By Chris Gilwee, Gilwee Electric
The last thing on anyone’s mind is their electrical panel and circuit breakers but a residential call I had last week made me think. My client's clothes dryer had stopped working. They had called an appliance repair man and he informed them that their problem was electrical so they called me. After testing the circuits, I needed to check for a faulty connection. I found a junction box under the house which had caught fire and melted the wiring. The joist near the junction box had been charred. The melted and burnt up wiring inside the junction box was still “energized”. The panel did not signal the problem - faulty equipment. The idea is this..... If you have a short circuit or an overload condition, you want your breaker to trip! In some cases, breaker replacements are available for certain panels. Unfortunately, breakers can be costly as some panels are no longer made. If you have a Zinsco Panel, (You can identify these by noticing if your breakers are red, light blue and light green) we recommend a panel replacement. Go to.... www.ismypanelsafe.com for more information on Zinsco and FPE panels.
HOMES BUILT 30 PLUS YEARS AGO NEED AN ELECTRICAL SERVICE INSPECTION. A CIRCUIT BREAKER AND PANEL UPGRADE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IF NECESSARY.
There have been some significant house fires in our area so I discussed this issue with the Fire Chief Ian Gow. “The two biggest causes of house fires in this area are fireplaces, chimney stacks and old electrical systems” Ian stated.
“Unfortunately, chimney stacks and electrical systems in our homes are 'out of sight, out of mind'. People assume that they are O.K. until a fire starts on the roof or an electrical receptacle sparks when an appliance is plugged in. If people were more informed about the real dangers of their receptacles and circuit breakers being out of date, we would probably have a lot less house fires.”
Some things to consider for fire safety:
• If your home was built before 1980, have a licensed electrician inspect your panel and circuits.
• If you plug something in to an outlet and it feels loose or starts to fall out, replace the outlet.
• If your light switch slides rather than making a good mechanical “snap”, replace it. We recommend switch and outlet replacement for homes built before 1980.
• If the circuit breakers in your panel are loose or “slide” rather than “snap” on or off, these breakers are suspect and should be replaced.
Fire safety starts with prevention. A safe electrical system saves lives.