Electrical projects around the home can seem scary if you’ve never done them before. But they don’t have to be. Here are eight common electrical repairs and replacements that you can do yourself. No experience necessary.
Most of what we’re talking about here deals with replacing fixtures. If your repair goes beyond that (say, rewiring a breaker panel or wiring up a new location in your home), please consult an electrician. Even if you think you have the skills to do the job, there are codes involved and you often need a permit.
Make Sure the Power is Off
We’re going to start with a safety note. When it comes to performing any electrical repairs, make sure the power is off. Your safety is just that simple. If there’s no power, the repairs we talk about in this article are not only doable, but completely safe.
Unplug it. If you’re working on an appliance that can be unplugged, always unplug it. The only “appliance” on the list in this article is a lamp, but this advice goes when you’re working on any electrical device. You should be aware, though, that some devices may have capacitors that store electrical charge even when unplugged. So unless you’re sure, go with a pro.
Turn off the breaker. Hopefully, your breaker panel is well-labeled. If it’s not, we’re going to deal with that a bit later in the article. If it is, just turn off the breaker that routes power to whatever you’re working on. You’ll probably see labels like “outlets on north wall in den” or “kitchen and living room lights.”
Find the right breaker. If your breaker panel isn’t well-labeled, it’s usually not too hard to find the right breaker. If the plug or light switch or whatever you’re working on still works, turn it on. Go to the breaker panel and start turning off breakers one at a time until you get the right one. If it’s an outlet, plug in a light or a radio and wait until it turns off. Obviously, if you have someone helping you out, this can go a lot faster. If you are repairing something that doesn’t work, you can always use a multimeter to test whether it’s still getting power.
For maximum safety, turn the main power off. If you’re just not sure you’ve found the right breaker and you don’t have a good way to test, you can always turn off the main power for the house. The advantage of this is that you can be absolutely sure you’ve killed power to whatever you’re working on. The disadvantage is that you won’t have power for your tools or light to work by unless you have an alternative source.