Avoid Electrical Hazards When Remodeling
Whether you're remodeling your home for resale or to improve it for your own enjoyment, safety during the process is a key concern. But one thing that often gets overlooked is the safety of the home's electrical system.
Each year, electrical fires claim approximately 485 lives and cause $868 million in property damage. If you're planning on doing any home improvement, take some time to make sure your home is wired for safety.
Many remodeling projects impact the home's electrical system: tearing down a wall, putting one up, adding lighting fixtures, moving wall receptacles or replacing the wiring. Before you get started, make sure you have a clear idea of what your electrical needs will be and how you can meet them.
Homeowners should obtain the appropriate permits and have the work inspected as called for in local code requirements. Check with your local government to find out what the requirements are in your area. An important note: some jobs are best done by a qualified electrician- it's better to consult one early in the planning stages than to try and take on a dangerous job by yourself.
Lighting. Adding or changing the lighting plan for a room requires electrical work. What kind of lighting will you use? Ceiling fixtures, wall-mounted fixtures and recessed lights all need interior wiring; table or floor lamps need outlets. Will you be changing to a dimmer switch or adding additional switches? Is there proper support for the new fixtures?
Electronics. Think through the electronic devices that will be used in the room and make sure you have the proper electrical service for those needs and protection for the devices, such as surge protectors.
-Computers and peripheral equipment
-Televisions, DVD or Blu-ray players, gaming systems
Appliances and other equipment. Adding a bathroom or wet bar adds to your electrical needs:
-Heating and cooling elements
The electrical needs associated with a bigger remodeling project may require the installation of additional circuits to the home's existing load center. This is a job best done by a qualified electrician.
Do a Box Check
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recommends checking your fuse box or circuit breaker regularly- the start of a remodel project is an excellent time to look for the following:
-Is your fuse box or circuit breaker box appropriately labeled? Labeling helps to easily identify what circuits power each room in your home.
-Are you regularly resetting tripped circuit breakers? Circuit breakers that are constantly tripping indicate that the circuit is overloaded or that other electrical hazards exist.
-Is your home protected by Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)? AFCIs are devices that replace standard circuit breakers in the electrical service panel and that greatly reduce the risk of home electrical fires.
Arc Faults and AFCIs
Arc faults occur from damaged wiring, overheated or stressed electrical cords, worn electrical insulation, wires and/or cords in contact with vibrating metal, damaged electrical appliances and other conditions.
This potentially dangerous situation creates high-intensity heat which may exceed 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in burning particles that can easily ignite surrounding material, such as wood framing or insulation.
AFCIs are special circuit breakers that detect electrical arcing. They are designed to recognize when arc faults occur and automatically shut the circuit down before it becomes a fire hazard. AFCI technology is already required in all new home construction, according to the National Electrical Code. However, AFCIs can also be retrofitted to older homes, where older wiring and outdated electrical work may increase the threat of an electrical fire.
Make Sure You're Protected
In addition to installing smoke detectors, CO2 and radon detectors, help protect your home and family from fire and shock hazards with these devices.
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Healthy Homes report lists lack of AFCIs among the primary residential hazards associated with burns and fire-related injuries.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) - GFCIs are special outlets that have saved thousands of people from electrocution over the last three decades. If GFCIs were installed in older homes, experts suggest that 70% of the approximately 400 electrocutions that occur each year in the home could be prevented.
Tamper-Resistant Outlets (TROs) - TROs protect small children from inserting foreign objects into them. These specialized outlets have been so effective in preventing injuries to children that the 2008 National Electrical Code requires that tamper-resistant outlets be installed in all new homes constructed.
Surge Protection - Surge protection at the loadcenter and at the point of use protect your electronic investments. Protection on the power, cable and telephone will ensure your electronics are protected from surge voltages that can damage, if not destroy, this equipment.
These devices serve as silent guardians, looking for suspicious activities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. Having them installed is one more way to protect your home.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recommends that homeowners have their homes inspected by a qualified licensed electrician if:
-The home is 40 or more years old.
-The home is 10 or more years old and has had major renovation, an addition or major new appliance installed.
-You are the new owner of a previously owned home.