June 10, 2014

Around the House: GFIs, Receptacles and Panels: Oh My!


When your circuits “break,” or trip, your home is talking to you. Do you know what it’s saying?

Wiring problems can pose serious fire or electrocution hazards, especially if your wiring is outdated or your home is more than 40 years old. According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 22,410 reported home structure fires involving electrical distribution or lighting equipment in 2007-2011. These fires resulted in 325 civilian fire deaths, 950 civilian fire injuries, and $817 million in direct property damage.

Here are some home maintenance tips on what your home may be telling you:

  1. If your breaker trips, there are three possible problems occurring:
    • Overloaded circuit
    • Short circuit
    • Ground fault

An overloaded circuit occurs when the circuit has a heavier load of electrical connection than it is supposed to have (too much plugged into one outlet or many outlets connected to one circuit). Short circuits happen when a hot wire touches another hot wire or even a neutral wire. This can be caused by faulty wiring in your home. A ground fault occurs when a hot wire touches the ground wire or the side of an outlet box. Each of these can be diagnosed by a professional licensed Denver electrician.

  1. If your outside lights flicker when windy or intermittently dim inside, the wires may be frayed where overhead cables from the power line come into the house. The frayed wires can cause a fire.
  2. Ungrounded two-prong receptacles mean your home has no way to safely conduct stray current that has escaped from the confines of your home’s wires. If you use an adapter for a three-prong cord and plug it into the two-prong receptacle, you can destroy your device and increase the chance of electrocution. The National Fire Protection Association stated that from 2005-2009, 31 percent of civilian deaths of these incidents started in the living room, family room or den.
  3. If a plug falls out of a receptacle, the receptacle can no longer grip the prongs on the cord. This can pose a danger as loose contacts cause arcing, which can lead to igniting of dry wood and ultimately may cause a fire.
  4. If there are no ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFIs) in wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens or even outdoor and garage outlets, the risk of electrocution increases. GFIs shut down circuits before the current can cause a deadly shock. If you live in an older home without these devices, Applewood recommends you replace old receptacles with GFIs.

Additional problems can occur due to faulty or outdated wiring, such as; backstabbed wires on newer switches can become loose and bare wires or “sparks” can also lead to a fire. Aluminum wiring in older homes is no longer considered safe as they corrode and increase the risk of fire and electrocution.

If your circuits trip, lights are dimming or unusual buzzing sounds exist in your home – there’s a reason and your home is saying “Help!” Keep yourself safe by repairing these problems. Applewood has professional, licensed electricians to ensure your home remains safe and healthy.

Call  303-328-3060