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Home Inspector Electrical Safety Tips


Electrical Safety


Electricity is a necessary a part of our lives. However, it can possess extreme danger. Electrical systems generally will work for ever, if correctly used and not overloaded or damaged. Electrical fires kill 485 Americans every year and harm 2,305 more. Some of these flames are brought about by electrical failures and carelessness, however many more are created by the homeowner not understanding the hazards that come from incorrectly wired circuits or the improper use of extension cords. Plugging to many devices into an outlet can overload and overheat the circuit creating a shock hazard or fire hazard.


Some safety tips to remember:



  • Only use the correct type and size fuse for a circuit.


  • If you find an overloaded circuit, repair it before continuing to use it.


  • Never use extension cords for anything other than their intended purpose. Extension cords are never to be used in place of permanent wiring.


  • Outlets within 6 feet of water should be GFCI protected.


  • Never climb any trees that are near power lines.


  • Make sure ladders, kites, and anything stay away from overhead power lines.


Electrical Panels


Electricity enters the home through a meter and switch where one can shut off all of the electricity at once. The switch is usually located in a panel outside of the home. Usually it is some form of a circuit breaker, however, if it is an older panel it may contain fuses. Make sure the right size breaker or fuse is used for the circuit it is protecting. Never use anything other what is supposed be used, for example, never use a penny in place of a fuse. If you think have blown a fuse, look for the broken metal strip in the top, that usually indicates which fuse has blown. Change the fuse with another one stamped with the right amperage. Reset circuit breakers from "off" to "on." Be certain to look into why the circuit blew or breaker tripped. Usually a overload circuit or a defective device or appliance is the cause. Check the wattage on labels to sure they are not to large for the circuit. In the event that there is a damaged wire or other fault, you contact an electrician to evaluate the circuit and make any repairs necessary.


Outlets and Extension Cords


Be sure all electrical outlets are three-hole, grounded outlets. If the outlets are with-in 6 feet of water, there should be a GFCI or ground-fault circuit interrupter outlet installed. All outlets that are outdoors should be GFCIs. There should be enough electrical current to run equipment without tripping circuit breakers or blowing fuses. Try to avoid the use of extension cords. Never place them under rugs. Make sure that if you have to use an extension cord, it is the correct cord for the job.


Electrical Appliances


Appliances need to be treated with respect and care. They need room to breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings, and do not store papers around them. Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on electrical connections. If any appliance or device gives off a tingling shock, turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks can be fatal. Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging them. Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a person qualified to do so.


Electrical Heating Equipment


Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these heating supplements. Keep them away from combustibles, and make sure they cannot be tipped over. Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition. Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution. Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks and breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and cause overheating.




Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children. Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on. Safety plugs should be inserted in unused outlets when toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates. Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords. Also monitor the items children are aloud to play with, make sure they do not have access to any metal objects that could be inserted into an outlet. Keep electrical wiring boxes locked. Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside. Never allow them to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers.


Electricity and Water


A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground. People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in water or on a damp floor. Never use any electrical appliance in the tub or shower. Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands. Do not use electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors. In areas where water is present, use outlets with GFCIs. Shocks can be fatal.


Animal Hazards


Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them. If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they may cause, and take measures to get rid of them. Contact a pest control company to evaluate your home and remove any vermin. Have a licensed electrician evaluate and repair any damage that may have done.


Outside Hazards


There are several electrical hazards outside the home. Be aware of overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines. Keep ladders, antennae, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house and other buildings. Do not plant trees, shrubs or bushes under power lines or near underground power lines. Never build a swimming pool or other structure under or over the power line leading to your house. Before digging, learn the location of underground power lines. There are companies that specialize in locating underground utilities. If you are not sure, contact your local utility for help.

Do not climb power poles or transmission towers. Never let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators. If you have an animal trapped in a tree or on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a chance of electrocuting yourself. Be aware of weather conditions when installing and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot. Use only outdoor lights, fixtures and extension cords. Use only bulbs rated for exterior use and make sure they are the correct style and size. Plug into outlets with a GFCI. Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric company, and warn others to stay away. If a power line hits your car while you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire, jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.


More Safety Precautions:


  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.


  • Hire an InterNACHI inspector. InterNACHI inspectors must pass rigorous safety training and are knowledgeable in the ways to reduce the likelihood of electrocution.


  • Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old and damaged appliance cords immediately.


  • Use electrical extension cords wisely and don't overload them.


  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.


  • Don't allow children to play with or around electrical appliances, such as space heaters, irons and hair dryers.


  • Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least 3 feet from all heaters.


  • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord. Never cut the third prong off to make it fit a two slot outlet.


  • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets. Immediately shut off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch, as well as lights that flicker. Use safety closures to childproof electrical outlets.


  • Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.


  • Do not place towels or any other flammable object over bathroom door or near heat lamp when a heat lamp is present in bathroom ceiling.



In summary, household electrocution can be greatly reduced by following the tips offered in this guide.


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