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Put simply, whenever I see a question like "how do I DIY my home's electrical system", I always give the same answer: call a professional, licensed electrician. I say this because it is always the only correct answer, even if it's a frame challenge to the question asked. Electrical work should never be DIYed, and in my country, doing so is illegal. Quite frankly, electricity is dangerous, and if you haven't undergone extensive training as a licensed electrician, you should not be performing electrical work.

If you do, people will die (and people do die due to shoddy electrical work every day) - and if someone's answer on this site leads to a house burning down and someone dying, StackExchange will likely be legally liable for it. It's quite possible that someone might sue SE for the damage their DIY did to their house. It might even be possible that the management of SE might face criminal charges of things like negligent homicide, since they know that questions about this topic could lead to deaths, and they knowingly allowed them to remain. Leaving aside the moral issues regarding loss of life, does SE want to leave them open to that sort of legal liability?

As a result of these factors, I would suggest that if frame challenge answers of "don't do this, call an electrician" aren't accepted, then this community should adopt a policy of instantly closing "how do I DIY electrical work" as off-topic, perhaps with a message of "you should not DIY this. Call an electrician."

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  • 2
    Just FYI we can, and do, sometimes demur on seriously dangerous things.
    – Machavity
    May 17 at 20:13
  • 2
    I would think this site reduces risks by educating DIYers who come here to ask how to do it right. To eliminate the electrical questions would likely cause DIYers to simply carry on without the advice of the generous pros here who contribute so much. May 19 at 14:08
  • The only way for a non-professional to "do it right" is to not do it at all, and call a professional to do it for them.
    – nick012000
    May 19 at 14:17
  • 1
    Nick, you really don't get it. I"m not an electrician, but have wired 3 houses that passed inspection on the first time or only with very minor findings (like not having the neutral white code taped on the main feed and missing a counter top outlet on the 4' rule). On inspection of my son's house that I did most of the wiring on, the inspector called out that we had 3/0 for the mains, I had to point out to her that it was copper not AL and 3/0 copper was rated for 200 amps. ....continued in next comment..... May 19 at 14:51
  • 1
    In another case, I used the "tap rule" for powering a small sub-panel in my pump house. The inspector called it out, but I had the NEC chapter and verse regarding taps and schooled the inspector on what I did and he agreed. So a licensed inspector learned from an unlicensed DIYer like me. Go figure. Every once in a while, when the person clearly has virtually no understanding of electricity and wiring, I'll say "call a pro", but most of the time, the questions are intelligent, thought out and the OP is clearly wanting to do it right. Not everybody can afford to call a pro! May 19 at 14:57
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    Also, just remembered...had a friend that built a house and a separate storage shed/pump house with a small sub-panel in it. He had a licensed electrician wire the pump house ( a professional as you would say), when I looked at the wiring on the small sub-panel I told my friend, "this isn't going to pass inspection, the neutral and ground aren't isolated." He said that he had faith in the electrician....sure enough it didn't pass for the reasons I mentioned. And I'm a DIYer schooling inspectors and electricians. So quit your fear mongering about DIYers. May 19 at 15:05
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Your outlook is incorrect/misguided in a few ways:

  1. Millions of people around the world do their own electrical work, legally, every year. Just because you don't feel comfortable doing it, or it's illegal in your country, does not mean it is illegal everywhere or uncomfortable for everyone. In the US, for example (where the site's largest audience is from), it is legal to do most of the electrical work on your own home (in every state, as far as I know).

    What matters in the United States, for example, is that you pull a permit for necessary work based on your local jurisdiction's requirements, and that the work is approved by an inspector. Licensed electricians are only legally mandated for certain jobs, which could be connections to municipal power, high voltage work, commercial work, etc. Some things, like changing an outlet/light switch, or installing a replacement ceiling light/fan, don't require a license even if you aren't the homeowner.

    No one at the store checks to see if you have a license for electrical work before selling you NM wire or outlet boxes, etc. Likewise, inspectors don't ask to see a license before passing inspections of a rough-in you performed yourself and pulled the permit for yourself... they look for code violations. Like I said above, if there's some municipal code that requires a license, then that would matter, but for most things there aren't.

