Brush up on your electrical skills with this handy guide. We'll walk you through all the basics and offer expert tips.
A clear understanding of how an electrical system works is valuable knowledge when you start doing electrical work. Equally important to know are the techniques required to make safe and secure electrical connections. The skills you need to complete your own projects—cutting and stripping wire and making connections—are the same ones professional electricians use every day. You don't need to be as fast as a pro, but your work can and should be as safe and reliable.
Before beginning electrical work gather a basic set of tools designed for wiring. If you try to strip wires using a knife instead of a stripper, you probably will nick the copper and weaken the wire. Twisting wires together using a pair of household slip-joint pliers is difficult, and the loose connection might come apart. Lineman's pliers help you join wires to make professional-quality connections easily.
If wires are spliced or connected to fixtures or devices haphazardly, the circuit may function for a while. But there is a good chance a wire will work its way loose, creating a dangerous condition.
Wiring correctly is relatively easy. It takes only an hour or two to learn how to make splices and connections just as solid as those made by professionals. In most cases using the right technique is faster and easier than doing something the wrong way. For example, looping a wire around a terminal screw clockwise keeps it from sliding out from under the screw head as you tighten the screw.
Electrical work is safe if you always follow the most important safety measure: Shut off power and test to make sure power is off before you start the project.
It's also important to be properly insulated when working on an electrical project. Wear rubber-sole shoes, remove jewelry, and stay dry throughout the whole project.
Any skilled homeowner should have a basic understand of how to strip, splice, and join wires.
Stripping wire is simply the process of removing insulation from the end of a wire before making a connection. Use a lineman's pliers to firmly strip the wire, being careful not to gouge it.
Splicing a wire is also very simple. Grip the end of a stripped wire with lineman's pliers, then twist clockwise until you feel more resistance. Be sure to not twist too hard. Then cut the tails off the tip of the splice.
To join a wire to a terminal, grab the bare wire right above its insulation with the tip of long-nose pliers and twist to the left. Then bend to the right, creating a partial circle. Loosen the appropriate screw on the terminal, then slip the looped wire over the screw thread. Tighten the wire around the screw, then tighten the terminal screw. Repeat for all necessary connections on the terminal.