Far too many homeowners are under the impression electrical work is the perfect DIY project. While there may be some tasks that you can do on your own, in most cases it is better to call in a licensed electrician. Here are some facts, figures, and tips regarding electrical fire safety.
Electrical Fire Safety Facts and Figures
- Typically, over $1 billion in damages is realized in property loss every year due to electrical fires.
- Over 26,000 deaths occur every year in fires caused by electrical problems.
- The holiday season (December and January) show the highest concentration of electrical fires.
- Wiring that has been “fixed” is one of the largest culprits of home fires. This is especially disturbing because few of these fixes are actually done by an actual electrician.
- Problems with light bulbs and light fixtures are among the leading causes of fires.
- Improper maintenance, overloading of circuits, and the misuse of electrical cords are a significant cause of “avoidable” electrical fires.
- More residential fires are started in the bedroom, but the most deaths occur in fires that are started in living areas of the home (such as the dining room or living room).
- While system failure is the cause of some home fires, in most cases, it is due to improper wiring and the overloading of circuits (a common mistake for DIY homeowners).
Electrical Fire Safety Tips
- Extension cords should not be used on a permanent basis. They are meant for temporary power only. If you are using one for something specific that is in use all the time, you should have extra outlets installed in that location.
- Never use an extension cord for a major appliance, always plug them directly into an outlet.
- All power strips and surge protectors should feature overload test label.
- Check wiring on all appliances several times a year. Schedule it during daylight savings time to make it easy to remember. Any damaged or frayed wiring should be replaced immediately.
- Any electrical tool causing sparks, electrical shorts, shocks, or that overheats should be replaced.
- Always use the recommended wattage light bulb for your fixtures.
- Never force a three-prong plug into a two-pronged outlet. Use an adapter or use the proper outlet.
- All electrical work should be performed by a licensed electrician.
There are times when we all think we are geniuses when it comes to fixing things around the house. A pipe leaks, a railing breaks, or a door handle comes off and we turn into Bob Vila! This is fine for some basic home repairs but when it comes to electricity, it is better to be careful and hire an electrician.
One of the main reasons using a licensed electrician is recommended is because of the safety factor. A confident DIY’er may think merely turning off the main is enough to prevent them from being electrocuted when working with live wires, but that is not always the case. Thinking the supply is cut off and knowing how to test to make sure it is off are two completely different things.
In addition, it is unlikely that the average DIY homeowner is going to know the latest codes and regulations. This may not seem like a big deal at the moment but when it comes time to sell the house, it may be the difference in the home being approved for sale or not. If a potential buyer has the home inspected and finds “rigged” or improper wiring, they have every right to expect the problem to be rectified before agreeing to sale.
Another concern is securing the proper permits to do a job. While some work can be started right away, there are a variety of jobs that must have local authoritative approval before the job can be started. Without the proper permits, the building inspector could show up at any time and require you to open the walls and replace the wiring.
When looking for an electrician for your wiring project, make sure they are properly licensed and certified. You may also want to check that the business is registered with the state as well as checking their BBB (Better Business Bureau) rating. It may seem like a simple task, but a small mistake can lead to catastrophic results when you are dealing with electricity.
In such a tough housing market, homeowners making improvements should choose projects that will not only allow them to better enjoy their home, but also improve the value of it. Landscape lighting is one such idea because it increase the hours of enjoyment outside during the summer months, makes the home look better, increases value, as well as providing extra security.
Have you ever been forced to bring the party inside during the summer merely because there was not enough lighting outside? You sent the kids scrambling for tiki torches or candles, but you either did not have enough or they simply could not find them. Now you are faced with either ending the party or moving the guests indoors, which you were trying to avoid in the first place by having an outdoor party.
Situations such as this can be avoided by having an electrician install outdoor landscape lighting. In addition to making your space more usable, you can now accent features of the home that will make it look more appealing to anyone walking or driving by. You never know, one of those individuals just may be in the market for a new home and when your home goes up for sale, it is that perimeter lighting that will create interest in your home.
Never underestimate the value of lighting in regard to security, either. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer. You are looking at two homes, both similarly priced, but the more expensive one has significant landscape lighting enhancing the landscaping as well as providing extra security around the doors and windows. Which home would you be more likely to buy?
