While all major electrical repairs should be done by a professional electrician, understanding your electrical system is an essential part of buying, owning and selling a home—especially because quite often, a faulty electric system can prevent you from obtaining homeowner’s insurance.
Know Your Panels
Your electric panel is the direct connection point between your home’s wiring and your incoming electric current. “Knowing how your electric panel functions is an essential safety precaution,” says Todd Hetherington, CEO of Century 21 New Millennium. Each panel should contain a main shut off (service disconnect), a circuit breaker (overload protection) and wiring. Each part of your panel should be clearly labeled for fast use in any emergency. “Having a service disconnect is one of the biggest safety precautions you can take regarding your electric panel,” says Hetherington. “If your home, or a home you are interested in buying, isn’t equipped with one, request one be provided.” When analyzing your panel, be wary of oversized fuses or circuit breakers, or multiple circuits connected to a single overload device. “Oversized fuses or over-stuffed circuits can create an overload hazard—a safe electric panel should have one wire per fuse or circuit breaker,” Hetherington continues.
Learn Your Lines
Service lines bringing electrical current to a home can be run overhead or buried. “If you have overhead lines, you have to be sure you keep trees trimmed to provide substantial clearance and avoid accidental contact,” says Hetherington. The same goes for any ladders, poles or outdoor cable dishes.
Wire it Right
“If you have an older home, keep an eye out for knob and tube wiring,” suggests Hetherington. This two-wire system is not congruent with modern, up-to-date appliances and can cause potential safety hazards.
“Also be aware if your circuits contain aluminum wiring, which is no longer typically installed on household circuits due to the common occurrence of faulty connections,” says Hetherington. If you have aluminum wiring, get it checked by a professional who can determine if work or replacement is necessary.
If your home is not already equipped with a Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI), consider having one installed. GFCIs are personal safety devices installed in high-hazard locations, including exteriors, kitchens and bathrooms.
“You may also want to consider installing an Arc-Fault Circuit-Interrupter—or AFCI—in your living or sleeping area. These circuit breakers are meant to detect faulty arcs and significantly reduce your risk for electrical fires,” explains Hetherington.
Taking the necessary safety precautions and understanding your electric system is crucial—it can help you understand what to look for in your new home, guarantee the approval of homeowner’s insurance and provide you with the confidence and know-how to stay safe in an emergency situation.
CENTURY 21 New Millennium. Smarter. Bolder. Faster.
CENTURY 21 New Millennium, www.c21nm.com, is a full service real estate brokerage company specializing in residential and luxury properties. The Virginia locations are in Alexandria, Centreville, Culpeper, Fredericksburg, Gainesville, McLean, Stafford, and Woodbridge. The Maryland offices are located in Annapolis, Dunkirk, La Plata, Lexington Park and Lusby. Its core services include: mortgage financing, investing, settlement services, property management, property insurance, global relocation assistance, and commercial real estate.