First I'll define what plug-it-in-itus is:
The fear or dread of energizing a freshly built electronics project that runs off wall mains current.
I know it has happened to me. I've built an electronics project that I need to plug in, plugged it in, and it has blown sky high! Acrid smoke wafting through my house, bright arcing flashes, loud reports, flames, shrapnel, everything one would expect igniting pyrotechnics. But this is going on in my home. Unpleasant to say the least.
I bet plug-it-in-itus even stops some folks from ever trying some things at all. It doesn't have to be this way though. In the right setting explosive devices are perfectly harmless and safe. Your wall powered electronics projects can be too.
The solution I've found for this is simple. I just don't plug those projects in inside my house. I get myself a long extension cord, plug my project into it, turned on, outside. Then I pay out the extension cord to an outlet, and plug it in, with myself far away from my suspect electronics project. That way if it blows up it is outside, and I'm no wheres near it either. I'm safe, and my property is safe, what can go wrong? Plenty! But nothing I'm too concerned about.
Folks are probably going to leave comments like why don't you use fuses blah blah. To that I say mishaps are random, a fuse may, or may not protect you. A fuse won't hurt, but it isn't a guarantee either. Putting the suspect device outside and being far away covers all the bases. Once I've tested a device a few times I begin to trust it some more. But during that initial testing phase, no, it stays outside. I've built projects that have delayed blown up. Tantalum capacitors seem adept at this stunt. I consider all mains driven projects potential bombs, until proven otherwise.
The power that even a 15 amp 120 Volt AC circuit possesses is awe inspiring. Respect the juice, but do not fear it. I hope for the best, but take wise precautions for the worst case scenario.
I also hope my little trick inspires some folks to be more confident and try out some stuff they might not have. Whoever says electronics is some boring hobby for nerds never saw how I do it! Have fun.
"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." -- Wayne Gretzky