fixtures come with a color-coded diagram that will help you figure out where the wires go.
Once you have all of the wires matched, twist the ends together and cover with a wire nut. Wrap some electrical tape around the twisted end to prevent it from coming loose. Then feed all of the wires into the electrical box, making sure that the black live wire isn’t touching the ground wire. Finally, install the fixture and turn on the power.
6. Install Outlets in the Right Place
Adding outlets to a home is a great way to improve the electrical system and add additional convenience. However, installing outlets in the wrong place can cause problems.
For example, if you have a desk in your office, it’s best to install outlets above the desk rather than underneath it. This will reduce the clutter of cords on the floor and make it easier to plug and unplug devices.
Also, if you have an open floor plan, consider adding extra outlets near the entrance of the room. This will eliminate the need for extension cords and power strips.
In addition, you should install outlets in the kitchen and bathroom at least 3 feet away from the sink or countertop if possible to provide safety. This will ensure you have plenty of space to safely handle the appliances that come with these rooms.
It’s also best to install outlets on 15 amp circuits, and avoid putting them on 20 amp circuits. If you do, it can overheat the wires in your wall and wear down your breaker. You also shouldn’t have more than 8 outlets per 15 amp breaker, as this can overload the circuit. This can lead to an electrical fire.
7. Hire an Electrician
If you’re having electrical problems, it is important to call an electrician. You’ll save yourself time and money by hiring the right person to handle the problem. You will also avoid any potential safety hazards.
The wiring in your home is a complex system that can be difficult to understand if you’re not a professional. This is because it’s connected to other systems and circuits that aren’t easily identified.
You might even find yourself getting into trouble if you’re trying to fix something yourself. This could lead to fires or injuries.
Another reason to hire an electrician is that they have the proper training and experience to work safely on electrical components. They are also licensed and insured.
When looking for an electrician, it’s important to choose a company that has been in business for a long time and is reputable. Check their online reputation and ask for references from fellow homeowners.
A good electrician will also be able to help you save money by suggesting ways to lower electricity consumption. For example, if you’re using an inefficient appliance or old wiring, they may recommend that you replace them with more energy-efficient models. They can also install new lights and outlets that use less electricity.