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Five Tools Every DIYer Would Love for Christmas

Finding the perfect Christmas gift is always a struggle, but speaking from my personal experience and humble opinion, you can't go wrong with giving tools!

Even if your special recipient seems to have everything, there is always something that his/her electrical tool kit is missing, or might need replacing or upgrading ….. Sandy …. just sayin'!

Here is my list of the top five tools that every DIY electrician should have.  If you are still scratching your head trying to find just the right present for that special someone, I have scoured the Amazon website for you to find some great buys!

Digital Multi-Meter

A digital multi-meter or at the very least, a good quality voltage tester or plug tester.  This is a must have for everything from simply checking for the presence of power to continuity testing, troubleshooting problems, and checking to see how much current is flowing. 

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However, if all you only want to know is if there is voltage present or not, a decent non-contact tester will do the trick.

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Screwdrivers

Second on the list is a good set of screwdrivers. You can never have too many screwdrivers on hand, but if you are working with electrical wiring and devices, they should be the right tool for the job.

If you want to build a set one or two drivers at a time and you like to have top quality tools, the choice of most electricians would be Klein Tools Screwdrivers. They are more expensive, and do come in sets and will be cheaper per unit by the set.

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However, if you just need a decent set to get your projects started, here is a good 7-piece set from Titan Tools.

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Wire Stripping Tool

Number three on my list of “must have” electrical tools is a wire stripping tool. Don't scrimp here; get a quality set, and again, Klein leads the way for the choice of most professional electricians. A cheap choice in stripping tools will cost you more in the long run with the aggravation caused by a low quality set.

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Linesman or Bullnose Pliers

Next on the Christmas list, a good set of Linesman Pliers, or bull-nose pliers. Make certain you get them with a minimum of 8” handles, and 9” is better. They should have a wire cutter in the jaw, and a bonus if they include a crimping jaw as well.

Klein leads the way, but if you find a good quality set for cheaper, you can get away with it if you're not going to be using them every day. Just make sure you test them out.  You don't want any loose play in the hinge joint, but you also don't want them so tight that it's hard to open and close with one hand.

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Here's a decent affordable pair from Stanley, a quality name in tools as well, and at a good price!

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Cordless Drill

While the full list of necessary electrical tools is a long one, I've only covered five of the important tools for the DIY guy or gal on your Christmas shopping list, and coming in at #5, it's a last, but not least situation here. A good cordless drill/driver is one of the most used tools in my kit.

I've used Dewalt for many years, but recently I have started building up from one full set to three sets of tools. I can't be hauling tools from Canada to Arizona, and now to Costa Rica, so I've left my best set in Arizona, chose a cheaper alternative for Costa Rica (I hope to spend more time on the beach there than I do working with tools!), and a mid-range set for my time in Canada.  For Costa Rica I went with Black & Decker, a 20V drill/driver that flew down with me.

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For my Canadian tool kit, I went with a kit that included a skill saw, reciprocating saw, flashlight and drill/driver, and I chose Ryobi.  What I liked about that is the multiple tools available that all use the same battery.  I've noticed a quality difference between Ryobi and Dewalt of course, but the cost difference tipped the scale for me given that I have had to triple my tool ownership!  This set makes a great gift for your DIYer on your list.

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If you want top quality, you can't go wrong going with one of the industry leaders in cordless tools, DeWalt. Here's a perfectly good drill/driver at a great price.

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Of course you can add on to your cordless tools using this as a start, or jump right in with a combo kit as well.  Happy shopping!

DISCLOSURE:  I may be an affiliate for products that I recommend. If you purchase those items through my links I will earn a commission. You will not pay more when buying a product through my link.  I only recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you'll be in good hands. Plus, when you order through my link, it helps me to continue to offer you lots of free stuff.   Thank you in advance for your support!

Terry Peterman, The Internet Electrician

The post Five Tools Every DIYer Would Love for Christmas appeared first on Electrical Online.

