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SaFEty

Living with Electricity 

Shock Hazards

Electricity is dangerous but there are ways to make using it much safer. Over the Years as technology has moved forward, better products and methods have made it much safer. Improper installation or a lack of preventative maintenance are always going to be an issue, but modern devices, materials and installation methods have made a big impact in saving lives. GFCI protection and Tamper Resistant Receptacles are two examples.

GFCI protection A ground fault is when electrical current travels to earth in an unintended way such as through the case of an appliance and then through a person's body. A GFCI device looks for a leakage of power and shuts off the circuit if one is detected. They are calibrated to trip at .5mA which is below a hazardous level of current for the average person. Breakers are now available as AFCI and GFCI combination breakers and provide both ground fault and arc fault protection. 

Tamper Resistant Devices A receptacle with TR on the front means it's made to prevent a person from inserting something other than an electrical plug into the receptacle. All homes build after 2008 have these as a code requirement and when replacing a receptacle in an older home we are required to use this type.

Fire Hazards

Overcurrent Protection Trying to run too many things on one circuit can lead to overheating of connections and insulation which can cause a failure. Overcurrent protection is a device like a breaker or fuse that opens the circuit in the event current exceeds the amount the circuit is designed to carry. Too large of a breaker or fuse for the wiring can lead to a fire. Replacing a tripping breaker with a larger size is never the right answer since the breaker is sized to protect the wire, and the wire should be sized to handle the load. If you are having a breaker tripping issue the answer may be to redistribute the loads or to add an additional circuit.  

Arc Fault Protection Modern homes are now equipped with AFCI devices, typically the breaker version. This is one of the best ways to prevent fires since it actually analyses the electrical current passing through the circuit and looks for noise that is an indication of a fault due to a poor connection or damaged insulation allowing current to arc between two conductors or a conductor and a ground path. A damaged lamp cord pinched under the leg of a nightstand for example, can turn into a fire and AFCI protection can shut down power at the first indication there is an arc. The latest models also include GFCI protection as well. Removing AFCI or GFCI protection is never the fix to a tripping issue, never let anyone talk you into removing this protection as a way to solve a problem, its actually screaming that there is one.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detection

Second best thing to preventing a housefire with AFCI protection and properly sized overcurrent protection is to have an alarm to tell you there is a fire. Hardwired and Interconnected Systems with battery backup are required in modern homes and should be retrofit into older ones, in our opinion. All sleeping areas and the hallway or room outside of sleeping areas should have a detector and if there is gas utilities or an attached garage present at least one should be a CO detector.

Lifetime batteries (7-10 year) are now available. all detectors have a maximum life of 10 years and should be replaced at least once a decade if they work or not due to dust buildup inside over time causing calibration issues.

Pools and Spas

GFCI protection

with new technology, lives are saved, and pools are no exception. GFCI protection on all pool equipment is recommended to prevent electrical shock from a found fault condition that could occur do to a component failure, such as a pump or light. Older pools do not have GFCI protection, and we strongly recommend adding it, if not present. Periodic testing of the GFCI protection is recommended.

Bonding

Bonding is the way we prevent the possibility of two objects having a different voltage where a person could become the path for it to equalize. Bonding of the pool's rebar in the shell and deck, the ladder, the light housing and any nearby metal objects is to each other, as well as the pump and equipment to the earth is critical to pool safety. if you see a loose ground wire at a part of the system it needs repaired as soon as possible.

Alarms

Door alarms to pool decks and alarms that notify when a person enters the water are highly recommended.

Surge Protection

What is a surge?

A surge is a spike of electrical energy that can be caused by storms, damage to utility equipment or maintenance of the power grid. While nothing can handle a direct lightning strike and the gigantic surge that can happen with one on or close to a home, surge protection can increase the odds of your appliances and electronic devices handling the surge. Most surges are not from lightning strikes on the home itself but miles away or from routine maintenance. Surge protection can definitely help in this situation, so much so that it has now been written into the code. The next code cycle will require all new homes to have it.

