05: How to Test Electrical Circuit Before You Start Working

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How to Test Electrical Circuit Before You Start Working

A Must-Have Article About Your Home’s Electrical System: Article 5 of 10

[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height=”22″][video_embed url=”https://vimeo.com/335582087″ border=”yes”][vc_empty_space height=”22″][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”hb-custom-sidebar-schedule-homeelectricedusale”][vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#ffe300″ css=”.vc_custom_1577421655064{margin-top: 20px !important;margin-bottom: 20px !important;}”][vc_column_text]There are some electrical repairs (like replacing light switches, outlets or light fixtures) that may be so simple that most homeowners will do them themselves. If you are going to do one of these repairs, though, there is one rule you must follow: Make sure there is no electrical current flowing to the work area.

The first step will be to determine which circuit breaker controls current to the work area and switch it off. Once you select the right circuit breaker, you are ready to proceed. But it is important to double check, and it only takes a minute or two.

Your second check requires a circuit tester. It is an inexpensive tool that can be found at any hardware store or home improvement center for under $10. Typically, it consists of a small light (usually neon or LED) and two wires ending with metal probes.

Testing an outlet is the simplest. It doesn’t even require removing the face-plate. Just insert the two probes into the slots. If the circuit is still conducting electricity, the tester will light up. If it doesn’t, you are ready to complete your repair.

Testing a light switch is only slightly more complicated. To test a light switch, you will first need to remove the face-plate. With the face-plate removed, you will see that there are three wires attached to the switch: an uninsulated grounding wire and two insulated wires that complete the circuit.

With the switch exposed, touch the end of one probe to one of the insulated wires where it connects to the terminal on the side of the switch. While holding it there, touch the other probe to the bare end of the other insulated wire where it connects to the terminal on the side of the switch. If that circuit is live, the tester will light up ñ showing that it is not safe to proceed.

Testing a ceiling light fixture can be the simplest of all. A working lighting fixture is its own test light. Turn on the light before you throw the circuit breaker. If it isn’t on after the circuit breaker is switched off, you turned off the correct circuit and it is safe to proceed. If you have a non-working light fixture the process is the same as testing a light switch. When you remove the part of the light fixture that actually covers the receptacle box through which the fixture is attached, you will again see an uninsulated grounding wire and two insulated wires from the receptacle that attach to the fixture. Follow the same process for testing a switch, touching each of probes to one of the bare ends of the insulated wires. Again, if the tester lights up, the circuit is still hot.

In those cases where you still have a live circuit, you will have to try additional circuit breakers until your test shows no power.

I can’t leave this without saying that there is a first step that you can take to be absolutely certain on the first try that you have shut off power to your work area. That would be to turn off power with the master circuit breaker. It isn’t the usual approach because it turns off all of the power to the entire house. To do that you will need adequate battery-powered light to complete your job. And you will need to be willing to reset every clock in the house and every appliance that has a built-in clock. It is a nuisance, but it is absolutely certain.[/vc_column_text][vc_widget_sidebar sidebar_id=”hb-custom-sidebar-schedule-homeelectricedusale”][/vc_column_inner][vc_column_inner width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]

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