Heating bills have a nasty habit of skyrocketing during the winter, and now that December is here, many homeowners are looking for ways to save a little money during the colder months. Since electrical work can be expensive, it’s not uncommon for a homeowner to consider adopting a do-it-yourself approach when it comes to tweaking or fine-tuning his or her electrical setup. After all, how hard could it be? As difficult as it may be for the dedicated DIY enthusiast to hear, performing your own amateur electrical work can be extremely dangerous to you and your home. Here are just a few important things to consider before you think about learning your own way around your circuits.

1. You could severely injure yourself.

First and foremost, performing your own electrical work without knowing your system inside and out is dangerous to your health and your home. Frayed, overheated, or exposed wires can result in electrical shocks, short circuits, or even house fires—for example, an overheated cord running under a carpet or rug could start a fire, and a do-it-yourself wire connection job left uncovered by an electrical box could throw sparks onto any other wires or machinery nearby. If you absolutely need to tackle your electrical system without the help of a contractor, make sure to keep yourself insulated by removing your jewelry and wearing rubber-soled shoes, and never operate an appliance or perform any sort of electrical work in a damp place. Even for a professional, it’s never a bad idea to be overcautious when it comes to electricity, so consider using tools with insulated handles and putting down boards or a rubber mat to stand on while you work.

2. Everything must be up to code.

Electrical codes are written and put in place to ensure that you and your home stay as safe as possible. Deciding to be your own electrician means that you’ll need to obtain a permit for any major changes and familiarize yourself with your local building code. Electrical codes vary slightly from place to place, so if you decide to go it alone without consulting any local electricians (who are likely to be familiar with your local code already), you’ll be responsible for making sure that your work is up to code so that your system can pass inspection. An electrical inspector’s job is to inform electricians and homeowners when something is wrong with an electrical system, and if your system doesn’t pass inspection, you’ll need to redo any work that isn’t up to code—which can end up costing a homeowner just as much money and time as he or she would have saved with a DIY job. In the long run, it’s worth it to contact an electrician in the first place rather than run the risk of wasting time and money by needing to redo amateur electrical repairs that aren’t up to code.

3. Your work is your responsibility.

Finally, an electrical job gone wrong can result in serious insurance trouble down the line. If you proceed without obtaining a permit or consulting an electrician, insurance companies are very likely to hold you responsible for any damage or injury resulting from an electrical malfunction. Therefore, taking the time to hire a licensed electrician could very well save you the loss of a denied claim in the event of an electrical fire or serious shock. It’s even possible that making your own changes to your electrical system without informing your insurance company could result in a canceled policy if those changes damage your home. What’s more, the responsibilities of attempting your own electrical work don’t just apply to your home now. Electricians normally assume responsibility for any damage that occurs as a result of their work, often for the entire lifetime of a house, so you could be liable if the next family to move into your home encounters trouble as a result of your changes.

Although it’s tempting to want to save money by learning to handle your own electrical work, tweaking your own system without the help of a professional could end up costing far more than it could save.

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Sources: ACME DIY; DIY Advice; DIY Network; HGTV; Insurance Quotes; Next Avenue; Popular Mechanics; Pretty Handy Girl.

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