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#169124 - 09/25/07 06:49 PM Destroy-It-Yourself Book
Webmaster Offline


Registered: 10/07/00
Posts: 3142
Loc: NY, USA
I borrowed this Wiring Step-By-Step book from my aunt after seeing what type of work it had led her to install. In defense of DIY books, I've seen some that weren't bad. This one isn't one of those books. Literally every page of general instruction or theory had errors in it, a lot were pretty mild, but I picked out a few of the ones that seemed like they might get someone into trouble:

Picture 1: Not once does this even suggest that 120 volts is capable of killing you, even if you happen to have a *heart condition*, are *standing in water*, or on a metal ladder, you'll simply get hurt if shocked. Only 240 volts presents a danger, never mind that the odds are ridiculously small of a person simultaneously touching both 120 volt lines and actually getting hit by 240 volts. Also, what the heck is "240 volt current"? Is that like 240 volt-amps?

Picture 2: If you follow the instructions exactly (as any novice might) and only check continuity between the common and just one of the traveler screws, the DIY-er will have just successfully confirmed that their 3-way is acting like a single-pole switch.

Picture 3: I can't believe the advice here is anything other than "call a licensed electrician experienced with aluminum wiring." I would say I trust those purple wire-nuts about as far as I can throw them, but I imagine I could throw one pretty far, and I don't trust them nearly that much.

Picture 4: The vast majority of non-contact sensors detect electric fields and won't work on any shielded wire, which includes AC, MC, and BX. So, the DIY-er holds their hot-stick next to the energized BX and it doesn't light up, but they sure will when they cut through it thinking it's dead.

Picture 5: I can't say it's really hazardous to run around installing GFCIs thinking they're surge protectors, but it darn sure would be hazardous to fail to install GFCIs where necessary because you think they're actually surge protectors.

From the text we also learn such fantastic things as:

• "Both 120 volt lines make the 240 volt circuit, though only one neutral is needed for the circuit."
It'll really get confusing when they find a straight 240 volt appliance.

• "Grounding diverts current harmlessly to earth in case of a circuit fault."
My favorite, repeated multiple times through-out the book.

• "White wires for every circuit, and sometimes bare or green wires, connect to the neutral bus bar."
It would've been nice to clarify this beyond "sometimes"; I hope they don't have sub-panels.

• "The 240 volt circuit has one neutral, and possibly a ground wire, connected to the neutral bus bar."
Again, this could use some serious clarification. Where does that mysterious ground wire connect? Maybe it doesn't...

• "…That tiny bit of current would pass through you on it’s way to earth.
As little as 1/5 of an amp can be dangerous."
Can be? If you're passing 200 milliamps through your body, you are dead.

• "Old armored cable, called BX, has a thin bonding wire but no actual ground wire."
BX has no bonding wire and no grounding means. AC does, but it isn't old; it's still being produced.

• "Often a stranded wire has to be spliced to a solid wire. Wrap the stranded wire around the solid wire. Bend the solid wire so it clamps down on the stranded wire. Screw a wire nut onto the two wires and wrap the connection in electrical tape."
In their defense, maybe a lot of electricians use this method of connection; I've never seen it or heard of it. But it sounds like it would really poorly secure that stranded wire.

• "Kitchen receptacles within six feet of the sink need GFCI protection."
Book was printed in 2006. They're a couple of years behind code.

• "Older, ungrounded circuits are usually polarized, which is less effective than grounding, but better than nothing."
Since when are *circuits* polarized? What does polarization have to do with grounding? This sentence should simply have been deleted by the editors.

• "[When wiring more than one switch] connect all the white wires together."
All the wires are white, so it must be right? Hope there aren't multiple circuits in that box.

• "Test the [ungrounded] receptacle with a receptacle analyzer. If it is grounded, replace it with a grounding-type."
Because if there's enough of a ground path to light that little neon-lamp in a receptacle tester, there must be a safe ground path with a low-enough impedance to trip a breaker. This error is repeated throughout the book whereby they claim every cable with a metal sheath has an effective equipment ground, including BX and Greenfield.

