Shorts on fire

Whether you have a new home or an old house, it’s important that you know the condition of the electrical system.

Simple problems can cause electrical shorts, and those shorts have the potential to spark a fire.

The demand for electrical convenience and appliances in our homes has grown exponentially over the years.

That growth is primarily fueled by the desire for appliances that makes our lives easier and manufacturers are more than keen to meet the demand.

According to studies, the global demand for household appliances is estimated to be 1.5 billion units by the year 2020. And they all need to be plugged in.

Professional home inspectors see the electrical systems in a house as one of its main components. However for most, the electrical system is hidden inside of the structure and pretty much recognized as a convenience that we couldn’t imagine living without.

Electrical systems in newer homes are generally more reliable than older ones because they have been designed to accommodate today’s modern conveniences.

Let me give you an example: my neighbour's home was built in 1967 and originally had eight electrical circuits. That the home has been completely rewired and has 58 circuits.

An electrical system of an older home generally offers less convenience. By less convenience, I mean fewer plugs and limited electrical circuits to plug all of today’s appliances in to.

When desire for more power to drive new appliances overrides availability and that call is often met by the do-it-yourself electrician.

DIY electricians often modify an existing limited electrical circuit to meet their new needs without regard to the system’s ability to service the demand.

When this happens the actions of a DIY electrician can jeopardize the safety of the occupants and performance of the equipment.

Home inspectors can tell you that we see dangerous conditions more than we want to. We see far too many examples of poor workmanship or substandard materials, or both.

Home inspectors frequently see power bars (power strips) primarily in older homes. Power bars are used to add temporary multiple receptacles to an existing wall receptacle.

People buy and install power bars when there are more electrical appliances requiring power than a wall receptacle has available.

Misusing temporary power bars can result in electrical hazards. Small appliances and consumer electronics are added without recognizing that the system may not be able to handle them safely causing overloaded circuits, tripping breakers and overheating wires and connections.

Power bars are a lesser concern than the weekend warrior electrician patching an electrical system.

Everyone should know their limits, but DIY electricians are more apt to complete an electrical project that can lead to injury and property damage far more so than a qualified electrician.

The good news is DIY electrical work is always correctable, and most of the time without complications. Electrical repairs are usually corrected with the correct parts and approved methods.

If you know that sub-standard electrical work has occurred in your home, or if you suspect defective parts or equipment has been used, it’s time for an electrician to perform a basic inspection of your system.

Shorts on fire are the last thing you want.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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About the Author

When you need advice or guidance with DIY home improvement and repairs, Hugh Cairns can help you with the answers.

Home improvements can be rewarding, turn your home into a nicer more comfortable place to live, and increase its value.

Whether you are renovating your kitchen, converting a loft, giving a room a lick of paint or making improvements to your home’s energy efficiency, this column is here to guide you with useful information and key things to remember.

Do you have a renovation question or concern? Please feel free to send Hugh your questions. Contact him through www.subject2homeinspections.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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