You’ve got an electrical issue. Is it safe to do it yourself?
I often have customers say, “I’m afraid of electricity.” That’s a GOOD thing. It’s healthy and safe. It can avoid damage to equipment and property. It can be life-saving. And it can save extra expense when from having to call an expert in to figure out what you did wrong.
I typically don’t advise people to work with electricity unless they feel confident. But sometimes I get calls from people who are already in the middle of a project. For Do-It-Yourself-ers who have some experience and are not afraid to try, here are some basic DO’s and DON’T’s when dealing with electricity:
- TURN THE POWER OFF! This is the most immediate need, even if you DO know what you’re doing. Besides the danger of shock, there are possibilities like falling off a ladder or stool, shorting out equipment and causing damage, and tripping GFCI breakers that may be somewhere you’ll have to hunt to find.
- TRY TO EDUCATE YOURSELF FIRST. Check out YouTube videos. Google the topic. Ask experts or friends you may know who would have that kind of knowledge. Even call an electrician in the directory! (I’ve gladly answered many a question or explained how to do something over the phone—it’s a matter of having a heart for serving, and many tradespeople have that instinctively.)
- CALL AN EXPERT if you are unsure. Sayings like “Better safe than sorry” and “Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish” come to mind. Most of the time you won’t realize that you’ve avoided a lot of headache or heartache, simply because you won’t know what bad thing you missed out on. But that’s GOOD!
- DON’T GO BEYOND YOUR COMFORT LEVEL. Be sure you are willing to risk at the level you’re venturing into. I once tried doing some major car repairs and had to have a mechanic come out to help me figure out what I’d done wrong. When he billed me, his comment was, “Sometimes you have to figure in the cost of the education you’re going to get!” Be sure you’re willing and able to pay the price for mistakes.
- DON’T FORGET SAFETY. Make sure you’re not grounded! (If you don’t know what this means, either learn quickly or call an expert!) It can be deadly for electricity to have a path that can go through you (onto wet concrete, for example), especially through your heart. Wear rubber shoes, stand on something non-conductive (rubber or wood), etc. Don’t get on a metal ladder. The list goes on. And grounding is not the only safety issue!
- DON’T WORK ALONE! Be sure someone is close around in case you get yourself into trouble! And be sure to let them know, IF you get hung up on electricity, NOT to touch you! They can get hung up too. Better to push or knock you away with something non-conductive.
- DON’T MESS WITH VOLTAGES HIGHER THAN RESIDENTIAL. Unless you’re qualified, definitely don’t work beyond your level of expertise! It can be dangerous. Yes, more people get shocked or killed on 120 volts, but that’s because a lot more unqualified persons work on it at that level.
Electricity is a great servant. Respect it and treat it like one, and it will serve you well.
Ken Stewart, Easley Electric Inc.
We’ll Never Leave YOU In The Dark!