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Your home’s electrical system: What’s your responsibility?

Infographic: Homeowner Responsibilities: ElectricalElectricity is something we’re all apt to take it for granted — flip a switch, plug in an appliance, twist in a light bulb and everything automatically works, right? Yet a lot can go wrong with the electrical components in your home. Glitches may crop up with wiring, circuit breakers, wall outlets and more. These problems can range from annoying to downright dangerous — not to mention costly, since many electrical problems are not covered by homeowner insurance. As a homeowner, know what to check out — or it could be tough on your checkbook!

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WATCH: Ensure the safety of your home's electrical wiring system
  • Too much wattage in lights: Whether you use incandescent bulbs or the more modern compact fluorescent varieties, it’s important to have the right wattage. If you replaced a burned out bulb with a hotter one — perhaps to get more light — it can “cook” the fixture or nearby ceiling. Also: be extra careful of bulbs in any fixture with a “dimmer” feature (hint: if a dimmer switch feels very hot, that’s a sign you’re using too high of wattage lamps for the dimmer). If you have recessed lighting that turns itself off, and later back on, that’s another sign of higher-than-optimal wattage lamps being used or possibly the fixture made be covered with insulation causing it to overheat; this on-off safety feature is designed to prevent damage.
  • Lights dimming: Do lights suddenly dim, perhaps when a major appliance (dryer, microwave) comes on? That could mean your home wiring is insufficient, a potential fire hazard. This should be inspected by a qualified electrician.
  • Faulty outlets: If a particular outlet in your house has trouble running items, and manipulating a cord-end tends to make an appliance go on and off, the outlet is probably worn out (springy receivers inside the outlet, which hold on to prongs, may be bent from multiple use). However, if many outlets are affected, it could point to a poor connection somewhere along the electrical circuit — a bigger problem.
  • Bare wires: Any bare wire visible on an appliance requires immediate attention; it can cause a shock or electrical fire. Turn off the appliance, unplug it, and don’t use it again until the wire is repaired (by a pro) or the item replaced.
  • An outdated system: If your home was built before the 1960s, it may not have current safety features throughout, such as three-prong receptacles or built-in GFCIs (ground-fault circuit interrupters), devices which sense problems and automatically shut off the power before a problem starts. Plus, any pre-owned house might have a hodgepodge of quick fixes — say, a wall unit might have been installed by a homeowner rather an a licensed professional. Additionally, aluminum wiring may have been used as a cost cutting measure.
  • Common sense: Be a steward of safety in your home. Here are some common-sense tips: no cords under carpets; never unplug a device by pulling the cord — reach down grasp the plug; be aware of burning odors; tripping breakers are a safety warning — resetting is not the cure; water and electricity don’t mix; use outdoor-rated cords when outdoors; never use a tool or appliance that has had the ground prong removed; electric outlets and panels must have covers installed; and if small children are in the home, kid-proof those outlets.

What other electrical hazards could be lurking in your home? Some might be visible, such as overloading outlets and too many extension cords. Others are likely hidden: box installation mistakes, the wrong insulation over recessed lighting, a poorly-placed smoke detector. Sound confusing? That’s why a licensed/certified electrician should inspect your home. Because what you don’t know can hurt you — and cost you.

Learn more about how to protect your home from electrical problems — and yourself from sudden, unexpected home repair expenses here — or call us at 855-235-1457.