Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How to find the SHE-lectrician inside you

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you have to know how much I love lists. Remember this post, and this one?

I've been doing a much-needed, top-to-bottom deep clean of my house, and I'm on the last page of my 3-page checklist room by room. Of course, now that the deep clean is about done, it's time to, well, clean the house again. At least now when I clean my house, I'll know that there are no dust bunnies under the bed, the windows are shiny and the nooks and crannies are free from clutter and crud. Boy it feels nice to check see a page full of check marks.

Another running list I have is a prioritization of home improvement projects. Some are large, some are small. Some are cost- and time-prohibitive for the time being, and others are manageable. A while ago I painted my living room the loveliest shade of Winter in Paris, and yesterday I painted our master bedroom a calm and warm Toasted Almond. I didn't like the look of putting the old 80's beige outlets back up, so I decided to replace them all. And why shouldn't I be able to do it myself? So, here's a little how-to if you want to do a little, quick, inexpensive but noticeable upgrade to your home. First a few rules in the form of a list, of course!

Rule #1 - Don't be afraid. Electricity is your friend. But you MUST respect it and do lots of double checking for safety's sake (trust me - it only took me two times of getting a mini-tazer by a light switch before I started double checking).

Rule #2 - Be sure the breaker is turned off for the area you're working on. Even if nothing is turned on or plugged in, there's still juice running to them. In our house, we do this by me flipping breakers in the garage and hubby giving a holler when the lights are out. Which leads to...

Rule #3 - Obvious to all you smart readers, do your work during the day since the lights will be out. It's kind of hard to work on electricity at night.

OK, ready to start?

Here's the before - we're working on a double light switch.

Here's all you need. Replacement switches, cover plate, screwdriver and wire cutter/stripper.

Remove the cover plate with your screwdriver, and take out the screws on the top and bottom of each switch.
Pull it out from the wall so you can access the back of the switch.
It's easiest to just cut the wires where they go into the switch and use your cutters to strip about a 1/2" of the black or white covering off to expose the copper wire, like this:
You have two choices on how you want to attach the wires to the switch. In the photo below, you'll see two sets of a tiny round hole above a slot. You can simply thread your wire in the round hole, and a little metal piece inside holds it secure. There are either indications directly on the switch or else in the directions on the package on where to put the white (neutral) and where to put the black (hot). This is super important, like putting your car jumper cables on the right knobs!

That's they way I've done all of our switches and outlets, but I thought I'd show the other way to connect too. There is a screw on the side for each of the black and white wires. Curve the end of your wire, hook it around the screw, and tighten it with your screwdriver so it's and secure. That's it! The hard part's done, even though that wasn't hard at all, right?

Bundle up all the slack in the wire and stuff it back into the wall. Screw the switches back into place via the same screw holes that are already there. There's a "top" label to make sure you don't install it upside down.

Wallah! You're done! And doesn't that look so much better?

An outlet is done the same way, but there will be a bare copper wire (without black or white covering) that is the grounding wire. Curve it and wrap it around the grounding screw (usually green) as part of the connecting process.

You did it! Replacing 5 outlets and two light switches cost me $16.72, an hour of my time and...

one broken fingernail!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome job, Jen! It's amazing how much you can do if you do a little research and jump in and do it! You are so handy! ;)