Home Wiring Repair and Safety
Though some home wiring repair and diagnosis can be done without the potential of shock to the do-it-yourselfer, some may not. In either case, try to understand your electrical system enough to avoid shocks. So be familiar with how electricity operates in a home, as you can learn at the page about Your system. Even when you think you have turned off the right things, treat them, if possible, as if they might still be live. In addition, keep any testers or tools with metal parts from making unintended contact with potentially live OR with grounded parts, because burns and explosions are possible. Also, in reconnecting or in repairing things in your system, the more you attend to proper procedures, the less you risk future disruptions or fire hazards. Go to these websites on Shock and on Electrical fires.
There is usually no reason to repair or replace anything with the circuit still live. Also, some timers, dimmers and photocells have fragile components that can be damaged if connected to a load while live.
Repair will involve separating a wire from something, improving a wire's connection, and/or replacing a device or connector. If damage has visibly occurred to a wire it can usually be cut back or sometimes taped up, to restore insulation. If a device has (also) suffered from heat, corrosion, or arcing, replacement is usually called for.
To remove wires from pushed-in-the-hole terminals of receptacles and switches, depress the release near the hole using a very small screwdriver, and pull on the wire. If this does not work, try rotating the device back and forth while pulling back on the wires. Beyond this, just cut the wires loose, close to the device.
- If a breaker's connection to its bus bar in the panel has been arcing, simply putting a new breaker there will not be a lasting fix. The bus bar will have been damaged at that point too and will recreate an arcing condition before long with the new breaker. Relocate the new one, if possible.
- When reconnecting wires to a new receptacle, I recommend not using the push-in wire terminals on the back of the receptacle. Instead, use either the side-screws (copper curled clockwise under them, with no insulation trapped under the screws) or else Pigtail one hot and one neutral to their screws from wire connectors.
- When replacing Switched receptacles and Double-circuit receptacles, you need to remember to break off the tab on the hot side, so top and bottom halves don't interact. Do not break off the neutral-side tab.
- Splices underground need special connectors. Splices involving aluminum wire do too. Aluminum wire connected directly to receptacles or switches call for these devices to be specially rated for this.