Codes and Your Electricity

Your safety is the reason there are so many different codes and so much ‘nit-picking’ municipal regulation of electrical systems. We appreciate both their concern for public safety and the frustration it can cause for homeowners, both of which we share! For homeowners, codes take to a whole new level the importance of a supervisory body that holds electricians to standards.

Electrical Codes - Nashville TN - Schaffhouser Electric

It is definitely not easy for even licensed electricians to stay on top of all the different changes in all the different codes. It is, however, their profession, and unless they do it, they fail to qualify for re-certification. Since it took so long to be licensed in the first place, they definitely do not put all that in jeopardy, either. Instead, they absorb the continuing education.

Code Compliance Matters

Generally, despite how it sometimes feels, municipal codes do not change just because someone enjoys rewriting them or is “staying busy” to justify their employment. They change, we admit, because more is understood every day, as lessons are drawn from past mistakes. They change – it is true – with materials and technologies and close examinations of data related to house fires and insurance claims for property liability.

Codes frustrate absolutely all of us – homeowners trying to sell and electricians trying to service – but they are, truthfully, for your safety and ours. We have to replace GFCIs with AFCIs not because someone decided they should start with “A” but because electrical arcs are better understood. That understanding is what we bring as electricians to ‘code compliance matters’, but it is no surprise that most homeowners do not share it.

Unfortunately, not all licensed electricians share it either. Homeowners need to select an electrician from a pool of certified licensed candidates. That way, you can be sure it is really safe for everyone  – along with the garage, the laundry room, bath, and kitchen. Codes have a purpose and while some homeowners may think they are inconvenient, they are there for all of our safety.


Safety Precautions Routinely Undertaken by Electricians

Most of us have felt a mild electrical shock at some point in our lives. Whether from faulty wiring of a lamp or the childlike inexperience that leads us to pry stuck toast loose with a knife, we have been shocked. Those extremely mild jolts of electricity are enough to underscore the importance of safety precautions being taken by electricians.

Electrical Safety Precautions - Nashville TN - Schaffhouser Electric

Working with electricity every day, professional electricians need to be extremely conscious of potential dangers and take appropriate precautions. The condition of the workplace and an electrician’s tools are of paramount concern, along with proper footwear and rubber grips on tools. Proper safety precautions can be the difference between life and death for electricians, so their value can hardly be overstated.

Keeping Tools in Good Condition Safeguards Electricians

First of all, an electrician needs to keep their tools in excellent condition, in order to avoid accidents that can happen if they malfunction. As subject to wear and tear as any equipment, electrical cords can fray, wires can pull loose, and cutting edges can dull. Careful inspection and maintenance of tools and equipment goes a long way to protecting electricians.

Secondly, because of the importance of their condition, an electrician’s tools should be kept locked up. Whether because one is fascinating or because it comes in handy for something the homeowner or a co-worker is doing, tools left out get used. The only way an electrician can be confident of the condition of his tools is to lock them up when they’re not using them.

A Clean Workplace Is a Safer Workplace

Finally, it is important for the work area to be orderly and clear of things that can constitute hazards. A walk-around to look for cabling, tools, and wires left on the floor is a good safety precaution both before and after a job. Not only do homeowners appreciate the cleanup because it improves the appearance of the house, but their safety is also protected.

Know Your Electrical Capacity Before You Connect That Equipment

Appliances and equipment that were traditionally very expensive have become relatively affordable, enabling more people to add central air conditioning, humidification systems, backup generators, and other equipment to their homes. Though the tendency is usually to get the system installed and running immediately, this can be a mistake. If electrical service capacity is not assessed before plugging in new equipment, irreversible damage may occur.

Electrical Capacity

Electrical capacity is measured in amps and though determining it is not difficult, the process is dangerous. Visual inspection typically provides the answer, but this should be performed carefully. Service entry cables, the electric meter and meter base, main switch, and electrical service panel may need to be inspected and live electricity runs through these areas.

The question of how much electrical service is provided is answered by ampacity and voltage. In the United States, service voltage at the electrical panel is commonly 240 volts. This system will support both 120 and 240-volt circuits. Inspection begins at the electric masthead, where two 120-volt hot wires entering the structure provide both 120 and 240 volts. If electrical service was installed in the building before 1940, only 120 volts and 30 amps may be supported, though this is becoming obsolete.

Electrical capacity provided by a service entrance conductor is determined by identifying wire size. However, the main breaker and the panel size may establish a lower limit. Be aware that it is dangerous to inspect or touch an electrical component due to shock risk or death by electrocution. Before inspecting electrical equipment, learn safe electrical practices.

If available electrical capacity is sufficient to support the voltage of the equipment, plug the item into an electrical outlet. Look for indications of electrical circuit overload such as flickering lights or shutdown of power. If this occurs, turn off electrical supply at the circuit breaker box, unplug the equipment, and contact an electrician.

Electrical Fire Safety

Far too many homeowners are under the impression electrical work is the perfect DIY project. While there may be some tasks that you can do on your own, in most cases it is better to call in a licensed electrician. Here are some facts, figures, and tips regarding electrical fire safety.

Overloaded surge protector is a fire hazard

Electrical Fire Safety Facts and Figures

  • Typically, over $1 billion in damages is realized in property loss every year due to electrical fires.
  • Over 26,000 deaths occur every year in fires caused by electrical problems.
  • The holiday season (December and January) show the highest concentration of electrical fires.
  • Wiring that has been “fixed” is one of the largest culprits of home fires. This is especially disturbing because few of these fixes are actually done by an actual electrician.
  • Problems with light bulbs and light fixtures are among the leading causes of fires.
  • Improper maintenance, overloading of circuits, and the misuse of electrical cords are a significant cause of “avoidable” electrical fires.
  • More residential fires are started in the bedroom, but the most deaths occur in fires that are started in living areas of the home (such as the dining room or living room).
  • While system failure is the cause of some home fires, in most cases, it is due to improper wiring and the overloading of circuits (a common mistake for DIY homeowners).

Electrical Fire Safety Tips

  • Extension cords should not be used on a permanent basis. They are meant for temporary power only. If you are using one for something specific that is in use all the time, you should have extra outlets  installed in that location.
  • Never use an extension cord for a major appliance, always plug them directly into an outlet.
  • All power strips and surge protectors should feature overload test label.
  • Check wiring on all appliances several times a year. Schedule it during daylight savings time to make it easy to remember. Any damaged or frayed wiring should be replaced immediately.
  • Any electrical tool causing sparks, electrical shorts, shocks, or that overheats should be replaced.
  • Always use the recommended wattage light bulb for your fixtures.
  • Never force a three-prong plug into a two-pronged outlet. Use an adapter or use the proper outlet.
  • All electrical work should be performed by a licensed electrician.