December 2016: Electrical Safety

Ask The Inspector

Electrical Safety

During a typical year, residential electrical problems account for tens of thousands of fires and millions in property damage. Most of these fires can be traced back to “fixed wiring” issues within a home’s or business’s internal wiring system itself. Safety is one reason why electrical components are a big part of any property inspection service.

Ask The Inspector

A National Property Inspections professional will perform a visual assessment of the home’s electrical system starting outside with the electrical connection from the street to the structure. The connection to the home, called the service drop, and the utility meter will both be inspected. The inspector continues inside with the electrical panels, light fixtures and a survey of individual outlets.

Where visible, the inspector assesses wires for cracking and aging, checks for the presence of grounding and identifies the size of the electrical system. At the electrical panel, the inspector will review the overall condition of the panel, its functionality based on the number of appliances, estimated age and capacity. The inspector will note the use of fuses or breakers and check for updated safety items such as ground fault circuit interrupters which help prevent electrical shock.

Be Advised

Electrical protection: GFCI and AFCI

Advancements in electrical protection devices help keep families and businesses safe. These devices include Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s) and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI’s). Both help prevent electrical shocks and fires caused by erratic surges in electrical current.

Be Advised

GFCIs are designed to trip when they sense even a minor imbalance in current between the hot (black) and neutral (white) legs of an electrical circuit. They shut off power to the receptacle in a fraction of a second – fast enough to avoid a potentially fatal shock. In new construction they’re required in kitchens and bathrooms, and in other areas that might get wet, such as the garage and basement.

GFCI outlets have test and reset buttons. If you locate the GFCI’s in your home, it is a good idea to test them monthly to make sure they are operating properly.

As of 2002, AFCI’s are required to be installed on branch circuits that serve residential bedrooms in new construction only, not existing construction. A property inspector can help pinpoint areas where added safety measures such as AFCI’s or GFCI’s could help protect your family.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. It should not be on top of a roof
  2. It is slanted
  3. It is old

Correct Answer is 2. The condensation from the AC condenser caused the wood frame beneath it to rot. As a result, the unit is now overly slanted.

Noteworthy News

Holiday Light Safety

Electrical holiday lights and displays attract adults and children alike. But stringing and taking them down can cause accidents. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), it’s estimated that 12,500 people go to hospital emergency rooms for falls, cuts, shocks and burns related to holiday decorating.

Noteworth News

Before stringing lights, inside or out, you have to take a few safety precautions. One thing you can do is check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets. You’ll also have to look for frayed or bare wires, and loose connections.

Another thing you can do is use no more than three standard sized sets of lights per extension cord. It may be obvious to not run cords through water, even ones labeled for outdoor use, but weather conditions can often change in the winter, so it’s something to be aware of.

Installing automatic timers ensures that lights get turned off at night, taking one more daily task off your list, and saving electricity at the same time. Also, when you string your tree, be sure that it’s fresh. Brown or brittle needles are more likely to catch fire, so keeping the tree well-watered and fresh is extremely important.

Protect yourself and your home by following just a few simple lighting safety tips. But most importantly, enjoy the holiday season and your great decorative lighting.

Maintenance Matters

Maintaining Clothes Dryers

The Association of Home Appliances Manufacturers urges clothes dryer owners to clean lint filters after each load, and check and clean vent systems periodically.

Noteworth News

This helps improve air flow and energy efficiency while reducing the chance of overheating and fires. Despite several improvements in dryer construction and safety, several thousand fires started by dryer lint occur each year.

Like the oven and stove, dryers use extreme heat on flammable materials. Although most people are careful to keep their eye on the stove when cooking, they think nothing of leaving a dryer in the basement, garage or utility room unattended for an hour or more.

Other tips for preventing dryer fires and improving appliance efficiency include:

  • Occasionally remove the filter and clean with a nylon brush and hot, soapy water.
  • Avoid drying clothes that have ever had any type of oil or other flammable liquid spilled on them, such as alcohol or gasoline.
  • Replace plastic or vinyl exhaust hoses with rigid or flexible metal venting.

Keeping your dryer free from built up lint and checking the filter are the main ways to avoid any potential issues. With proper maintenance there’s no need to worry. A dryer that’s routinely maintained not only means that it will be safer, it will also lead to added years of dependable use.

Did You Know?

The Proper Use of Extension Cords

The good old extension cord can get abused with year round outdoor and indoor use in all kinds of conditions. They’re one of your handiest tools when it comes to the holidays, but they can be annoying bunches of tangles and knots, and even a safety issue.

That’s why the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year. We’ve pulled together a few tips for usage and storage of electrical cords during the holiday season:

  • Make sure you’re using extension cords labeled for outdoor use when using outside the home
  • Never place an extension cord under rugs or through doorways where it can be damaged by foot traffic
  • Don’t use staples or nails to attach extension cords to baseboards or other surfaces. This can cause damage and present a shock or fire hazard
  • Always coil up the cords after you take down your decorations

For Your Information

Being Smart About Appraisals

An appraisal is an evaluation of the value of a property at the time of the sale. It is generally ordered by the lending agency. Documentation to back up the appraisals may include a brief inspection of the home, a comparison of recent sales of similar properties and a general description of the property. It is not a home inspection. A home inspection is a detailed visual inspection of hundreds of components of the home or other property completed over two hours or more. A home inspector is generally hired by the buyer or seller.

Most appraisers, like home inspectors, are professionals. However, cases where inflated appraisals were part of fraudulent mortgage schemes have been successfully prosecuted. To avoid problems, use common business sense. When purchasing a home, make sure to request a copy of the appraisal and to review it.

Consider these other tips:

Ask about the qualifications of appraisers used by lenders you use. Check that the appraiser’s memberships in professional organizations are correct. Verify years of experience with the state’s board of appraisers.

When reviewing the appraisal, use your own knowledge of the property, the location and the square footage to determine if the findings seem reasonable. If not, it should raise a red flag and suggest further investigation.

Monthly Trivia Question

What does a red front door mean in Scotland?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.