my Old Workshop

Five steps to deal confidently with electrical jobs

Electricity can seem scary. After all, 120 volts can knock you into the next world. But it doesn’t need to be scary as long as you’re careful. The best way to build up your confidence and arm yourself against the electrical jitters is to simply practice safe habits.

Follow these five rules, and you’ll be lot more comfortable — and safe.

1. Always turn off the circuit you’re working on. And then double-check. A voltage tester or a circuit tester will tell you if current is reaching the receptacle. So will plugging in an electrical device, such as a lamp, that you know is working. Test both receptacles just in case the circuit is split. And before you leave the panel room, lock the panel or tape up a sign to make sure someone doesn’t flip the switch back on.

2. Likewise, if you’re adding a new circuit, turn off the master breaker before installing the circuit breaker and the wires. Remember that the large wires which come from outside are always live (unless the power company’s shut them down). This shouldn’t be an issue, since they shouldn’t be exposed, but if they are, don’t touch them. Don’t even think about working with them.

3. Don’t become a conductor. If you’ve followed rule one, this should be redundant, but better safe than sorry. Don’t stand on a wet floor. Don’t wear wet clothes. And don’t touch metal surfaces while working with electricity. Do wear rubber-soled shoes — and gloves if you’re able to work with them.

4. Use proper tools, such as screwdrivers and pliers with rubber or plastic coated handles. Use a proper wire stripper — not a utility knife, which can strip off insulation in areas you don’t want stripped.

5. Don’t rush the job. Allow enough time, plan it out, and keep the area you’re working in free of clutter. If you find yourself getting in over your head, don’t wing it. Stop. Call in a pro.