Safety Tips

  • The Importance of Using a Qualified Electrician

    It’s natural to assume that when we walk into a room and flip a switch, the light will instantly illuminate. But what do you do when your lights don’t come on? Most of us would call an electrician, and finding a qualified electrician is important for any electrical job; ranging from the smallest installation of a new light fixture to the complete rewiring of a house.

    Working with electricity can be very dangerous and you want to make sure your electrician is experienced and certified for your own safety and the protection of your family. Faulty wiring poses several hazards, especially a potential fire.

    Like many other contractors, electricians specialize in a specific field. Some do construction sites, others go out only on service calls and some focus on commercial property work. Electricians who concentrate in remodeling have mastered techniques for wiring existing homes and additions, such as snaking wires through finished walls, assessing the capacity of existing circuits and evaluating whether to install an additional service panel (where the circuit breakers are located) to handle increased power demands.

    Although you can assume a certain level of competency when an electrician shows you his/ her state license, there are two levels of proficiency to consider. A master electrician has passed a standardized test and has at least two years of experience. This type of electrician is knowledgeable of the National Electrical Code and its modifications. Areas of expertise lie in planning, designing, installing and maintaining an electrical system for a project. A journeyman electrician is one who has not qualified for a master’s license, but is licensed by the state, and by law cannot design systems but can install wiring and equipment. Some states, including Alabama, require journeymen electricians to work with a master electrician.

    For recommended electricians, you can check with your local homebuilders’ association or call (800) 745-4222 or an electrical-supply business in the area. And when you do decide on an electrician, be sure to see a copy of his/her state license and proof of insurance, making sure both are current. In addition, check references concerning previous jobs.

    Identifying a qualified electrician to address your specific electrical needs may be difficult, but in the end it is worth the effort – having peace of mind that your family and home are safe.

  • Cooking Up Safety

    The kitchen is the one place in the home where people tend to gather, prepare favorite recipes and share warm memories – but it’s also the location where two-thirds of all home fires start. Use these safety tips to identify and correct potential hazards before someone gets hurt.

    • Keep the cooking area around the stove/oven clear of combustibles, such as towels, napkins and pot holders.
    • Locate all appliances away from the sink and plug counter top appliances into ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
    • Store appliance cords away from hot surfaces like the range or toaster. Unplug the toaster and other countertop appliances when not in use.
    • Make sure there is room behind the refrigerator for air to circulate. Vacuum refrigerator coil every three months to eliminate dirt buildup that can reduce efficiency and create a fire hazard.
    • Any electric shock from a major appliance can indicate an extremely hazardous wiring condition. Turn the power to the appliance off at the circuit breaker and do not touch the appliance until it has been checked by a licensed, qualified electrician.
    •  Do not use electrical appliances that have been wet – water can damage the motors in electrical appliances like freezers and refrigerators.

    A healthy respect for electricity and a basic knowledge of electrical safety practices in the kitchen can help keep your home and family safe from electrical hazards. Enjoy your meals, but remember to keep safety first.

  • Arc Circuit Interrupters

    In order to hang a heavy framed picture above your couch, you find a stud in the wall and hammer in a large nail to support the size and weight. But hidden behind the wallboard is a wire that provides electricity to a wall outlet located in back of the furniture. Your nail penetrates the wire, tearing the insulation and shorting the electrical circuit to the room. The wall quickly becomes hot, as a fire explodes behind the wall. This is an arc fault which generates high temperatures in excess of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, igniting nearby combustibles such as wood, paper, wallboard and carpets. An arc fault is a dangerous electrical problem often caused by damaged, overheated or stressed electrical wiring or devices.

    In the U.S., arcing faults cause many of the estimated 67,800 electrical fires in homes every year, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). To help reduce the number of electrical fires in homes, an arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is a type of circuit breaker that replaces standard circuit breakers in your home’s electrical service panel and provides a higher level of protection by detecting dangerous electrical conditions and shutting down the electricity before a fire has a chance to ignite. These devices are equipped with advanced internal electronics that detect arc fault hazards – which traditional breakers are not designed to recognize.

    • The most common conditions that usually trigger arc faults include:
    •  Loose or improper connections, such as electrical wires to outlets and switches
    •  Extension or appliance cords that are damaged or have worn or cracked insulation
    •  Natural aging, and cord exposure to heat vents and sunlight
    •  Cables that are improperly nailed or stapled too tightly against a wall stud
    •  Wires located behind walls that can be accidentally punctured by a screw or drill bit
    • Cords caught in door jams, deteriorating the cable insulation through the action of opening and closing the door
    • Furniture pushed against or resting on electrical cords

    Arc fault circuit interrupters can be purchased at any local electrical distributor, hardware store or home improvement center for approximately $35 – $45 each. Make sure to have a certified electrician install them for you, ensuring its compliance with the U.S. National Electrical Code (NEC) requirements while meeting your home’s needs.

    Electrical fires can be a silent killer occurring in areas of the home that are hidden from view. Use of AFCI technology could prevent between 50 to 75 percent of these electrical fires, saving hundreds of lives, reducing thousands of injuries and nearly $1 billion in property damage annually.