May is traditionally a big month for buying and selling homes. May is also National Electrical Safety Month. Your friends at your electric cooperative want to be sure that if you are buying a new home you don’t overlook the hidden system of wires that surrounds you in the home.
“Curb appeal, location, floor plans, schools, even the kitchen countertops and window treatments are the things everyone thinks about first,” said John Gasstrom, CEO at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “A home’s electrical system — the wiring, outlets, light switches — isn’t flashy stuff, but it’s something that every home uses constantly and is vitally important.”
Gasstrom says you should always have a licensed electrical inspector thoroughly check out any home you’re buying, especially if it’s older. “You just want to make sure the electrical system is up to snuff because the last thing you want is to have an electrical fire in your new home,” he said.
During an inspection, the electrical professional will:
- Make sure all the electrical components are working safely.
- Identify any problem areas/wiring mistakes or problems associated with older wiring.
- Identify any fire or safety hazards. These include frayed, exposed or damaged wires as well as inside and outside receptacles that are not protected with arc- or ground-fault circuit interrupters and tamper-resistant outlet electrical receptacles.
- Help you meet insurance risk assessment inspection requirements.
Once you have moved into your new home, there’s still some “homework” to do.
- Make sure all circuits in the service panel are labeled correctly for the rooms or major appliance they serve.
- Make sure adults and teenagers in the home familiarize themselves with the service panel and know how to work the circuit breakers or replace fuses.
- Make sure everyone knows which is the master power switch. While you’re at it, make sure everyone knows the locations of the main shut-off valves for the water and gas lines and how to work those, too.
- Make sure the lightbulbs you’re using are the correct wattage for the fixtures. If the wattage is higher than recommended, the wiring in the fixture may be damaged from the excessive heat.
GFCI’s Save Lives
If you’re looking at purchasing an older home, an inspection by a licensed electrical inspector will determine if the home has working ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) installed properly. If it doesn’t, ask the seller to have them installed or compensate in price.
Some sellers or home inspectors may dismiss the value of GFCIs, but the Electrical Safety Foundation International says thousands of lives have been saved by them since their introduction into the National Electrical Code (NEC) in the 1970s. GFCIs can greatly reduce the risk of shock by immediately shutting off an electrical circuit when that circuit detects a shock hazard.
GFCI protection is required by the 2017 NEC for newly installed and replacement 15- and 20-amp receptacles on kitchen countertops; in bathrooms, outdoor areas, unfinished basements and crawl spaces, garages, boathouses, and laundry areas; and within 6 feet of sinks, bathtubs and shower stalls.