Watch out for these common wiring mistakes

If you’re handy around the home – maybe you can do a bit of plumbing, know your way around a tool kit and can easily carry out an oil change on your car – you might feel well placed to try your hand at fixing the electrics.

The problem is, while a dodgy tap or a bit of oil spotting can be an inconvenience, making a mistake with the electrics can lead to fire, electrocution and even death. Even if you’re a fully-qualified electrician, the risk is still there.

If you’re still tempted to mess with the wiring, watch out for these potentially costly common errors…

Electrical extension

1. Permanently using an extension cord

Using an extension cord as permanent wiring is an old favourite of households up and down the country, but these things are only meant for temporary use. If used constantly, extension cords can deteriorate quickly and lead to fire or electrocution. So if you’re using an extension permanently, it’s about time you got some more wall sockets installed closer to your appliances.

2. Leaving electric cables unprotected

If you think a few cable ties and a staple gun is enough to secure a cable to a wall and keep it out of sight and out of mind, think again. If there are any cables in an area where they could potentially be damaged they must be protected inside a wall or electrical conduit below eight feet from the floor. If you’re unsure about some wiring in your house, ask a professional who will know more about pvc wire cables and their installation.

3. Incorrectly installing a ceiling fan

If things get a little too hot to handle around the house you may be tempted to install a ceiling fan, and there’s nothing wrong with that provided that you fit it correctly. Most ceiling-mounted electrical boxes were only designed to house a light fixture and maybe a shade – tacking a heavy fan on to this fitting can bring the whole thing crashing down. So if you must install a ceiling fan, make sure you fit it to a stronger electrical box that is fitted with a cross brace.

4. Using the wrong wires in a fuse box

A property’s fuse box is fitted with circuit breakers that trip before any permanent damage can be done, but if incorrect sized wires are fitted and they don’t match each circuit breakers’ amperage rating it could end in disaster – if the wire is too small, it can overheat and start a fire before the breaker is tripped. And don’t assume fitting larger wires right across the board is a neat shortcut, especially if some of the strands need to be snipped, as these ‘haircuts’ can also make wire unsafe.

5. Leaving wall sockets loose

Loose switches and wall sockets not only look unsightly, they can be extremely dangerous as they can move around and cause wires to come loose from their terminals. If this happens, the wires can arc, overheat and catch fire. So make sure you shore up any loose outlets.

6. Incorrectly fitting electrical boxes

All electrical boxes must be fitted flush to any combustible surfaces, such as wooden walls or panelling. If they are not and the wood is exposed to heat and sparks this presents an obvious, but no less dangerous, fire hazard.

7. Over packing electrical boxes and panels

Once a rewiring job is almost done, it can be tempting to just stuff the wires into the electrical box or panel, even if it looks like it’s going to be a bit of a squeeze – but too many wires stuffed into a box can quickly lead to overheating, short circuits and fire.

8. Reverse polarity wiring

This is when electrical wires are connected to the wrong or opposite terminals and this can permanently damage appliances or even lead to fire. So make sure the positive wires go to the positive terminals and the negative wires go to the negative terminals – this usually means the black (positive) wire going to the brass terminal and the white (negative) wire connecting to the silver terminal.

9. Not securing a cable with a clamp

If cables aren’t secured this can not only strain the connections, but if the wire is running through a metal box, the sharp edges can cut the wire’s insulation and so all cables must be connected to metal boxes with an approved clamp. Single plastic boxes, however, don’t need internal clamps but the cable must be stapled within eight inches of the box, while larger plastic boxes are required to have built-in clamps and cables must be stapled within 12 inches.

10. Open splice

Fire protection is at the heart of all electrical safety codes and fire is still the number one concern for all electrical wiring. And because most electrical fires start due to arcing and sparks from a loose connection, safety codes specify wire connections are made in a fireproof box, such as an electric panel or receptacle box. If you leave the splice open and close to a flammable material, this is a serious fire hazard that can go undetected until it’s too late.

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