DYI Ways to Prevent Home Electrical Hazards & Improve Your System
As an electrical company, we're all about hiring a licensed and insured electrician for your electrical needs. That said, we're also homeowner advocates and want to empower you to take on the things that really are safe for you to do at home, and to inform you of things that can save you money and increase the electrical safety of your home. If you're interested in growing your knowledge about the above, read on.
You may have heard it a million times, but switching to LED bulbs really can help both you and your electrical system. Some people argue that “the savings will be
minimal until years down the road,” but let's look at the bigger picture here. Imagine you have two bulbs, one halogen, and one LED. They both give the equivalent of 60w of light. But one of them gets incredibly hot to the touch, risks combusting materials, and adds unnecessary stress on the electrical system. The other bulb, which only pulls a measly 8 watts compared to the halogen's 60 watts, is cool to the touch, worry-free in the combustible department, and could give you the same color temperature (tone). You can go to any big box hardware store to buy your own LED bulbs, or have me (Andrew) come out and install some beautiful LED lighting in your home. I just can't in good conscious use halogens/incandescent bulbs anymore after seeing what I have. If you do decide to go with incandescent bulbs, make sure you read your fixtures specifications to not over watt (heat) the fixture.
To piggyback off the above tip, also be sure you are not overloading your dimmers. Have you ever noticed that your dimmer was unusually hot to the touch? Some heat is normal with incandescent dimming, but dimmers actually do have a max wattage rating. Typical rating for dimmers is 150w LED max, and 500w incandescent. This means that you can have that many "watts" pulling on the system at the same time, so keep an eye on how many bulbs you have on that dimmer and how many watts they are pulling. With incandescent/halogen
bulbs, if they give off 60 watts of light, they are also pulling 60 watts of energy. Whereas an LED light may pull 9 watts but give a visual wattage of 60 watt equivalent. (Side note: When you look at that dimmer max wattage and see that the LED number is lower than the incandescent max, it's because although the dimmer "allows only" 150 LED watts, that 150 watt actual is giving light equivalent of about 1,000 watts of light)
An easy way to ensure you are not over-watting your dimmer is to take all the bulbs on that circuit and add up what their label says in wattage. If it is over those above wattage limits, go with a lesser wattage bulb (less light output), or switch to LED!
Test your GFIS, PLEASE! Ever notice devices around your kitchen, or outside by your porch have a weird button-thing on them? Well, they have a purpose! These nifty devices were created by Charles Daziel in 1961 to protect people from electrical shocks in moist or wet environments. GFIs read current coming out of the devices, and if it isn’t equal to what comes back, it automatically trips the plug. In the low country here, electrical storm surges cause these devices to sometimes become defective, and even scarier, they can still function, even if the button is coming out!
How do you test them? Easy: Go around your house and check each one. They are required to be in every bathroom, or outside circuit, and garage. If your plugs don’t have any buttons on them, check your breaker panel. Sometimes the electrician will use what we call a GFI breaker to tackle the NEC (National Electrical Code) requirements. You test the plugs by pressing the "test" button and then the "reset" button. If it resets, you're good. If it doesn't, you'll want to call us to replace the GFI. There is also a test button GFI breakers.
(If you are interested in in-panel surge protection, which should only be installed by a licensed electrician, this is a wonderful investment to protect your home against outlet blowouts and protect your appliances from harmful electrical storm surges.) If you're missing GFI outlets or breakers in your home, they really are an important safety feature in your system and we can get those installed for you.
Exercise your breakers. Every home has what's called a breaker box/electrical panel. They're typically housed in your garage, or sometimes inside a room in your house. In older homes, sometimes these breakers haven’t been exercised in decades. Especially if they haven’t tripped in a long time. The problem with this, is if the breaker was needing to trip because of a safety hazard or overloading, if they haven't been flipped back and forth in a long time, sometimes they could be stuck in the “on” position. Allowing this dangerous situation to occur opens the door to a hazard inside your home.
You want to make sure this does not happen (breakers don't become stuck), and that the contacts and levers are in healthy condition. Simply rock the breakers off and on one by one. I recommend doing this bimonthly to keep your mind at ease and to make sure your breaker box is in working condition. A note to add: Any breaker box that has the name “Federal Pacific, Zinsco, Challenger, or Pushomaticz” are ALL dangerous and should be evaluated as soon as possible. These were recalled due to fire and overheating. If you are worried and think you may have one of these, I would be glad to inspect your panel for you. If you do not feel comfortable testing your breakers, we offer a home maintenance package where we test all of your breakers and outlets for a package price.
Throw out your old and cut up extension cords/lamps. If you notice cuts on your cords and lamp cords, please do not risk a house fire. Roughly 3,300 fires are started each year from these, with around 50 fatalities. Heartbreakingly, many of these could have been prevented. Cut wires can cause arcing, which sets combustible material on fire. Please make sure you are not running cords under rugs. Be safe!
Do not overload “plug strips”. Every plug strip has a max amperage that should not be overloaded with heavy loads like heaters, power tools, etc. Space heaters and power tools should ONLY be plugged directly into an outlet. No exceptions.
Clean around your bathroom vent fans, ceiling fans, and light fixtures. I know life gets busy, but as dust collects around your fixtures, so do the chances of them destroying your fans and possibly igniting. This is a simple yet effective home tip.
Thank you for taking the time to read and we hope you got something useful out of the above. Happy Homeowning to you all!
Gloudeman Electric, LLC