Should I use the screw terminal or the holds in the back of the electrical outlet to attach the wires?
Technically, you can use either one. But wires “backstabbed” into these holes (as it is called) are more likely to fall out, which could start a fire. Most electricians recommend attaching the wires to the screw terminals, with the wire wrapped around the screw clockwise, to ensure a solid wired connection when the screw is tightened.
No, you should replace them … immediately. Loose contacts can lead to arcing, which can cause a fire.
My new light fixture is rated for 60W bulbs. Is it OK to use 75W bulbs if I want the room to be brighter?
No. This could cause a serious fire hazard, as the bulbs could get too hot and melt parts of the fixture and even catch on fire.
It’s an inexpensive tool that tests for live current. It can save your life. To use a voltage tester, simply plug its leads into a receptacle, or, if the cover plate is off, touch them to the screw terminals of the device. If current is present, the tester will light.
With lamp wiring, there is a ribbed side and a smooth side. Unscrew the light switch. Strip and twist your wire. The ribbed side will go to the brass side of the light terminal. The smooth side will go to the silver side. Wrap around the terminals and tighten it down.
Yes, it’s called a photoelectric nightlight.
I want to run a new wire to install some additional outlets. Do I have to run these wires through the wall?
You can use surface wire channels that allow you to run the wire on the outside of the wall and still maintain an attractive appearance.
Yes, special saddle boxes are designed for hanging heavy fixtures—up to about 50 pounds. Since a ceiling fan moves, these boxes are good for about a 35-pound ceiling fan.
They are designed to indicate their use, but be careful, because they are not always hooked correctly. Hot wires, those carrying current at full voltage, are usually black, red or white with black marks. Neutral wires are usually with or gray. Ground wires are usually either green or bare copper.
A combination wire stripper tool has openings that fit different sizes of wire. When a wire is put into the correct one and pulled it will remove the covering without damaging the wire.
Bend a stripped wire 180 degrees by bending it over the tip of needle nose pliers. Wrap the wire clockwise around the screw so that it will stay in place as you tighten the screw. Don’t over tighten and make sure there is no insulation under the terminal.
Yes, but is it a single pole or is it a three-way switch. A three-way switch is one that is used when a light is controlled by more than one switch.
It identifies the outlet as a 20-amp grounded receptacle and it should be used only on 20 amp circuits.
You will need a three-way switch at each location. A three-way switch will have three terminal screws on it–two brass colored screws and one that is black (or dark in color).
Two of the locations will use a three-way switch and the other location will need a four-way switch.
Will a three-pronged plug adapter protect me against electrical shock when I use it in a two-prong receptacle?
Only if the wall plate screw is grounded.
Yes, we have a special box with a cover designed to protect. In addition, the receptacle should also have ground-fault circuit-interrupt protection.
No, they may look similar, but they have different features. Make sure you check the manufacturer’s label to ensure you are buying one that is rated for the proper amperage.
Yes, the most common are 25-, 34- and 40- watt bulbs.
No, if the first in the series is GFCI then all are protected.
It’s a safety device that shuts off the power if a wire in an outlet develops a leak that could electrocute someone. This hazard is so serious that the National Electrical Code requires all new homes be equipped with them in the bathroom, kitchen, workroom, outdoor, basement, garage and swimming pool circuits.
These products are “double-insulated” and do not need the added protection of a grounding plug. You can plug them into ungrounded outlets and still be protected.
I have some tools that have three prongs, but the outlet I want to use has only two prongs. Can I safely cut the extra prong off?
No, the third prong is the grounding prong. If you cut it off or use a plug adapter that is not grounded, you will disable a feature that is designed to protect against electrical shock.
One prong is bigger than the other is. This feature is designed to make sure that a 110-volt plug is never put into a socket that is not a 110-volt outlet.
Yes, start by snipping off the original plug. Slide the cord into the new plug, strip the wires and connect them to the proper terminals. For lamps and small appliances there are quick connect plugs. The snipped wire is inserted and a small lever is closed which holds the wire and pierces the wire to make the connection.
In most new homes, there should be four-prong dryer and range receptacles. If you have a three prong power cord, you will need to change it.
You will have to look at your transformer to determine what its maximum wattage is. Most bulbs are four watts, but they come in different wattages, you will have to add up what you are currently using.
My fluorescent fixture does not seem to be putting out as much light as it used to. Could the tube be failing?
If the entire tube is dim, it may simply need washing. Try removing it and wiping it with a damp cloth.
Working tubes usually have a gray tinge on the ends, but dark gray or black is a sign that the tube is failing.
