A majority of the more than 2,000 fires that occur each year in agricultural buildings is caused by incorrect wiring, and a Purdue University expert says farmers need to be aware of the potential hazards of doing their own electrical work.

"In today's rural community where fewer agricultural buildings are being erected, it may be difficult to find an electrician who does wiring for agricultural environments, so more people may be doing their own," says Mack Strickland, a professor in agricultural and biological engineering.

Wiring and electrical work can be complex and dangerous. Before beginning a project, Strickland says farmers should check the National Electrical Code requirements for agricultural buildings and follow all guidelines.

"It is important to feel comfortable with what you're doing," Strickland says. The Farm Buildings Wiring Handbook by MidWest Plan Service (MWPS) is available to help anyone gain an understanding of basic wiring and electrical procedures.

The detailed handbook contains background information, procedures and applications. Included are recommendations for the placement of lights and receptacles, wire sizing, grounding and lightning protection, and examples of "dry" machinery storage and animal confinement buildings. Information about electrical fences, farm-sized motors, light intensity tables, ventilation fan circuits and standby generator installation, among other topics, are also discussed.

"The handbook is extremely well thought out and written," Strickland says. "MWPS places major emphasis on the review process to make sure everything is safe, accurate and in compliance with the wiring code regulations."

Strickland says codes are periodically updated, so it is important to review the code before beginning any construction project.

Even when hiring an electrician to do the work, it is beneficial to understand the basics. Strickland says this allows intelligent and proper questions to be asked of the electrician and provides an understanding of what is required.

The Farm Buildings Wiring Handbook, MWPS-28, can be purchased from the MidWest Plan Service Web site at http://www.mwpshq.org, by sending an e-mail to mwps@iastate.edu or by calling (800) 562-3618. Single copies of the publication cost $10 plus $4.50 for shipping and handling.