Home electrical system safety depends on knowing the basics. The type of system you use greatly affects the safety level of your home. Standard voltage home wiring, which serves many typical home electrical gadgets, must be properly serviced regularly to prevent electrocution or shock (see below for more information). However, even if you follow expert guidelines and unplug electrical devices when you are working on them in your home, you still might be at risk for an electrical shock if you do not follow basic home electrical system basics.
- The most common type of home electrical system works on the principle of contact: electricity flows from an electric point, such as a light fixture, through the electrical wires inside the fixture, to an outlet that matches your home appliance’s wiring. However, this type of home electrical system works only if the electricity flows the right way. For example, the path of a car running down the road could get curved; the arc caused by headlights on the car could hit an electrical panel and cause a short, rather than an electrical shock. For these types of home accidents, it is important to have an experienced, trained person inspect your home’s wiring every year. He or she can check for any problem areas and make sure your home electrical system works the way it should.
- Second, there are grounded conductors. These types of home electrical systems use metallic insulators between the electricity and the metal surfaces of the appliances. Although these types of systems prevent electricity from flowing harmfully, it’s still possible for electricity to flow toward an outlet if the insulator breaks. This can cause serious problems, such as electrocution, when the electricity gets near the metal surface of the appliance it’s connected to. If you notice a crack in your home electrical system, have the service panel inspected by a professional.
- Third, some home electrical systems work on batteries. Many houses have a battery backup in case the electricity goes out during the night, but if the batteries lose power before the home’s electricity comes on, there may not be enough power in the home to power all of the home’s appliances. For this reason, a home’s electrical system may not be able to fully function during a power outage.
- Fourth, remember to change meters once a year to make sure the electricity usage is accurate. When the meter reaches the maximum amount of allowed energy, it will tell the homeowner. The homeowner can either change the meter or take the existing ones off the system. However, he or she must find a service station that accepts the old meters. Some home improvement shops will not accept new meters.
- Fifth, avoid hanging clothes and other items from the ceiling to prevent issues with extension cords. The wires in extension cords can get caught up in the attic, causing electrical problems. Also avoid using extension cords in high, dry areas of the home, like the bathroom or basement. Use heavy-duty cordless phones when you are in those areas.
- Sixth, after a storm or large rainfall, run the emergency shut-off, known as the siren, for all of the appliances and wiring in the home. Turn off all the electricity, including the water heater, furnace, and any other electric items that you do not use daily. After the storm has cleared, call the utility company to verify that all of your electric equipment is back on the grid and functioning. It is important to note that during a storm, many homes experience a false shut-off status. You should wait until the utility company has restored power to your home before checking your home’s operation.
Take special care to verify that the wiring on your home’s electrical system is up to date and clean. Dirty wiring can lead to shorts, fires, and dangerous electrocutions. There are various types of cleaners available, ranging from liquids to powders that work by cleaning away dirt and grime. Do not use chemicals to clean wiring, as these can become dangerous if ingested and have been found in the blood of animals exposed to chemicals used in cleaning.