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Five DIY Wiring Projects That Mom Will Love You For

Is there anyone you can think of that deserves a special day more than the mothers of the world? There is no gift that you can give to her that can equal what she gave to you – the gift of life.  That being said, don't let that discourage you from getting her something special for Mother's Day!  It doesn't have to be flowers, chocolates, or a card.  A phone call, or better yet, taking the time to get together with her is most likely what she would like best.  This will be my second Mother's Day that I no longer have the privilege of visiting my Mom in person, only in my heart.  I'm thankful for the 50+ years that she was with us.  Some aren't so lucky; Sandy lost her Mom over 40 years ago.  While they may be gone, they are never forgotten.

I always struggled with what to get Mom on the special day, and usually defaulted to flowers and a card.  Wouldn't it be nice to do something unique and special for her instead?  How about giving her the gift of your talent?  Consider something you could do for her that would make Mom's life just a bit nicer, better, or easier!  I scoured our website and came up with a list of great projects that you can do for mom that will not only make her day, but will add years of enjoyment and value to your home for years to come.

 Give Her More Light – Consider Adding Under Cabinet Lighting in the Kitchen

One of the biggest gripes in kitchens is a lack of lighting, and more specifically, task lighting.  This is critical in an area of the home where virtually everything you do in the kitchen is task related.  An easy way to improve this is with the addition of under cabinet lighting.

While there are many types and styles of fixtures available on the market today, my personal preference is to look for the LED options available.  They simply can't be beat for energy efficiency, lumen output per watt, and for the physical size.  There aren't really any decorative options for under cabinet lighting, so the less obtrusive the better.  If properly installed, task lighting can add value to a home.  Experts claim that the biggest payback on your renovation dollar is in the kitchen!

Here are links to two posts where I show you how to install under cabinet lighting:

http://www.electrical-online.com/installing-under-cabinet-lighting/

http://www.electrical-online.com/how-to-install-led-under-cabinet-lighting/

Give Her More Comfort – Install or Upgrade a Ceiling Fan

There are so many benefits realized from having a ceiling fan in a room. The most obvious, with spring and summer upon us, is that ceiling fans help cool down a room by circulating the air.  Experts agree that this can reduce energy costs for air conditioning by up to 30 or 40%!  In the cooler months they help push warm air down from the ceiling to where it's needed most, again reducing heating costs.

Ceiling fans can be installed in almost any room in the house and can add some style and functionality when you include a light kit.  Fans come in a variety of colors and styles to match any décor.

http://www.electrical-online.com/how-to-install-ceiling-fan/

http://www.electrical-online.com/how-to-wire-and-install-a-ceiling-fan/

While on the topic of ceiling fans, if you have an existing one, but don't have full control over the functions without pulling the chains, or using the wall switches, how about converting an existing fan to a remote controlled unit, or a new installation of a remote controlled ceiling fan and light?

http://www.electrical-online.com/how-to-install-a-ceiling-fan-with-remote-control/

http://www.electrical-online.com/converting-an-existing-ceiling-fan-to-a-remote-control/

Give Her Peace and Quiet in the Bathroom – Add a Bath Fan Timer Switch

If your mom is like my wife, having a bathroom fan run for hours (or even days) on end drives her crazy. Not to mention the waste of energy.  A bath fan is essential, but you can solve this problem by installing a bath fan timer switch in the bathroom. You can do this with a simply spring-wound timer, but those can be as annoying as the fan running as the time winds down.  However, that may be the best solution if you don't have the correct existing wiring scenario.  The best solution in my opinion is an electronic timing device such as the one I use in this article.  Click the link to access.

http://www.electrical-online.com/bath-fan-switch-electronic-timer/

Give Her Mood Lighting – Install a Dimmer Switch

It has been stated that most homes have more televisions than dimmer switch controlled lighting.  Televisions cost at least a couple hundred dollars and beyond.  The price of a dimmer switch may be $9.95 – $30, depending on style, type, and quality.

The benefits of a dimmer controlled light are many, including toning down the ambient lighting while watching those multiple TVs!  You will realize greater energy efficiency, longer lamp life, can set the proper mood by softening the light, or ramp it up for task lighting.

Almost any room in the home can be improved by adding a dimmer switch or control.  Just remember to use the proper lamps that are rated for dimming.  Most incandescent and halogen lamps can be dimmed, but CFL and LED must be labelled and rated as such.

