DIY electrical is a BAD idea

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Old 05-05-10, 02:33 AM
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DIY electrical is a BAD idea

Fiddling with plumbing, or tile, or paint, or drywall is one thing. Messing with electrical when you don't have the training and understanding is very dangerous.
If you hook up a faucet wrong, the worst that happens is you get a leak. Do electrical even a tiny bit wrong, and you can burn down a house, or kill people, including yourself.

I know everyone thinks that can do basic electrical, but they can't. I make a good living fixing honey-do and handyman electrical work that in so many cases was absolutely horrifying. I've seen houses burn from something as simple as a cheap wire nut not connecting the wires tight enough.

Those DIY books, and especially articles on sites like this are incredibly irresponsible to even suggest the a layman can just read a page or two and know how to do it properly.

There are so many factors that have to be considered, there is no way even a DIY book can cover them properly. Load calcs, temperature variance, branch limits, voltage drop, circuit balancing, etc, are just a few of hundreds of technical parameters an electrician needs to know before doing even a basic job. Information these books and articles never bother with, or barely mention.
Do you know the difference between a GFCI and AFCI? How about a combination AF vs. a branch AF? How do you know which to use? Why do they have to be wired differently? Where do they go?
What's the allowed constant load amperage for a 20 amp circuit? How many duplex receptacles can you put on a 15 amp branch circuit? What is a Simplex, and where do you need it?
Where is aluminum wire permitted?

I know everyone wants to save money, but when it comes to electrical, check your ego and leave it to the trained professionals. Your life and home depend on it.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 04:25 AM
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Welcome to the forums! Many areas of electrical work is definitely out of the realm of DIY work, I agree. However most of our posters are trying to replace a three way switch that they forgot where the wires went. Or they pulled down a ceiling fan and didn't tag the wires. The pros on this forum will very carefully request all the information and pictures the OP will give us and gently guide them to a correct fix for their problem. Electrical work can be done safely if you understand the principles of electricity, which isn't rocket science. We always advocate "remove power" first, then check for current before you do any work.
I doubt we have had a handful of posters concerned with load calculations and the like. We can generally tell if there is a switch loop or MW branch circuit involved by what the poster tells us and we can advise them accordingly.
Working with electricity, when done carefully and with proper knowledge is no more dangerous than plumbing or driving nails with a pneumatic nail gun.
That's why we're here. Look forward to your advice to our posters.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 05:47 AM
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You'll also learn from reading this forum that the pros go to great lengths to make sure that safety is emphasized. Further, if they sense that an original poster doesn't understand or cannot do the job, they will back away and tell the OP to call a local professional.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by BKAlley View Post
Fiddling with plumbing, or tile, or paint, or drywall is one thing. Messing with electrical when you don't have the training and understanding is very dangerous.
If you hook up a faucet wrong, the worst that happens is you get a leak. Do electrical even a tiny bit wrong, and you can burn down a house, or kill people, including yourself.

I know everyone thinks that can do basic electrical, but they can't. I make a good living fixing honey-do and handyman electrical work that in so many cases was absolutely horrifying. I've seen houses burn from something as simple as a cheap wire nut not connecting the wires tight enough.

Those DIY books, and especially articles on sites like this are incredibly irresponsible to even suggest the a layman can just read a page or two and know how to do it properly.

There are so many factors that have to be considered, there is no way even a DIY book can cover them properly. Load calcs, temperature variance, branch limits, voltage drop, circuit balancing, etc, are just a few of hundreds of technical parameters an electrician needs to know before doing even a basic job. Information these books and articles never bother with, or barely mention.
Do you know the difference between a GFCI and AFCI? How about a combination AF vs. a branch AF? How do you know which to use? Why do they have to be wired differently? Where do they go?
What's the allowed constant load amperage for a 20 amp circuit? How many duplex receptacles can you put on a 15 amp branch circuit? What is a Simplex, and where do you need it?
Where is aluminum wire permitted?

I know everyone wants to save money, but when it comes to electrical, check your ego and leave it to the trained professionals. Your life and home depend on it.
Youd be suprised. Id say about 65-75% of the people who come here with electrical questions already have a very good understanding and knowledge of electrical. Gotta be honest with you know, ive been an electrician for 12 years and i have no clue what a Simplex is. Ive only heard that term used when it comes to alarms. And as to your concern about improperly using wirenuts. If you read any DIY book or watch those crappy DIY shows, they NEVER manually twist the wires together first. They all let the wire nut do the work. This coupled with using a cheapo wirenut can be a problem.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 07:53 AM
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A simplex is half of a duplex receptacle.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by pcboss View Post
A simplex is half of a duplex receptacle.
Wow.. i feel like an idiot. Never heard it called that before. Makes perfect sense. LOL..
 
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Old 05-05-10, 09:31 AM
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Trained professionals aren't born. Many people discover their desire to learn and practice a trade by tinkering at home, learning bit-by-bit and perhaps finding something they're good at.

Most home electrical projects are within the capability of a conscientious homeowner who is willing to do some learning about how to do a job and then having the work checked out by an inspector.

