Electricity consumption increases during winter. This is because of the shorter days and longer nights, limited sunlight and people’s need for light, and freezing temperatures and the need for warmth. The harsh weather conditions during winter can also cause other electricity-related problems such as power outages, damaged power cables, and overloaded electrical systems.
Consequently, because of the increased power usage during the winter months, the possibility of electrical accidents such as electrical shocks and electrical fires also increase. It is, therefore, a good idea to spend some time before winter preparing your home, making sure that all the safety precautions electricity-wise are undertaken. And to be able to do this efficiently, you would need the services of an electrician.
An electrician can check out your electrical wiring and installations, making sure that everything is in good working order. An electrician has the professional expertise and experience to spot potential trouble such as frayed or damaged wiring, overloaded sockets, or other electrical equipment that is dangerously exposed to water or snow. All these must be addressed before you hunker down for the wintertime, and you should upgrade what needs to be upgraded and replace or repair damaged electrical installations.
You might also want to maximize your heating, and save a bit on your electricity bill, by double-checking your home’s insulation. And finally, if your area is prone to extreme winter conditions and constant power outages, you may consider investing in a backup generator. If this is an option for you, you should definitely speak to an electrician to find out which generator suits your needs best, taking into consideration your electrical needs, electricity consumption, and the various electrical equipment that you have in your home.
Governmental authorities regulate electrical work for several reasons: first, because of the public interest in the electricity industry as a public utility; and second, because of the inherent danger of electricity that may put the public in danger if electrical work can be undertaken by just anyone.
There are several ways that states regulate electrical work. First of all, government has traditionally regulated power producers not only to prevent monopolies but also to prevent arbitrary pricing on electricity costs. And even when the industry has been deregulated in the 90s, state authorities have made it a point to keep the competition level open to the market to prevent these same problems, while at the same time maintaining a high level of quality and efficiency among the players.
Secondly, states regulate electrical work by requiring practicing electricians to obtain a license to be able to offer electrical services legally. This licensing requirement is conditioned upon electricians meeting necessary requirements, including rendering the required hours of formal training and apprenticeship under the guidance and supervision of a master electrician.
Lastly, electricians are governed by the National Electrical Code which provides for code standards for any and all types of electrical work. States may also adopt more stringent electrical codes to apply to their jurisdiction, and these would be considered as supplemental to the NEC. Either way, there are accepted industry standards for electrical installations and various other electrical work. The NEC is also updated often, at least once every three years, to ensure that the latest safety measures and most efficient electrical methods are adhered to by practicing electricians.
Electrical fires account for a good portion of residential fires, up to 6.3 percent as of 2014, or around 24,000 residential fires, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Electrical issues, no matter how seemingly minor, are therefore not something to be ignored. Electrical fires can damage or destroy property, and cause serious burns or injuries which may sometimes be quite fatal.
One of the best ways to prevent electrical fires is awareness. What possible causes of electrical fires should we be on the lookout for? Here are a few of the leading causes of electrical fires in residential homes:
- Overloaded electrical outlets
We often don’t think about whether an outlet can handle different electrical equipment. Our main concern is usually the convenience of being able to plug in appliances or electrical equipment in easy-to-reach sockets. When this is not possible, we use extension cords. And because extension cords are equipped with more than one sockets, we also have the option of plugging in more than one appliance to a socket that originally accommodates only one.
This is a dangerous practice, and an overloaded electrical outlet is one of the most common causes of electrical fires.
Electrical wiring needs periodic maintenance and upgrades. Some of the more common issues include faulty wiring, loose, damaged, twisted, or broken wires, or outdated wiring. Homes dating to as far back as twenty years ago may not have the capacity to handle the electrical needs we have today. These days, our homes contain a good number of electrical equipment plugged in and running at the same time: lights, air conditioning, wide-screen TVs, desktop computers, refrigerators and other kitchen appliances, microwaves, and a whole lot more. Old wiring may not be able to handle the increased electrical consumption, causing overheating or sparks, which in turn may cause an electrical fire.
The great thing about the DIY culture is that individuals are equipping themselves with the resources and skills to do things for themselves, including work inside and around the home. That also includes basic work that may involve our electrical systems such as replacing light bulbs, deciding where and when to use extension cords and which sockets should accommodate which electrical appliance or equipment. It may get to a point, however, when electrical work stops being so basic and starts requiring the touch of a professional.
Here are some signs that it may be time for you to call your local electrician:
- You start experiencing minor electrical shocks
This should be a warning sign to everyone. A well-maintained electrical system provides electricity a safe passageway, and at the same time keeps dangerous electricity contained. When electricity starts traveling along unexpected lines, causing you to experience minor electrical shocks, such as when you touch the metal surface of an appliance, for instance, or when you flip on a switch or plug in an electrical device, it may be time to call in an electrician. An electrician can help you find out what the problem is, and to resolve it as quickly as possible. You don’t want the situation getting out of hand, and heaven forbid, cause stronger electrical shocks or even electrical fires.
You may sometimes find one or more of your electrical outlets becoming excessively hot. Signs that this is the case are when plastic plugs start melting or when you start noticing a burning smell. This may signal any one of different electrical problems such as an overloaded outlet, loose or damaged wiring, or any other cause that requires a visit from a licensed electrician.