A home safety check may be just what the doctor ordered
Each year many Americans are injured in and around their homes because of unsafe electrical conditions such as overloaded circuits, damaged wiring and the misuse of extension cords. Studies by the Consumer Product Safety Commission show that the majority of serious fires did not need to occur.
The conditions that caused the fires probably would have been detected if the electrical system had been inspected. In many of the cases investigated by the CPSC, it was found that a high percentage of the homes had not been inspected since they were built.
Allen Youngberg, former owner of Prairie Dog Electric in Saratoga, agrees that every electrical system needs to be inspected on a regular basis. He says that many older homes--especially in rural areas do not have grounded electrical systems.
He emphasizes the most important component of any electrical system is proper grounding. "Since electricity continually searches for the shortest path to ground--that path may be through you or a piece of sensitive electronic equipment--if your system is not properly grounded," Youngberg says.
He also points out that loose connections of any kind can create additional hazards. "For example, a loose "neutral" can start fires or damage electrical equipment," he says.
"In this respect, your home electrical system is like your car battery--loose connections mean corrosion and eventual problems," he said. Youngberg recommends regular inspections.
A guide to electrical inspections.
- If your last inspection was more than 40 years ago, an inspection is long overdue;
- If it has been 10 to 40 years an inspection is advisable, especially if substantial electrical loads (high-wattage appliances, lights and wall outlets or extension cords) have been added.
- Houses where the service panel is located outside need to be checked annually.
- An inspection is also warranted if any of the above warning signs listed are present.
To insure the electrical safety of your home, your electrical inspection should be up-to-date and all defects corrected. To determine when your electrical system was last inspected, examine the door and cover of your electrical panel(s). It should contain label or tag with a date, and signature (or initials). If there is more than one date, the most recent one should be the date of the last inspection. Caution: Do not remove the service panel cover--this a job for a qualified electrician.
If there is no record of an inspection, this is a good time to consider having one performed. A safety inspection should be performed by a qualified electrician or inspector.
More electrical safety tips
An electrical tour around your home could saves lives and money. Use these National Electrical Safety Foundation tips to make your home a safer place to be.
- A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) is an electrical device that can protect you from electrical shock and may prevent fires They should be installed in bathrooms, Kitchens and outdoor receptacles. GFCI circuits should be tested monthly. If you do not have GFCI protection call an electrician.
- If a plug seems to fit loosely into a wall outlet, it indicates that the outlet needs repair. A loose fitting wall outlet may cause overheating. Have an electrician inspect the outlet.
- Use light bulbs that are the proper wattage for the lighting fixture. A bulb that exceeds the rating capacity of the fixture could overheat and cause a fire. Never leave lamp sockets empty--replace light bulbs immediately.
- To avoid eclectic shock during lightning storms, unplug appliances and avoid using a phone or fax machine. Always unplug unnecessary appliances when not in use.
Appliance Power Budget
Circuits can only handle a specified total wattage of all the electrical products connected to that circuit. If too much wattage is plugged into a circuit, serious problems can result. Here is a simple guide to knowing what a circuit can handle:
15-ampere branch circuit can carry 1500 watts.
20-ampere branch circuit can carry 2000 watts.
Find the nameplate on each appliance indicating its power (watts) rating. Add up the total watts for appliances that you may use at the same time on the same branch circuit. Examples:
Hair Dryer 1400 watts
Iron 1000 watts
Vacuum Cleaner 600 watts
Most home lighting and wall outlet branch circuits are rated at 1500 amperes and may carry as much as 1500 watts. Some kitchen circuits are rated at 20 amperes and can handle 2000 watts.
Electrical Safety Demonstrations
Carbon Power & Light offers Electrical Safety Demonstrations to any and all members at any time desired. we offer a great visual and verbal presentation that covers everything from electron theory to the details of what happens when a power line is touched by another object.
Our presentation involves a large board which acts as a "live" replica of a power line section, a static generator (20,000 volt output-great for standing hair on end), lightning simulator, conductors, insulators, vehicles, figurines, videos and a lot of interactive dialog which really gets the audience to participate and learn together.
We perform the presentation to any group that wishes to view it and anywhere they wish to view it in Carbon and/or Albany Counties. We can make the presentation as long or short as you wish and involve as much detail as you desire. Our specialty is School Audiences but we also take care of the local Fire Departments and EMT's every year.
Just give us a call or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details or to have us come by and show your group about electrical safety.