|Watch for Signs of Home Electrical System Overload This Summer|
|Library of Articles - Efficiency Safety-Spring/Summer|
The long days of summer bring hot and humid temperatures to many areas. Higher temperatures increase the need for cooling indoors all day long. Increased electrical use during the summertime increases the risk of fire in homes with older or damaged wiring systems. Air conditioning and home cooling demands during long periods of hot weather can strain and overload a home’s electrical system, a serious shock and fire hazard.
Utility companies report their highest demand for electricity typically occurs during the summer months from June through September, with the vast majority occurring in July and August.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), electrical distribution systems are the third leading cause of home structure fires. These fires cause the most property damage, are the second leading cause of death, and the third leading cause of home fire injuries. Large appliances, such as air conditioners, are responsible for almost 20 percent of consumer product electrocutions each year.
Safe Electricity urges everyone to be aware of the added stress placed on a home’s electrical systems during summer months, and take steps to keep your loved ones safe.
Underwriters Laboratories estimates more than one-third of houses in the United States are more than 50 years old. Considering the increase in appliance usage and related electrical demands over the past half century, many older homes are not adequately wired to handle and support the increased demands.
Outdated wiring can overheat due to the increased loads required to run the appliances typically found in today’s homes. If the wiring is deteriorating or crumbling it can damage its own insulation, putting the system at risk for fire.
In order to help protect your home and loved ones, watch for these warning signs:
If you have any of these present, you should have your home inspected by a professional.
A home electrical inspection to find and correct hidden hazards could prevent many tragedies. The time and investment in having a qualified electrician check your residence, and perform a few home repairs and upgrades, are small in comparison to the protection and safety they provide to your family and home.
Safe Electricity recommends an electrical system inspection for all dwellings 40 years old or older and when purchasing a previously-owned home. Most mortgage companies require an electrical inspection on the purchase of a new home before a loan can be approved. You should also have an inspection when you have had a major renovation, if you have added major new appliances in the last 10 years, or have extension cords or power strips permanently in use.
Extension cords should only be used temporarily and should be in good condition with a sufficient amp or wattage rating. Never use cords which are frayed, stretched or worn and keep them out of the path of foot traffic.”
Never use an extension cord for air conditioners, electric heaters or fans and never run them behind baseboards or beneath carpets or furniture. If electrical items are close together, such as with computer equipment, use a plug bar or surge protector. However, be sure to avoid overloading the electrical circuit, which can create a fire hazard.
In addition to ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, designed for protection from electrical shocks, Safe Electricity encourages homeowners to consider having a professional install arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) on circuits in bedrooms. The National Electric Code now requires AFCIs in new residential construction.
No matter the season, or age of a home, residents should be vigilant and continually check for electrical hazards such as cracked or fraying electrical cords, overloaded outlets and circuits, and improper wattage light bulbs in lamps and light fixtures. Also, make sure smoke alarms are placed and functioning properly.