4 Hidden Dangers That May Exist in Your Home’s Electrical SystemHome electrical fires account for over 50 fires in the US each year. The Electrical Safety Foundation International reports that electrical fires cause more than 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and over a billion dollars in property damage.
Older homes are particularly at risk. Because over half of the homes in the United States were built before 1973, this is a real concern.
To ensure your home is meeting the current electrical code in your area, call an ABC electrician. He'll help identify the common culprits of electrical fires that may be hidden in your home’s electrical system.
Some of these dangers include:
Knob and Tube WiringThis type of wiring was used from the 1800’s to the 1930’s in homes. Wires are run through ceramic tubes (or knobs) to prevent contact with wood framing. However, this type of wiring is now considered a fire hazard because it is not a grounded system. If your home has knob and tube wiring, it is highly recommended that you have your home re-wired.
Arc FaultsWhen any electricity is unintentionally released from home wiring or cords, it is known as an arc fault. Arc faults can be especially dangerous because the electricity released can cause the surrounding material to catch fire.
Common causes of arc faults: Pinched wires – From a chair sitting on an extension cord or wires bent sharply
Overheated wires or cords – Too many lights or appliances connected to one circuit (your fuse box or circuit breaker should trip)
Improper electrical connections – Loose connections in an electrical light switch or outlet
Pierced wires – Nails and screws can sometimes pierce wiring hidden behind walls
Damaged wires or cords – Caused by rodents, age and heat
No Ground Fault Circuit InterruptersAny electrical outlets that could come into contact with water should have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) installed. These outlets improve safety by constantly monitoring the flow of electricity in and out of the circuit.
If the returning current differs even a small amount (like from coming in contact with water), the GFCI will shut of the electric current. This helps prevent deadly electric shocks and electrocution.
For maximum safety install GFCIs in bathrooms, the kitchen, laundry room, o
outside and anywhere else an outlet could come in contact with water.
Aluminum WiringAnother risk in older homes is aluminum wiring. A national survey conducted by Franklin Research Institute showed that homes built before 1972, and wired with aluminum, are 55 times more likely to have one or more wire connections at outlets reach “Fire Hazard Conditions”1 than homes wired with copper.
A shortage of copper in the mid 1960s caused builders to increase the use of aluminum wire in residential electrical distribution systems from the few large-power circuits (i.e., for electric clothes dryers and ranges), to general purpose 15- and 20-ampere-rated circuits. Homes built before 1965 are unlikely to have aluminum branch circuit wiring.
Unfortunately, failing aluminum-wired connections seldom provide easily detected warning signs. Aluminum-wired connections and splices have been reported to fail and overheat without any prior indications or problems.
Aluminum wiring can be replaced or repaired to effectively and permanently reduce the possibility of fire and injury due to failing (overheating) wire connections and splices. This should always be done by a licensed electrician.
Spring Plumbing Maintenance TipsSpring is a great time to check your home's plumbing systems and perform preventative maintenance to protect your home against plumbing problems.
MR Plumbing offers these tips:
- Check faucets for drips or leaks and repair parts as needed to save water
- Clean mineral deposits from faucets and shower heads. Unscrew them and soak them in vinegar overnight
- Cycle water supply valves under sinks and toilets to prevent them from sticking
- Ensure that all drains have strainers to prevent debris from clogging your drain lines.
- Pour about a gallon of water into infrequently used drains (including floor drains) to fill the trap and prevent odors from entering the house. Slow floor drains should be snaked to ensure they will carry away water quickly in the event of a flood.
Sump Pump Test your sump pump for proper operation. Pour approximately 5 gallons of water into the basin of your sump pump. Pour slowly until the sump pump turns on and begins to pump out the water. Do not pour in more water than the basin will hold. Expect the sump pump to begin pumping out water when the water level reaches approximately 8 to 12 inches below the surface of the basement floor.
Appliances Washing Machine
Washing machine hoses should be inspected for leaks or bulges. If the hoses are older than 10 years, they should be replaced. Consider using braided stainless steel hoses rather than rubber hoses.
Check your toilets for cracks or leaks. Add several drops of food coloring to the tank. If color appears in the bowl after 30 minutes, it has a leak that should be repaired.
If the toilet handle has to be held down in order to flush properly, or jiggled to stop from running, you may need to replace the tank parts.
Check the temperature setting on the water heater. It should be set no higher than 120°F to prevent scalding and reduce energy use.
If you have a tank water heater, drain several gallons from the water heater tank to flush out sediment that can cause corrosion and reduce heating efficiency.
Tankless water heaters should be flushed to remove mineral deposits. Always check with your water heater manufacturer for specific instructions regarding maintenance of your specific make and model.
Ensure there are no flammable materials stored near the water heater or furnace.
Sump Pumps - The Appliance You Never Think AboutYour home's sump pump is one of those appliances you don't think about very often, out of sight... out of mind. However, the reality is your sump pump is one of the hardest working and most critical mechanical devices in your home.
