Get Wired!

Having the ability to wire your home or to do basic repairs is a great skill to have, and can definitely help to save you a few bucks. You do have to have a healthy respect for electricity though, and exercise some caution when dealing with any kind of live current.

Each year, there are hundreds of serious injuries and deaths associated with household electrocutions, and thousands more minor shocks and burns that are reported. Add to this the fact that electricity is the cause of over 100,000 home fires every year, and the real potential for damage and personal injury is quite clear.

With a few simple tools and a little caution, there are many electrical tasks that the average person can do on their own. These would include simple wiring through walls, checking, replacing or adding outlets and installing lights or other fixtures. Be realistic, use good judgment and determine what you safely can and can’t do. Remember that the electrical power in your home is more than enough to kill you, so if a job goes beyond your comfort level, then it’s probably the right time to bring in a professional.

Electrical Code & Permits

The Canadian Electrical Code serves as the standard for safe electrical installations, maintenance, products and equipment across Canada. It is also supported by Provincial standards to help ensure the safety of everyone. It is updated every few years, with changes being documented on an ongoing basis.

It’s important that any regulated electrical work being done in your home meets with all national and provincial standards. Additionally, either the homeowner or a licensed contractor would have to apply for a permit if substantial electrical work is going to be undertaken. This would normally apply to major projects such as new electrical installations or renovations. An inspection of the completed work is often required as well.

More information on the Canadian Electrical Code

Safety Tips

Once you’re familiar with the electrical code and have your permits in-place if necessary, it’s time to get to work. No matter how many times you may have done jobs like this, always be diligent with your safety precautions and never make assumptions when it comes to electricity. Here are a few tips to help make your work safer:

  • NEVER work on energized equipment, outlets or panels. No question. Just don’t do it. Always disconnect the power source before you do anything.
  • Treat all electrical devices as if they are live and test every circuit or conductor (every time) with a voltage tester before you make contact with them
  • Tag or tape switches and breakers so that others will know you are working in those areas
  • With wiring jobs, be sure to plan ahead so that you know exactly where all outlets and switches will be located and any hazards that may be present
  • Never touch gas or plumbing pipes while working with electrical equipment, as they are often used for grounding
  • Always work in dry conditions and avoid standing water or areas with high levels of condensation. Where there is any risk of ongoing moisture, always use GFCI protected outlets.
  • Use the right tools for the job (don’t get creative) and make sure that all tools are insulated
  • When necessary, wear protective clothing to help avoid injury. This might include eye or face protection, insulated gloves and shock-resistant footwear with non-conductive soles.
  • Always verify the location of buried or embedded electrical circuits before you dig or cut
  • Know where circuit breakers and fuses are located before you begin work so that they can be quickly accessed in the case of an emergency
  • Never use metallic pencils or rulers or wear metallic jewelry when working with electrical equipment
  • Do not store flammable materials anywhere near electrical equipment or panels
  • Be sure not to overload electrical circuits, as this can cause a fire hazard
  • Always replace wires that show signs of excessive wear or fraying
  • Before replacing a fuse or breaker, be sure to fix the problem that caused it to blow in the first place

Even professionals can run the risk of injury when working with electricity, so that’s why it’s so important to take responsibility for overall safety. Take an active role in understanding the nature of what you’re trying to accomplish and any inherent risks involved. Remember that if you are in any way uncomfortable or unsure with the task at-hand, bring in a licensed electrician to do the job. There’s too much at stake to take a chance.

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