NEWS & TIPS

Electrical Materials and Codes are constantly changing.  Check back regularly to see the latest code changes and recommendations from the experts as well as what’s happening in the Mike’s Electric community.

Industry News

State regulations now require carbon monoxide detectors in all private residences and having one combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector per room is suggested. Give your family the assurance it deserves with the latest smoke and carbon monoxide detection equipment.

The code now requires that intermittent fans be controlled by a timer. A light switch controlling both the fan and light is not considered an automatic means of control, and is no longer allowed in rooms containing a bathing fixture. It is speculated that the use of a 30 minute or 60 minute spring-wound wall switch timer will be the predominate means of controlling the typical bath fan system under the 2008 code.

The NEC now requires that virtually all branch circuits for lighting and receptacles in a home must have arc-fault circuit-interrupter (AFCI) protection. This is a form of protection that guards against sparking (arcing) and thereby reduces the chance of fire. Note that the AFCI requirement is in addition to whatever GFCI protection is required—an AFCI does not replace or eliminate the need for GFCI protection. 

AFCI requirements are enforced mostly in new construction—there is no requirement that an existing system must be updated to comply with new-construction AFCI requirements. However, as of the 2017 NEC revision, when homeowners update or replace failing receptacles or other devices, they are required to add the AFCI protection at that location. This can be done in several ways: 

  • A standard circuit breaker can be replaced with a special AFCI circuit breaker. This is a job for a licensed electrician. Doing so will create AFCI protection for the entire circuit. 
  • A failing receptacle can be replaced with an AFCI receptacle. This will create AFCI protection to only the receptacle being replaced. 
  • Where GFCI protection is also required (such as kitchens and bathrooms), a receptacle can be replaced with a dual AFCI/GFCI receptacle. 

Tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles. All standard receptacles must be tamper-resistant (TR) type. These include a built-in safety feature that prevents children from sticking items into the receptacle slots.

As of the 2017 NEC, newly constructed or remodeled garages need at least one dedicated 120-volt 20-amp circuit that serves only the garage. This circuit may also power receptacles mounted on the exterior of the garage. 

  • Inside the garage, there should be at least one switch controlling lighting. It is recommended that three-way switches be installed for convenience between the doors.
  • Garages must have at least one receptacle, including one for each car space.
  • All garage receptacles must be GFCI-protected.

Helpful Tips

An outlet or receptacle is involved in approximately 8% of home electrical fires, many of which are caused by overloading outlets and extension cords. Household electricity use has more than doubled since 1975. With a growing demand for power in your home it can be easy to exceed the amp capacity of your circuits. Overloading outlets can cause wear on the internal wiring system generating excess heat, greatly increasing the chances of a fire.

Using the right bulbs can prevent electrical problems, so check all lamps, fixtures and appliances to ensure you’re using the correct wattage. If a light fixture has no wattage listed, use 60-watt bulbs or less. For unmarked ceiling fixtures, choose 25-watt bulbs.

 

Pro tip: LED bulbs consume less power and reduce the risk of fixtures overheating. Learn more about LED light benefits.

Overloading an electrical outlet is a common cause of electrical problems. Check all outlets to ensure they are cool to the touch, have protective faceplates and are in proper working order. According to ESFI, you can follow these electrical outlet safety tips:

  • Do not use extension cords or multi-outlet converters for appliances.
  • Only plug one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.
  • Hot outlets should be checked by qualified electricians.
  • Remember that power strips only add outlets—they do not change the amount of power the outlet receives.
  • Smart plugs can be used to monitor outlet power loads and even shut off appliances should an outlet begin to overheat.
  • Replace or repair damaged electrical cords to keep your home safe.

They are capable of causing both fires and electrocution. All power and extension cords should be checked regularly for signs of fraying and cracking, and they should then be repaired or replaced as needed. Power cords should not be stapled into place or run under rugs and furniture. Cords under rugs pose a tripping hazard and can overheat, while furniture can crush cord insulation and damage wires.

The use of extension cords on a regular basis may mean that you don’t have enough outlets to fit your needs. Have a qualified electrician who understands electrical safety rules install additional outlets in rooms where you often use extension cords. When purchasing a power cord, consider the electrical load it will carry. A cord with a load of 16 AWG can handle up to 1,375 watts. For heavier loads, use a 14 or 12 AWG cord.

Pro tip: AWG stands for “American wire gauge.” The lower the number, the thicker the cord!

Electrical safety rules don’t just apply to power cords when they’re in use—cords also need to be stored safely to prevent damage. Keep stored cords away from children and pets (who may chew on or play with the cords). Try to avoid wrapping cords tightly around objects; this can stretch the cord or cause overheating. Never rest a cord on a hot surface in order to prevent damage to the cord’s insulation and wires.

One of the simplest electrical safety tips is also one of the easiest to forget: when an appliance is not in use, unplug it. Not only does this save you power by reducing any phantom drain (the amount of energy the device consumes even when not actively in use), but unplugging unused appliances also protects them from overheating or power surges.

It’s often difficult to remember to unplug unused appliances, but the new generation of smart plugs offers a solution, allowing you to set power schedules for each outlet.

Water and electricity don’t mix well. To follow electrical safety rules, keep electrical equipment dry and away from water prevents damage to appliances and can protect against personal injury and electrocution. When working with electrical appliances, it’s important to have dry hands. Keeping electrical equipment away from plant pots, aquariums, sinks, showers and bathtubs lowers the risk of water and electricity coming into contact.

Without proper air circulation, electrical equipment can overheat and short out, and can become an electrical fire hazard. Make sure your appliances have proper air circulation and avoid running electrical equipment in enclosed cabinets. For best electrical safety, it’s also important to store flammable objects well away from all appliances and electronics. Pay especially close attention to your gas or electric dryer, as these need to be situated at least a foot from the wall to function safely.

Some appliances have exhaust fans, which can get dirty or clogged with debris and make the appliance work harder. This can shorten the life of the appliance and can cause a risk to the home due to overheating, or even cause a buildup of dangerous gases that can lead to an electrical fire hazard. Cleaning exhaust fans regularly helps prevent such hazards.

“Read the instructions” should top the list of electrical safety tips at home. Understanding how to safely operate appliances improves both the performance of your device and your personal safety. Should any appliance give you even a slight electrical shock, stop using it until a qualified electrician checks it for problems.

Combustible items should be kept away from portable heaters and built-in furnaces. For furnace safety, store combustibles far away from any heating appliances. Portable heaters should not be operated close to drapes, and to prevent tipping, they should only ever be placed on a stable surface.

On a related note, do you know what temperature your water heater is set to? High temperature settings eat into your water heater energy usage and can cause burns and unintentional scalding, especially in homes with small children.

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