It goes without saying that electricity is extremely dangerous. Whether you are a professional or a hobbyist, anyone who works with electricity should take steps to protect themselves. Batteries, desktop power supplies and other power sources should be treated with respect. But how can you protect yourself?
1. Always ground yourself
This first tip doesn’t actually protect you when working with electronics; it protects your hardware. Your body can build up a small amount of electrical charge. When you come into contact with a conductor such as metal, this charge will flow into it and can damage sensitive electronics. Touching unpainted metal before working with electronics and electrical appliances will ground you.
2. Use an ESD wrist strap
Electricity follows the path of least resistance, and this will be your body if you touch the wrong thing when working with electronics. ESD wristbands provide a pathway for electricity without causing damage to organs.
3. Avoid battery soldering directly
Batteries become volatile when exposed to heat. Whether they overheat or their protective casing is damaged, soldering directly to a battery is dangerous.
Spot welding exposes the contacts on your batteries to much less heat than soldering. This makes it possible to attach tabs to your batteries, giving you a safe soldering surface to use. You can buy batteries that come with tabs or find a battery harness that’s right for your project.
4. Disconnect the power sources
Some power sources, such as AC outlets and desktop power supplies, come with an off switch. Disconnecting power from such sources will make your job much safer, reducing the risk of electric shock.
5. Cover/Protect Live Connections
Batteries don’t have the luxury of being disconnected. This means that you need to find other ways to protect yourself. Never allow positive and negative connections to touch when working with batteries, especially at high voltages.
Electrical tape, heat shrink tubing, and even 3D printed caps can all serve this purpose. You need to make sure they have a secure fit.
Some materials, such as steel and copper, are conductors that allow electricity to pass through. However, others, such as silicone and rubber, are insulators.
Using insulated tools is a smart idea for anyone who works with electricity. Not only does this ensure that you always have a firm grip, but it also prevents electricity from entering your body if you make a mistake.
7. Check the temperature
As mentioned in our third tip, batteries don’t like heat. If a battery gets too hot, the chemicals inside can react explosively, making them dangerous. Heat can also be a sign that something is wrong with a battery or power source.
High resistance and overloaded circuits will create a lot of heat, giving you something to watch out for. If your power source gets very hot, stop what you are doing and wait for it to cool down. Continuous heat under electrical load should always be avoided.
Working in an area with good ventilation and keeping batteries out of direct sunlight are simple ways to avoid dangerous situations.
8. Working at safe low voltages
No battery is capable of maintaining a perfectly constant voltage. The more potential energy stored in a battery, the higher the voltage. In addition, having a lot of potential energy will make leaks, explosions and shocks more powerful.
Manufacturers provide a safe storage voltage for their batteries in their documentation. You can look this up and drain your batteries before working with them, limiting the threat they pose if damaged.
9. Keep fire extinguishers accessible
In addition to shock and electrocution, fires are one of the main risks when working with electronics. Water can make an electrical fire more dangerous, making it vital that you have a suitable fire extinguisher available at all times.
You can take training online to ensure you know how to deal with an electrical fire in your home. Prevention is always best, but being able to actively respond to fires will lessen their aftermath.
10. Use fire and smoke detectors
Being able to extinguish a fire is only possible if you know it is there. Fire and smoke detectors are essential in any workspace, especially those where people use electricity.
There are many companies on the market that offer reliable heat, fire and smoke detectors. These types of products are usually a legal requirement in workplaces, but you should use one at home even if you don’t need to.
11. Operate within the parameters of the battery/power source
Like the safe storage voltage that battery manufacturers provide, most power sources have different parameters. Peak current, maximum voltage and operating temperatures are all good examples of this.
Look up the parameters of your power sources before using them. This becomes more important as the voltage you are working with increases, but you should always consider it safe.
12. Learn to use a multimeter
Multimeters are electrical test instruments that can give you a lot of information about a circuit. You can use a device like this to check voltages and resistance, along with things like circuit continuity.
Learning how to use a multimeter doesn’t take much effort with our handy guide. Buying a reliable multimeter makes it much easier to work safely with electricity.
13. Never touch things you don’t understand
While power sources can certainly be dangerous, proper handling will always improve your safety. It may sound obvious, but it is critical that you have a good understanding of the power sources you are working with.
You can learn about electronics and electricity online or in school. Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that asking for help is never a bad idea if you’re concerned about safety.
Working with DIY power sources
Following these tips will improve your safety when working with electronics and electrical appliances. Taking such steps can also help your projects, giving you the chance to gain a deeper understanding of the tools you use.
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