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Electronics Safety Lesson: Household Electrical Current Can Kill You!

To stay safe while you experiment with electronics, it is important to remember that electricity is dangerous and when you work with electronics, you work with electricity. Here are some safety tips for working with standard household electrical current.

Too many people are under the false impression that the 120 volts of alternating current running through household electrical wires isn't enough to kill. So let's start by getting one fact straight:

The electricity in your home wiring system is more than strong enough to kill you.

You're exposed to household electrical current primarily in two places: in electrical outlets and in the lamp sockets within light fixtures. As a result, you should be extra careful whenever you plug or unplug something into or from an electrical outlet, and you should be careful whenever you change a light bulb. Specifically, you should follow these precautions:

  • Never change a light bulb when the light is turned on. If the light is controlled by a switch, turn the switch off. If the light isn't controlled by a switch, unplug the light from the wall outlet.

  • If an extension cord becomes frayed or damaged in any way, discard it. When the insulation begins to rub off of an extension cord, the shock hazard is very real.

  • Never perform electrical wiring work while the circuit is energized. If you insist on changing your own light switches or electrical outlets, always turn off the power to the circuit by turning off the circuit breaker that controls the circuit before you begin. Many people die every year because they think they can be careful enough to safely work with live power.

  • Never work on an AC-powered appliance when it has power applied. Simply turning the appliance off isn't enough to be safe. If the appliance has a power cord, unplug it before you work on it. If it doesn't have a power cord, turn off the power to the appliance by throwing the circuit breaker on your home's electrical panel.

  • Take extra precautions when you're working with your own AC circuits.

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