Home improvements are often a risky undertaking for a homeowner because they rarely increase the value of the home by as much as it costs the homeowner to install. Landscape lighting offers one of the higher ROI for homeowners simply because it makes such an impression on the buyer. People are more likely to not only buy homes with a breathtaking entryway, they are also more likely to pay more!
Anyone can go online, find a how-to guide for installing a light switch or performing rewiring, and get to work. Unfortunately, injury to the individual or the home often results. Cutting corners with this work jeopardizes the safety of the home and those who live within it. Electrical installation and repairs should only be undertaken by a licensed electrician or electrical contractor.
Faulty wiring turns the home into a fire hazard. Novices do not realize the interdependent network that electrical wiring represents. A poorly designed circuit can provide the wrong amperage to appliances and electronics, causing irreparable damage. Lights placed on an overloaded circuit may flicker when appliances are in use or trip the breaker, completely shutting down the circuit.
It is not difficult to find a qualified electrician and a state license is the first indicator. A master electrician also has two or more years of experience and has passed a standardized occupational test. This individual is well-versed in the National Electrical Code and any state modifications. Electrical system planning, design, installation, and maintenance are tasks that a master electrician may perform.
A journeyman electrician also has a state license but has not yet qualified for the master’s license. This individual can install equipment and wiring but may not design systems. Some states require a journeyman electrician to work with a master. In addition to these degrees of expertise, some electricians specialize, focusing on commercial or residential work, new construction, repair, or remodeling.
Consumers can find recommendations for electricians from a local electrical supply house or home builder association. To get an electrician who is the best fit, they should describe the type of work required. Interviewing the electrician, checking references, and asking for proof of insurance and a copy of the state license helps identify the best professional for the job.
Is there anything more spectacular than walking around the neighborhood during Christmas and seeing all of the homes decorated with holiday lights? Some neighborhoods make a competition out of it, with one neighbor trying to outdo the next. Every one of them tries to create a more spectacular display than the year before so they can be “the house.”
While we all love creating and seeing these displays, we also want everyone’s home to be safe. There are some basic outdoor holiday lighting safety tips that should be followed in order to make sure you do not inadvertently put your home and family at risk.
- Use only UL approved lights for your outdoor displays
- Check all lighting for damaged sockets and frayed wiring
- Check all bulbs and replace any broken bulbs as well as any bulbs that are not working properly
- Do not loosely hang lights over branches our other outdoor areas. Instead, secure the lighting to thicker branches, tree trunks, boards, mailboxes, etc…
- Use only outdoor, heavy extension cords
- Lights should not be placed near water supplies, such as a downspout
- Avoid dangerous areas, such as feeds from your utility pole
- Only use GFCI outlets for lighting
- If plugs or outlets get warm when in use, discontinue use as the circuit could be getting overloaded
- You should use no more than three sets of lights for each extension cord
- All lighting should be turned off when leaving the home or before going to bed
In addition to these tips, you should enlist at least one addition helper when stringing the lights. If climbing on a ladder, be sure to have someone holding the ladder for support the entire time you are using it. Avoid trying to untangle lighting while on the ladder, as this could cause you to lose your footing and fall.
Flipping homes has become a very popular way of earning a second income. Reality TV has glamorized the process and more and more people are looking for homes on the market they can buy cheap and then remodel to flip for a profit. One area of the “flipping” that needs to be specifically addressed is in redoing the electricity.
Many older homes have what would be considered sub standard electrical work by today’s standards. However, because they were built prior to the new guidelines, they may have been grandfathered in for the existing work. If you are going to flip the home, you should upgrade the electrical work, as it will only make the home more marketable.
In most cases, doing a major renovation will require permits and approval from the local inspector. In order for the home to pass, a licensed electrician will be required to perform the work. Mind you, we are not speaking about a general contractor, as some people will get confused between the two.
Licensed electricians are required to pass significant testing on all aspects of the profession before they are certified. A general contractor need only obtain liability insurance and then apply to their local state for a license. They may have a general knowledge, but they may find themselves in over their head for certain projects and will literally walk away, leaving the flipper literally out in the cold.
