As homes age, we often think to check items like HVAC efficiency, roof condition, and window integrity, but electrical systems can fly under the radar of most homeowners, despite being the cause of over 50,000 house fires a year.
Most people don’t normally think about their electrical system, as a whole, until there’s a problem. At that point, the damage and cost of repair can be substantial.
What does an electrical inspection cover?
First and foremost, electrical inspections should be conducted by trained, licensed, and insured professionals, like the Charlotte electrical contractors at On Time Electrical. Electricity can be dangerous, even deadly, and it’s certainly not a time you want to DIY. A comprehensive electrical inspection will check your grounding and bonding, along with ensuring circuits (and the breaker panel) are not overloaded. Your sockets and outlets will be tested, along with the wiring that lives behind your walls, like arteries that carry “the juice” throughout your home. When electrical systems are worn, damaged or not working properly, shock and fire risk increase exponentially.
When is the best time to get an electrical inspection?
The most common time an electrical inspection should be scheduled is when you are purchasing a new home. The inspection can pinpoint potentially dangerous and costly issues with the electrical system and allows you the chance to have the seller make those repairs before you close. Older homes, usually over 15 years (and definitely over 25), are good candidates for an electrical inspection. In fact, we highly recommend replacing your home’s electrical if it is over the quarter-century mark. If you embark on a major room renovation, that’s also a great opportunity to do a whole-house electrical inspection, along with the room in which you are doing construction and upgrades. Once your professional electrical contractor, like those at On Time Electrical, gives your power system a clean bill of health, you should set a reminder to have it done every 5 to 7 years, as wires and circuits degrade over time, as well as fall victim to rodents who chew them or the elements that make them brittle.
What warning signs indicate an electrical inspection is needed?
There are 7 key red flags:
- Hot touch! If you touch a switch or outlet and it’s hot to the touch, that’s a big indicator something needs attention as soon as possible. A slightly warm socket that doesn’t increase in heat is more than likely fine; still, it never hurts to double-check concerns regarding wiring, switches, and outlets. If an outlet gets warm and you don’t have anything plugged in, that is something that should be explored further.
- Circuit breakers keep tripping: This is a symptom many homeowners have experienced from time to time. Have you ever plugged one too many items into an outlet and suddenly the whole room, perhaps floor of your home, goes dark? The fix is often reducing the load on those outlets, then resetting or “flipping” the corresponding breakers in your electrical panel to return power to that room or area. Fuses and circuits are designed to “trip” during these overload situations to prevent sparks and fires. However, if a circuit starts tripping without additional load being added, or it’s connected to an appliance, it deserves closer inspection. The appliance may be faulty and need repair, or the outlet (or circuit breaker) has gone bad. In some cases, an additional circuit needs to be added to isolate and handle the load of that particular appliance or other large power-draw item (such as that extra refrigerator in your garage).
- The wrong sockets: Electrical sockets are not all created equally. Rooms like bathrooms and kitchens require different types of outlets due to their water supplies. This adds an additional layer of consideration because water conducts electricity and that can be dangerous if there is a fault in the outlet. This is where a special outlet called a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) should be used. You can identify these easily because they have two buttons in the middle, one red and one black. When they overload (or moisture gets inside), the red button pops out, indicating the outlet has “tripped”. You can reset it by first reducing the load on that outlet and pushing in the black button. If the outlets in your kitchen and bathrooms do not have these red and black buttons, they are probably not GFCI and should be replaced by a professional electrical contractor.
- Where there’s sparks, there’s (possibly) fire! Sparks are a clear indicator that something is amiss with your outlet and/or the item that is plugged in. If this happens, unplug everything and contact a professional immediately, like the electrical experts at On Time Electrical.
- Extension cords: It’s tempting to use extension cords and power strips to compensate for a lack of outlets in a room. This presents a potential overload (and spark/fire) hazard. Most extension cords used by the average homeowner do not have built in surge protectors or auto-shutoff features. If you find that you are stringing extension cords and power strips together, have a professional electrician come assess the situation and recommend adding an outlet or two with proper circuit protection and stability. The cost for additional outlets compared to what can happen with an extension cord fire is nominal
- The nose knows: “Hey, do you smell something burning?” If the answer to this question is “yes”, and you’re not cooking something, outlets and appliance plugs are the next thing to check in a room. A strange smell is another key indicator that something isn’t working right. As with sparks, this is something that needs to be investigated and remedied by a professional immediately.
- If you can hear it, check it! Hearing a loud buzzing or hum if you walk near massive power lines outside is one thing, hearing it in your home is quite another. Your home’s electrical circuits should not be making any noise. If it is, there may be loose connections, faulty wiring or defective appliances that need inspection and possible repair.
Finally, if your home is located in a coastal region where seasonal tropical storms and hurricanes are a yearly risk, investing in a whole home surge protector is extremely important. Not only does it spare your electrical system from damage, but all the appliances and devices plugged into that system, as well. You will also want to consider having a backup generator to power some of your home’s essential items (refrigerator, freezers, etc.) in the event of a power outage.
On Time Electrical is standing by to give you a free consultation on the overall health of your home’s electrical system and the most cost-effective way to upgrade your home’s preparedness for power loss or system damage. Call us 24/7 at (704) 675-7400. We are Charlotte’s go-to electrical contractors, ready to service all of your residential or business power needs.
You can also visit us online anytime at www.itselectriccharlotte.com. Check out our weekly and monthly specials, plus we waive the service call fee on ANY repair! Locally owned and operated, we’re On Time Electrical. It’s electric!