After reading through a book packed with stuff like this (you should see their instructions for conduit bending), I'm not surprised that my aunt got in over her head. You would like to think that your family would know better, though.


Tools for Electricians:
#169134 - 09/26/07 06:00 AM Re: Destroy-It-Yourself Book [Re: Webmaster]
Ann Brush Offline

Registered: 12/27/05
Posts: 155
Loc: Ohia
What is the book called, publisher, ISBN - I would love to see it?

#169139 - 09/26/07 07:59 AM Re: Destroy-It-Yourself Book [Re: Webmaster]
BrianP Offline

Registered: 02/01/07
Posts: 65
Loc: Minnesota
 Originally Posted By: Webmaster
Also, what the heck is "240 volt current"? Is that like 240 volt-amps?

It's to let us know that the author doesn't know anything about electricity.

#169141 - 09/26/07 09:57 AM Re: Destroy-It-Yourself Book [Re: BrianP]
mikesh Offline

Registered: 06/07/06
Posts: 614
Loc: Victoria, BC, Canada
Pretty scary advice. FYI BX in Canada (AC-90) does have a copper bonding conductor included. In fact all armored cables here have integral bonding conductors. We did have AC-90 that had an aluminum ribbon in its construction but it has not been an approved cable since the 1970s. Some very old steel armored cables have no bonding conductor but nothing newer than 1980 would not have a copper or aluminum bonding conductor. Heck we even require a bonding conductor inside even short lengths of flex or liquid tite. No external bonding wires here.

#169195 - 09/28/07 02:41 PM Re: Destroy-It-Yourself Book [Re: mikesh]
Rewired Offline

Registered: 01/01/06
Posts: 567
Loc: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
There is one that I read in a " destroy it yourself" book once... It was as follows: " You do not have to shut off the electricty to replace a receptacle, just be sure your hands are dry" I will have to find the book, its around here somewhere but C'mon! I wonder how many people have attemted this after reading the book and got lit up if not worse!

#169202 - 09/28/07 04:03 PM Re: Destroy-It-Yourself Book [Re: Rewired]
Trumpy Offline


Registered: 07/05/02
Posts: 8532
Loc: SI,New Zealand
Not meaning to sound silly, but you guys are "lucky" there are books for DIY electrical in print in your country.
Over here in NZ, no such thing exists and people take to guessing how things should or shouldn't be done, usually they guess wrong too.
Let's face it, these days if you're not young, you're old - Red Green grin

#169210 - 09/28/07 06:47 PM Re: Destroy-It-Yourself Book [Re: Trumpy]
HotLine1 Offline


Registered: 04/03/02
Posts: 6792
Loc: Brick, NJ USA
Is it against any law for you not having any DIY books in NZ?? Is it just electrical that don't exist, or is it everything?

If it's not illegal....why don't you think about it??

Stay safe!

#169239 - 09/29/07 09:24 AM Re: Destroy-It-Yourself Book [Re: HotLine1]
pauluk Offline

Registered: 08/11/01
Posts: 7693
Loc: Norfolk, England
"Grounding diverts current harmlessly to earth in case of a circuit fault."

Ah, a real old favorite, like "electricity always tries to get back to earth."

"The 240 volt circuit has one neutral"

Even if it's running to a 6-15 or 6-20 receptacle?

Sadly, I've similarly confusing and downright wrong "advice" in some British DIY books. Somewhere in here I mentioned a DIY video tape on electrics that I found in the library some years ago. It was so bad I ended up contacting the chief librarian and asking that it be withdrawn as misleading at best, downright dangerous at worst.

#169253 - 09/29/07 11:34 PM Re: Destroy-It-Yourself Book [Re: pauluk]
Paulusgnome Offline

Registered: 06/15/04
Posts: 56
Loc: Christchurch, New Zealand
The main reason why we don't get electrical DIY books here in NZ is most likely because we are a fairly small country, and its simply no worth the candle for someone to write one.
There are some things that the DIYer can legally do, and the men from the ministry have attempted to produce a booklet that spells these limits out but I do not think this booklet has a very wide circulation. This is probably due to a traditional mistrust of anything government-produced.
Mark aka Paulus


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