Improving the safety of my home is a top priority for me, which is why I wanted to share some overlooked electrical codes that can drastically increase safety if followed properly. As a homeowner, it's important to be aware of electrical hazards and take proactive steps to prevent fires, electrocution, and other risks posed by outdated or improper electrical systems.
Perform a Thorough Inspection of Your Electrical System
The first step I recommend is performing a thorough inspection of your home's electrical system. While electrical issues are often invisible to the naked eye, there are warning signs you can spot that indicate potentially dangerous problems.
Here are some key areas I inspect in my own home:
- Outlets - Check for loose fitting plugs, scorch marks, warm outlets, flickering lights, etc. These can indicate loose wiring.
- Light switches - Similarly, watch for warm switches, flickering lights, or switches that spark.
- Electrical panels - Open up your main electrical panel and look for signs of overheating like discolored wires, dirt, and dust buildup. Also check for label inconsistencies.
- Cords and plugs - Examine all cords for exposed wiring or loose plugs. Don't use any damaged electrical cords.
- GFCIs - Test all GFCIs monthly by pressing their "test" button to ensure they are functioning properly.
I like to inspect my home's electrical system twice per year to spot any issues proactively. It takes me about an hour each time.
Update Outdated Electrical Systems
If your home has outdated electrical systems, I strongly recommend upgrades to modern standards. Some key areas to focus on include:
- Service capacity - Today's homes use much more electricity. If your electrical panel is outdated, consider upgrading to 200 amps or more.
- GFCIs - Install GFCIs in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and other areas with lots of moisture.
- AFCIs - AFCIs shut off circuits when dangerous arcs occur. Consider installing them on bedroom circuits.
- Aluminum wiring - If your home has outdated aluminum wiring, consult an electrician about remediation. Copper wiring is much safer.
Replacing outdated electrical equipment and wiring will drastically improve the safety of your home. I budget funds each year for electrical upgrades.
Use Extra Safety Precautions for Appliances
The extensive use of appliances and electronics in homes today also warrants extra electrical safety steps. Here are some key tips I follow:
- Avoid overloading outlets - Never plug high-wattage appliances like air conditioners or refrigerators into outlets with other devices. Overloading can cause fires.
- Use surge protectors - Plug TVs, computers, and sensitive electronics into surge protectors to avoid damage from power spikes.
- Inspect appliance cords - Routinely check the cords on kitchen and laundry appliances for damage. Don't use damaged cords.
- Clean appliances - Regularly vacuum refrigerators, washers, dryers and other major appliances to prevent dust and lint buildup that can become fire hazards.
Maintaining appliances properly and using them safely is just as important as inspecting your home's core electrical system. Make appliance safety part of your regular cleaning routine.
Call a Licensed Electrician for Major Electrical Work
When it comes to major electrical upgrades, repairs, and installations, it's critically important to hire a licensed electrician rather than doing it yourself. They have years of specialized training and knowledge of local codes.
Some signs it's time to call a professional include:
- You want to upgrade your main electrical panel or do major rewiring.
- You need additional circuits added to your home.
- You're consistently tripping circuit breakers for unknown reasons.
- Your home still has knob and tube wiring that needs replacement.
Don't take chances with DIY electrical work. The safety of your home depends on it being done properly. I always get multiple quotes before hiring an electrician for major projects.
Follow Electricity Safety basics
Finally, enforcing good electrical safety habits among all family members is crucial. Here are some key tips I share in my home:
- Never force plugs into outlets or remove the third prong.
- Do not overextend cords across doorways or under carpets.
- Never touch electrical devices when your hands are wet.
- Use bulbs with the correct wattage for each light fixture.
- Keep class C fire extinguishers easily accessible in case of electrical fires.
- Teach children to never stick objects into outlets or play with cords.
Following basic electricity safety rules is just as important as ensuring your home's electrical systems are up to code. Make it part of your family's safety culture.
Maintaining proper electrical safety truly pays dividends when it comes to securing your home and protecting your family. While it's easy to overlook things like outdated panels or loose plugs, addressing these hazards drastically reduces your risk. Use this article as a guide to inspect your own electrical systems, make upgrades, use extra care with appliances, hire professionals when needed, and enforce safe habits. Your home will be safer because of it!