Click the link below to see just how easy it is to change out a standard light switch to a dimmer.

http://www.electrical-online.com/install-a-dimmer-switch/

Give Her Updated Bathroom Electrical Outlets

If you are living in a home that still has the old “razor only” electrical outlet, it's time to change those out for so many reasons, the least of which is that they won't provide enough power for anything but a toothbrush or electric razor charger.  Don't even try the blow dryer or curling iron!

The advent of the GFCI breaker and subsequent receptacle devices made these obsolete years ago, yet many still exist today if they haven't been upgraded.  What they are is a one to one isolation transformer with a low power output capability.  This was the best protection from harmful electric shock available and was compliant to the code of that time period.

So what's the solution?  If you don't want to do an electrical renovation involving changing out the 4” x 4” box (which will require some wallboard patching), and putting in a deep device box and GFCI receptacle (you could put in a double receptacle – watch for a subsequent video/article on this), you can purchase a GFCI conversion kit.  See this post from a few years back that outlines the procedure step-by-step.

http://www.electrical-online.com/how-to-replace-a-razor-only-receptacle-with-a-gfci/

Do you know of a home wiring project that Mom is thinking about that you would like to see covered on the website?  If so, send me an email and maybe I can include the project in a future YouTube video and website post!  And feel free to comment below – maybe you have a great Mother's Day story or a DIY project that you did for the wife or mom that you can share with our readers!

So this Sunday, do something nice for your Mom, but be sure to tell her how much you love and appreciate her.  Remember, every story of your life begins with her as chapter one.  Wherever your Mom is this Sunday, maybe only in your heart and memories, Happy Mother's Day Moms!

Not quite comfortable or feel confidence enough in your DIY skills to take on these projects?  We have a first-class tutorial DVD that will provide you with everything you need to know about home wiring DIY and will have you tackling wiring projects like the ones described above – safely and competently.  Check out “The Basics of Household Wiring” DVD.  Click here for more information on this great tutorial and to view a promo video that describes everything you will learn.

The post Five DIY Wiring Projects That Mom Will Love You For appeared first on Electrical Online.

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Thanksgiving – The Most Dangerous Day of the Year

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving? As your neighbors to the north, Sandy and I celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Aside from the difference in dates, our celebrations are essentially the same. For most of us it means a large gathering of family and friends, and a bounteous meal of turkey and all the trimmings. Most often it is followed by football on television and for many of our U.S. friends, a jump on the Black Friday shopping events. But did you know that Thanksgiving is actually one of the most dangerous days of the year?

It may surprise you to learn that, according to the American Fire Protection Association (AFPA), Thanksgiving is the leading day of the year for home fires! The sad truth is that three times as many home fires happen on Thanksgiving Day, compared to any other day of the year.

The cause of most these fires? Unattended cooking.

With all of the activities taking place in the home, it is easy to get distracted. However, there are steps you can take to stay safe in the kitchen and ensure that your Thanksgiving is trouble free:

ALWAYS:

– Stay in the kitchen when you are cooking on the stove so you can keep watch over the food.

– Stay in the home when you are cooking your turkey and be sure to check it frequently. Make use of a timer if possible to remind you to check.

 – Keep children away from the stove while cooking. A distance of at least three feet away is recommended.

– Make sure your smoke detectors are working!

– Do you have a fire extinguisher nearby in your kitchen?

– NEVER try to fight a grease or electrical fire with water. Smother the fire with a pot lid and always use a fire extinguisher.

– Don’t overload your electrical outlets.

– Never wear loose or hanging clothing that could catch fire.

– Unplug any unused appliances that could accidentally be turned and left on.

– Replace any appliances with frayed cords to avoid electrical shock.

Turkey Fryer Fires

Turkey fryers pose an even greater risk of danger. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) actually discourages the use of outdoor gas-fueled turkey fryers that immerse the turkey in hot oil.

However, if you must use the turkey fryer, please follow the following safety recommendations:

– Only use an approved turkey fryer with a built-in thermostat so you can maintain the proper oil temperature.

– Make sure you have a fryer that cannot tip over. This is generally the major cause of most turkey fryer fires.

– Always fry OUTDOORS, and away from buildings and any combustible items. NEVER use a fryer indoors.

– Keep children, pets, and football throwing activities completely away from the area while frying!

– FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS on what size turkey you can use, how long it should be cooked and what type of oil is appropriate to use in your fryer.

– Make sure the turkey is COMPLETELY thawed and dry. Leave the bird unstuffed and while it may seem obvious, don’t forget to take out the bag of gizzards. Lower the turkey VERY SLOWLY into the hot oil.

– Don’t EVER leave the fryer unattended.

– WEAR GLOVES that will protect you against the oil. Regular oven mittens just won’t cut it here!

So make this Thanksgiving a safe one and take the time to add the element of safety to your holiday!

Any other safety tips you could share? Feel free to share your experiences, thoughts or questions below.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube Channel. By subscribing, you will be the first to know when a new video in this series is ready for viewing, as well as any other video content uploaded to the channel and to the website.

Terry Peterman, The Internet Electrician®

The post Thanksgiving – The Most Dangerous Day of the Year appeared first on Electrical Online.

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Should You Unplug Countertop Appliances to Avoid Fire Risk

Is there a fire hazard with leaving countertop appliances plugged in while not in use? With today's technology there may be a valid reason to unplug your countertop appliances to avoid any potential fire hazards in the home. Continue reading →

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Building an Outdoor Shower

You don’t have to be a hero. There’s a reason they made shower kits and invented plumbers.
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Understanding an Open or Loaded Neutral

What is a loaded neutral, and why did I get a shock from it?   Is it just one of those electrical mysteries, or is there a simple explanation for this situation?  Read on to hear about a situation that I experienced recently in which a friend encountered an open or loaded neutral while doing some DIY wiring and needed some help understanding what caused the situation.

Every once in a while, situations arise that don't follow the normal set of rules when working with electricity. In my experience over the last 35 years, there is only one mystery that to my knowledge has never been solved. When working in the oil industry back in Alberta Canada, we had a situation where a high voltage breaker feeding a large electric motor would randomly trip. Literally thousands of dollars were spent by Shell Canada to try and solve this mystery.  We swapped the motors, swapped the breakers with the redundant back-up motor, and finally pulled in new conductors through thousands of feet of conduit, all to no avail.  That particular breaker continued this mysterious behavior and they finally just accepted it, and dealt with these random disruptions. Was (is?) it a ghost ……..?

Aside from this little mystery, most electrical anomalies have an explanation. One day I received a call from a friend who was puzzled as to why his light fixture wasn't working despite the fact that he had 120 volts showing on his meter when he took a reading from neutral to ground. Although not an electrician himself, he is a “jack of all trades”, and makes his living as a handyman. He is no stranger to renovations, and when he works on his own home, he does his own wiring under a home owner's permit. Such was the case here.

With my telephone assistance I had him do a few troubleshooting tests with his meter. The situation was this. He had 120 volts on both sides of a switch (turned on) feeding a light fixture, but the light wasn't working. He had taken off the wire nut for the neutral wires as part of his testing, and that's when, to his surprise, he got a shock from the neutral! How can this be? A neutral is the grounded conductor? So he tested with his meter, and sure enough, 120 volts to ground!  That's when I knew he was dealing with an open or loaded neutral.

When someone contacts me with an electrical problem, one of the first questions I like to ask is “What were you doing/working on when this problem started”. With Rob, I found out that he was adding some devices to this circuit, and in another junction box he had taken apart the splices.

I asked if the neutral (white) wires were disconnected, and I got the answer I was looking for to solve this mystery. Yes, the wires were apart! Without a continuous path back to the panel, and the neutral buss bar, the voltage has no place to go to complete the circuit.  The hot (black wires) were still connected and the breaker was back on, but without the neutral path the light won't work, and the neutral ahead of that open splice will have power on it, the same as the hot wire. With the switch on, the power travels through the load (in this case, a light bulb filament), and back on the neutral, but no connection to the grounded buss bar, and that is how you get a shock from a neutral!

Here's a diagram to help you understand the situation, and why it happens.

This is a line diagram to simplify this further. In a normal situation with the neutral path intact, you would have 120 volts measured from across the light bulb or the receptacle.  In this case, both sides of the light (hot and neutral) are the same, thus no potential difference (voltage), and the bulb does not light up. But you do if you are grounded and then touch the white wire!