  2. There is no evidence anyone has died from following advice here (I don't see any in your question, anyway, and the burden of proof lies w/ the one making the claim).

  3. Stack Exchange, like all content-hosting sites in the US, would not be legally liable for 3rd-party content on its site under Section 230 of the Communications Act.

  4. Stack Exchange sites, and the questions/answers within, are not just for the person asking the question. Stack Exchange sites exist to create a high-quality, focused repository of subject-matter questions and answers for future readers. In other words, you might ask a question, but the answer isn't just for you... it's for the future readers who will visit and find value in the answer. You can ask a question about something that's illegal for you to do, but others may find value in it, and live somewhere it is legal (or the laws may change as time goes on). If it bothers you so much, just imagine every question on the site starts out with "Theoretically..."

  5. Finally, electrical-related questions from related tags make up over 20% of the site, and the top 8 or so users on the site (except perhaps isherwood, who I'm sure is also comfortable performing and answering on electrical work, too) are electrical specialists where those questions make up the bulk of their answers. If we ban electrical questions, they might stick around... but I would bet they'd be way less interested. Such a big hit can cause sites to stagnate and die... at which point, congratulations, you played yourself.

As a counter-anecdote, I have never had training as an electrician, but I have successfully (and code-compliantly) done all sorts of re-wiring in my house. The relevant code for me is accessible to me as an unlicensed layman, so I avail myself of it. Likewise, I have learned a lot from this site and the answers on it, just from citations of code for esoteric tasks or photos of peoples' own setups, diagrams of wiring suggestions, etc.

It is a lot like one of my other favorite pastimes--rock climbing. Rock climbing is an inherently dangerous sport and can easily be lethal. However, just like working w/ electricity, it is typically easy to avoid danger by following safe practices... in climbing, that would mean checking your gear, flaking ropes, making sure your partner is tied in/clipped in correctly, etc. In electrical work, it means turning off breakers, testing with voltmeters to verify, using insulated equipment, not doing less than the code requires, etc.

For comparison, there are on average, 30 rock-climbing related deaths a year in the US, and OSHA reports 350 electrical-related deaths annually, so the two are pretty darn close in terms of incidence (when you consider ~340 million people as the total potential group). Likewise, the vast majority of house fires in the US are caused by cooking mishaps or overheating consumer equipment, not electrical wiring issues, per your own source in your question above.

