The promise of warm weather also brings the promise of home renovations but is your electrical system first on that to-do list?
An electrical inspection should be performed in the springtime explains Tom Phillips, an electrician with Birnie Home Safe. He believes that the winter weather takes a toll on a home’s electrical -more so if you live in an older home.
“In the winter time homeowners are more likely to overload their circuits, especially if they’re plugging in space heaters for extra warmth,” Tom says. “People generally spend more time indoors too which means you’re plugging in more devices to stay entertained.”
An overloaded circuit occurs when there are too many devices plugged into a particular circuit. The Electrical Safety Authority, ESA, says if you have a 15-amp circuit, you can safely use 12 amps or 80 percent of the rating.
Phillips further explains that space heaters must be plugged into a dedicated circuit because these devices alone draw the recommended safety rating, “nothing else should be plugged into the circuit to avoid an electrical hazard,” he says.
But homeowners often exceed the 12 amps because they are unaware of the electrical load on their wires. “It’s no wonder that when spring comes around, the electrical system in homes we inspect are compromised,” Phillips says.
Michael Neumann is an Electrical Solutions Advisor with Birnie Home Safe. His job is to educate homeowners about common electrical hazards and how to prevent them.
“If you live in an older home or a home with aluminum wiring, you should consider an electrical inspection any time of year but more so after winter,” Neumann says.
Michael explains that with age our electrical systems degrade and can’t handle today’s electrical load. “The chances of overloading these circuits and creating fire conditions are greater when it’s winter because, as Tom explained, we’re using more devices and adding more strain,” he says.
But ageing homes and overloaded circuits alone aren’t responsible for faulty wires; Michael says heavy snow or rainfall can damage your electrical system too.
“When the electrical system is exposed to water or moisture, which is common in winter and spring, the wires are damaged from corrosion which can increase your risk of having an electrical fire,” Neumann says.
Both Phillips and Neumann from Birnie Home Safe encourage homeowners, who believe that their electrical has been compromised, to invest in an electrical inspection. Homes with serious electrical hazards will start to exhibit certain warning signs.
And while the spring season is often synonymous with home renovation projects, Neumann says home’s with electrical hazards should hold off on any cosmetic changes until the electrical has been inspected.
“We know from experience that winter takes a toll on people’s systems… and if you’re planning a renovation you want to make sure your electrical is safe before you make any changes,” he says, “failing to do so will put your home at risk.”
The Licensed electrical contractor says that the best way to know if your home’s electrical is safe is with an Electrical Risk Assessment (ERA) inspection. The inspection, which takes one full day to complete, is performed by a Birnie Home Safe licensed electrician like Tom Phillips. “We check every fixture, every outlet, every switch,” he says, “you can’t get more thorough than this.”
And you must hire a licensed electrical contractor to perform your electrical work, it’s the law according to The Electrical Safety Authority.
Birnie Home Safe’s data suggests that almost half of reported house fires are electrical in nature but preventable with a thorough inspection.
Not every home may qualify for a full day inspection, explains Michael Neumann. “The first step is to request a free-preliminary assessment where we determine if there is even a need for an inspection.”
Whether you decide to invest in an electrical inspection or not, this spring, here are some safety tips you should always review:
Spring-time safety tips:
- Keep power cords and electrical equipment away from water or other wet areas.
- Inspect all cords, wires, surge protectors, appliances, electric tools, and other electrical devices for cracks, breaks, frays, and other damage.
- Protect electrical devices from electrical surges with surge protection.
- Make sure you unplug outdoor appliances and tools when not in use.
- Check and see if all of your outlets are GFCI-protected (ground fault circuit interrupters).
- Never run cords or electrical equipment where people walk, don’t staple cords to walls and never run cords underneath rugs or furniture.
- Have a certified and trained electrician conduct a thorough electrical inspection.