The Chicago area receives well over a foot of rain during a typical spring and summer season. During a severe storm, heavy rains can cause your sump pump to work at peak performance to keep your basement dry. A sump pump can be called upon to remove hundreds of gallons of water per minute.
If your sump pump fails, your basement can quickly be flooded, causing expensive damage to your appliances, flooring and your personal possessions.v
Testing Your Sump PumpDon't wait until a heavy rainstorm to learn that your sump pump has stopped working, check it for correct operation a couple of times per year. Simply pour some water into the sump pit until the unit cycles.
The average sump pump has a lifespan of roughly ten years. Switch failure is the most common cause of sump pumps failing to work properly.
Battery Backup Sump PumpsFor an extra layer of protection and peace of mind, consider a battery backup sump pump. Because severe storms can frequently cause power outages, a battery powered sump pump will run even when the power goes out, keeping your basement dry for hours until the power is restored.
Chicago's Sump Pump SpecialistsM/R Plumbing offers a variety of quality sump pump systems, including: Commander, Zoeller, Aquanot, Hydromatic and Tramco sump pumps. To find out which sump pump is right for your home, call M/R Plumbing. We'll help you choose the right unit and professionally install it to protect your home from expensive water damage.
How Hard Water Can Cause Problems With Your Home's Plumbing SystemHard water can cause problems for homeowners in both increased energy usage and a shortened lifespan of appliances. The two minerals most commonly found in hard water, calcium and magnesium, make heating water less efficient. It requires more energy to heat mineral heavy water compared to clear, purified water.
Hard water can also cause limescale build-up, drastically restricting the water flow in your pipes. Steel pipes are the most prone to this problem, copper and PVC are not as susceptible to limescale build up. Over time this scale build up can lower water pressure in your home's plumbing, eventually leading to costly damage to pipes and plumbing fixtures. As the flow in pipes becomes more restricted, the limescale buildup will happen at a faster rate.
The areas that you may first notice mineral build up are in areas around shower heads, plugs, faucets and valves. Slowly dripping faucets can cause scale build up on sink surfaces and could damage the rubber washers that are required to keep the mechanism water tight. If this occurs, the washers can sometimes be difficult to replace.
Valves that are found in various appliances, such as ice-makers, washing machines and dishwashers can also end up with scale build-up. If small amounts of limescale build up around the valves, they may not be able to completely close, which can allow water to leak.
Hard Water and Water HeatersHeating elements in water heaters can also quickly form mineral deposits. When there is limescale between the heating element and the water it will act as a barrier, preventing the water from heating up efficiently and causing the burners to work overtime. Mineral deposits from hard water can also dramatically reduce the lifespan of a water heater by clogging pipes, valves and drains.
Electrical Upgrades To Consider When Remodeling Your HomeIf you're giving your home a complete makeover, or just simply planning to upgrade your decor or appliances within your living quarters, it's a great time to consider upgrading your electrical system as well.
Home repair and remodeling projects often require some sort of electrical upgrade. Do you have receptacle outlets overburdened by multi-plug strips? Are your lamps and fixtures connected to extension cords? Does every three-prong plug need a two-prong adapter? These and other warning signs indicate a real need for electrical improvements. Here are a few points to consider:
- Is your service adequate? Many older homes still operate with outdated 60-amp electrical service, and sometimes with just a few fuses or circuit breakers to protect the entire system. Newer homes often have 100-amp service panels, but even this minimum requirement set by many current codes may fall short of your present or future needs. Consider upgrading service to 200 amps.
- Size for extra demand. If you're installing a major electrical appliance, like an electric wall oven, a microwave oven, a double-wide refrigerator or central air-conditioning, think about the additional power it may need. While a salesman or installer might tell you that your system can handle the load, be smart and ask your electrician for a second opinion.
- Electricians often install 14-AWG wiring during renovations, which is adequate for most home uses. But heavier 12-AWG copper wire is a better choice because it's more energy-efficient and you won't have to upgrade all over again if you install appliances or fixtures with greater electrical loads. The cost difference for upgrading to 12-AWG copper wire is minimal. If you're adding a room extension or building a new home, it's a good idea to install 12-AWG wire (or larger, depending on the needs of each circuit).
- Consider special needs. Different rooms in a home serve different purposes—an important consideration when you're planning improvements, especially where electrical work is involved. Family rooms, home offices and home theaters generally need more circuits, more outlets, and built-in or plug-in power-surge protection. Outlets in kitchens, baths, garages and outdoor areas require ground-fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs. And you don't have to wait for a major renovation to add protection—you can install many safety devices yourself, such as outlet caps, switch guards and wire shields in nurseries and children's playrooms.
- And finally, don't forget your communications wiring needs—make sure telephone wiring is rated Category 5 or better to assure speedy data mission, high-quality voice service and convenient installation as you add telephone-based services in the future.
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