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  • "Stack Exchange, like all content-hosting sites in the US, would not be legally liable for content on its site under Section 230 of the Communications Act." Sure, whatever sanctions under that law might not apply to them, but they should still be liable for torts - willful negligence, wrongful death, etc. "Finally, electrical-related questions from related tags make up over 20% of the site" And it's 20% of the site that shouldn't be there - every single question should be Closed as off-topic, since electrical work should never be DIYed.
    – nick012000
    May 17 at 16:40
  • "Millions of people around the world do their own DIY electrical work every year." And they shouldn't. They should categorically be discouraged from doing so. "Likewise, inspectors don't ask to see a license before passing your rough-in inspections..." That is fraud, passing off shoddy DIY work as work being done by a licensed electrician. "It is a lot like one of my other favorite pastimes--rock climbing." Do seven people die every day due to rock climbling? That's how many people die due to house fires as a result of faulty electrical wiring.
    – nick012000
    May 17 at 16:45
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    @nick012000 It sounds like you have a personal axe to grind, which is outside the scope of Meta. If you or someone you know has been subject to harm due to the contents on a Stack Exchange site, you should consult a lawyer.
    – TylerH
    May 17 at 18:32
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    @nick012000 BTW, Section 230 specifically provides protection against torts. You can't hold a US content platform personally liable for content posted to it by a 3rd party. At best you can request it be removed.
    – TylerH
    May 17 at 18:56
  • My personal axe to grind isn't that I have been harmed, but that people will be harmed. I am thinking of sending an email to SE's Legal team, though. Hopefully they'll be able to talk to the Community Management team and force SE Corporate's hand if the community is unwilling to make the required changes and continues to recklessly risk human lives.
    – nick012000
    May 18 at 3:26
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    Grinding axes is outside the scope of StackExchange generally. May 18 at 3:48
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    @nick012000 While you're sending out emails, include the authors and publishers of the thousands of DIY electrical books out there.
    – JACK
    May 18 at 12:20
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    @nick012000 you write "That is fraud, passing off shoddy DIY work as work being done by a licensed electrician". Is all DIY work, by definition, shoddy work? Is it simply not possible for someone to read and understand the relevant material and perform DIY work that is not shoddy? And how would shoddy work (whether DIY or 'professional') be approved by the inspector? That's the primary purpose of the inspection - to check for and fail to approve shoddy work - no matter whether it's DIY or 'professional', because that makes no difference!
    – brhans
    May 19 at 13:11
  • @brhans Signing a document that electrical work was done by a professional when it wasn't is fraud - and only the work of professional, licensed electricians with a Certificate III in Electrotechnology can be legally signed off on.
    – nick012000
    May 19 at 13:34
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    @nick012000 In your country, maybe. In others, that's not the case.
    – TylerH
    May 19 at 13:38
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    @nick012000 in my current jurisdiction there's no requirement to sign anything stating the work was done by a 'professional' (or to make any other similar assertion, written or verbal). For some work I would be required to apply for a permit, describe the nature and some details of the work, assert that the work will conform to the applicable code, and have the completed (but not yet covered over) work inspected - but none of this prevents me from legally (& safely) DIY-ing the work in a non-shoddy manner. For work like replacing switches & outlets there's no permit or inspection required.
    – brhans
    May 19 at 16:30
  • 1
    I would also argue that the people asking these kind of questions here are already predisposed to do DIY work (or they wouldn't be here), and that getting answers from the very knowledgeable participants like Harper, ThreePhaseEel, isherwood and others (sorry if I didn't name any of you) is of great benefit in helping them to do this work in a safe & legal way - work which they probably would have DIYed one way or another anyway, but far more likely to be shoddy if not for the advice they receive here!
    – brhans
    May 19 at 16:41
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    Certainly if the asker indicates that they're in the Land of Oz for example, and you know that the rules are such in the Land of Oz that it's illegal to do any more than replace a plug as DIY work, then by all means post an answer which says that they need to hire a professional - because that's the correct answer for that location. But you need to recognize that in other locations the rules are different, and giving detailed DIY answers to these questions on how to go about the work safely & legally is entirely appropriate here - and doing so is likely to prevent shoddy work!
    – brhans
    May 19 at 16:46
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Forbidding knowledge of how to safely do a task, and just putting a blanket statement to "hire a professional", won't make people safer. First, there are lots of locations where electrical work is permitted, so people will be doing this work whether or not the details for how to do it safely are available.

From similar meta questions on dangerous questions and answers the consensus is to not even delete bad answers that contain dangerous recommendations. Instead, voting and comments should be used to make it clear that some ideas are not good ideas and what harm could come from following them. This makes it clear to someone else that has the same idea, that it's a bad idea and why, rather than a post where that idea has been censored and the visitor assumes that their idea is probably safe and no one has ever tried it before.

Legally, I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that SE is a US based company and as long as they follow DMCA and similar policies, they are not liable for user provided content on the site.

3

Frame challenge here (what a surprise!)

You certainly know you're not going to stop DIY forums all over the world from talking about electrical, just because of your beliefs.

Scaremongering is inappropriate. Stop it.

As we have said many times, "Hire a Professional" answers are not answers because every question could be answered with that. See also this, this, this and this. This is well-trod ground.

But here's the bigger problem. If you scare-monger for electrical (or ban electrical questions), then what happens with all of these?

