Instruction on electrical repairs is beyond the scope of this website

Electricity is an essential part of our lives. However, it has the potential to cause great harm. Electrical systems will function almost indefinitely if properly installed and not overloaded or physically abused. Electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 485 Americans each year and injure 2,305 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures and appliance defects, but many more are caused by the misuse and poor maintenance of electrical appliances, incorrectly installed wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords.

  • It is always recommended to have a qualified Electrician perform any repairs or modifications to any electrical system or related component.
  • Find and correct overloaded circuits.
  • Never place extension cords under rugs.
  • Outlets near water or in damp areas should be GFCI type outlets.
  • Don’t allow trees near power lines to be climbed.
  • Keep ladders, kites, equipment and anything else away from overhead power lines.

Electrical Panels

  • Electricity enters the home through a control panel and a main switch where one can shut off all the power in an emergency. These panels are usually, but not always, found in the basement, garage, or utility room.
  • Electrical Service Panels  use either fuses or circuit breakers. Note: Fuse panels are considered outdated equipment and should be upgraded.
  • Be certain to install the correct fuses or circuit breakers for the panel in service.
  • Never use a greater numbered fuse or a metallic item such as a penny. If fuses are used and there is a stoppage in power, look for the broken metal strip in the top of a blown fuse. Replace the fuse with a new one marked with the correct amperage. Reset circuit breakers from off to on.
  • Be sure to check why the fuse or circuit blew. Possible causes are frayed wires, overloaded outlets or defective appliances.
  • Never overload a circuit with high wattage appliances. Check the wattage on appliance labels.
  • If there is frayed insulation or a broken wire, a dangerous short circuit may result and cause a fire.
  • If power stoppages continue or if a frayed or broken wire is found, contact an electrician.

Circuit Breakers

  • Circuit breakers protect the electrical wiring and equipment in your home. They are heavy-duty switches that serve the same purpose as fuses. When a circuit is carrying more current than is safe, the breaker switches to “reset”. On most breakers, the switch has to be pushed to “off” and then to “on” position after the circuit trips.
  • “Exercise” your circuit breakers at least once a year by switching the breakers off and then back on again by hand. If a breaker is frozen in the on position, it will not trip when needed. By exercising your circuit breakers, you can verify their mechanical parts move freely. Have a professional electrician replace any circuit breaker that does not switch off and then back on properly.


As new technology brings us new tools to make our lives easier, it also provides new devices to keep us safer in our homes. GFCI protected electrical receptacles and AFCI protection are little technological wonders. They are outlets or circuit breakers that contain some extra specialized and micro-miniaturized electrical circuits that can detect the specific, characteristic signs of household electrical current that are present when certain dangerous situations occur. When the detect such conditions, they automatically shut down the electricity, providing an extra layer of safety, help prevent fires, and, possibly saving a life in the process. Regular circuit breakers are designed to protect the house’s electrical system, not the house’s inhabitants! The amount of electricity that is needed to kill a human being is thousands of times less than the amount that will ‘trip’ a regular circuit breaker.

GFCI Electrical Outlets:

  • A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet is a special electrical outlet device that provides much greater protection from electrical shock than a standard electrical outlet does. Think of a GFCI outlet as a small, ultra sensitive circuit breaker that is built right into the outlet. it should be called an ‘Anti-Electrocution Device’. Here’s how GFCI works.
  • When the amount of electrical current coming out of the ‘hot’ prong of the outlet (the smaller slot) is just 5/1000 of an amp different from the amount of electrical current coming back into the outlet on the ‘neutral’ prong (the larger one), the outlet will trip, killing the electrical flow through the outlet. In such a case, the GFCI outlet senses that it is putting out more electricity than it getting back. The only place that this missing electrical current can be going is to another source of ground, which very well may be a person.
  • GFCI outlets are now required to be used anyplace in your house where there is a close proximity to the grounding of a human being. Such places are; kitchen counter tops and islands, within 6′ of sinks or water sources, bathrooms, unfinished basement, garages, laundry rooms, pool & hot tubs, and all outdoor outlets.
  • Note: If your house was built before GFCIs were required, local building codes do not necessarily require them, but safety does! Going beyond the minimum safety requirements of building codes, to a higher standard of safety, is part of what a professional home inspector should be doing.

AFCI Electrical Outlets:

  • An AFCI (Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet is much like a GFCI outlet, but it protects against an entirely different danger. Sometimes, certain types of electrical appliances will be used to convert electricity into heat. Sometimes, these devices will also cause heating where the device plugs into the wall. This is called arcing. You sometimes see it when you quickly unplug a say a iron or a vacuum cleaner from an outlet while it is switched on.
  • An AFCI protection device will detect any ‘arcing’ in a the protected circuit and open the circuit stoping the glow of electricity hopefully before a fire is started.
  • AFCI protection is now required for new construction, remodeling or re-wiring, by the National Electrical Code as of 2014, on all 120-volt, single-phase, 15 and 20 amp branch circuits supplying outlets or devices installed in kitchens, family rooms, dining rooms, living rooms, parlors, libraries, dens, bedrooms, sun-rooms, recreation rooms, closets, hallways, laundry areas, or similar rooms or areas.
  • AFCI protection devices are usually not found in wall receptacles, but are incorporated into your house’s main electrical service equipment panel in the form of circuit breakers with AFCI protection, but now, AFCI & GFCI protection can be found incorporated into the same breaker.
  • Note: Like GFCI outlets, older homes are not required to have AFCI protection, but they are a wonderful technological advancement  that is certain to save many lives.

