Ah, electricity! You don’t pay much attention to it unless it starts acting up. Most electric outlets work hard behind the scenes, illuminating your home, keeping you warm/cool, and powering all those appliances that are vital to your daily life.
However, electricity can also be a potential source of destruction. DIYing your next electrical project might sound great on paper, but it does come with a few caveats. Wiring mistakes are all too common, and, left uncorrected, have the potential to cause short circuits, shocks, and full-blown fires. The latest ‘Fire Loss in the U.S.’ report records the largest number of home fire deaths in 2021, reaching a 14-year high since 2007.
So, what do you do?
Learn About the 9 Household Electrical Mistakes to Avoid
Fortunately, knowing about the most common household electrical mistakes can help you sidestep them. Here are the nine top electrical mistakes homeowners make.
1. Not Protecting Wires
Often, novice homeowners will run wiring through the interior walls next to or through the framing. That’s a big mistake.
Unprotected wires can lead to several potential problems down the line. For example, if the wires are frayed and the sheathing is worn out, you could be at risk of a house fire. And house fires spread quicker than you think.
Additionally, exposed wires can electrocute you every time you hammer a nail into the wall. It’s a dangerous situation.
That’s why all wiring running along or through the framing must have a conduit- either rigid metal or flexible plastic. Both materials can protect your home from gruesome mishaps.
2. Cutting the Wires Too Short
Wires that are cut too short make connections difficult and dangerous. However, many DIY electricians cut the wires to a nub.
Be sure to leave the wires long enough to protrude at least three inches from the box. Also, if you ever run into short wires, don’t worry! Just add a few 6-inch extensions to the existing components. This should fix the problem right away.
3. Using Extension Cords as Permanent Wiring
Extension cords can work great if you have a shortage of outlets in your home. However, they’re not meant for permanent installations like garage door openers or wall air conditioners. Most extension cords are meant for temporary use only, and relying on them long-term can result in short circuits.
4. Ignoring Loose Outlets
Loose outlets are every electrician’s worst nightmare, simply because they can shift anytime and cause the wire to break free from the terminal. When this happens, the wiring might overheat and become a fire hazard.
Touch the screws on the outlet to see if they are loose- even slightly. In case they are, add a few plastic spacers and secure them. Don’t hesitate to call a professional electrical services company if you’re in doubt.
5. Reversing “Hot” and “Neutral” Wires
This is probably the most dangerous of all home electrical mistakes, switching the ‘hot’ and ‘neutral’ electrical wires. Commonly known as reversed polarity, it occurs when the hot wire is where the neutral wire should be, and the neutral wire is where the hot wire should be.
Make no mistake, reversed polarity in an electrical outlet is a disaster. If you accidentally swap these wires, the appliance you plug in might work, but it will be unsafe and risk a short circuit or near-fatal shocks. An electrician understands how to wire switches, wires, and fixtures to ensure this never happens.
6. Stuffing Electrical Boxes with Too Many Wires
Homeowners might use one electrical box to stuff more wires than recommended to save on expenses. But with connections in electrical boxes generating a ton of heat, this isn’t the best idea. The excess temperature can melt the surrounding wires and connections, leading to a world of heartache.
To avoid this pitfall, always stick to the number recommended on the electrical box. Or, choose a box with spare capacity for additional wires. This will help in case you need additional wiring down the line.
7. Recessing Electrical Boxes Behind Walls
Electrical boxes must be mounted flush to the wall surface if it’s made from a combustible material like wood. Boxes recessed behind such walls make for a fire hazard since the wood is exposed to heat and sparks.
There’s an easy fix to this problem- just install a metal or plastic box extension. Also, connect the metal extension to the ground wire in the box using a grounding clip and a short piece of wire. That should do the trick!
8. Installing Cables Without Proper Clamps
Improperly secured cables can strain the connections and cut the insulation on the wires. You can protect your wires and cables with a clamp to keep damage at bay.
Remember, you don’t need built-in clamps for single-plastic boxes, but you must staple the cables 8 inches inside the box. On the other hand, larger plastic boxes require an internal clamp. Only use approved cable clamps for metal junction boxes to avoid damaging the wires with the sharp box edges.
9. Making Connections Outside Electrical Boxes
As a DIY electrician trying to handle a project, you might be tempted to wire a connection outside an electrical box. That’s a strict no-no.
Never- and we cannot stress this enough- connect wires outside an electrical box. Junction boxes safeguard wire connections from accidental damage and contain sparks/heat from a short circuit.
When the connections aren’t placed inside an electrical box, install one and reconnect the wires inside it. The last thing you’d want is to play fast and loose with your family’s safety.
The Bottom Line
Although some electrical problems are just inconveniences, others can jeopardize your well-being. Hence, it’s best to hire a professional licensed electrician to give your home a thorough look-see. But in case you’re determined to handle your electrical problems solo, we hope this list of mistakes helps you make all the right decisions.
Need a reliable contractor to take over your home’s electrical problems? Give OMG Kitchen & Bath a try. Our electrical repair technicians can handle small or big concerns, no questions asked. Call us to ask about our plumbing and electrical services today!