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7 Common Mistakes DIYers Make With Electrical Projects

Watch out for these common wiring mistakes that trip up DIYers working on electrical projects.

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Family Handyman

Safety Switches vs. Circuit Breakers

Knowing the difference is huge when understanding electrical panels.

Safety switches help prevent electrical issues that can happen to you personally. They can detect electrical shocks before anything could occur and switch off the electricity before something happens. This can happen if a faulty electrical appliance is being used, as well as if there are issues with the wiring.

Circuit breakers simply turn off the power when the load draws too much electrical current. Too much current can overheat an electrical appliance or wiring, which of course can lead to electrical fires or other damages. If you’re interested in connecting a new circuit in your electrical project, here’s how to do it.

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Not Using GFCI Outlets in Electrical Projects

GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter and it protects people from one form of accidental electrical shock. They monitor the amount of power leaving and returning to the outlet. If a short-circuit routes current through you to the ground, they sense the drop in 1/40th of a second or less and cut the power. GFCI receptacles cut the power any time a slight variation is detected.

Proximity to a water source offers a prime example of where a GFCI should appear in an electrical project. Furthermore, a GFCI receptacle affects everything downstream in the circuit. Here’s how to install GFCI outlets.

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Not Installing a Junction Box

Installing a junction box may seem like pointless hassle and expense at first. However, avoiding this wiring mistake could save you a lot in damage. Junction boxes hold together the connected wires to prevent accidental damage and isolate any sparks and heat that can occur from a loose connection or short circuit. These are the 10 silent signs your house has a major electrical problem.

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Making Wires Too Short in Electrical Projects

Cutting your wire ends too short creates another wiring mistake that leads to the potential for poor connections. Your wiring benefits from allowing a little slack in the electrical box, but not too much. Make sure wire connections are tight, while also giving the wire some breathing room.

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wire sizes gauge

Using Different Wire Gauges

Use the same wire gauge throughout a circuit to help prevent overloading. You can do this in your electrical projects by evaluating the size of the wire in a circuit and using the same gauge for new wiring. Here’s how to determine wire sizes.

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Family Handyman

Not Using a Non-Contact Voltage Tester

When doing an electrical project in your home, turn off the affected circuit. However, some make the mistake of not testing the wires in an electrical box before starting to work. Test everything in a box to make sure everything is “dead” before moving forward. Plus, these testers are pretty cheap. Here’s how to use cheap electrical testers.

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Reversing Hot and Neutral Wires

Connecting the black, hot wire to the neutral terminal of an outlet creates the potential for a lethal shock — a common but avoidable wiring mistake. Always connect the white wire to the neutral terminal of outlets and light fixtures in your electrical projects.

The neutral terminal always carries a marking, usually identified by a silver or light-colored screw. Connect the hot wire to the other terminal. If there’s a green-coated or bare copper wire, that’s the ground. Connect the ground to the green grounding screw on the switch or receptacle, to another ground wire, or to the junction box.

Up next, check out these 18 electric wiring fails that will make you wince.