Copper's high rate of conductivity makes it an ideal material for electrical wiring. Whenever working with copper electrical wire, take all necessary safety precautions to avoid receiving an electrical shock. Whether you're working on an electronics or wiring project or you simply come into contact with hazardous exposed electrical wire, simple safety precautions can save you inconvenience, pain and potential injury.
Precautions for General Usage
Especially when wiring has been installed or maintained improperly, it's important that you follow safety precautions when handling copper electrical wire. Extension cords, intended for occasional usage are highly susceptible to frays or breakage. Check that none of their internal copper wires are exposed, either along the cord's length or close to loosened or ill-fitted plugs. Reduce the chances of exposed or frayed wires by using permanent in-wall wiring for high-frequency items and reserving extension cords for occasional uses. Also avoid plugging multiple devices into a single extension cord. Instead, use UL-approved devices with surge protection. If you find that an extension cord or any appliance's power cord has exposed copper, repair or replace the entire cord immediately. Before handling any such devices, turn off the power socket or appliance. For maximum safety, shut off the power at the source: your home circuit breaker.
When installing new electrical wiring, take the same precautions you would when handling faulty or frayed wiring. Ensure that the building's electrical power is shut off at its source whenever handling "hot," or electrified, elements such as copper wiring. When splicing together two copper wires, after stripping the plastic sheath, trim the exposed wires to fit neatly within the plastic wire connector and carefully twist them together. If any wire strands dangle outside of the connector, they may cause electrical shorts, shocks or even electrical fires by touching grounded elements.
When soldering electronic components, you may work with either plastic-coated or tinned copper wire. Only use tinned copper wire, which resembles stiff solder, when there is no chance of the wire accidentally touching other parts of the electronic device, as even a tin coating will be somewhat conductive. While soldering, you needn't worry about getting an electrical charge from the copper wire. However, there are certain precautions you can take to improve the quality of the joint and increase its safety in future applications. After applying solder, keep the copper wire still for a smoother and more solid joint with a shiny surface and the shape of a cone or volcano. Hold the soldering iron to the top of the copper iron that requires soldering for only a few seconds. This should be sufficient to heat it thoroughly. Avoid burns by holding only insulated parts of the heated copper wire.
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