  • Roof work questions (people die every day falling off roofs)
  • Water feature questions (people drown every day)
  • Woodworking / Use of power tools (ditto)
  • Landscaping (chainsaws OMFG)
  • Cave exploration
  • Travel (people die every day doing travel)
  • Computer security
  • General Aviation
  • Artificial intelligence / robotics (robots may take over the world!)
  • Bicycle
  • Bitcoin (I hear people get swindled every day)
  • Electrical engineering
  • Law (definitely no place for amateurs)
  • Medical sciences
  • Motor vehicle repairs
  • Psychology (suicides)
  • Cooking (again, people die every day from botched food prep)
  • The Great Outdoors (an Australian, of all people should appreciate its lethality)

The bottom line is, the world is choc-a-bloc full of dangerous things. Making choices about dangerous things is part of the human experience.

And people make those choices for themselves. You don't get to choose for them.

Capische?

Since people certainly do have Q&A about those choices, forum operators across the Internet run a wide variety of forums for them to discuss those choices. Those other people get to do that. Unmolested. Because you do not control them, nor do you have any right to control them.

Nor do you have "free speech" on a forum whose domain name is owned by someone other than yourself. Because "free speech" on the Internet is actually "freedom of the press" - go ask on law.se, oh wait. That would be practicing law without a license. Go pay your lawyer for legal advice.

Wow, it kinda sucks when someone tells you to spend your own money needlessly, huh? Think about that.

Not frame challenge, just ranting.

Look at your latest trick, here. If you actually read the question, you'd see the person isn't looking for a DIY solution - just wants to know where the problem area lies to know which pro to call.

So this person was already pre-sold on your POV. Yours was not an answer to the question. You didn't even notice -- because you had a "full head of steam" to fly away on your rant. This level of inappropriateness and ignorance was highlighted when ThreePhaseEel aptly observed:

part of the problem is that your average US electrician isn't really qualified to work on a GAS appliance!

Your axiom is "hire professionals, don't DIY", but you violated your own axiom by "going off on a tear" and disregarding what the question actually was. You sent OP to the wrong professional. It's so misguided that it pretty much proves you don't even read questions (so definitely not here to help): to you, questions are none but an orifice to vent your rage.

It's one thing if it happens once. But on diy.se, 6 of your 8 answers are this (as of last night).

And the other two:

  • "Is it OK to daisy-chain power strips" customized rant that suggests having actually read the question, but still, more of the same.
  • "How to mount solar inverter" another "did not read the question" answer, proposing a totally unfit fastening that would cause a big electrical problem when the solar inverter falls off the wall. Proving you are out of your depth. Physician, heal thyself.

Your motivation was made clear in comments:

Harper: You have 8 answers on this forum. Six of them say "Hire an electrician" with a wall of scare-text. Those answers do not belong on this site. Please discontinue such answers. Honestly, we don't pop into RPG.SE going "Doesn't matter, the GM can override" for every rules question... what you are doing is the equivalent.

Nick012000: @Harper-ReinstateMonica That's because "Hire an electrician" is the correct answer. Where I live, it's illegal to do anything else, and, frankly, the fact that America's laws allow DIY electrical work is appalling - and, frankly, it should be banned from this site for being off-topic because it should never be DIYed. Like one of the answers in that linked question says, people die in house fires every day due to shoddy electrical work. If he DIYs this, he is putting lives in danger.

Harper: That's exactly what you need to stop saying. You are wrong, and you are readily admitting that you are an anti-DIY crusader. Fine, you can have that opinion; but that opinion does not control the world, and you can't use that opinion as an excuse to vandalize stacks. Come on, man, this is not adult behavior.

nick012000: I'm writing a question on Meta asking for these questions to be banned from this site, because they are not suitable for DIY. If "hire an electrician" isn't an acceptable answer (it's the only acceptable answer), then they should be closed as off-topic.

Harper: What??? This user is asking what the issue could be. It isn't even a question on how do DIY something and there's no indication that OP intends to do any DIY, and may simply replace the oven. (or have it repaired by an appliance repairman... an electrician would be a waste of money here). Your choice of this question to rant, doesn't even make any sense, given the dozens of complex electrical questions we have fielded this week.

