Common Electrical Hazards in the Home
Many people are unaware of the electrical hazards that are present in their own homes, apartments, or workplaces. But with some basic electrical safety knowledge, most electrical fires and electrocutions could be avoided.
With the holiday season quickly approaching and it being National Fire Prevention Week, we thought it would be a good time to go over the most common electrical hazards in the home and how to fix them.
If you do notice any of these electrical safety hazards, contact a professional electrician right away. Fixing these electrical issues should be your top priority. Never attempt any electrical work on your own. While you are waiting for professional service, you may want to shut down power to the circuit that is causing your problems from the breaker box.
We also highly recommend scheduling an electrical safety inspection every year from a qualified electrician. Brubaker Inc. has staff on call 24 hours to handle all your electrical needs in Central Pennsylvania. We’ve been providing trusted home services to the area for over 70 years.
Common Electrical Hazards in the Home
According to Electrical Safety Foundation International, electrical equipment is the third leading cause of home structure fires, responsible for over 50,000 fires a year.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, these are the hazards most likely to cause an electrical injury:
- Contact with Power Lines
- Lack of Ground-fault Protection
- Path to Ground Missing or Discontinuous
- Equipment Not Used in Manner Prescribed
- Improper Use of Extension and Flexible Cords
Follow these electrical safety tips to lessen, if not totally eradicate, the risk of electrical fires and shocks in your home.
Lack of ground-fault protection
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) were created in 1961 to monitor the difference in the current flowing to and from appliances and electrical equipment. When the current exceeds five amps, usually an indication of a ground fault, the GFCI automatically shuts off the current flow. They were originally required in new homes wherever water features came into close proximity with electrical outlets, but new laws mandate all single phase outlets of 125 volts be covered as well. Older homes can easily be retrofitted with GFCI receptacles or connected to portable GFCI adapters. A licensed electrician can also install a circuit breaker GFCI to cover your entire electrical system.
The use of GFCIs is extremely important in protecting your home and family. We’ve complied some essential facts about these important safety features.
Shock Prevention – The very reason that GFCI’s were created was to prevent death from electrocution. The built-in sensor monitors the current flow of an appliance, so if there is a loose wire (that could potentially shock someone) the GFCI outlet will immediately shut down the power.
Fire Prevention – Ground faults can cause electrical fires, which are quickly shut down before any damage can be done.
Appliance Damage Prevention – Electrical surges can happen for many different reasons in your home, but they are a common occurrence and can slowly compromise your appliances and electronics. A GFCI will stop surges and electricity leakage before they happen, bypassing this problem altogether.
Easy Testing – GFCI receptacles are easy to test to make sure that they are working properly. Simply plug in an electronic (like a table lamp) and turn it on. Press the test button on the GFCI and if the power doesn’t switch off immediately there is something faulty with the outlet.
Types of GFCIs – There are three types of GFCIs. The most common is the GFCI receptacle, which is similar to a wall outlet and installed in most new builds. Circuit breaker GFCIs often replace regular circuit breakers and provide protection to all receptacles connected to that individual circuit. Portable GFCIs are used mainly for short outdoor endeavors; electric tools and outdoor construction projects. These are temporary fixtures and not recommended for permanent use.
Test your ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) every month to ensure proper operation. All of the outlets in your kitchen and bathroom should be GFCI-protected. GFCI outlets have a TEST and RESET button.
Follow the instructions below to test your GFCI outlet or breaker:
- Plug a device into your GFCI outlet.
- Make sure the device is turned on.
- Now, press the TEST button. Did the device turn off?
- Press the RESET button. Did your device turn back on?
- If the device didn’t turn off or back on, call a qualified electrician.
GFCI receptacles will help ensure a safe, secure electrical system by keeping your home and family safe from electrical shocks and fires. Contact Brubaker to inspect, install, and repair your GFCI outlets and circuit breakers in Central Pennsylvania.
Lack of arc-fault protection
Do you have arc fault circuit (AFCI) protection installed? It is recommended that you replace all standard electrical breakers with AFCIs. AFCIs protect against damaged, overheated, or stressed electrical wiring or devices. This is especially important in the bedroom where it is often required by the National Electrical Code (NEC).
In 1999, the National Electrical Code (NEC) began requiring AFCIs for bedroom circuits. In 2008, they expanded their code to include almost all circuits in the home, including kitchens, bathrooms, garages, and laundry rooms.
Unwanted arcing can occur for a variety of reasons:
- Worn electrical insulation or damaged wire.
- Misapplied or damaged plug-in appliance cord and equipment.
- Loose or poorly installed electrical connections.
- Accidentally piercing electrical cable behind drywalls with drill bit, nail, or screw.
- Hammering electrical cable staples too tightly into studs during rough wiring.
- Natural aging and cord exposure to heat vents, sunlight, or foot traffic.
- Cords caught against furniture and other objects.
You should test your AFCIs and GFCIs every month, whether they are located in your breaker box or receptacles:
- Before testing your AFCI, make sure the power is on first.
- Open your breaker box.
- Locate your AFCI breakers, and with the power on, press the TEST button.
- Pressing the TEST button should cause the breaker to trip. If it doesn’t, call your electrician.
- After the breaker has tripped, push the breaker to OFF position and then flip it to the ON position again to reset it.
An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) works by monitoring the electrical current in your circuit and shutting power off when it detects an unusual or erratic current flow. Normal arcs, such as when you turn on and off electrical fixtures and devices, are not detected, but extreme arcs are.
Although AFCIs are normally breakers in your electrical panel, they can also be installed directly into your outlets. The AFCI circuit breaker will not only trip during unwanted arcing conditions, but will also open the circuit during a short circuit or overload.
Make sure your home is up-to-code by calling a qualified electrician.
Schedule an Electrical Safety Inspection with Brubaker
The fall is the best time to schedule a thorough inspection of your electrical system. Just before the weather changes and the family begins spending more time inside, it is helpful to know the condition of your home’s wiring. Your electrician will be able to verify a healthy system or locate trouble spots and suggest improvements well before the holidays.
Reasons for Electrical Inspections:
- You are purchasing an older home (not a new build).
- Your current home is 40 years or older.
- You are experiencing regularly occurring power surges or tripped circuits.
- You are adding a high-powered appliance such as a central air system or washer/dryer.
- You are adding a room or making a major renovation.
- You do not have enough outlets/power in your home to accommodate your electrical needs.
Benefits of an Electrical Inspection:
- Verify the safety of your electrical system.
- Discover outdated wiring.
- Find repair or installation mistakes made by previous owners.
- Find frayed or compromised wiring that needs to be replaced.
- Find oversized fuses or breakers that are fire hazards.
- Assess the electrical system in a new home before buying it.
- Save energy and lower monthly utilities.
A Typical Residential Electrical Inspection Includes:
- Assessment of all light switches and electrical outlets.
- Check for shock, electrocution and fire hazards.
- Assessment of grounding systems/proper surge protection.
- Verification of working smoke and CO2 detectors.
- Electrical Panel Inspection.
- Assessment of outdoor electrical components.
- Assessment of arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs).
- Check for appropriate wattage of all light bulbs.
- Thorough report on home’s entire electrical system and components.
Ensure your electrical system is in peak condition with a home safety check from Brubaker Inc. Contact us today and schedule a safety inspection with one of our friendly, Central Pennsylvania electricians.