New Homeowner? Use These Tips To Enjoy Greater Home Electrical Safety

Construction & Contractors Articles

Becoming a homeowner is an exciting achievement for most families. Unfortunately, along with the keys, new homeowners also receive the responsibility of properly maintaining the home and all of its systems, including the all-important electrical system. If you are a new homeowner, or planning to be one soon, the following information will help you use your home's electrical system safely and recognize potentially dangerous issues before they cause injury to a family member or damage to the home. 

The Problem with Older Wiring

Unlike just a few years ago, each member of today's average family is likely to have several electronic gadgets of their own, including tablets, smart phones and music and gaming components. When added to the electricity usage already required for the home's major appliances and lighting needs, this increased usage can quickly overload older or faulty electrical systems. If an overload occurs, the electronics can be damaged and the home can be at risk for an electrical fire. 

While any home can be at risk for electrical overload if the wiring is insufficient or damaged in some way, homes built prior to 1940 face an increased risk. This is because knob and tube or other inadequate wiring may have been used, and these are not considered to be safe or adequate for the electrical demand of the modern home and family. In addition, newer homes built from the mid 60s through the early 70s may also be at risk of an electrical fire if aluminum wiring was used due to the wire's potential to degrade or allow electrical connections to loosen. 

Common Electrical Usage Mistakes to Avoid

Even if your electrical system is properly sized for your home and in good condition, improper usage can still create an increased risk of having an electrical fire or causing damage to the system itself. Some common usage mistakes include: 

  • using the wrong wattage light bulbs in lamps, ceiling fans and light fixtures (always refer to the manufacturer's specifications for the correct wattage when buying replacement bulbs)
  • using extension cords and power strips improperly, such as overloading them, placing them on damp surfaces or failing to plug the cord or power strip directly into a wall socket (extension cords should not be used as a permanent electrical solution, and both extension cords and power strips should be chosen carefully and used only according to the manufacturer's guidelines)
  • continuing to use a wall plug or electrical switch that becomes darkened or appears to have been heat or smoke damaged (this can be a sign that the wiring in the wall is overloaded and could cause an electrical fire)
  • using incorrectly sized fuses in the electrical panel or using a foreign material, such as a copper coin, to keep a faulty system operational (blown fuses or breakers that trip frequently are a signal that something is wrong with the electrical system and should be checked immediately by a competent electrician)
  • opting for DIY electrical repairs, alterations or renovations (not only is this a dangerous practice, it can also cause issues with your homeowner's insurance, or if this work is not properly permitted by your local housing authority, it could become an issue later if you attempt to sell the home)

Periodic Inspections are the Key to a Safe Home Electrical System

Even if no electrical issues were noted in your home inspection when you purchased the home, it is still wise to have an independent home electrical system inspection done by a reputable, licensed electrician to check for rodent or weather damage, defects in the materials or workmanship and potential hazards, such as an overloading issue. In addition, it is wise to book this type of inspection after any home renovation project that involves the electrical system and whenever installing a large electrical appliance, such as a clothes dryer, kitchen range, oven, water heater or HVAC component. 

You can click here for info on contacting an electrician to inspect your home.

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21 August 2015

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