Electricity is everywhere in the modern home. It’s also the most dangerous hazard in the home. It can move as fast as the speed of light, it’s silent, and you can’t smell it; unless it’s causing something to burn, of course. When electricity is not properly harnessed, it can destroy most anything in its path and severely injure or even kill a person. With such a powerful force surrounding us, it is extremely important to look for electrical hazards in the home. This guide will show you some things to look for, and best practices for handling them.
Teach your children the dangers of electricity. Also, show them how to properly unplug a cord by grasping it from the connector rather than pulling it out by the wire.
Frayed or worn extension cords and appliance cords.
Throw out frayed extension cords and appliances with damaged cords.
Extension cords being used for permanent wiring.
Never use extension cords for permanent wiring. Always have the proper wiring installed by a qualified electrician.
Covered extension cords and wiring.
Never cover extension cords or lamp cords with heavy rugs or similar materials. This can cause cords to overheat and catch fire.
Outlets that are overloaded with too many cords plugged into one location.
Don’t overload your outlets by plugging too many cords in. Power strips are great, but they don’t increase the electrical capacity of the outlet that they are plugged into. If you need more outlets, have a qualified electrician add more. A new dedicated circuit may be the answer.
Discoloration around outlets and switches.
Discoloration around outlets and switches is a sure sign of overheating electrical devices and can be a potential fire hazard.
Hot to the touch outlets and switches.
If your outlets or switches are hot to the touch, there is something very wrong. Probably what is known as glowing terminals, caused by loose wiring connections. You can’t see this condition unless the device is removed from the wall. Call a qualified electrician immediately!
Faulty Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s).
Test GFCI’s monthly. These are the safety outlets that prevent shock/electrocution and have a TEST and RESET button. If it doesn’t trip when you press the test button, call a qualified electrician immediately! Your life could depend on it.
Wiring & Breaker Panel
Wiring that was “rigged” by unqualified persons; usually a handyman or do-it-yourselfer.
Handymen are notorious for installing wiring that works, but is far from being safe. Never use a handyman for your electrical needs. Always hire a qualified electrician. SKILLED LABOR ISN’T CHEAP AND CHEAP LABOR ISN’T SKILLED!
Older homes that contain aluminum wiring.
Aluminum wiring in a home can be very dangerous if not properly reterminated. It is no longer used in homes due to its hazardous history. One way to correct aluminum wiring is to completely rewire the house. This can be a very expensive option. Aluminum wiring can be made safe when properly reterminated with CopAlum by a certified electrical contractor and is safe and economical alternative to a whole house rewire.
Open splices that were not properly made in a junction box (usually found in the attic, crawlspace, or hidden inside walls).
If you see two or more wires joined together with wire nuts or tape, this is an open splice. All splices should be made up in an approved electrical box to prevent connections from arcing and catching surrounding materials on fire.
Strange burning or “dead fish” odors in the home.
Burning or “dead fish” smells are a significant sign of a faulty wiring. Call a qualified electrician immediately!
Outdated, undersized, or damaged breaker panels and main service equipment.
If your breaker panel is falling off of the wall or is extremely corroded, then it’s time to replace it. Most breaker panels installed by contractors only have an expected life span of about 20 years. If your home is 20 years old, you should have your electrical system inspected by a qualified electrician.
Lights, Appliances and Electronics
Flickering lights are a sure sign of an electrical problem and should be addressed right away. A qualified electrician can pinpoint where the problem is at and make your home safe again. ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS DON’T FIX THEMSELVES!
Lights that get unusually bright when appliances turn on in other areas of the home.
Lights that get unusually bright are an indication of an electrical fault in your breaker panel or even in the utility wires connecting to your home. This is a hazard too. Call a qualified electrician immediately.
Light bulbs located too close to flammables.
Never let objects get too close to light bulbs. This is usually a problem in closets and attics and is a major fire hazard.
Appliances and/or electronics that fail or quit working prematurely.
Appliances that fail or quit working prematurely could be an indication of improper voltage. Improper voltage is death to appliances and electronics. Some appliances, like air conditioning, can be VERY expensive.
Outdated and nonfunctioning smoke detectors.
Test your smoke detectors monthly and replace the backup batteries once a year. A good habit is to replace all the batteries at the same time on every New Year. Did you know that smoke detectors expire after ten years? Replace your smoke detectors every ten years.
Appliances that trip circuit breakers often.
If your appliances are tripping your circuit breakers often, then it’s possible that the circuit is overloaded, especially if you have and older home. Older homes weren’t designed to accommodate the numerous appliances and electronics that we use today. You might need additional circuits added. Or it may be a sign of a failing breaker or even the breaker panel.
Be sure to bookmark the Healthy Homes page, and check back for even more home health tips. Remember, a safe home is a healthy home, and a healthy home is a happy home. For more info on Fox Service Company, visit www.foxservice.com.