If you have an old house, you may have old wiring. Here are a few ideas.
Ground-fault circuit-interrupters (GFCIs) are essential in areas like bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms and for outdoor outlets, but they can protect you elsewhere. If you have old two-slot outlets and need to plug in three-prong appliances and equipment, don’t just replace them with standard three-slot outlets. Since there’s no ground wire, you’re not protected. A GFCI does the trick even without a ground wire. The outlet still won’t be grounded, but it will protect you from shock by shutting off if it detects the current “leaking”.
Of course, if that’s an indication of your wiring situation, you may be planning a rewiring. One of the first tools you’ll want to bring out is fish tape. This indispensable tool is a length of spring steel, which allows you to run wires through walls and ceilings, without knocking out big chunks of the wall in the process. You just pull. The chief mistake people make when using it is to not connect the new wire to the fish tape properly. When you hit a jam in the wall — and you will — the connection breaks and you have to start all over. Stick the end of the fish tape directly through the outer insulation of your new wire, and tape it securely so there’s a smooth surface from one end of the joint to the other. Any bulges will be prime candidates for getting stuck.
If you’re simply running new wire where old wire already exists, you may be able to hook the new wire to the old wire at one end, tape as above, and pull the old wire from the next outlet along.
Of course, safety comes first. Learn how current travels through wires, receptacles and switches. Understand the code. And get a voltage tester which tells you whether a wire is “hot”.