Main Panel Protection

A device mounted in or at the main electrical service panel is strongly recommended, especially in Florida with our storms and potential for surges on the power lines. A Surge Suppressor works by absorbing the extra energy of a surge and in some cases sacrificing its internal parts to prevent the surge from passing through it. They are rated in Jewels, for the amount of power they can handle for a very short duration and the higher the number the better the device. 

Point of Use Protection

This includes the multi outlet strips and single point of use surge protectors that are simply plugged in to an outlet and provide protection when you plug into them. These should be used to supplement a main panel protection device and will increase the odds of a device surviving a large surge. We recommend a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) with surge protection for desktop computers to prevent shutdowns, damage or data loss. 

Generator Safety

General Safety Tips

Never operate a generator inside of your home, next to a window or a doorway, to prevent carbon monoxide gas from causing harm. Place them as far from the house as practical to prevent a generator fire from spreading to the home. 

Let the generator cool down before refueling. 

Never connect a generator to your home with a cord made with two male connectors. Forget what the handyman said, this is dangerous for you, your home and the lineman trying to help. There are proper ways to connect loads to a generator, they are listed below. We are always happy to answer any questions about connecting a generator or a whole home standby option.

Connecting a Generator to your home

There are three methods of using a portable generator to power devices in your home during an outage.

1)Plug and Play.

You can run extension cords to the devices from the generator. This is the simple way to make it work but requires multiple long cords of various sizes to be stored, installed, removed and stored again each time. '

2) A generator manual transfer switch

Transfer switches are as simple as running cords, without the hassles and as simple as an interlock without the math and a very popular option, well suited for most homeowners. A specific list of circuits are connected to the switch and that limits the number of connected circuits to decrease the possibility of overloading the generator.

3) A generator interlock.

This is a device we install in the main panel that prevents the main breaker from being left on when the generator breaker is turned on. a simple solution to the problem of accidentally back-feeding the power grid. 

 

Electric Space Heaters

Safety tips

One per circuit as a general rule, we get a lot of tripping breaker calls due to two or more used on the same circuit. This is hard on the electrical system and should be avoided even if the breaker is holding. Never place near flammable objects or directly on carpet.

Do not use an extension cord to power a space heater.

Extension Cords

Temporary power

Extension cords are for temporary use only and should never be relied on for a long-term solution. A temporary use means 90 days or less by code. Never use extension cords inside walls. When using an extension cord do not leave it in a coil and it can cause a drop in voltage to the device you are using, always unwind the entire length. 

Choosing the right Cord

As a rule of thumb, a cord should be as large as or larger than the cord of the device you are connecting to it. The longer the distance the larger the cord should be. 

Aluminum Branch Circuits

Dwellings wired with aluminum wiring present a larger fire hazard than ones wired with copper. We recommend a house with aluminum be inspected to make sure all the devices are compatible. Aluminum wiring is considered a safety issue but not because aluminum is a bad conductor. The reason we do not use aluminum for branch circuit wiring is because the devices commonly available are made for copper wire only. Devices made for copper wire cannot be used with aluminum wire unless specifically made for it and will say CU/AL on them. Replacing devices with the wrong type has caused fires. Now insurance companies generally dislike aluminum wire since there is no way to stop someone from using the wrong type of device. To reduce the risk of fire there are three methods, one requires a special tool and training, costs thousands and is too large to fit in every situation so we don't even offer it, the other two options are a rewire or Alumicons. Alumicons allow us to add a small section of copper wire to the aluminum so the copper only devices are only connected to copper. Neither option is cheap, but Alumicons are about half the cost of a rewire and require very little drywall repair after we're done. If you are planning on staying in the home for years to come, a rewire is recommended.

 

Multi-strand aluminum wiring is fine for hardwired appliance circuits and works well. 

Obsolete Equipment and Materials

Times Change and some brands that used to be state of the art are not anymore and are considered a hazard when compared to modern designs. Here are some of the brands we recommend replacing if present in your electrical system. 

FPE

Sylvania/Zinsco

Wadsworth

Bryant

Challenger

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