Protecting your home’s electrical system
Advances in outlets help prevent electrical hazards
What comes to mind when considering projects around the home? Do you think of fire prevention and reducing the risk of electrical shock? Or new kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors? Often, attractive remodeling projects take priority while projects to increase safety are put on the back burner. One project, however, that should not be put off is evaluating your home’s electrical safety.
A good start is to take inventory of your home’s outlets, notes Tom Kraeutler, home improvement expert and syndicated radio show host of “The Money Pit.” Take notice of any outlets that could benefit from being replaced by an Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) or Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI).
AFCI vs. GFCI
AFCIs and GFCIs sound similar, but what do they mean? While AFCIs provide protection from arc-faults that may lead to electrical fires, GFCIs help protect homeowners from electrical shock due to ground faults.
AFCI receptacles are relatively new to the market and detect arcing electrical faults to help reduce the likelihood of the electrical system being an ignition source of a fire. Arc-fault protection is important as arc-faults are often unseen and can occur anywhere in the home’s electrical system, including within walls as well as appliance cords. AFCIs are perfect for a remodeling project or new home construction as the latest National Electrical Code requires AFCI protection in a growing number of locations throughout the home.
GFCIs, on the other hand, are designed to reduce the occurrences of shock or electrocution due to ground faults. Many homeowners are familiar with GFCIs and these devices have saved many lives.
Whole house safety
Recent technological advances in the AFCI, GFCI and tamper-resistant outlet market have improved the quest for whole home electrical protection. This is due to the creation of devices capable of providing necessary protection, as well as cost-effective and easier to install options.
“AFCI protection was once only available through the home’s circuit breaker,” Kraeutler explains. “Now, AFCI receptacles are available for a safe alternative for added home protection.”
In addition, GFCI options are available in a slim design for added space in an electrical box to make installation simpler. Leviton (leviton.com) sells a slim GFCI receptacle.
Here are some proactive steps:
- Keep an eye out for electrical wiring damaged during installation or afterwards through over-stapling; bending; penetration by screws and nails; and through rodent or insect damage.
- Install AFCI receptacles in family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, dens, bedrooms, sunrooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways or similar areas.
- Use GFCI receptacles anywhere water may be present, such as kitchens, bathrooms, garages, basements, porches, pool areas and laundry rooms.
- Consider a self-test GFCI that automatically tests itself to confirm of protected power.
- Consider replacing standard outlets with tamper-resistant outlets that employ an automatic shutter mechanism designed to protect children attempting to insert objects.