Springtime is peak home-buying and building season. And it’s critical to protect one of the largest investments you’ll make in a lifetime — as well as your loved ones.
May, National Electrical Safety Month, is a good time to brush up on potential electrical hazards and learn more about Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) circuit breaker technology, an important life and fire safety device for any new or newly-renovated home — and a National Electrical Code requirement.
“Ensuring your home is outfitted with life-saving technology like Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters is critical,” says Ashley Bryant, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Low Voltage Distribution Equipment AFCI Task Force co-chair. “AFCIs are smart devices proven to detect dangerous arcing in damaged wiring behind walls, as well as in damaged electrical cords under furniture or connected to unsafe appliances, preventing deadly electrical fires from occurring.”
According to the National Association of Certified Home Inspectors (NACHI), some of the top things to look for in a home are: insufficient electrical service, inadequate overcurrent protection, and dangerous, damaged or noncompliant wiring and wiring connections. To help you ensure the home you’re buying or building is protected from future electrical problems, consider these additional tips:
- Hire a certified and licensed home inspector. A professional home inspector can tell you a lot about the safety of a home’s electrical system and what may need to be repaired and updated. To ensure you’re hiring someone qualified, visit the NACHI website at nachi.org/certified-inspectors.
- Meet National Electrical Code requirements. Make sure your home’s electrical system meets National Electrical Code requirements, including AFCI circuit breaker installation, which offers key areas of the home protection from electrical fires. While there’s a common misconception that this technology is unaffordable and hard to find, the average cost to protect a new 2,000 square foot, four-bedroom home is only $300, and AFCI circuit breakers are available at electrical supply houses, home improvement stores and online, according to NEMA.
- Rooms where water is present, like kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms and outdoor areas, should be equipped with Dual Function AFCI/GFCI circuit breakers. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters and work with AFCI technology to help prevent possible shock and electrocution. If the home doesn’t have this protection, be prepared to ask the owner or builder to make updates in accordance with your state electrical and building codes, or be ready to hire a licensed electrical professional to install these life- and property-saving devices once you move in. A great resource for more information is www.afcisafety.org.
- Practice safety at home. A few simple steps can be taken around the house that will help protect your home from electrical fires and keep your family safe. Check to see that light bulbs are the correct wattage and tight in the socket. Make sure no furniture is placed on appliance cords or up against plugged-in receptacles. Protect valuable electronics by installing surge-protective devices and prevent circuit breaker tripping by not overloading any circuit.
- Ask the right questions. Ask the seller if they made any updates to the home’s electrical system. Be sure to find out if this was a DIY project or if a licensed electrician did the work under a permit.
“During the often overwhelming process of buying or building a home, understanding a bit about electrical safety can help ensure you’re making a sound investment and offer you greater peace of mind,” says Bryant.
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