7 Basic Electrical Repairs Even Beginners Can Do
Electrical systems can be dangerous if they aren’t properly maintained. By understanding the basics of electricity, you can keep your home safe and prevent unnecessary fires.
There are several basic repairs you can make to your home’s electrical system if you have the proper tools and safety precautions. Read on to learn about 7 of them that even beginner DIYers can do!
1. Turn Off the Power
There are a number of electrical repairs that even novice DIYers can do, and many of them don’t require any advanced skills or tools. Nevertheless, it’s important to be aware of safety precautions and know how to pick the right tools for the job.
For example, a basic tool needed for most electrical repair jobs is a non-contact circuit tester. This can help you verify that all power has been shut off to your house.
Another essential tool for most electrical repairs is a pair of good quality wire pliers. These should have insulated grips to minimize damage from cutting wires accidentally.
One final tool that you’ll need is a flashlight, since you might have to work in the dark. This is especially true if you’re working on the service panel in the basement or another interior room without windows.
The service panel in your home has rows of individual switches that look like toggles and a main circuit breaker on top. This breaker controls all the power flowing to the switch switches inside the panel door. There should be a list on the panel door that tells you which circuit each switch is controlling.
2. Check the Wiring
One of the most important things to do before doing any electrical work is to check your home’s wiring. Faulty wiring can lead to a variety of problems, including fires.
If you see any signs of damage, such as a melted wire or smoke, you should immediately contact an electrician to fix the problem. This can prevent a fire from happening and protect your family.
It’s also a good idea to check your home’s wiring on a regular basis to ensure there are no safety issues. Older houses often have wiring that’s outdated and dangerous, which could cause a fire.
Another thing to look for is the type of wire being used. Aluminum wiring is generally less safe than copper. If your home has aluminum wire, you should replace it right away to protect yourself and your family.
It’s also important to test the wires in your home with a voltmeter. This will help you figure out where the power is coming from and which circuit it’s connected to.
3. Replace a Light Fixture
If you’re not happy with the current light fixture in your home or are tired of it, you can upgrade to something new. It’s important to choose a replacement that matches your preferences, because you want something that looks good and feels right.
First, remove the wiring from the old light fixture, using a voltage tester to confirm that there is no power flowing. You may need to unscrew a few screws to get the wiring free.
Disconnect the wires from each wire connector on the old fixture. These wires will usually have black or red current wires, white neutral wires, and a green ground wire attached to the ceiling box.
Next, connect the corresponding wires from the new light fixture to the wires on the ceiling box. This is the part that’s often the most difficult to do properly.
The frayed ends of the black and white wires will need to be connected together, and the copper ground wire (sometimes called a green ground screw) will need to be connected to the circuit ground wire. Follow the instructions that came with your new fixture to make sure you do this correctly.
4. Replace a Switch
Replacing a light switch is one of the most basic electrical repairs you can do. It doesn’t require any special knowledge or tools, and it can be done in a spare hour.
The first step is to turn off the power at your circuit breaker panel or fuse box. This will protect any other devices and prevent anyone from accidentally turning the power back on.
After that, you can begin to disconnect the wires from the old switch and prepare the new switch for installation. This is a good time to take a close-up photo of the wiring so you can recall it later when it’s time to connect all the wires correctly.
Next, remove about a half inch of insulation from the ends of the wires. If the switch has locking tabs, remove these by inserting a narrow-blade screwdriver in slots next to the wire-grip holes.
Once all the wires are out, transfer them one at a time from the old switch to the new. It’s easiest to do this if you have the wires connected in their original positions on the old switch; if not, you may need to disconnect them one at a time until you can verify that they are all connecting properly.
5. Replace a Outlet
Whether you’re in the midst of a remodel or you simply want to do some minor tweaking in your home, some electrical repairs can be done on your own. For others, you should consult a licensed electrician.
If your outlet is recessed too deeply into the wall, you’ll need to tuck it back in place with some outlet shims (available at any home improvement store). Before you do this, turn off the power and use a voltage tester to ensure that no electricity is being sent to the outlet.
You’ll also need to check that it doesn’t have any damage that could prevent it from receiving electricity. To do this, touch the probes of your voltage tester to the upper pair of screws on the outlet and to the lower pair of screws on the outlet casing.
The wires connected to the outlet may be attached with screw terminals, or push-in ‘back-wire’ slots. If your receptacle uses screw terminals, you’ll need to use a needle-nose pliers to bend each end of the wire so that it loops clockwise around the screw terminals.
6. Replace a Circuit Breaker
A circuit breaker is designed to trip when it senses an issue with the electrical wiring in your home. A tripped breaker will cut off power to the circuit until you can fix the issue and get it back on line.
Typically, a tripped breaker will happen when a wire is touching another or there’s a short circuit. This can be caused by too many appliances running at once, a loose wire, or something like a tree branch that’s fallen on the electrical wire.
The first step in replacing a circuit breaker is to remove it from the panel. You can do this by using a screwdriver to loosen the black wire that attaches to a screw-down terminal on the side of the breaker.
Next, unplug any appliances or other devices that are connected to the circuit breaker. Doing so will help you find the exact location of the problem.
After you’ve found the breaker that needs to be replaced, mark it with some electrical tape (a bright color like orange is best for convenience but any color will work). Shut off the main circuit breaker and any ancillary equipment breakers before proceeding.
7. Replace a Wire
Whether you’re an avid DIYer or just want to save money on your next project, understanding how electricity works in your home is essential. Not only is it important for safety purposes, but it also can help you make informed decisions about upgrades and maintenance.
One of the simplest electrical repairs that even beginners can do is replace a wire. It’s a quick fix that won’t cost you too much and can be done safely.
First, determine which wire is damaged. This can be easy with a multimeter, which is a tool that measures resistance. To do this, simply touch the black probe of your meter to one wire and the red probe to the other wire.
Next, check for signs of fraying or cracking. If you notice any, wrap the wire in electrical tape to protect it and prevent it from further damage.
You can also use heat-shrink tubing to fix damaged wires. It can be an effective and inexpensive way to repair a wire, but it can be dangerous if you overheat the tube or don’t use it properly.