The benefit in hiring a licenses electrician is that you have someone to fall back on if there are problems. For instance, electricians are required to be not only licensed, but also insured. If they run into problems and are unable to complete the job, there is a bond available to hire another electrician to complete the job. If you are flipping a house, you obviously want and need everything to be done by code, as you are the party liable. Simply put, it just makes sense to hire a licensed electrician for these types of projects.
Spring and summer are wonderful times of the year to enjoy your outdoor seating areas. However, the use of these areas may be restricted unless you have outdoor lighting installed. There are several options to consider before undertaking a project such as this. Some, you can do yourself, while others will more than likely require a licensed electrician.
Solar lighting is always an option, but the fixtures can be extremely expensive and are not always reliable. The cells charge via sunlight during the day and will automatically go on as it gets darker. The batteries on these devices do not always hold the charge and you may find yourself replacing them regularly or buying new fixtures.
Homeowners can make a DIY project and install low voltage lighting around their home. Most home improvement stores will sell kits for this purpose. This type of outdoor lighting only requires 12 volts of power and is easily moved. This is something that can be used for simple lighting projects, but if you wanted the electrical work for more power demanding items, like an outdoor refrigerator or appliances, this will not suffice.
If the home requires more significant lighting, you will want to install line voltage lighting. This requires the same type of line work you have inside of your home. This is perfect for outdoor areas using electric grills and significant lighting. Homes that have significant or complex landscaping features may also choose to have this type of lighting installed.
Because line voltage lighting requires an electrical junction box and a conduit, it is best to use a licensed electrician for this type of work, especially because it is going to be outside and subject to weather conditions. Using an electrician offers a bit more peace of mind than attempting to do this yourself with little or no experience in outdoor wiring.
Your business is your livelihood, and you should do everything in your power to make sure nothing prevents you from opening the doors on any given day. Ignoring electrical problems is inviting trouble, therefore, you should watch out for warning signs and maintain your business’ electrical system at all times so it is one less thing you have to worry about in your daily operations.
There are plenty of warning signs if there is a problem with your electrical system. For instance, flickering lights or the popping of breakers for no apparent reason. Many of the same signs you see around your home are the same things to look for in your daily business operations.
The difference from your home and business is that you more than likely have equipment using up significantly more power at the business location. Even if it is equipment you have at home, there is more than likely more of it that requires a larger energy draw. For instance, there is one computer at home, but maybe there are dozens of computers and printers running at the office.
Not maintaining your electrical systems can have dire consequences. The most obvious of these is the fact that the business could end up being closed while repairs are made. There is also the danger of important records being lost because computers shut down without the proper backup systems being in place. At the far end up the disaster spectrum, the electrical problems could result in a short, causing a fire that destroys the entire business facility.
If you do not have someone on staff with electrical expertise or know enough yourself, make an appointment with a licensed electrician to inspect your facility and go over the warning signs for possible problems. It is always better to be proactive instead of reactive, especially when it is your livelihood and that of others at stake.
The electrical system is something that is very scary for homeowners, and they do everything they can to avoid dealing with it. However, remember, you do not have to address the problems yourself; you just need to know how to spot them so you can call in an electrician to help you fix them. Here are some common electrical warning signs and want they mean.
- Flickering Lights in Windy Conditions – more than likely, there is frayed wiring where the outdoor wiring comes into the home. This is called the weatherhead. This is not only annoying, but it is also very dangerous, as it can start a fire if left alone. Your first contact should be your utility company, as the weatherhead should fall under their responsibility.
- Not Enough Outlets – if you find that you are constantly using extension cords and power strips, you may want to check around your home to make sure that you actually have enough outlets throughout the home. Newly constructed home are required to have an outlet every twelve feet, but older homes will be grandfathered in. There is no real danger here, but you do run the risk of injury with so many extension cords lying around.
- Constantly Popping Breakers – if you find that your breakers are popping with normal use, there may be too many electrical lines wired to a single breaker. There may have been some short cuts taken by a previous homeowner or contractor. Each room should be wired to its own breaker. If this is something you are unable to check on your own, call in a licensed electrician to inspect the home wiring.
These are just a few of the basic challenges homeowners will find when dealing with their home electricity. Older wiring, as long as it is still in good condition, is still safe in your home. However, if you are seeing signs of wear, it may be time to call in a professional to address these issues and get your home up to current code.