If you’re in a remodeling mode, consider checking with professionals before you migrate to the nearest hardware store. While do-it-yourself (DIY) projects can be very satisfying to complete, they pose risks when it comes to electricity.
Most lighting fixtures feature a sticker on the socket that tells you the proper type and maximum wattage of the light bulb to use. Installing a different type of bulb, or one with higher wattage, will not only make the room brighter, but could also damage the lights and cause a fire. Heat is usually the catalyst in this case: the higher the wattage, the hotter the bulb and the hotter the wire that goes to the lighting fixture.
3. Not being grounded. For optimal safety, receptacles should be wired with the proper grounding and polarity. Generally, three-pronged outlets signify an effective ground path in the circuit. However, homes built before the mid-1960s probably don’t have a grounding path, and simply replacing the existing outlet with a three-pronged outlet won’t give you one.
“You see instances of this in homes with older wiring,” Drengenberg says. “It’s no worse than if you plug your two-pronged device into a two-pronged outlet. But it does give the homeowner a false sense of security.”
4. Splicing, splicing, splicing. Always make sure your wiring size and type match. Splicing wires by simply twisting them together and covering them with electrical tape is rarely a good idea. Instead, use wiring suitable to your home’s wiring and place wiring connections in metal or plastic boxes to decrease fire risk.
Also keep in mind that circuits protected by 15-amp fuses or breakers should be wired with No. 14 AWG copper wire minimum. For 20 amps, use No. 12 AWG minimum size. Other guidelines apply, so if you expect to do any splicing, seek professional help before you begin.
5. Hooking new lights to old wires. Most light fixtures are marked with instructions for supply connections, such as “Use wire rated for at least 90C,” which refers to the maximum temperature – 90 degrees Celcius or about 200 degrees Fahrenheit – under when a wire’s insulation can safely be used. Again, if you have an older home (pre-1984, in this case), wiring may have a lower temperature rating than a new luminaire.
“This isn’t something most DIYers even thing to consider,” Drengenberg cautions. “It probably won’t burst into flame immediately, but it does increase the risk of fire.”
To avoid that risk, check your wire rating first, and either upgrade it or buy fixtures within the supply connection range.
Article courtesy of Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
Photo credits: Electrical Safety Foundation International