9 Common Home Electrical Mistakes

Doing it yourself (DIY) is often a great way to fix up your house and add value to one of the largest investments you will ever make. However, amateur electrical projects are a completely different story.

Here’s a list of common home electrical mistakes made by well-meaning do-it-yourselfers. Unfortunately, these errors don’t just endanger your electrical system itself; they can also create a potential fire hazard or electrocution risk. Beware!

Common Electrical Mistakes Homeowners Make

Improper Grounding/Bonding

Grounding is an important step in making your home electrical system safe. Basically, a ground wire channels electrical surges harmlessly into the earth.

Bonding entails connecting electrically conductive equipment to the system ground. Without this protection, you face the danger that the breaker won’t trip when you get short circuits. Professional electricians know this, but many homeowners don’t.

No GFCI Installed

The Canadian Electrical Code requires GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets for shock protection in all locations near water and/or the earth, such as kitchens, bathrooms, outdoors, etc.

Installation of a GFCI outlet is tricky, involving 2 sets of terminals; if it’s done by a non-skilled individual, the terminals can easily be connected backwards. The result? No more shock protection.

Overloading Circuits

Professionals know how to test electric circuits for load capacity to avoid overload. Amateurs, on the other hand, will often merrily keep adding plugs onto a certain circuit, which is not safe and may exceed the rating of standard 14-2 wire and 15Amp breaker.

Faulty Wire Connections

Another of the common home electrical mistakes is incorrect wire connections. They might be installed without a wire nut or with the wrong conduit fittings (which means that they won’t be watertight). If they are metal, then they’re not properly bonded. Loose connections can create electrical shorts as well as hard to diagnose issues downstream of the electrical connection.

Improper Junction Box

When adding a new light fixture or electrical outlet, a steel or plastic junction box should be used. In fact, anywhere an electrical connection is made, it must be within a proper junction box.

This safety rule is designed both to protect your electrical connections and to prevent the spread of sparks and heat if you have a short circuit or loose connection. Junction boxes can not be buried or hidden in walls, floors or ceilings; they must be flush with your drywall and accessible in case electrical repairs are needed.

Unsecured Outlets

Electrical receptacles (outlets) must be firmly attached. If poorly installed, outlets tend to move, potentially resulting in electrical arcing, which is a fire hazard. Shorts and electrical arcs in the outlet can also damage whatever is plugged into them!

Reversed Polarity

Possibly the most dangerous of all common home electrical mistakes is reversing the “hot” and the neutral electrical wire. Reversed polarity can damage your electronics and carries the risk of severe (perhaps fatal) electric shock. An electrician understands how to properly wire switches, outlets and fixtures to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Use Wrong Wires

Yet another problem source is using the wrong wire for the situation – for instance, choosing too small a gauge for the circuit’s amperage, pulling the wrong type of wire through a conduit, or using indoor wire for an outdoor application. Here you’ll have potential overheating, damage to the wires or short circuits.

Wires Too Short

When attempting residential wiring upgrades, wannabe electricians tend to cut wires too short (instead of leaving at least an extra 3 inches extending from the junction box). This will likely produce poor connections — yet another dangerous situation.

Do I Need A Permit In Calgary?

Yes, you will need a permit to run ANY new electrical circuits in Calgary. (In fact, replacing a similar device, such as a new light fixture, is the only time you don’t need a permit.)

As a homeowner, you can pull your own residential permit — just submit a rough outline of what you will be doing. The city will follow up with an inspection. Unfortunately, just because an amateur job has passed inspection doesn’t mean it’s safe; the city won’t necessarily catch every mistake.

Once you’ve pulled the permit, you can have Sun Electrical Ltd. do the skilled work.

BUDGET TIP: Save money by acting as an electrician’s helper and doing some of the manual labour yourself. For example, you can drill holes in studs, get on clean-up duty or dig outdoor trenches to run wire.

Choose Sun Electrical Ltd. For Safe Electrical Work

Whew! Now that you know the hazards of common home electrical mistakes, turn to the experts.

Our experienced electricians will take care of your electrical installations and repairs… professionally and, above all, safely.

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