burning wood

DIY electrical projects can kill you

ESA has observed a rise in unsafe Do-It-Yourself (DIY) electrical projects, such as the assembly or rewiring of Lichtenberg generators, guitar amps, neon signs, batteries, electric vehicle chargers, and more. These so-called “Frankenstein” products are often encouraged by online DIY videos or articles, many of which contain extremely dangerous advice.

Sadly, this trend has also increased the number of reported (and entirely preventable) deaths and serious injuries in Canada and across the world. Fractal art burning (using unsafe Lichtenberg generators) has killed five people in Ontario in the past few years. It has killed at least 30 people across the world.

Never self-assemble or “upgrade” electrical products

Online advice boasts cost-savings or “improved performance” of DIY electrical rewiring or assembly. Despite how these projects are marketed, it is critical to understand that they are not approved by any Canadian certification or inspection bodies. DIY “Frankenstein” projects cannot and have not been evaluated or tested to any known electrical safety standards.

  • Deaths are completely preventable but are increasing in frequency.
  • Many online electrical products are sold with fake safety labels.

Never attempt a DIY “Frankenstein” electrical project. Do not disassemble, re-assemble, or attempt to rewire any appliance or electrical product. Online videos or articles are not a reliable source of electrical advice. Always consult a trained and licensed professional in matters regarding electrical work.

Trending types of dangerous DIY projects

Dangerous and potentially fatal “Frankenstein” projects involve building or attempting to upgrade electrical products. Often, people follow the unprofessional, incorrect, and generally bad advice of online guides—using spare parts, disassembling products, or buying electrical components from disreputable sources.

  • Lichtenberg generators. This is an extremely dangerous device that hobbyists use to create fractal wood art. The deadliest of the Frankenstein DIY projects are Lichtenberg generators. Accidents with these devices have killed dozens of people worldwide.
  • Amplifiers. These devices enhance the sound of musical instruments, from guitars to vocals. They are high-voltage products. DIY attempts to increase the power of these products can injure or kill the person attempting the upgrade or someone using the amplifier.
  • Self-assembled heat pumps. Assembling uncertified and untested heat pumps are t a very bad idea. The assembly itself can kill you, and an improperly built device can do immense damage to your home.
  • Incompatible batteries. Batteries that aren’t designed for the original product is a common cause of fires. Purchasing them, or assembling or augmenting batteries is very dangerous. An incompatible battery can overheat and explode violently.
  • Neon signs. These decorative high-voltage devices are tempting to DIY, as custom signs can be expensive. However, there are many nuances involved in keeping these signs safe for use, from the electrical aspect to the gas involved. Improper handling or assembly can easily injure or kill someone.

Reporting DIY electrical products

Any DIY devices or unapproved assembly kits that exist in the marketplace or are offered for sale should be considered unsafe and reported to the ESA or Health Canada immediately.

Call 1-877-ESA-SAFE or fill out this Health Canada form to report.