Stay Safe This Season With These Five Electrical Tips
29 Apr 2016
By David Brender National Program Manager for Electrical Applications, Copper Development Association
Electrical wiring — it provides light, entertainment, heat and many other conveniences in and around your home, but without proper care, electrical wiring could potentially deliver a lethal jolt to a human body, or burn a home to the ground. Home electrical hazards account for an estimated 25,900 fires each year, nearly 300 deaths, more than 1,120 injuries and $1.1 billion in property damage according to the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System. With National Electrical Safety Month in May, reviewing your electrical system is important. Below are a few tips to keep you, and your property, safe this season.
1. Reduce Excessive Attic Temperatures
Come summer time, the temperature inside your attic will tend to rise, potentially causing dangerous conditions. If the wires are buried in attic insulation, pass over light fixtures or, worst of all, are arranged in tight bundles, they become even hotter than if they’re out in the open. To help reduce excessive temperatures that could possibly lead to fires, use larger diameter wires than minimum requirements because they offer less resistance to electrical current, and they permit more current flow while staying cooler.
2. Replace Old Wiring
Along with spring cleaning, it’s a great time to update your electrical wiring. If your home is more than 25 years old, you may be living with an inadequate and possibly hazardous wiring system— consider replacing the wiring with modern copper branch circuits. Have a qualified electrician inspect your wiring for dangerous conditions.
Electrical extension cords power everything from hedge trimmers to power saws to drink mixers, but not all extension cords are created equal. An improperly sized extension cord can cause a tool or appliance motor to burn out if allowed to run for too long. It is important to know how much electrical current (typically rated in amperes, or amps) each electric tool requires. Check your tool or appliance manual for extension cord requirements to ensure proper operation of the equipment.
Wet locations such as kitchens, baths and utility rooms — as well as grounded areas like your basement or garage — require outlets protected by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, or GFCIs. If GFCIs have already been installed near sinks and dishwashers, test their reset buttons to be sure they are working properly. Have an electrician inspect your outlets to make sure you have GFCI outlets where required.
Severe thunder and lightning can cause dangerous conditions, including thousands of dollars of damage to electrical equipment. Lightning protection systems do not attract lightning to structures, nor do they repel it. Rather, these systems intercept the lightning and channel the energy onto a low-resistance path, thus safely discharging, or “grounding,” the electrical current to the earth.
The best way to safeguard against electrical hazards is to have a professional electrician install, inspect and — if necessary — upgrade your wiring. It’s not worth the risk to rely on non-copper wiring materials that can corrode, loosen or fail under pressure.
Visit the CDA’s Building Wire section for more information about residential electrical wiring.