The Ultimate Electrical Home Maintenance Checklist for Safety

The Ultimate Electrical Home Maintenance Checklist for Safety

Did you know that in 2020, local US fire departments responded to approximately 1.4 million fires? Of those incidents, 26%, or one in every four fires, occurred in home properties.

Electrical malfunctions, in turn, are among the top causes of residential structure fires. The same was true for 2019, as they accounted for 6.8% of the 354,400 US home fires that occurred that year.

That’s enough reason to follow a home maintenance checklist for electrical safety. That way, you can check on the health and condition of your electrical system and all its components. You can then have any damaged parts fixed or replaced before they cause a fire.

To help you get started, we came up with this list of electrical maintenance tips. So, read on to learn what you can do to ensure your system remains safe to use.

Inspect Your Main Electrical Panel

Your main electrical panel is the metal box that connects your home to the main power or service line. It also goes by the name “load center,” as it distributes electricity to the circuits within your home. This box is also where you can find circuit breakers that control current flow.

All those roles your main panel plays make it the heart of your electrical system. As such, you’d want to make it the priority of your home electrical maintenance checklist.

Check the Name of the Panel’s Manufacturer

Start by checking the name of the company that manufactured your panel. If it’s Federal Pacific Electric (FPE), have a professional electrician inspect it. That’s because an estimated one million FPE Stab-Lok panels still in use in US homes are defective.

If it turns out that yours is one of those defective FPE Stab-Lok panels, get it replaced as soon as possible. Otherwise, its circuit breakers may fail to trip when needed. That happening can result in an electrical fire.

Be on the Lookout for Black or Burn Spots

Overheating breakers and circuits often leave visible black or burn marks. Overheating, in turn, is usually due to high temperatures and heavy electrical use. Old age, corrosion, and defects can also cause these components to overheat.

So, be sure to look for those signs as you inspect your main electrical panel. If you see one or more blackened or burned spots, get on the phone with a licensed electrician right away.

Listen to Your Panel

The constant electrical flow in your main service panel can create a faint humming sound. That’s normal, and it may even be so soft that you’d only hear it if it’s quiet.

What’s not normal is if your panel generates loud buzzing or hissing noises. Those are often signs of more severe electrical malfunctions, such as short circuits. Overloading circuits may also be behind that racket.

Don’t ignore those noises, as they can give rise to electrical fires. However, please don’t touch the panel with bare hands, as it may be emitting live electricity. Coming into contact with live current can injure or electrocute you.

Instead, get in touch with a licensed electrician if you hear those loud noises from your panel.

Be Wary of Circuit Breakers That Keep Tripping

Another part of your home maintenance plan is to note how often your circuit breakers trip. If they usually do, that can indicate constant overloading in one or more of your circuits. Overloading can occur whenever circuits draw in power that exceeds their rated capacity.

One way that can happen is when you connect too many electronics to a single circuit. The same is true if you plug in multiple extension cords to outlets running on the same circuit.

Faulty appliances and electronic devices can also cause breakers to trip. Another potential culprit is defective or old wiring.

Either way, frequent tripping can damage your circuit breakers. If that happens, they may fail to trip in the future. That can then create a fire hazard at home.

For that reason, it’s best to call a licensed electrician if your breakers keep tripping. In the meantime, cut back on the number of electronics, extension cords, and adapters you use. You should also check cables and plugs for any signs of damage, such as fraying, melting, or burns.

Test All Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Outlets

GFCIs are devices meant to reduce the risk of electrical shock injuries. They do so by detecting potential shock incidents. They then automatically cut the power off when they sense such an event.

GFCI outlets are mandatory in areas of a home with the most significant shock hazards. These include bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. After all, these are places with high risks of electricity coming into contact with water.

GFCIs usually last for three decades, but they can fail earlier. For that reason, you’d want to ensure they work before plugging anything into them.

Fortunately, it’s easy to determine their condition as they come with a light that turns green or red. Green means they’re working, while red means an issue needs your attention. If there’s no light at all, they could’ve tripped, they’re not receiving power, or they’ve failed.

If there’s a red light or no light at all, try pressing the test and the reset button on the outlet. The test button triggers the device’s self-test and makes the reset button pop out. You can then press the reset button to get the outlet to turn back on.

If the outlet passes its self-test, the light should turn green. That means it’s safe to use.

However, if the red light doesn’t go away or there’s still no light, take that as a sign you need to replace the outlet.

Examine All Wall Outlets

The socket holes in wall outlets and the receptacles themselves loosen over time. When that happens, they can disrupt the flow of electricity. That can result in arcing, a dangerous situation that can start a fire.

For that reason, be sure to look for signs of slacking whenever you plug-in electrical cords. For example, if the cables and plugs move or shift, that means the socket holes have grown larger. Replace them right away, as they may cause problems with the receptacle’s wiring.

Ensure that all receptacles at home sit flush with the wall, too. If they look askew or their plate cover moves around, it’s time to reattach them. Again, it’s best to have a professional carry out this job, as you don’t want to tinker with live wires.

You should also hire an electrician if your outlets show burn or scorch marks. Those are signs of overloading circuits and damaged or improperly installed wiring.

Turn the Lights On

Go around the house and test all your light switches.

Pay attention to the switch panel itself; does it feel too warm or give you a minor jolt? If so, there may be a problem with the wiring or the metal contacts.

Watch out for flickering or dimming lights, too. Those often signal bad wiring and connections, and sometimes, even overloaded circuits.

If you encounter any of those problems, call a licensed electrician for an inspection.

Factor in New Appliances or Home Upgrades

As you carry out a home electrical checkup, take note of how many extension cords you usually use. Remember: these accessories are only for temporary use. So, if you always rely on them, that only means your home lacks wall outlets.

For that reason, consider installing additional outlets at home. That’s even more important if you plan to buy new appliances or extend your home.

Just as vital is to make sure your current service panel is enough to supply your electricity needs. For instance, if you live in an older home, you might be using a 60-amp or 100-amp panel. However, that may no longer suffice with all the new appliances or home extensions you plan to get.

So, before you make all those investments, consider upgrading to a 150-amp or 200-amp panel. Those are the capacities of service panels you’ll find in newer homes. They’re usually enough to meet the energy needs of modern households.

You can then take it up a notch and install a subpanel in the new section of your home. According to this guide on Rhode Island electrical services, a subpanel can help keep the main panel from overloading.

You might also want to install a whole-home surge protector to keep your old and new electronics safe. It’s a device that safeguards electrical equipment from high-voltage power surges. Such surges, after all, can be enough to fry up and cause severe damage to electrical components.

Follow This Home Maintenance Checklist for Electrical Safety

Remember: all it takes is as little as half a minute for a small flame to turn into a major fire incident. From there, the fire can engulf an entire home within just minutes.

So, be sure to follow all the tips we listed in this home maintenance checklist. That way, you can reduce the risks of an electrical fire that can burn your home and harm your family.

Are you looking for even more tips on home repairs and maintenance? Check out our latest guides on these topics, then!