There's no question there is some very shoddy homeowner / handyman work out there, but there is also some very good homeowner work that is at least as good or better than a professional job. The vast majority of people who come here for guidance have recognized that they need to learn something to do the job right and are more than willing to listen and improve their own abilities and knowledge. There's a lot more pride in learning how to do something new than there is in paying someone to do it for you.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 09:45 AM
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Plumbing isn't dangerous? What's your definition? Should I hook up my own gas water heater?
 
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Old 05-05-10, 09:49 AM
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Originally Posted by BKAlley View Post
I know everyone wants to save money, but when it comes to electrical, check your ego and leave it to the trained professionals. Your life and home depend on it.
Noted.

However, unless all of your customers are original owners and have a very atypical level of record keeping, there is no way to tally how much good work is done by homeowners, hence the tendency to fallaciously conclude that all or even most DIY work is bad.

Hiring an electrician is appropriate for many people, and rarely a bad idea, but any rational assessment should include risks, costs, and benefits.

For example: I've got an extension cord under a rug because I need an outlet on the other side of a door. I could put an outlet there myself for $25, plus the minimum permit fee of $50, of course. So that's $75.

Or, I can hire an electrician and it will cost $10 in materials, $50 for the permit plus $150 for a couple of hours of labor. So that's $210.

So if I hire the electrician I spend $135 more. If I'm short on money, hmmm, maybe I can just put off buying new tires. Then junior breaks a tooth and needs some major dental work. Well, we're going to have to forget the electrical work.

You can see where I'm going with this: I leave the extension cord, and get the tires. So I am not sliding all over the road, but my house burns down. Or, my house doesn't burn down but I have a tire blowout. Or I get the tooth fixed but my house burns down and I have a blowout.

It's all about choices, and while you are correct in some cases, the evidence supporting your conclusion is no better than anecdotal.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 10:50 AM
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On the same token, should people not do their own car repair? If you mess up on a break job you could find yourself without breaks. Should people not do carpentry? If a deck is done wrong it could collapse.

This country was founded by DIYers of one type or another. While I agree that doing DIY electrical does have some risk, doing it safely and properly is key. It may not be necessary for the DYIer to have a understanding of 3 phase theory to change a switch. If the person has a full understanding of the job at hand, they can do it safely and successfully.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 01:16 PM
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Quite honestly, plumbing CAN be dangerous, as dangerous as faulty electrical work. As has already been mentioned fuel gas piping can be very dangerous and the same applies to drainage piping.

And again, as has been already mentioned, the professionals (and myself) try to understand where a questioner's abilities lie BEFORE suggesting they try to install a new service or some other electrical work. We had a poster just last year that was doing so many things wrong that all of us simply stopped giving him any DIY information and urged him to either hire a professional or start taking the advice of a pro rather than looking for someone to bless his VERY dangerous work.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 02:15 PM
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There's no question there is some very shoddy homeowner / handyman work out there, but there is also some very good homeowner work that is at least as good or better than a professional job. The vast majority of people who come here for guidance have recognized that they need to learn something to do the job right and are more than willing to listen and improve their own abilities and knowledge. There's a lot more pride in learning how to do something new than there is in paying someone to do it for you.
I will agree with this, some forums have corrected thousands of faulty installations. I have seen plenty of half azzed at best "pro" work too. The trade is full of them, seen a job the other day where the contractor sold the guy a service upgrade he didn't need but ignored several problems that should have been fixed. This included a fault with 80V energizing a light switch on the way to the hot tub, ungrounded circuit on cement floor.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 04:34 PM
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I have to agree with the rest of the guys. I have only been reading the site for about 8-9 months, and only posted a few times, but every response I got was great. If you follow the forum you can get a sense of who knows what they are talking about and who doesn't. I knew nothing about AC wiring, but I bought some books (which actually did cover almost everything you said they don't cover) and I'm pretty comfortable doing the work myself now. Never zapped myself, house still standing, and after I wired my 36x24 workshop by myself from square one of installing a sub panel I checked my ego, and paid an electrician to check it. He didn't change a thing. Not saying it was a waste of money for him to come out, it was good to know everything was in order. Thats how all electricians start out, they have an interest in it, they learn about it, start getting some hands on experience, and after years of practice they are a pro at it. How's that any different then a DIYer? People just need to use common sense and not try to do something outside there experience level.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted by dwdraper View Post
Thats how all electricians start out, they have an interest in it, they learn about it, start getting some hands on experience, and after years of practice they are a pro at it. How's that any different then a DIYer? People just need to use common sense and not try to do something outside there experience level.
That's pretty much how I started out. We bought a house, I bought some books and started doing some work. Found out I enjoyed the construction trade so when the opportunity arose to change careers, I went into electrical. Haven't look back since.
 
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Old 05-05-10, 06:41 PM
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Yeah, Scott, but where did you get the "swell guy" degree?
 
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Old 05-05-10, 06:54 PM
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Well...I refrained for a while....but I suggest one of you electrical Mods close this..it could get ugly.

Trimming trees can be dangerous, grinding stumps can be dangerous, fishing can be dangerous, using a tablesaw can be dangerous....but intelligent people with a modicum of training/knowledge do all of those all the time.

I imagine the OP was just jumping over from one of the Pro sites that ban all DIY types...
 
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Old 05-05-10, 07:19 PM
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I think several good points have been made. There are inherant risks with most aspects of life.

I am closing this thread now.
 
 

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