Many home service contractors discourage customers from attempting “do-it-yourself” work on their home, and often with good reason. Many of these jobs are time-consuming and easy to get wrong without the proper tools and training.
But the situation is different when it comes to electrical services. We don’t just discourage DIY work—we are adamantly against it because of the immense danger that amateur electrical work can cause. Rudimentary mistakes can mean a house is no longer up-to-code and increase the chance of electrical fires. Only licensed electricians can provide electrical repair in Amherst, NY and throughout Western New York, and you wouldn’t want anybody else to provide service for your home.
The Penny in the Fuse Box
Here’s an example of a common DIY “fix,” one that’s been around for far too long and which we still encounter when we go to replace fuse boxes with breaker panels. It’s the old “penny in the fuse box.” Fuses have limits in the amount of electricity they can conduct, and because of the increasing electrical demand in homes, fuses have to keep getting bigger and bigger. The best solution to this problem is to call an electrician and have the old fuse box replaced with an up-to-date electrical panel that uses mechanical breakers. But many people have instead taken the dangerous shortcut of jamming a penny into the fuse box in place of the fuse. A penny is copper and an excellent conductor of electricity, so this appears to “fix” the problem with the fuse.
We can’t overemphasize how dangerous this is. The problem is the penny will allow any amount of electricity through the circuit, rather than burning out like a fuse to protect the circuit. This is similar to driving a car by putting a brick on the accelerator and leaving it there. Enough electricity can flow through the penny to fry out wires in the house or cause massive appliance damage. Essentially, the penny negates the purpose of having a fuse box in the first place.
Other Panel DIY Problems
We’ve been in the business of electrical service for a long time, and we’ve seen some bizarre things homeowners have done to their electrical panels to attempt to make shortcuts around electrical problems. You may have some of these troubles in your electrical panel from the previous owners and not even know it. (This is why we recommend an electrical audit when purchasing a house.)
One common problem we see is the double-tapped breaker: two wires connected to the same circuit. This is a code violation, as there should be only one wire to a circuit breaker. We often discover panels that have had one or more of their breakers replaced, but the wrong type of breaker was put in, or the breaker was put in loosely and will soon create a safety hazard.
There is no good reason to try to fix electrical panel problems on your own: the risk involved is simply too high, both to yourself (potential for a high voltage shock) and to your family (electrical fires). You don’t want your house to not be up-to-code either. Always call licensed electricians for anything more complicated than resetting a tripped breaker.
Scherer Electric is Western New York’s Favorite Electrician! Schedule electrical service for your home today.