Tips for Tradesmen: Eight Innovative Electrician Tricks

Two construction workers, an African american and a white, wearing orange and yellow safety jackets and helmets among scaffolding on construction site. One explaining innovative electrician tricks

Tips for Tradesmen: Eight Innovative Electrician Tricks

Get any two or three electricians or other service industry personnel together and pretty soon they will begin swapping stories. With highly skilled service jobs, each individual tradesman has developed a personal style and thought up a few neat tricks to handle common trade challenges and it’s always worthwhile to share and hear a few things your buddies have come up with. One of the great features of the internet is that it gives us an opportunity to bring these patio and workshop conversations to the entire community, creating a richer shared knowledge of ‘trade secrets’ that no longer have to be a secret. Among the increasing shared pool of online electrician tips, here are eight innovative suggestions for making your future projects both easier and more fun:

1. Preventing for Insulation Itch

While it would be great if all electrical work happened on the habitable side of the walls, electricians more than almost any other tradesmen end up right up close with the sawdust and insulation. Besides wanting to wear a face mask and eye protection, that stuff is incredibly itchy and can cause major skin irritation. even wearing long sleeves, it still gets up around your collar and onto your face and hands. The solution to this is a bottle of baby powder or a small box of cornstarch. Coat your exposed skin a little way under collars and sleeve ends. Make sure to get your face and ears while keeping it out of your eyes. This protective layer will keep the insulation from settling directly on your skin, preventing irritation and itching.

2. Carry a Strong Magnet

The entire house wiring premise requires you to work behind the walls and ceilings. You are constantly tracing old wires, running new wires, working from small holes in the drywall and trying to line everything up perfectly from both sides. There are dozens of tricks for drawing lines and punching small holes to mark your way, but there’s one very useful trick that doesn’t require any permanent changes at all. Magnets can detect ferrous metal components and are easily detected through lightweight building materials like wood, tile, drywall, etc. With a magnet, you can:

  • Look for Studs

Stud finders are notoriously hard on batteries, which means they are always running out at inopportune moments and needing to be recharged. Rather than letting this slow down your project, simply carry a strong magnet in your kit. Tie a lightweight piece of string to your magnet and dangle it along the wall you’re inspecting. when the magnet responds, there’s something ferrous behind the wall. This also works in circumstances where the surface, coating, or material of the wall is challenging even for a fully charged stud finder.

  • As a Fishing Guide

The next time you’re fishing down the backside of a wall, there’s no need to worry about it going astray. You may already be using the heavy nut trick to keep the string pulled directly downward. You can double the effectiveness of this method by using a magnet in your box opening to guide the line down.

  • As a Retrieval Method

Because you are constantly working in the in-between spaces, it’s unfortunately easy to lose small objects into unreachable places. Once again the magnet can help, as long as the lost items were ferrous. Depending on the space you’re working with you can attach the magnet to a string or a slender stick to pull your lost items back to you.

3. Jack Chain Instead of String

The problem with string is that it’s usually made of soft fibers that can catch on rough things like insulation and unfinished wood. Fishing with string can be incredibly helpful but sometimes another method is more appropriate. Especially in cases where you want to exert a little force on your fishing string, a jack chain can work in its stead. The weight helps it fall straight down and slid over obstacles without hanging and the sturdiness means you can give it a pull without risking your connection.

4. Velcro Tester Holster

Many electricians enjoy working alone, and a vast majority of work orders aren’t big enough to need to electricians on the task. However, there are always the few times when you wish you had a third or fourth hand to hold your tester or a spare wire. Many solutions for this common conundrum have been proposed involving tape, mounting nails, and so on. One clever solution is to sew a patch of velcro onto your jacket sleeves and become your own extra pair of hands.  Glue velcro of the opposite texture onto the backs of your testers and you can hold your device in view like a wrist-watch while you work.

5. Tidy Multiple Switch Wiring

When dealing with multiple switches, any form of streamlining you can manage will help to reduce the clutter of extra wires hitting the cluster of connections. An interesting thing to consider in this circumstance is that wires don’t have to be cut to make contact, especially for connection shared between the switches. Rather than carefully pig-tailing the hot wire to each switch, simply cut your hot wire extra long. Along with the continuous grounding wire, strip a 3/4 inch section of the sheathing where you want to connect each switch.and hook the exposed area onto the screw terminal, then connect the next switch in the same way. At the final switch, loop tie wire clockwise around the screw as usual.

Electrician connecting wires

6. Unsheath Before Boxing

Contrary to popular practice, it is much harder to strip wires once they’re inside the box. It may seem more efficient at the time to push them through sheathed, but you are only setting yourself or another electrician up for trouble down the road. An overall time saving best practice is to always strip your cable sheathing before pushing them into the box knockouts. Measure carefully, because you will need at least a fourth of an inch of sheathing still in the box. This is also a good time to mention the most common pieces of electrician advice: always leave yourself extra slack.

7. Replacing a Broken Light Bulb Cleanly

Broken light bulbs are no fun under any circumstances, but it’s especially problematic when they break in the socket. It’s nearly impossible to unscrew the little nubbin because now all there is to grasp is brittle broken glass. Interestingly enough, most of what you need to fix this is the replacement light bulb. Start by cleaning out as much of the broken pieces and particles as you can with a metal tool. Take the new bulb and insert it into the socket while twisting in reverse. This should catch the old piece and unscrew it, finally releasing it from the socket. The process will also clean out all the damaged parts, leaving the socket functional and ready for the new light bulb.

8. Using String to Cut PVC in Tight Spaces

When you need to cut PVC and don’t have a lot of space, either because it’s in a tight wall or half buried in a ditch, there’s often not much room for a hand saw. Fortunately, because PVC is plastic and friction is an interesting tool, you can cleanly cut the pipe with a length of string. Simply loop the string around the back of the pipe and ‘saw’ it back and forth by pulling the ends alternatingly. Doing this fast enough, the combination of pressure, friction, and heat caused by friction will cause the pipe to give way in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Working in a field service industry, electricians see a lot of unique configurations from previous attempts to streamline or save time. Constantly sharing tips and tricks is what improves the trade as a whole, bringing up work and service quality across the industry. For more information about tips tor tradesmen or field service businesses, please contact us today!

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