Another mystery solved, and a lesson learned! If you are working on an electrical circuit, make certain the power is off! Check, and double-check that all the components of the circuit are back in place, devices and plates installed, splices made, and junction box cover back on!

Check out my YouTube video where I discuss and demonstrate this exact situation described here. While you're there, “like”, “share”, and subscribe to my channel!

If you want to understand more about your home's electrical system, the best tool you can add to your toolkit is “The Basics of Household Wiring” DVD or e-book.  This is 83 minutes of the best home electrical educational tool available anywhere, and can be purchased through our website.  This exceptional instructional aid covers most home wiring projects and would be a tremendous addition to anyone's toolbox.  This DVD will help you do it right, do it safely AND save money.

Have questions about this or any other electrical project?  Ask below, or you can comment on the video at my YouTube channel or on my Facebook Page.

Terry Peterman, the Internet Electrician®

The post Understanding an Open or Loaded Neutral appeared first on Electrical Online.

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Why You Should Never Staple Cables Too Tight

There have been a few “ah ha” moments in my life, ones when it suddenly becomes glaringly obvious as to why you were taught a new lesson, or why someone instructed you on what not to do. At the time it may seem not that important, or in some cases, quite a useless waste of brain space. I’ll bet most of you can relate. Such a moment happened for me a couple of month ago involving the simple process of stapling cable.

While apprenticing, I remember being told in no uncertain terms, “Do not hammer in your cable staples too tight!” While it seemed obvious that you don’t want to smash them in hard enough to damage the cable, what harm could it do if you make it just a bit too tight?

Cue the lesson….

Back in November of last year, I received a call from a casual acquaintance that I knew of through mutual friends. He and his wife had purchased a home in our area a few years ago, and were in the middle of a kitchen renovation.

The problem surfaced after he had reconnected his receptacles in the kitchen area and turned on the breaker. Later on Bob’s buddy Jim was helping him out and Jim heard a breaker kick in the main panel.  It was the breaker for the circuit Bob had just restored the power to. The circuit was one of the kitchen circuits that fed a GFCI receptacle, and then the next receptacle was fed on the load side of the first GFCI.

Bob assumed that he had connected something wrong, so he took apart the affected receptacles to double check his work. Everything looked good, and he had been careful to take notes of what wire went where when he disconnected the receptacles for the installation of the new tile back splash.

After a few attempts at resetting the breaker and then pushing the GFCI reset button, Bob saw a spark from the receptacle, the breaker tripped again, and Bob called me to see if I had any ideas.

I gave him a few suggestions to try, such as making sure when he reinstalled the receptacles that the bare ground wire wasn’t touching a terminal for the hot or neutral conductors, or checking to see that he hadn’t inadvertently got his line and load terminals mixed up on that first GFCI receptacle.

The next day he called back.  He had tried all that my suggestions to no avail, and was certain that he hooked everything up as it was previously. He was stumped and now at a standstill as he didn’t want to go any further with the project until he solved the problem.  I agreed to come over and have a look.

Most times when I’m helping someone troubleshoot an issue, one of the first questions I ask is, “What were you doing when the problem occurred”? Many times the answer comes back, “Nothing really, just drilling a hole for a new pipe”, or, “Just hanging a picture with a 4” nail”, etc.

I went over ready to troubleshoot what I believed would be a quick fix, such as finding something connected incorrectly, or a suspicious looking newly installed screw somewhere around the trouble area, but no such luck. Nothing obvious was out of order.

Commence the troubleshooting process.

I disconnected the receptacles and restored power to the circuit. The breaker reset without issue.  Checking with my meter, there was 120V at the first receptacle measuring hot to neutral, and hot to ground (as it should).

Then I tested continuity on what I could only assume was the cable going to the next receptacle. I had an inconsistent reading when checking from wire to wire at each location, and when checking between the hot and neutral, and hot and ground, and in fact, neutral to ground.

The ohm reading was bouncing around, but regardless of what it was reading the reality is that it should have had no continuity at all between wires, telling me that we had a short circuit somewhere.

Bob showed me what he had done, and nothing in the renovation he was doing (new tile back splash) should have resulted in damaging the cable inside the wall. We decided to take out the section of cupboards and make some access holes to find out where the problem was.

