When it comes to electrical safety, you might focus on covering your outlets with plastic protectors and keeping your hair dryer away from the bathtub. However, hidden arc faults, which occur when the protective insulation around electrical wiring is damaged, can flash and create dangerous sparks. Fortunately, you might be able to fend off dangerous arc faults by doing these two things.
1: Decorate Carefully
When you get the itch to redecorate a room, you might spend your days and nights thinking about where to put furniture, arrange that picture collage, or mount that television. Unfortunately, decorating without abandon can create issues with arc faults. Here are a few safety precautions you should take when you decorate, so that you can avoid trouble:
- Use a Stud Finder for Hanging Decor: If you pierce an electrical wire with a nail or a screw, it can create an arc fault deep inside your wall. As that wire attempts to transmit current, it can create huge amounts of heat. Fortunately, you might be able to avoid damaging hidden wiring by using a stud finder with a live wire warning. By gauging the density and current of the underlying structure, stud finders can display a warning so that you know which areas to avoid.
- Don't Snake Cables and Cords Under Carpets: That entertainment center might look great on the other side of the room, but what will you do if there isn't an outlet readily available? Before you snake cables or cords underneath carpets or rugs, keep in mind that the friction can damage the wiring and create arc faults. To fend off trouble, hire a professional electrician to install a new outlet if you find yourself in a furniture placement dilemma.
If you have already snaked cables under your carpet or installed a picture collage without a lot of thought, don't despair. If you can detect arc faults early, you might be able to correct the issue or have the line repaired before anything happens. Remove snaked cables right away, and have the line inspected before you continue to use the device. Also, pay attention to warm walls or bubbling paint, which could signal heat expansion and contraction behind that drywall.
If you suspect hidden arc faults, ask a professional electrician to inspect your wiring.
2: Replace Outdated Wiring
Unfortunately, sprucing up your living room isn't the only way you might unintentionally be causing arc faults. As wiring ages, the protective coating can become brittle, damaged, and corroded, causing the same problem. Fortunately, if you can spot outdated wiring and replace it before it causes trouble, you might be able to save your home. Here are a few different ways to tell if your wiring needs to be replaced:
- Poor Physical Condition: Take a walk around your home to inspect the physical condition of your outlets, light switches, and electrical panels. Are faceplates and switches cracked? Is the electrical panel covered in rust or look like it has been repaired before? If things don't look clean or well maintained, your system might need to be updated.
- Panel Voltage Rating: While you are looking at your electrical panel, pay attention to the voltage rating. This rating should be recorded on the manufacturer's data plate, and it should match the amount of the incoming service. Any discrepancies should be addressed.
- Presence of Knob and Tube Wiring: Up until the 1950s, knob and tube wiring was all the rage. Unfortunately, if that old wiring is still present in your home, it might not be capable of handling modern electrical loads. To spot the presence of knob and tube, try to find exposed wiring between the floor joists or ceiling trusses in your basement or attic. If you see ceramic knobs around wires, you might need to have your electrical system overhauled to avoid wire damage.
By knowing how to prevent arc faults, you might be able to keep your home safe and sound.