Moving In? Home Electrical Tips and Tools
There’s a lot to learn about a house before making it a home. While a professional home inspection is a must, it’s a homeowner’s responsibility to do their due diligence. Learn about some of the critical home electrical issues to check before and after moving in.
Let’s start at the source. Electrical panels protect your home by limiting the amount of electrical current running through the house. Your main breaker and any supporting subpanels prevent damage to fixtures and electronics, which leads to electrical fires. There are two types, circuit breakers and fuse boxes.
If the house has a fuse box, factor in an electrician and a new circuit breaker into your budget because it’s a must. Modern circuit breakers better handle today’s increased electrical loads. Plus, in the event of an overload, the fix is often just the simple flip of a breaker switch.
It’s also smart to confirm your panel’s amperage rating, which is the total electrical current it can handle. The National Electrical Code (NEC) requires a minimum 100-ampere circuit breaker on newly constructed homes.
Modern and updated home electrical panels typically range between 100 and 200 amps. However, older homes panels could have 60 or 80 amps, which “trip” more often while using more powerful modern appliances.
If you consistently trip one or more breakers after moving in, the issue could be an overloaded circuit. City Electric Supply offers multimeters that can help you check a circuit’s voltage, current, resistance, and more.
When in doubt, contact a professional electrician. They can help identify overloaded circuits and appliance defects. They may also suggest an adjustment or upgrade to your electrical panel.
Lastly, remember to label your electrical panel’s circuits. It’s helpful to know how much power you have running on each circuit to prevent overloading them. And in an emergency, you can cut the electricity to an area or appliance where there’s an issue (without shutting off everything).
Greatly reduce the hassle of pairing outlets to circuits throughout the house with a circuit breaker tester. Simply insert the transmitter into any outlet or fixture in question, then use the receiver to scan each circuit in the electrical panel. You can test an entire home electrical system in a fraction of the time.
Outlets and Switches
First, inspect all your outlets (also known as receptacles) or switches for any of these immediate issues:
- Broken or inconsistent switches
- Plugs that loosely fit an outlet
- Discolored outlets
- Warm or hot outlets
- Buzzing noises
- A strange smell
Generally, these mean poor electrical connections or wiring. Any might mean sparks, electrical arcing, shocks, or fire will soon follow.
A simple circuit tester quickly indicates correct or incorrect wiring. This electrical tool is especially helpful if you plan to do any fixups yourself.
Note that almost any modern home will have three-hole outlets. The third hole grounds the outlet, preventing sparks, shocks, and possibly electrical fires.
Consider replacing any two-pronged outlets as soon as possible. This upgrade requires an electrician to run a ground wire from each outlet to the electrical panel, but the additional safety is worth it.
Even better, upgrade your outlets to GFCI or AFCI. A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) cuts off power instantly, preventing shocks. They are usually in rooms where the outlet could meet water. Alternatively, an AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) shuts off power if it senses electricity “jumping” where it shouldn’t. Ideally, any outlet that isn’t a GFCI outlet should be an AFCI outlet.
And for the best protection, install combination GFCI/AFCI outlets in all locations. Though they are a greater investment, they cover all your bases. City Electric Supply conveniently offers GFCI, AFCI, and GFCI/AFCI options.
CES Broomfield Branch Manager Tony Gustafson also recommends another layer of protection, a TVSS (also known as a surge protector).
“Without a TVSS, a power surge or voltage spike could cost you thousands of dollars to replace computers and other devices. You could also lose what is stored on them,” said Gustafson. “The good news is, surge protectors are required by building codes on new installs or service changes, along with AFCI and GFCI outlets.”
With lighting, keep an eye out for any of the following lighting red flags:
- Dim lighting
- Overly bright lighting
- Quickly burnt-out bulbs
Like outlets and switches, these often indicate poor electrical connections or wiring and can lead to the same safety hazards.
Also, stay on the lookout for overlamping, a common issue where the light bulb wattage is too high for the fixture. Overlamping causes fixtures to overheat, resulting in electrical fires.
Take the time to inspect all your light fixtures, and if necessary, replace the bulb with the appropriate watt bulb. Every fixture should have a label on, near, or inside the socket.
It’s also a great idea to switch out incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs. It’s a small cost now for significant electrical bill savings down the road. Plus, LEDs are available in more than just bright white if you prefer that classic incandescent look.
And like outlets, lighting sockets and fixtures can become loose over time. If you intend to make any repairs on your own after moving in, add a non-contact voltage tester to your tool set, available at City Electric Supply. This simple tool helps you safely determine if a switch, plug, fixture, or circuit is energized before starting any work.
Also, use insulated tools anytime you work on an electrical unit. Always consult an electrician first for any concerns.
Even if your home is entirely new or renovated, remember to perform routine checks before and after moving in to make sure there are no hidden issues.