How safe is your home? Since May is National Electrical Safety Month, GVEC urges you to take a moment to learn about some of the typical problems that could affect the safety of your home. Hear what GVEC Home’s electricians have to say firsthand.

“One of the most common things we see is that people overload the circuits in their homes by plugging too many appliances or electronics into the same wall plug, extension cord or power strip,” says GVEC Home Master Electrician Chris Koepsel. “This can be particularly hazardous in older homes which were never built with today’s electrical needs in mind.”

Even if you have a new home, you need to be mindful of what you’re plugging in: space heaters and other high-wattage appliances are at the top of the list. To be safe, nothing else should share the same plug with these types of items. If you don’t have enough outlets in a room, or you have to rely on extension cords year-round because outlets aren’t located where you need them, the safe solution is to add more. It’s not as difficult as it may sound and can help eliminate a potential home fire.

Another typical hazard are old or improperly installed GFCIs (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter)—these wall outlets are easy to identify because they typically have a “reset” and “test” button at the center. These specialized outlets are designed to help prevent against electric shock by shutting off an electric power circuit when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or a person. To be safe, they should be tested periodically to ensure they are still working.

“Although today’s building codes include installing GFCIs in wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, homes built 40 to 50 years ago might not have this important safety feature,” Koepsel says. “Depending on your home’s wiring, it could be an easy and inexpensive fix. More importantly, correcting this could potentially save your life or someone else’s down the line.”

It’s also important to make sure you have GFCI outlets outside your home, too, especially if you’re using power tools or other electrical equipment. If a regular GFCI outlet is not available, you can buy a portable GFCI at most hardware stores. It may sound trite, but it’s true: water and electricity don’t mix—ever.

Here are a few more things you should think about. They are considered the five warning signs that may indicate you have a problem within your home’s electrical system:

  1. You experience frequent circuit breaker tripping or fuse blowing. This might be the sign that there is an overloaded or short circuit, or a ground fault. Get it checked out immediately.

  2. You feel a tingling sensation when you touch an appliance or metal object. Getting a shock from appliances can indicate a more serious problem. Unplug the appliance and stop using it.

  3. You notice that a receptacle or wall switch becomes discolored, is abnormally warm or shoots sparks. This could indicate arcing, smoldering or burning behind the outlet due to loose connections, improperly installed wiring or a problem with the receptacle itself. A licensed electrician can correct the problem.

  4. You detect a persistent burning smell from a light fixture, appliance, room or area. This may indicate the wrong size lightbulb (a fire hazard) or that an appliance is overheating or malfunctioning. Unplug the appliance or turn off the circuit breaker until further investigated.

  5. You see flickering or dimming lights. This could indicate a loose connection or a short in the wiring system. Left uncorrected, it could pose a fire hazard.

If you have cause for concern regarding your home’s electrical safety, remember, GVEC Home is there for you with electrician services performed by our in-house licensed electricians.

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