The work zone

Once we had a few holes big enough for my hand to get in and feel the cable, I found an extremely tight staple fastening the cable to the stud above the second receptacle.

I had to pry the staple off, pull out the cable, and found that the cable staple had been hammered on so tight that it finally broke down the insulation and caused a short circuit.

The trouble spot

Cable damage jacket removed

I’m not a fan of this type of cable staple as it has no ‘stoppers’ to assist in preventing this from happening Here’s a picture of the cable staple used in this home, and the staples that I prefer so you can see the difference.

The offending staple

 

Staple with shoulders

To fix this problem, I just replaced the cable between the receptacles (easy to do with the access holes), and connected and installed the receptacles. We put the cupboards back in place, and Bob could carry on with his project.

It turned out that removing the cupboards also revealed another potential problem.   We discovered that the cables installed by the original contractor for the purpose of pre-wiring future under cabinet lighting had been inadvertently stuffed back inside the wall and hidden by the cabinets.  Bob’s plans included under cabinet lighting as part of this renovation.  I likely would have received another call a few days later because one critical splice/junction of the cables would have been missing!

The hidden under cabinet wires

 

Bob and Karen still smiling through the renovation!

So what is the lesson here? Do not hammer in those cable staples too tight. They should be just enough to hold the cable in place, but not so tight as to pinch the cable. It may not look like the staple is damaging the conductors, and the problem may not present itself for a few years after installation, as was the case here. This home is probably close to 10 years old!

How about you?  Have you experienced a similar situation?  Feel free to share your experience on my Facebook page.

The post Why You Should Never Staple Cables Too Tight appeared first on Electrical Online.

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How to Install an In-Use Weatherproof Receptacle Cover

Electrical codes are regularly under review. A committee exists (at least for the N.E.C. and the C.E.C.) to ensure that the code rules are relevant. When suggestions are made to incorporate advancements in products and designs, or to improve the safe installation of electrical equipment, the committee will invoke changes to the code. One such change occurred several years ago regarding the rules around the installation of outdoor receptacles, and the approved cover plates.

It used to be that outdoor receptacles were only required to have weatherproof cover plates. When properly installed they provide protection from the elements, but only when the doors are closed. As soon as you plug something into the receptacle, it is no longer considered weatherproof.

This led to the changes that called for what’s known as in-use weatherproof receptacle cover plates and enclosures for receptacles that are installed in locations that meet the definition of what is a “wet location”( i.e. exposed to the weather).

This is definitely a positive change (as most are) to the code, and one I fully support.  Not sure I can say the same for tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles. Not that I don’t support the added safety features that they provide, but have you ever tried plugging something into a TR receptacle in a difficult location, like behind the television and stereo cabinet, in the dark? However, that’s a topic for another day.

Remember that any electrical installations that predate changes to the electrical code are “grandfathered” to the rules of the day. However, when you add to a system, it must meet the current rules and regulations unless it is a repair or a replacement in kind. However if you need to make a repair, why not bring things up to a new and better standard?

To break it down to the simplest terms, the code now says that receptacles in a wet location must be in an enclosure and cover that is weatherproof at all times, even when an attachment plug is inserted.
In the following video I demonstrate how to replace a standard duplex weatherproof receptacle cover plate with an in-use enclosure, and I take the opportunity to fix up a poorly installed receptacle while I’m at it.

You can purchase an in-use weatherproof receptacle cover through Amazon.

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I hope you found this video useful and informative, and if you have any questions regarding this, or any other information you find here on the site, please send me an email to terry@lelectrical-online.com

If you haven’t had a chance to visit my YouTube channel, why not stop by and check out all of my videos covering a number of home wiring projects, problems and troubleshooting scenarios. When you are there, please subscribe to my channel so that you will be the first to know when I upload new material. You can also interact with me by “liking” the Internet Electrician on Facebook, and follow me on Twitter.

The post How to Install an In-Use Weatherproof Receptacle Cover appeared first on Electrical Online.

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Broken Neutrals and Bad Splices

In this article I talk about what it means to have a “broken neutral”, and the problems that this condition can cause. Continue reading →
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Broken Neutrals and Bad Splices

In this article I talk about what it means to have a “broken neutral”, and the problems that this condition can cause. Continue reading →
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