March 1, 2019
Your home electrical system is a complicated arrangement of wires and circuits that supplies your home with power both consistently and safely. Because of the complex nature of your electrical system, there are a lot of things that can go wrong. These are some of the biggest electrical nightmares you could find yourself dealing with if you’re not mindful of your electrical system. Check out our list below and then talk to your favorite local electrician to get an inspection and avoid these nightmares.
Federal Pacific and Zinsco panels
Both of these older panel manufacturers are no longer in business due to faulty equipment. If you have one of these circuit breaker panel boxes in your home, it’s time to get it changed immediately. They were notorious for causing fires due to the lack of adequately functioning circuit breakers. The breakers would allow an excess of current higher than the allotted amount for the breaker size. This extra current would overload the circuit and start a fire. Keep you and your family safe and be sure to check and see if you have one of these panels.
Although aluminum is an effective electrical conductor, people frequently misuse it in residential applications. It is commonly used to wire receptacles and light fixtures throughout homes and has been found to be a primary cause of residential electrical fires. If you have aluminum branch circuit wiring in your home, it’s possible to keep it and not have to rewire your house. However, if you decide to keep your aluminum wiring, it needs to be done according to National Electric Code (NEC) standards, and the wiring must be terminated in the proper fashion using the correctly labeled devices and termination methods. If you don’t follow NEC standards, it’s likely that your electrical system could have significant problems or an electrical fire due to the conductor expansion and contraction characteristics that caused the terminations to become loose and produce arcing effects.
Many older homes were wired using two-prong, ungrounded outlets. What this means for you is that the outlet you’re plugging your device into has no grounding. Because of the lack of grounding, there’s no assurance that the breaker will trip if there is a fault in the electrical circuit. Many times, people try to adjust plugs to fit into these ungrounded outlets, and that can cause serious problems. Not only are you likely to destroy the device that’s plugged in but you are also using electricity with no ground, which is a safety hazard that could result in an electrical shock. You can remedy this problem in a couple of ways. The first is to rewire the outlets with a grounding conductor and change them out to three-prong grounded outlets. The other way to solve this problem and stay in compliance with the National Electrical Code is to replace the outlets with GFCI protected receptacles.
Overloaded Junction Boxes
It’s all too common to see a junction box in a home that is completely overloaded. This can be dangerous due to the heat buildup of the conductors. A circuit breaker is supposed to detect the amount of current and stop the flow of electricity in the event of an overload. However, a junction box that is building up heat in its conductors may not necessarily mean that it’s pulling too much current in an individual circuit. When this happens, the protection provided by the circuit breaker isn’t able to do its job. An overloaded junction box should be corrected immediately to avoid potential fires.
Sometimes power outages can be very brief and don’t interrupt our lives much. Sometimes they can go on for an extended amount of time. It’s when the power is out for a long time that we realize how dependent we are on it. All of our food can go bad, we can’t do laundry, and we can’t cook. It can pose a more serious problem if we have anyone in our home that is dependent on electricity for health reasons or if we have pets like fish that require water flowing through the tank at all times to provide air.
Although we cannot stop power outages from happening, we can always rely on a backup generator to keep the lights on. Within 10 seconds or less, the generator turns on once it senses that your electricity has turned off. A backup generator allows us to get back to our lives without ever noticing that anything has happened.
Ungrounded (Bonded) Gas Lines
Many older homes have gas lines that aren’t grounded (the technical term is bonded). The current electrical code requires that these gas lines be bonded back to the grounding system because of the potential danger that it can cause when they’re not bonded. There have been homes that have caught on fire and in some more extreme cases, actually blown up. If you have any gas lines in your home, it’s wise to consult an electrical contractor to verify this bonding or have it installed correctly. A proper inspection can help you make sure if there is a leak or a fault in your electrical system and prevent it from causing a problem.
Improperly Wired Devices
Improper wiring is a common problem among the receptacles and switches in your home. The standard in many new homes when wiring it is to “backstab” the devices. This means that the electrician pushes the stripped wiring into the back of the device instead of curling the conductor around the termination screw and tightening it down. Even though the device is designed to accept this form of wiring termination, it often fails because of the expansion and contraction of the conductors. When wrapped around a screw, the pressure connection method proves to hold much better. If your home is wired through “backstabbing,” it’s recommended to have your devices re-terminated. You don’t have to change them all out, they just need to be appropriately terminated, and you can still use the same devices. This will help to ensure a long lasting connection that won’t result in heat buildup or fire.
Non-Licensed Electrical Work
We see installations and repairs made by unqualified individuals that have led to hazardous situations all too often. The most common cause of house fires in North Carolina has been a result of DIYs and unqualified people working on electrical systems. It can be tempting to hire a handyman to install your ceiling fan or any other electrical item because they are “cheaper” than the electrician, but there is also a good reason not to fall prey to this kind of thinking. Your electrical system can be the most hazardous system in your home. It can cause fires and ultimately powers every device, your heating system, your kitchen, and more. Make sure you hire a licensed electrician with an excellent reputation that stands behind their work when you need an electrical project handled. Read reviews, ask about their insurance information, and make sure that their warranty is on paper before hiring a pro for your next project or repair.