Electricians called into homes to work on a specific problem have often reported discovering additional electrical issues, some of them potentially hazardous. Many electrical issues in the home are caused by work done by unqualified people, or by homeowners trying to save a few bucks with DIY home reno jobs. Electrical defects are also frequently found in older homes, where outdated fuse boxes, outlets, and wiring are often ill-equipped to supply the power demands of the many modern electrical devices used in the average household of today.
While some of these problems may appear to have harmless symptoms, many of them left unattended have the potential to cause tragic house fires or electrocutions. With that in mind, here are a few of the most common—and potentially hazardous—electrical flaws pros should look out for in people’s homes.
1. Plugs Fitting Loosely in Receptacles
Many homeowners may have noticed an outlet or two in the home where the prongs of electrical devices don’t seem to fit as firmly as they should. This problem is usually caused by the contacts of the outlet receptacle becoming worn over time, causing the plug to sit loosely in the outlet, with the metal prongs of the plug often partially exposed.
Electricity will usually still flow in this circumstance, posing a high fire risk due to loose contacts causing electrical arcing. Any flammable object near the compromised outlet is at risk of igniting, such as bed skirts, curtains, or even an accumulation of dust. While the fire risk is high in this circumstance, the repair work is simple, requiring a quick, low-cost receptacle replacement.
2. An Absence of GFCIs
Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) are built-in outlet fixtures designed to prevent hazardous electrical shocks. A person with electrician training should be aware of this design, which is usually found in wet regions of the home where electrocution is more likely, such as bathrooms, the kitchen sink area, and outdoor connections. On an inspection, the electrician should look out for GFCIs in these areas of the home, and recommend replacements to older outlet coverings for optimized safety.
Even students of electrician school may have at one time or another made the common homeowner error of using a lightbulb with higher wattage than a light fixture is designed to accommodate. It may seem like a small problem, but the mistake rates as a fire risk due to the extreme overheating that will eventually scorch the light socket.
Not only is the socket at risk of melting, but the heat can also burn its way through the fixture’s wires, causing the arcing phenomenon that’s usually at the root of so many electrical fires in the home. Even if the homeowner is lucky enough to avoid a fire from a longer period of overlamping, the light fixture will usually be permanently damaged. To prevent all risk, homeowners should be advised to always ensure they’re using a bulb with the recommended level of wattage limits labeled on the light fixture.
4. Ungrounded Connections
Students of electrician school will need to understand the concept of grounding, which is a safety feature design added to electrical appliances, devices, and outlets to safely discharge an excess of electricity in the event of a wiring defect. If currents escape from the safety of the wiring unit in such defects, connections without a grounding system leave those loose currents at risk of flowing through nearby objects instead. This poses a damage risk to the device in question, and an electrocution risk to the person using it. As a standard safety measure, electricians should highly advise any homeowner with insufficient grounding connections and wiring to invest in an updated installation.
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