Spot that electrical hazard
Chances are your home has had several owners, renovations, alterations and repairs over the years. This can lead to a conundrum of what is actually inside your walls, floor and ceiling behind that beautiful plaster and paint. Do you have any switches that do not seem to work right, or an outlet that has no power? Do you turn on your microwave and your dishwasher trips off? Do you turn on a light switch and hear an arc inside the switch? These are all signs that there is something wrong with the electrical system in your home.
Common things to look for:
- Switches and receptacles do wear out, if it’s located in a high use area the contacts can wear out causing poor connection. This can lead to arcing in the switch or receptacle, a potential fire hazard. Switches should feel firm and cleanly snap into position. If the switch feels loose or you hear a “pop” sound when you flip the switch it may be worn out.
- Light fixtures have maximum wattage ratings from the manufacture, this means it is not safe to install a light bulb in the fixture with a higher than rated wattage. This is due to the heat dissipation of higher wattage bulbs, higher wattage means more heat.
- Aluminum wiring was very common in the late 1960’s through the 1970’s due to the high price of copper at the time. It was later found that the aluminum wiring was unreliable, creating loose connections and fire hazards. The silver wire is easy to identify, if you have a home inspection done ask that they document how much aluminum wiring is in the house.
- Ungrounded circuits were used prior to the 1960’s in residential homes. This wiring is easily identified as there is no bare copper grounding conductor, only a black and white wire exist. This is not compliant with modern code and poses a safety hazard.
- GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupters) were introduced in the 1970’s as a method to increase electrical safety. These are required to be installed in all outdoor ground level locations and at receptacles located near sinks, commonly bathrooms and kitchen counter plugs adjacent to your sink.
- Make sure to test your GFCI outlets monthly, as indicated by the manufacture. Simply press the test button on the front, then the reset button afterwards to put it back into operating mode.
- Openings in electrical boxes can pose a risk and is against electrical code, if you see any junction box without a cover or a missing filler plug on a box it needs to be remedied. This is both a code violation and a liability.
- Extension cords are not permitted to be installed permanently. If you have an extension cord jeopardise your home insurance. Have your circuit extended with the proper wiring, it will increase safety and add value to your home.
- Outdoor receptacles are required to have a weatherproof cover installed, this prevents bugs and debris from getting inside the receptacle. If you leave an extension cord plugged into the outlet permanently, the outlet is not exposed to the elements. The solution is to install an “in-use” weatherproof cover. This cover has a dome that fits over a cord which is plugged in, providing weather protection to the circuit.
What you cannot see:
- During years of renovations and DIY repairs, junction boxes can be buried inside walls. If a fault was to occur inside the box it could pose a fire risk as well it could be extremely difficult and repair the fault. Never cover an electrical box, if you find a covered box during renovations, make sure to leave it accessible.
- Corrosion of electrical connections can occur rather quickly if the right conditions exist. Outside wiring if not properly sealed can corrode creating poor connections and potentially open circuits. If you have a sump pump of any sort inspect the electrical system annually to look for signs of corrosion or water accumulation.
- Circuit breakers are extremely important to prevent damage to your house wiring and prevent fires. Old circuit breakers may not operate as intended, posing a great risk. Generally, circuit breakers should be replaced after 30 years of service. If a circuit breaker is subjected to a dead short fault, it’s lifespan will be significantly reduced; after two dead short interruptions it is advisable to replace the circuit breaker regardless of age.
Electrical work should never be performed on live circuits, it is very dangerous and against the law. Electrical work should only be carried out by certified, qualified electricians. Any alteration or modification to the wiring of your home requires an electrical permit and is subject to meeting all electrical code requirements. The risk of improper electrical work is not worth the relatively small cost to have a professional do the work. A little bit of maintenance is a lot cheaper than making expensive repairs. Make a list of all the abnormalities you notice in your home so that your electrician can make all the repairs in one visit. Some repairs can be very fast, don’t let non- functioning switches and plugs frustrate you.
If you have young children:
New electrical code requires tamper-resistant receptacles to be installed in homes, this prevents children from inserting metal objects into receptacles and being electrocuted. These receptacles feature a shutter inside that prevents objects from entering when inserted into a single side, however cord ends will plug in normally. The tamper resistant receptacles are superior to the traditional “plastic plug” protectors. Children are clever and will figure out how to remove the plastic plugs leaving them fully exposed to the dangers, as well the tamper resistant plugs are much more user friendly for the adult user.
This post was written by Happipad