How I Overcome Plug-It-In-Itus

About: I was pfred1 but moved, changed my email address, and lost my password. I suppose worse things could happen.

What is plug-it-in-itus? How can I avoid the stigma? In this brief article I will attempt to answer those and other questions today.

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



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    6 Discussions


    3 years ago on Introduction

    I too have had projects self destruct on my bench, but no more, I began using a bulb in series with the circuit under test 30 or more years ago. Very few catastrophic failures since.

    These days I have need for lots more of the 15 Amp available from the mains so I have started using a hair dryer in series with the circuit, this far exceeds the usual maximum of 500 Watts load of a large quartz bulb.

    These days when I hear the hair dryer ramp up, I am very happy its in the circuit!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    I've used an incandescent light bulb, along with a Variac, testing out unknown transformers. They used to be cheap, and easy to come by fuses.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I have been meaning to make a device to test out Main current stuff I built.

    I plan on having a short extension chord that plugs into the wall, and then goes into a wooden (Well, plastic would be better probably) box. In the box are several fuse holders (Say 3 in series) which would hold fuses that would accept just over the amount of current nessecary for the project.

    There would also be a big red on/off button if I can find one that can take the power, otherwise a normal switch, or none at all.

    On the box, after the fuses and the button, would be a outlet in which I plug in the item, or an extension chord going to the item, then press the button!

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Make sure you use a heavy duty button that can handle excessive current, and arcing. Wood is a good insulator if it is dry. It is electrical code to mount mains boxes to wood if you need to attach to a concrete wall. I've used wood as blocking welding and I've charred blocks of it, and got some to the ember state, I've never gotten any to burst into flame yet. Which is to say it takes an awful lot of sparking to actually set wood on fire. I usually only use soft pine too, so a hard wood, like oak, or maple, would be exactly that, even harder to light.

    A good source for scrap wood suitable to use in electronic projects is old ruined furniture. Just remember to knock on wood before you fire a project up, you know, for luck!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    I know you have already seen these pic's this pfred2, I will through my 2 cents in about AC circuits and safety.
    These are pics of what used to be a working triac. I did't use a long cord or any safety equipment and did this right on my work bench. Wish i had of used tho.
    AC plugged into the bread board.

    Lets fire this ol-thing it up Henry, and fire it up i did.

    Luckily for me i do not know where any of the pieces went!

    I have a new respect for AC circuits of this nature.

    1 reply

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the comment. Mine is a simple solution to a vexing problem. Mostly we learn by our mistakes, but with electricity mistakes can be costly. The further electrical stuff blows up from me the better. I'll still learn, I promise!