5 Electrical Safety Tips All New Homeowners Should Know
The electrical wiring in your Seattle home is something that you’re guaranteed to use each and every day. In fact, it’s likely the most important building feature. After all, without it, no appliance or amenity would function. This system drives water heaters, dishwashers, dryers and lighting. Unfortunately, it’s also tucked inconspicuously away, and it’s incredibly easy to overlook. Whether you’ve just purchased a brand-new home or you are moving into existing construction, the five following electrical safety tips are definitely worth knowing.
1. Know Where Your Circuit Breaker Box Is and How to Use It
If ever there’s a short circuit or an electrical overload, the circuit breaker will instantly disrupt the power supply to the affected area or areas. By doing so, it prevents damage to appliances, lighting fixtures and electronics, even to the electrical circuits themselves. When circuit breakers suddenly trip, this means that they’re getting too much current or that a power line has ruptured. If an electrical system component has overheated and melted, the circuit breaker will trip whenever neutral and hot wires are fused together.
You also have the ability to shut off the flow of power to specific areas and appliances throughout your home. Thus, if any electrically powered feature malfunctions, you can turn it off directly at the circuit breaker box. You can also shut off power to areas and features throughout the building when performing troubleshooting or minor repairs. For instance, it’s important to turn off the breaker for your kitchen if you intend to unstick or otherwise troubleshoot your garbage disposal. When you move into a home, you should immediately locate your circuit breaker box and make sure that all branch circuits are clearly labeled. If you’ve never shut branch circuits off or switched them back on before, learn how to do so. After a whole-house shutdown it’s generally best to switch these back on one at a time to prevent a power overload. When you need to disrupt power to the entire house, start by switching individual branch circuits off one at a time, and then turn the main circuit breaker off.
2. Take It Easy on Extension Cords
In certain areas of the home, you’ll likely have far greater power needs than you have electrical outlets for supporting them. This is frequently the case in the living room where many households have televisions, gaming systems, lamps, personal computers and many other devices set up. Although you can always use a few extension cords to meet your power needs, having more outlets installed is likely the safest bet. Modernizing your home’s electrical system to better-suit your needs is a far more reliable solution. This will eliminate potential tripping hazards and fire hazards, and it can also improve room aesthetics.
When using extension cords or power strips, always make sure they have the right wattage rating. This rating determines the amount of electricity that they’re capable of transmitting safely. You should also avoid overloading extension cords, and you should never connect multiple extension cords together.
3. Don’t Ignore Small Problems
Some electrical issues seem like minor nuisances. However, if they’re left unchecked, these same issues could quickly become serious and potentially hazardous problems. For instance, if you have an outlet that occasionally sparks when appliances are plugged in, you should definitely contact an electrician. Lights that flicker when outside winds are heavy could be a sign that the overhead service from your utility company is either failing or significantly damaged.
One of the worst things to ignore is the faint and slightly sweet odor of burning wires. Although it’s easy to write this smell off as being caused something other than your home’s electrical system, if there’s even the slight possibility that it’s related to your wiring, you should have it checked out right away. This may be a sign that plugs, cords, switches or other electrical components are deteriorating.
4. Don’t Do It Yourself
There’s no place worse for a do-it-yourself project than your electrical system. Even if a DIY repair seems like a successful one, small, unknown problems could lead to disaster. Professional electricians can make sure that all necessary work is performed according to the latest standards and building codes. Moreover, working with these professionals is important for ensuring that your home insurance policy remains intact. When electrical fires result from shoddy workmanship and DIY repairs and installations, home insurance companies will not pay for the resulting damages. As a general rule of thumb, none of the following projects should be attempted by a homeowner:
- Replacing or servicing an electrical panel
- Installing a whole-home surge protector
- Repairing electrical components of large appliances
- Rewiring your own electrical system
It is also never a good idea to perform any work on a residential electrical system when there might be live wires. Although turning off power in the area that you’re working on might seem like a safe bet, there’s no guarantee that the labeling at the circuit breaker is accurate or that the zone-specific shut-off is all-inclusive. Electricians can test for live wires before starting their work, and they have the skills and training for safely performing complex projects without facing the risk of electrocution.
5. Take Care of Potential Problems Both Indoors and Outside
Until its flow is interrupted, most people rarely think about how electricity gets to their homes. There are actually several things that you can do to prevent power outages that start just outside of your residence. Moreover, all of them involve the careful and timely removal of potential obstructions. For instance, if your electricity comes via overhead wires, be extra diligent about having nearby trees properly limbed and pruned. When trees or tree branches become diseased or weak, consider having them taken down before they break off and fall or get blown down by heavy winds. Make sure that satellite dishes and other optional rooftop features are properly mounted. In short, if there is anything that can be torn off of the building or a nearby feature and blown in the direction of incoming electrical wires, remove it or secure it.
Also, don’t overlook the benefits of having annual electrical inspections performed. These assessments are especially important for older, historic homes with dated fixtures or a combination of modern wiring and antique features. They give electricians the opportunity to identify developing problems early and resolve them before they lead to an elevated risk of electrical fires or other hazards. They are also an excellent opportunity to talk about potential electrical upgrades and have newly purchased fixtures or appliances properly installed. In older homes, consulting with an electrician to ensure that new additions can be safely accommodated is absolutely essential before putting them in.
At Black Lion Heating & Air Conditioning, we’ve been a trusted provider of heating and cooling services throughout Kirkland and the Greater Seattle area for more than 20 years. We additionally offer electrical services, indoor air quality services, and gas fireplace installation. If you’ve just purchased a home and have concerns about its electrical wiring, we can help. Get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment.