New Year’s Resolutions: Improve Safety

Throughout the month of January, our blog is taking a closer look at ways we can improve our homes during the year 2021. With the changes that 2020 forced upon us, now is the time to start adapting and learning how we can improve our lives and our homes while making do with our new circumstances. This week, we take a closer look at how you can improve electrical safety and reliability throughout the coming year.

Ensure All Outlets Are Properly Grounded

A ground circuit provides an important safety outlet for energy flowing through your home. In the event of a short or surge, a ground line acts as a sort of “pressure release valve,” giving excessive energy somewhere it can safely escape to and be disposed of directly in the ground. This saves lives, prevents injuries, and helps avoid serious damage to your electrical system and anything plugged into it.

However, many older homes still don’t have proper grounding on every outlet. How can you tell? Take a look at an outlet close to you: does it have three-prong holes or simply two slots? The third prong is for the ground post. If you have one of these post holes, then your outlet should be grounded (it doesn’t guarantee it, as your outlet still does need to be properly connected to your home’s ground line). If it doesn’t, we recommend letting a professional inspect the outlet to see if it is properly grounded, and then to install proper grounding if necessary.

Install GFIs Where Necessary

Ground-fault interrupters act sort of like a smaller circuit breaker located on an individual outlet. These devices carefully monitor the amount of current flowing through an outlet and trip when it exceeds a certain amount. This shuts off the flow of power, preventing the potential short or ground fault from damaging your electrical system or causing serious injury. GFIs are easy to spot: they are the two buttons located on an electrical outlet, one labeled “test” and the other “reset.”

As a general rule, we strongly recommend that any outlet located where water might be present be protected by a GFI. That means all outdoor outlets, all outlets in your kitchens and bathrooms, any outlets in your laundry or utility rooms, and outlets in your garage. That way any accidental mixing of water and electricity doesn’t have detrimental consequences.

Properly Cover Outdoor Outlets

Outdoor outlets also need to be covered for safety. Even a small amount of water, such as a raindrop, can cause a potential short if it gets into an outlet the wrong way. And a short, no matter how fast, might result in tremendous damage to your electrical system and potentially to other parts of your property as well. That’s why every outlet located outside should be properly covered by a weather-resistant, durable, and code-compliant cover.

We recommend bubble covers for most outdoor outlets. Bubble covers are great because they are not only tremendously durable and supremely protective, but they even allow you to continue to use electricity in inclement weather. Bubble covers have a cord outlet at the bottom, allowing you to keep the cover shut and water out while the cord can still get where you need it to. This makes them great for things like holiday decorating, where you might still need power during wet conditions.

Give Your Panel a Good, Thorough Look

Now is a good time to give your electrical panel a good, thorough inspection to look for any potential signs of a problem. While panels can last 40 to 50 years or more in some cases, breakers can and do wear out, wiring eventually frays, and plenty of other issues can happen too. You can actually spot many of these issues before they become serious by giving your panel a thorough inspection.

Open your panel door and look for any breakers that appear cracked, burned, or otherwise damaged. Take note of them, as they will need to be replaced. If you have any breakers that frequently shut off when you plug one too many things in, the breaker itself might be at the end of its life and need to be replaced. Finally, check for other signs that something isn’t right, such as a high-pitched ringing noise, burning smells, warm breakers, or anything else that might seem suspicious. If you find any of these issues, call a professional for help as soon as possible.

If your electrical panel needs service or you need help with a different electrical safety matter, make the call to Lightning Bug Electric! Dial (404) 471-3847 today to schedule an appointment.