Nick012000: I didn't see those questions. I saw this one. Also, now that I think of it, frame challenges are generally considered valid answers.

So it's perfectly clear that you are "sniping" indiscriminately, not at all based on a skill assessment of OP, whose questions you do not even read; but rather, you simply core-dump to whichever questions you happen to see on HNQ.

This is a corrupt motivation, and you should not be posting with that motivation.

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  • "Roof work questions (people die every day falling off roofs)Water feature questions (people drown every day) Woodworking / Use of power tools (ditto) Landscaping (chainsaws OMFG)" Perhaps the solution is to remove this SE site altogether, then, if its presence recklessly risks human lives. I'd have to check whether or not those things are as dangerous for amateurs to work with as electricity, though.
    – nick012000
    May 18 at 3:28
  • Also? The OP's experience in working with electrical tools is irrelevant - if they're not a licensed electrician, they should not be doing electrical work, period. If they are, then they shouldn't be asking here, they should be asking on the Electrical Engineering SE site.
    – nick012000
    May 18 at 3:30
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    Ah, so you're confirming that your choice to fixate on electrical is arbitrary, and has no basis in actual risk. You seem like a person with a lot of opinions, and yeah... that's not what SE is about. May 18 at 3:37
  • I'm pretty sure that electrical work is more dangerous, but I'd have to check the statistics to be absolutely sure. I know that plumbing is also illegal for amateurs to perform here in Australia, and there are laws mandating pool fences, so it's possible that plumbing has the potential to be just as dangerous - but I doubt it, since electricity is an invisible killer with the potential to kill years later when it burns your house down.
    – nick012000
    May 18 at 3:40
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    Well again, SE is not an opinion-sharing site. May 18 at 3:42
  • Fortunately, I'm not sharing my opinion. I'm talking about objective facts and statistics.
    – nick012000
    May 18 at 3:45
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    Except that you set your mind before you had any facts. Now, you're trying to collect facts that support your opinion, and you certainly ought to know the fallacy of that. What if the hard data tells you that you are wrong? May 18 at 3:52
  • "What if the hard data tells you that you are wrong?" It already hasn't - seven people die every day in America as a result of shoddy electrical work causing house fires.
    – nick012000
    May 18 at 4:12
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    @nick012000 the "7 people a day" line you keep spouting is, I assume, from the NFPA reports on annual fire damage/deaths. If that's the case, then you're misquoting it/making things up; the reports indicate 7 people a day (6 people, if you're using newer data from 2014-2018) die from house fires, period. Cooking fires (not shoddy electrical work) account for approximately half of all house fires, and the leading cause of deaths from house fires is smoking. Further, the reports don't specify at all whether fires from faulty wiring was performed by homeowners or licensed electricians.
    – TylerH
    May 18 at 14:05
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    @nick012000 In fact, the reports don't even delineate between in-wall wiring or free wiring like lamp cords, extension cords, etc. when talking about electrical equipment-caused house fires. I just looked at another report which opens with ~1.2 deaths per day in house fires caused by unspecified electrical failure/malfunction, not the 7 you claim. And it goes on to cover a myriad of contributing causes aside from "shoddy homeowner electrical work".
    – TylerH
    May 18 at 14:11
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    @nick012000 So if you wanna talk about facts, first you actually need some real ones.
    – TylerH
    May 18 at 14:12
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    Yeah, that's that fallacy I mentioned. Cherry-picking only favorable facts and refusing to do a searching and scrupulous analysis of all available data. Nick is not the only person looking at this data -- analyzing accident data and turning it into regulations is literally the NFPA's business. Point is, Nick's opinion was fully formed before Nick had any facts at all. May 18 at 18:55
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    Those report distinctions are important because it may be electrician work that was incorrect (lots and lots of that)... and lots of other work that was just obsolete. Also very old work that has degraded, or proper work that has taken a casualty from construction (nail through the cable). End of the day, this type of data analysis is quite complex, *and it can't be done as a 'drive-by', again see 'fallacy'. May 18 at 19:21

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