We use dozens of appliances and devices daily without thinking about the electrical systems that power them. But don’t assume yours is safe. Romain Grand of Schneider Electric shares five essentials electrical components to check.
25 September, 2018
Electrical safety is paramount in our domestic life. We use dozens of appliances and devices daily without thinking about the electrical systems that power them. But don’t assume yours is safe.
Between 2010 and 2014, US fire departments responded to more than 45,000 home fires a year involving electrical failure or malfunction, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And in the UK, someone dies every week in an electrical accident at home.
You can protect your family and substantially reduce your risk of a tragedy caused by electrical accidents by taking a few minutes to check the following five components of your home’s electrical system.
Your electrical panel is the heart of your home’s electrical system. Modern homes use 100- to 200-amp circuit breakers to accommodate more and higher-power-consumption appliances. Older electrical panels, however, may be a concern. In the US, for example, houses built prior to 1965 used 30- and 60-amp fuse panels, which were adequate for the lesser electrical demands of the time, but can’t safely handle the assortment of TVs, computer devices, and power-hungry refrigerators and air conditioners in the typical home today.
Older circuit breakers may also pose a problem. Breaker panels have a lifespan of 25-30 years. If yours is older than that, it likely has deteriorating components and fewer circuits then can handle your electrical usage and should be inspected by a licensed electrician to determine if it needs to be updated.
While you’re inspecting your electrical panel, make sure it has installed at least one device that protects against electrical shock from faulty appliances or direct contact with live electrical equipment. The circuit breaker device measures the difference between how much power is flowing into the circuit and how much is flowing out. If it detects an imbalance, it recognises current is leaking and immediately shuts off the circuit to prevent electrocution.
Your panel should also protect against arc faults—unintentional electrical discharges within a circuit caused by loose, damaged, or corroded wires and terminals. Circuit breakers can’t detect these low-voltage currents, which, over time, can generate enough heat to compromise wiring and insulation and ignite any surrounding flammable material.
In addition to your electrical panel, make sure all the outlets and switches in your home are in good working order. Any that are cracked, broken, or loose should be replaced. Buzzing or discolouration indicate a wiring problem that needs professional attention.
Don’t forget to check all your household appliances and devices. Frayed cords and damaged plugs are one of the biggest causes of electrical shock and house fires. Stop using and replace any appliance showing these types of wear.
Taking time to perform this simple inspection can significantly reduce your risk of electrical accidents. Learn more to keep your family safe by accessing additional information on home electrical safety.
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