Older, delayed-start fluorescent lights flicker when they first light up. If this last more than a couple of seconds, make sure the starter is seated by pushing it in and turning clockwise. If the ends of the tube light up and the middle does not, the starter is bad. Remove it by turning counterclockwise.
You need to know how many bulbs there are and how long they are. However, make sure you check the starter before you change the ballast. In fact, you may want to replace the whole fixture.
Wiggle the tubes to make sure they are properly seated. Replace any tubes that are dark or have damaged pins. Replace the starter if there is one.
The ballast probably needs replaced. Another sign of a faulty ballast is black tar like substance oozing from the fixture.
It’s probably not the bulb, because they rarely go bad all at once. Wiggle the tube to make sure it is seated. Replace any damaged lamp holders. Replace the starter. Check the switch and outlet box to make sure it is getting power.
Most estimates are 70%, which means that over the life of the bulb you can save as much as $100.
I know there are fluorescent plant lights that stimulate plant growth, but do they make these bulbs for standard lamps?
Yes, there are incandescent models that screw in.
This socket will have a regular contact tab inside, which all sockets have, plus another raised contact point.
It’s best to use a rough service bulb.
It provides brighter, cleaner light. However, they consume lots of electricity and they get very hot. You should ensure that it stays away from draperies, bedding, clothing, and hanging plants.
The floodlight will have a broader light pattern, and a spotlight will focus on a more narrow area.
I recommend a rough service bulb. These heavy-duty bulbs will take rougher treatment and water droplets.
No, laws require that they be recycled. This includes Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd), Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH), Lithium Ion (Li-ion) and small sealed Lead (Pb) batteries. You can look for a battery recycling seal on the rechargeable batteries found in cordless power tools, cellular and cordless telephones, laptop computers and camcorders.
Yes, different brands will last longer than others will. Generally, batteries that are more expensive will last longer, but the savings of the longer life offset their initial expense.
It is normal for a dimmer to get warm during operation, and they have a built-in heat sink for that very reason. Always be sure the load on the switch does not exceed its rating.
Yes, you can replace your regular outlets with ground fault interrupters. If you do not want to rewire the outlet, you can use a portable model that is plugged into an existing outlet.
LB stands for line box. It is often used at the point where you will begin pulling wire through the conduit. However, it is not a junction box and should not contain wire connections.
Always check local codes. But generally, UF cable (underground feeder and branch-circuit cable) may be buried without conduit. It is rated for dry, damp, wet or corrosive locations. Do not embed it in concrete. NM (or nonmetallic-sheathed cable) should not be buried due to damage from moisture.
Use plastic conduit if you want to bury a conduit to carry an electrical line. Make sure the joints are waterproof.
Use PVC cement found in the plumbing department.
Use a fitting with covers and gaskets, made especially for outdoor use.
You can use a connection fitting, much the same way you would use a plumbing fitting, or you can bend the conduit with a conduit bender.
I’m replacing a light switch. How do I know which wire should be attached to each screw on the new light switch?
If you are replacing an existing switch, make a diagram of how the wires were attached to the old switch before you remove them. Snap a picture with your camera phone or draw a diagram. Then replace them in the same position on the new switch.
The Department of Energy recommends R-values based on the type of fuel used and where you live. Generally, attics in homes heated by gas or oil in most southern locations should use R-19. For an electrically heated home in the same area, the recommendation is R-30. The minimum recommendation for homes in the coldest climates, regardless of heating method, is R-49.
An electrical device that shuts off the power in case of a short.
They refer to the number and types of wire inside the cable. For example, 14-2 means the cable has two 14-gauge wires inside. 12-3 G means the cable has three 12-gauge wires plus a bare ground wire.
The best way is with a voltage tester. If it blinks, then power is still flowing through the circuit.
Is it okay to use an extension cord with a fuse on it rather than a surge protector for my computer?
No, a surge protector has components that trip before a spike in electricity damages your electronic equipment.
A non-contact voltage tester measures the difference in electrostatic charge between the person holding the tester and the tip. If you hold it near an energized cable it will sound or flash (or both). These devices, however, do have limitations, including detecting ghost voltage (or phantom voltage), which has bled over from a nearby energized cable or device. Contact testers (or continuity testers, as they are called) have probes that are inserted into the slots in a receptacle. They can also test for correct grounding to make sure the receptacle is wired correctly. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before using these products.
Use cords with 16-guage wire for appliances pulling less than 15 amps and 12-guage wire for appliances pulling up to 20 amps?
This is a trade name for an armored cable that wraps the wires in a flexible metal sheathing.
The outer coating of the insulation is weather and sunlight resistant.
Yes, you need to use a major appliance cord. A regular extension cord doesn’t have heavy enough wire to safely conduct the necessary current.
