Your home’s electrical system may have a few safety hazards you can’t see before problems actually arise. Enlighten yourself with these tips that can help you be a more aware homeowner and may alert you to dangerous electrical problems that need to be fixed by a licensed residential electrician.
- Throw your home a birthday party
For electrical safety reasons, it’s good to know how old your home is and to celebrate its birthday with an electrical safety inspection. Older homes weren’t built to handle the electrical load our contemporary lives carry. Knowing whether your home’s electrical system has been updated to safely handle all the electrical current your family uses is imperative.
- Know your electric panel
Even as recently as the 1990s, faulty electrical panels were being installed in many new homes. Certain brands, including Federal Pacific, ITE Pushmatic, Zinsco and GTE/Sylvania, are no longer manufactured and pose electrical hazards that could lead to a fire. Your electric panel should never feel hot to the touch.
- Understand the breakers
These guys are your friends, even though you may find their interference irritating when they trip. They’re trying to tell you something, and it’s usually that you have too many appliances or gadgets connected to the same circuit. Reconfigure your appliances, and if the breakers keep tripping, get help from an electrician.
- Make friends with your fire extinguisher
The only safe way to extinguish an electrical fire is with a fire-retardant chemical fire extinguisher. Never use water; it conducts electricity. Keep fire extinguishers on each level of your home, and know how to use them and when to replace them.
- Feel your outlets
Place your hand on the outlets in your home. Warm or hot outlets point to trouble.
A warm outlet could mean one of several dangerous situations is brewing: an electrical load on this circuit is too high, wiring is melting, wiring isn’t up to code or is loose. Also, note if the outlets don’t hold plugs, or if the outlet itself seems loose on the wall.
Replace any two-pronged outlets with newer, grounded three-pronged outlets. Any outlet near water should be switched to code-correct GFCI outlets. Call an electrician to handle these requests.
- Keep an eye on the lights
Flickering lights could mean you need to repair or replace your electrical panel, or you have too many appliances plugged into one circuit. Don’t ignore this issue.
All home electrical wires made in the U.S. follow standard color codes that identify each wire’s function in a circuit.
- Ground older appliances
Older appliances could have grounding issues that might put you at risk for a shock. Ensure all of your appliances have three-pronged plugs that can properly connect to a grounded outlet. Any kitchen appliances with just two-pronged plugs should be replaced. If the outlets aren’t grounded, they should be replaced, and a new circuit should be installed.
Electrical work is inherently dangerous. Professional electricians receive years of training and on-the-job experience before the state grants them a license. Use discretion when attempting your own electrical work. To make sure all the electrical systems in your home are safe, up to code and working as they should, hire a trusted electrician to handle the job.