For many homeowners and employers, their electrical system operates as a sort of black box. As long as things are working properly, they have a set of inputs, a set of expected outputs, and don’t know a whole lot about what is going on inside. This can be for good reason. Electrical systems can be somewhat complicated, and often function in a manner that is not completely intuitive. However, ignorance of electrical systems can leave us vulnerable to being injured. While it can take some time and effort to get a good understanding of electrical systems, having a simple checklist you can examine to get a good idea of the condition of your electrical system can certainly help make your system more safe. Here are a few ideas of things to look at and remember when evaluating the condition of your electrical system.
- How old is your electrical system? The age of an electrical system can be a strong indicator of its reliability and safety. Over time, electrical and manufacturing standards have increased, meaning that newer electrical systems are much more likely to integrate safer and higher quality technology. The integration of better materials and more sophisticated engineering principles has allowed modern electrical systems to be much safer than the antiquated designs of yesteryear. Even if your system is functioning properly, it is likely that an older system will have fewer safeguards, and be more vulnerable to catastrophic failure. If your system is older or has gone a long while between inspections, it might be worth your time to consult an electrician about whether or not you will need to make some upgrades.
- Are your outlets up to date? The outlet is one area of the electrical system the layperson will interact with frequently. Older outlets sometimes have only two prongs, or lack other modern safety features. The integration of the third prong is a crucial element in the modern strategy to minimize the risk of an electrical shock. And there are other safety elements which are part of any modern system. GFCIs, which are those outlets with test and reset buttons should be installed in any area where there is a risk of water shorting out a circuit or providing a place for current to flow unexpectedly. These outlets can stop the flow of electricity nearly instantly if it begins discharging unexpectedly, potentially saving lives.
- Is the system reliable? The age of a system is irrelevant if it doesn’t work as intended. There are a number of factors which can contribute to an electrical system which doesn’t work as desired. You might experience inconsistent power, circuits which occasionally work, flickering lights, and other inconveniences Worse, you might be at risk for a fire. If you ever smell something burning, or notice discoloration or heat around your electrical system, turn off your power and call an expert immediately. Electrical fires cause lots of damage every year, and ignoring the signs that one could be beginning is a good way to lose your property and put yourself in danger. If your electrical system behaves in a way which makes you believe it is not well put together, call an expert to come out and examine the problem. Unsolved electrical problems could be a ticking time bomb of damage and expensive repairs.
- Has all of your electrical work been done by properly licensed experienced professionals? Some people balk at the idea of paying much for electrical services, and end up hiring someone who is inexperienced or unqualified to work on electrical systems. Failure to properly vet your contractors could lead you to a very dangerous situation. If you are hiring someone to do your sprinklers or plant some bushes, their expertise might not be very important. You can observe their work, and verify that it is what you wanted. Before you pay them, you will have an opportunity to make an informed inspection, where you can compare what was done with what you wanted. Unfortunately, with electrical work, there is little a layman can do to really inspect the work of an unscrupulous contractor. A layman is unlikely to know proper safety procedures and strategies, and will be unable to ensure that the work is done to a high standard. Therefore, finding a professional with the proper documentation and a good repertoire of projects under their belt can be the best way for you to ensure that your electrical work is done competently and quickly. With things like this, paying a little bit more upfront will nearly always save you money in the long run, as you will need fewer repairs, inspections, and will also be able to avoid the hassle of dealing with an unreliable electrical system. Do your homework, and make sure your work is done by a real pro.