You can use waterproof wire nuts if you do not have a waterproof box.
The best choice is one is a three-wire cable with a ground. Also, make sure it’s rated for the amperage you need.
If you lay cable underground, it must be UF (underground feed) cable, which has each individual wire insulated and has plastic wound around the insulated wire for weather and sunlight protection. Romax has a paper product around the wires.
While 14-guage wire is the minimum for most houses wiring, it can only be used for 15-amp circuits. Number 12-gauge wire is recommended for general home use. There is often a chart on boxes of wire that will show you recommend gauges for specific applications.
Wires have size numbers that express their diameter. These are even numbers from 0 to 18, and smaller numbers indicate larger diameters that can carry more power.
Yes, you should use electrical tape.
You can use heat-shrink tubing. It’s designed to fit something half its size in diameter.
There are a variety of cord storage reels available.
Strip off about ½ inch of insulation from the wires you want to connect. Hold these wires next to each other and twist clockwise. Screw on the wire connector using only your hand strength. Make sure not bare wire is exposed.
Check the package, it will tell you what size and how many wires each color of nut will hold.
Use a receptacle analyzer. Leave the power on, but make sure nothing is plugged into any outlet on the circuit, and turn off all switches on the circuit. Now, plug the analyzer into the outlet. A series of lights will tell you if the outlet is wired correctly and working.
Use a continuity tester. First, shut of the electricity going to the switch and remove it. Touch the tester leads to both of the switch’s terminals. If the switch is working properly, the tester will light up when the switch is on and go out when the switch is turned off.
Search for loose taped wire; also look for worn fabric insulation on old wires and check any terminals have multiple wires since one of the wires may have slipped off.
A utility knife will work, but an inexpensive a cable ripper is designed for the task and will not damage the wires inside.
Instead of trying to feed the wire through, use a fish tape. This tool is a small wire on a real that is easier to feed through. Once you have fed it through the wall, attach the wire and pull the tape back through.
It’s a device that changes the voltage. In most home usage, it reduces the voltage for use on low-voltage equipment, such as thermostats, doorbells and low-voltage outdoor lighting.
You need to know if it’s a single pole or a three-way. If the light can be controlled in more than one location, then it is a 3-way pole.
It is watts divided by volts. For example, a 1500-watt heater (divided by) 120 volts equals 12.5 amps.
Is it all right to replace fuse or circuit breaker with a larger one to prevent them from blowing or tripping?
In most cases the answer is no. They are designed to blow at certain levels to protect equipment and for fire safety.
A wire marked 14/2 means that it’s a 14-gauge wire and it contains two wires inside the insulated jacket.
It is a non-profit organization that tests and approves electrical products. Look for “UL” labels of approval to help ensure appliances are safe.
I think there is a short in a wire running to one of my rooms. Is there some way to test it to find out?
A continuity tester will let you know if there is a short. It is a tool that includes a battery so that it can supply a low-voltage current to devices and wires to see if there is a complete circuit.
Only the first one in the series needs to be a GFI (ground fault interrupter).
Instead of using a grow lamp, will placing my plants under a regular fluorescent or incandescent lamp work?
It might, depending on the light. But it probably won’t be as effective. Different stages of plant growth require different light spectra. The initial growing stage requires a blue spectrum of light, whereas the later “flowering” stage is usually done with red–orange spectra. Manufacturers of grow light bulbs design them to product a specific light spectrum range and lumen output to create an ideal growing condition for starting plants.
You need to figure the current circuit load in watts to see if it can handle additional use. The National Electric Code is 20 percent less than maximum. This means a 15-amp circuit has a safe capacity of 1,440 amps. A 20-amp circuit limit is 1,920 amps, a 25-amp circuit’s limit is 2,400 amps and a 30-amp circuit has a safe limit of 2,880 watts.
Usually the problem is simply an overload and you only need to run fewer appliances on the circuit. However, if it is not overloaded and it keeps tripping, you should suspect a short. Also, look for a defective cord, socket or plug.
I have some slots left on my circuit breaker box that do not have breakers in them. Can I add more circuits?
You need to see how many amps your box is rated for and then look at the existing circuits to see how many total amps are already being used. If you have not reached the maximum, it’s possible to add more, but its best to have a professional do the work inside the box unless you have the specific knowledge.
Because anything over that would exceed the safe amp rating of most wiring and would present a fire hazard.
No, it’s best if you bring in the old breaker and match it up. If you know the name of the brand of service box, we could also match it that way. Of course, you can make a guess and if you are right, you can save a trip back.
Time delay fuses are used on circuits where appliance motors have initial surges of electrical power when the motor starts. This initial surge might blow a regular fuse.