By Dan Levia
With this being National Fire Prevention Week, I thought I would throw my two cents into the fire.
Electrical safety is one of the areas that home inspectors concentrate on during an inspection. We go through the home, checking electrical outlets for incorrect wiring, tripping GFI’s, tripping AFC breakers and generally trying to make sure the house you are purchasing is safe for you and your family to live in with our modern electronic devices plugged in to every outlet available.
One of the problems we have though is that houses built yesterday do not have to conform to the building codes of today. Older houses will not have arc fault breakers or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters unless they were added later. That also goes for ungrounded outlets and even old knob and tube wiring (although your insurance company may have something to say about that).
You may want to keep that in mind if you are doing any renovations. If you do have an older house get an electrician to come in and make sure your house wiring is safe. Make sure that if you are doing renovations, qualified people are doing them for you and you have all the proper permits and then inspections are done.
Other tips for electrical safety:
• Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
• Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.
• Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them or use them for permanent wiring.
• Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
• Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
• Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.
• If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord.
• Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical outlets.
• Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
Another area of concern during “Fire Prevention Week” is wood-burning fireplaces and stoves. This is one area that most home inspectors are not qualified to inspect thoroughly. For this, you need someone that is WETT (Wood Energy Technical Training) certified. They will check clearances for you as well as ensuring your fireplace or stove is safe to use. This is something that you should do every year if you use your fireplace often.
One final bit of advice is to go and check your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector right now …