Electric safety tips for rural homeowners

Electric safety tips for rural homeowners

If you're a rural homeowner who maintains a few acres beyond city limits, there are important safety tips that can make your use of electricity safer and more efficient. While electricity is our safest form of energy, homeowners should take responsibility for recognizing unsafe wiring and other hazardous conditions. Here are a few guidelines that can save lives, property and money.

If you don't have a GFCI, get one

A ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) can protect you from a fatal shock. Unlike fuses or circuit breakers that depend on heavy overloads and short circuits to function, GFCI's sense even small electrical faults and instantly cut off power before people or equipment can be hurt.

GFCIs come in several forms. Some are designed to replace standard wall outlets, others are portable units built into an extension cord for use with hand tools. The National Electrical Code requires that GFCIs be installed in garages, bathrooms and on outdoor receptacles for new homes or additions. Particularly with outdoor electric use, a GFCI can be a lifesaver. With your feet on Mother Earth, you are a better grounding path for fault current. Also, wet outdoor areas add risk when operating hand tools, power washers, hedge clippers and lawn trimmers. Around pools, use GFCIs with recirculating pumps, on lighting circuits and all receptacles within 20 feet of the pool.

Where can you buy ground-fault circuit interrupters? Look for them at most hardware stores, home centers and electrical supply outlets.

Inspect the wiring in outbuildings

If you have a detached shop, storage building or livestock barn, specific wiring materials and methods are needed to prevent premature corrosion and system failure. Residential-type fixtures are not designed for these buildings, which often have dusty or moist conditions. Receptacle outlets, switches and light fixtures that are designed for homes may work for the first few years, but then they become a ticking time bomb waiting to fail. An electrician with experience in wiring barns will know the type of enclosed corrosion-resistant fixtures to use.

Another resource is the Agricultural Wiring Handbook, containing 100-plus pages for planning electrical wiring on farms. It is a great reference that covers barns, shops, grain/feed storage areas and related farm applications. A second reference, Electrical Wiring for Livestock and Poultry Structures, is specifically targeted to enclosed poultry, swine and dairy buildings. This 18-page book explains (and illustrates) the wiring required by the National Electrical Code, and includes a detailed list of approved wiring components, lighting and electrical boxes.

Your electrical system deserves just as much attention as your machinery or other equipment. A quick inspection could save you from a costly fire, or possible injury to family members. Call your electric cooperative for additional assistance.

Source: The Rural Electricity Resource Council, a nonprofit association that delivers information and technical assistance on the efficient use of energy, with an emphasis on rural applications. www.rerc.org

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