Dear Pat: I live in an older house with a few electrical problems. I want to fix some of these problems myself. What type of special tools should I get for these types of simple electrical projects? — Jan Q.
Dear Jan: Having the proper tools for the specific applications can make any project easier, faster and more enjoyable. Electrical projects are no exception. In fact, for electrical projects, it may be impossible to do them correctly without the proper tools in your electrical toolbox.
Before you run out and purchase tools for your electrical toolbox, take a course on electrical projects. Electricity is very dangerous and, unless you understand exactly what to do, it can be deadly. This is not just from electric shock, but also from a house fire that improper wiring may cause. Check with your local building inspectors to see if your project requires a licensed electrician.
The first item to purchase is a book of the electrical codes. Never deviate from accepted electrical codes even if you are the only one living in the house. If you sell the house someday and the new owner is injured from your improper electrical work, you will likely be responsible. If you are not clear about every aspect of the project, hire an electrician.
A clamp-on multimeter is a must for your toolbox. It can be clamped over insulated wires to read the current and to know if they are still carrying power. This tool also allows you to check if a specific wire is hot or not without touching it. I always recommend switching off all the breakers and working by battery-powered light to be safe.
A ground fault circuit interrupter tester is inexpensive and about the only way to safely check a GFCI for proper operation. GFCI's are used wherever an electrical outlet is near water or outdoors. Often, one GFCI will be used to protect several outlets on the same circuit.
You will need specialty pliers to make your electrical work easier and cleaner. Lineman's pliers are the ones you will use most. These pliers are used for cutting wire, pulling it and twisting the ends of two wires together. They are strong enough to do some crimping. End-cut pliers also come in handy when working in tight spots.
If you are going to do a lot of crimping of connectors, which you must do for some projects, purchase crimper pliers. You can apply a lot of force to the crimp joint with these. These are particularly useful for crimping the bare ground wires together. Also get standard needle-nose pliers.
You will need a pair of stripper pliers to strip the insulation from various size wiring. Get a good pair because a cheaper pair may nick the wire through the insulation. This can create a weak spot. Also, cheaper pairs do not always cut totally through the insulation, making it difficult to get it off in tight spots.
Get a roll or two of standard black electrical tape. Also get small rolls of green and white to use to mark wires. An assortment of wire nut sizes will be needed for making connections for any job. Always uses wire nuts in conduit boxes to make connections instead of just taping wires. Get a box of wire staples to hold the wiring in place.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about Pat Logan and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.