May is National Electrical Safety Month – Here’s How You Can Celebrate!

Ways to Practice Electrical Safety This Month and Beyond!

Here in the United States, May is Electrical Safety Month – a time for raising awareness of common electrical hazards and how to avoid them. Considering that this country sees over 50,000 electrical fires, 4,000 injuries caused by electric shock, and hundreds of electrocution death every year, improving electrical safety is undoubtedly a vital endeavor! 

Fortunately, homeowners can take relatively simple steps to make their home electrical systems safer and more efficient. This article will outline three ways homeowners can improve electrical safety in their homes this May – and all year round!

Stay Up to Date With Electrical Safety Devices

electricalThe National Electrical Code (NEC), which sets the standards for the design, installation, and inspection of electrical systems, requires that every home be equipped with certain electrical safety devices to protect against the dangers of electric shock, electrical fires, and circuit overloads. 

Perhaps the most common of these devices is the circuit breaker. These automatically switch off (aka “trip”) to stop the flow of electricity through a circuit when an irregular or excessive current is detected, like in the case of an overloaded circuit (more on these shortly). Fuses serve a similar function, but instead of turning off like a light switch as breakers do, these feature a thin metal strip that physically melts to break the flow of current. Fuses have largely been phased out in residential buildings, partly due to their occasional tendency to start fires.

Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are another type of safety device every home needs. These outlets can detect even very small imbalances in electrical current that may indicate a ground fault – a term for when electricity finds another path to the ground rather than the circuit’s built-in grounding wire. The GFCI will instantly stop the current flow if a fault is detected, which can save lives by preventing electric shock. GFCI outlets (those with the little “test” and “reset” buttons) are typically required in bathrooms, kitchens, and anywhere else with an increased risk of exposure to moisture.

Watch Out for Overloaded Circuits

Circuit overloads are among the most common electrical hazards every homeowner should know about. They typically occur when too many devices or appliances are plugged into the same circuit, pulling more amperage than the circuit was designed to handle. Not only can this damage any devices connected to the circuit, but it can also cause wiring, outlets, and other electrical equipment to overheat, potentially resulting in a fire. 

Homeowners can help avoid an overloaded circuit by spreading devices (especially high-power ones) across multiple circuits and not crowding or daisy-chaining power strips. But it also helps to know the signs of an overloaded circuit so that an electrician can be called in time. These signs include:

  • Flickering lights
  • Outlets or light switches are warm to the touch
  • Outlets or light switches are smoking or making buzzing noises
  • Circuit breakers keep tripping

Utilize Surge Protectors

surgeAnother electrical hazard to watch out for is a power surge. This is a voltage spike in a given circuit, typically caused by lightning strikes, trees falling on power lines, the power suddenly being turned back on after an outage, and even motors kicking on in large appliances like refrigerators and air conditioners. Like circuit overloads, power surges can fry electronic devices and damage the home’s electrical systems, so protecting against them is imperative.

That’s where surge protectors come in. These devices “absorb” and divert voltage spikes into the home’s grounding line using various methods (depending on the specific design). Most people are familiar with the small surge protectors that resemble power strips. These can help protect computers and entertainment systems, but they typically won’t protect against large surges and generally can’t be used with large appliances. 

That’s why utilizing a whole-house surge protector is a good idea. These are installed at the home’s main breaker box and protect the entire house – and all its devices and appliances – against major and minor surges. This, combined with the other tips mentioned above, will help keep the home safer from electrical hazards all year!

About Gene’s Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical

Gene’s Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical has over six decades of experience serving Medina, Ohio, and the surrounding areas. They provide straightforward pricing, on-time arrivals, and same-day services. Call them today for electrical services in Medina, OH.

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Learn the Basics of Electrical Systems

Electrical 101

This back-to-school season, homeowners can brush up on their knowledge of home electrical systems with this quick guide from experts. Having a basic understanding of the parts of an electrical system, signs of a system malfunction, and how to practice electrical safety can help homeowners prevent accidents and keep system maintenance costs low.

Electrical systems are composed of a complicated network of wires, circuits, and outlets connecting to the local power plant. Professional electricians undergo rigorous training in the classroom and on the job as apprentices to learn how to service and maintain electrical systems. Homeowners should always have a trusted local electrician a phone call away in case of an electrical emergency.

Important Parts of an Electrical System

electric meterHere are some important components of an electrical system:

  • Electric Meter: The electric meter measures the amount of electricity a home uses from the power plant. The metering of electricity is used to identify potential problems with the electrical system and to calculate utility costs.
  • Disconnect Switch: The disconnect switch is usually located on the electric meter or in the breaker panel. The disconnect switch shuts off electricity to the whole home so that the electrical system can be safely serviced without risking accidental electrocution.
  • Breaker Panel: The breaker panel, also called an electrical panel, is a series of switches that controls the electrical circuits for different areas of the home. Each switch correlates to a room in the house or a hard-wired appliance. The breaker panel will flip the switches to an off position to prevent electrical fires in the case of a power overload.
  • Circuits: An electrical circuit is a pathway engineered for electricity to transmit from one place to another. The local power plant provides the electrical circuits with power from the main generator through a network of power lines, wires, and connections.
  • Electrical Outlet: Electrical outlets are a receptacle in the home that allows devices to be plugged in to receive electricity from the power grid through the home’s circuits.

Warning Signs of a Malfunctioning Electrical System

burning smellA malfunctioning electrical system can cause a spike in utility bills, but it can also be a hazard to the house, homeowner, and their family. An electrical fire can harm the entire neighborhood and surrounding ecosystems. There is also the risk of accidental electrocution from a malfunctioning outlet or circuit.

Look out for warning signs of a broken electrical component. Warning signs include sparks or a burning smell coming from outlets or the breaker box. The electrical system can become so overloaded that the heat burns through the insulation on the wires and leads to sparks. It only takes one spark from a sparking outlet to ignite a devastating house fire.

Flickering lights could be a result of installing the wrong voltage lightbulb or simply that the lightbulb is burning out. On the other hand, flickering lights throughout the house for no reason usually mean something is wrong with the electrical system. Homeowners should contact a qualified professional electrician for an inspection as soon as signs of damage or malfunction are noticed.

How to Practice Electrical Safety

Homeowners should have their electrical system routinely inspected and serviced by a professional electrician to improve home safety. Leaving the electrical system in a state of disrepair can cause a small problem to develop into a big issue. Fixing problems early on helps to keep repair costs low and prevent electrical emergencies such as a house fire or electrocution.

Amateur electrical work is extremely dangerous. Unqualified people could injure themselves or start an electrical fire by attempting to repair the wiring themselves. Working on electrical systems requires specialized tools and years of training.

The best thing that homeowners can do for their electrical systems is to schedule annual maintenance, do visual inspections, and call an electrician if they notice signs of damage. Another thing homeowners can do to protect their electrical system is to be careful not to overload circuits. Homeowners should pay attention to the recommended wattage and required voltage for household appliances. Installing surge protectors helps prevent overloading the electrical system.

About Gene’s Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical

Gene’s Refrigeration, Heating & Air Conditioning, Plumbing & Electrical has over 60 years of experience serving the residents of Medina, OH, and the surrounding areas. They provide straightforward pricing, same-day service, and 24/7 emergency assistance. Call them today for electrical services in Medina, OH.