Outlets and Extension Cords

  • Make sure all electrical outlets that are three-hole, are grounded.
  • If there is the potential for water in the area, outlets should have GFCI protection.
  • There should be ample electrical capacity to run equipment without tripping circuit breakers.
  • Minimize extension cord use. Never place them under rugs. Use extension cords sparingly and check them periodically for any visible signs of damage. Use the proper electrical cord for the job and use appliance extension cords if needed for any appliance.

Electrical Appliances

  • Appliances need to be treated with respect and care.
  • Appliances need room to breathe. Avoid enclosing them in a cabinet without proper openings and do not store papers around them.
  • Level appliances so they do not tip. Washers and dryers should be checked often. Their movement can put undue stress on electrical connections.
  • If an appliance or device gives off a tingling shock, turn it off, unplug it, and have a qualified person correct the problem. Shocks can be fatal.
  • Never insert metal objects into appliances without unplugging them first.
  • Check appliances periodically to spot worn or cracked insulation, loose terminals, corroded wires, defective parts and any other components that might not work correctly. Replace these appliances or have them repaired by a qualified Appliance Contractor if any electrical issues are suspected.

Electrical Heating Equipment

Portable electrical heating equipment may be used in the home as a supplement to the home heating system. Caution must be taken when using these types of heaters.

  • Keep them away from combustibles and make sure they cannot be tipped over.
  • Keep electrical heating equipment in good working condition.
  • Do not use them in bathrooms because of the risk of contact with water and electrocution.
  • Many people use electric blankets in their homes. They will work well if they are kept in good condition. Look for cracks or breaks in the wiring, plugs and connectors. Look for charred spots on both sides. Many things can cause electric blankets to overheat. They include other bedding placed on top of them, pets sleeping on top of them, and putting things on top of the blanket when it is in use. Folding the blankets can also bend the coils and cause overheating.

Children and Electrical Safety

  • Electricity is important to the workings of the home, but can be dangerous, especially to children.
  • Electrical safety needs to be taught to children early on.
  • Newer homes, built in 2015 or later, or homes that have been remodeled or have had the electrical system updated, incorporate child resistant outlets. These outlets have shutters that block the slot of an outlet preventing a child from sticking objects into the outlet.
  • If the home does not have these types of outlets, you can hire an electrician to install them.
  • There are plugs that are inserted into unused outlets that many people use, be aware that studies have found that these plugs don’t work.
  • When toddlers are in the home. Make sure all outlets in the home have face plates.
  • Teach children not to put things into electrical outlets and not to chew on electrical cords.
  • Keep electrical wiring boxes locked.
  • Do not allow children to come in contact with power lines outside.
  • Never allow children to climb trees near power lines, utility poles or high tension towers

Electricity and Water

  • A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground.
  • People are good conductors of electricity, particularly when standing in water or on a damp floor. A body can act like a lightning rod and carry the current to the ground.
  • Never use any electric appliance in the tub or shower.
  • Never touch an electric cord or appliance with wet hands.
  • Do not use electrical appliances in damp areas or while standing on damp floors.
  • In areas where water is present, use outlets that have GFCI (ground fault interrupter) protection.
  • If the circuit does not have GFCI protection, extension cords with built in GFCI devises are available at most hardware stores.

Rodent Hazards

  • Mice and other rodents can chew on electrical wires and damage them. If rodents are suspected or known to be in the home, be aware of the damage they may cause and take measures to get rid of them.

Outside Hazards

  • There are several electrical hazards outside the home.
  • Be aware of overhead and underground power lines. People have been electrocuted when an object they are moving has come in contact with the overhead power lines.
  • Keep ladders, antennas, kites and poles away from power lines leading to the house and other buildings.
  • Always call 811 before you dig. It’s a free service.
  • Do not plant trees, shrubs, or bushes under power lines or near underground power lines.
  • Never build a swimming pool or other structure under the power line leading to your house.
  • Before digging, learn the location of underground power lines.
  • Do not climb power poles or transmission towers.
  • Never let anyone shoot or throw stones at insulators.
  • If you have an animal trapped in a tree or on the roof near electric lines, phone your utility company. Do not take a chance of electrocuting yourself.
  • Be aware of weather conditions when installing and working with electrical appliances. Never use electrical power tools or appliances with rain overhead or water underfoot.
  • Use only outdoor lights, fixtures and extension cords. Plug into outlets or use extension cords that have GFCI devises.
  • Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see a downed power line, call the electric company, and warn others away.
  • If a power line hits your car while you are in it, stay inside unless the car catches fire. If the car catches fire, jump clear without touching metal and the ground at the same time.

Safety Precautions

  • Routinely check your electrical appliances and wiring.
  • Frayed wires can cause fires. Replace all worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately.
  • Use electrical extension cords wisely and don’t overload them.
  • Keep electrical appliances away from wet floors and counters; pay special care to electrical appliances in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Don’t allow children to play with or around electrical appliances like space heaters, irons and hair dryers.
  • Keep clothes, curtains and other potentially combustible items at least three feet from all heaters.
  • If an appliance has a three-prong plug, use it only in a three-slot outlet. Never force it to fit into a two-slot outlet or extension cord & it never use an adapter. Appliances, computers, etc that have a third prong need to be & should be grounded.
  • Never overload extension cords or wall sockets.
  • Immediately turn off, then professionally replace, light switches that are hot to the touch and lights that flicker.
  • Check your electrical tools regularly for signs of wear. If the cords are frayed or cracked, replace them. Replace any tool if it causes even small electrical shocks, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks.
  • For more information concerning Electrical Safety, go to Electrical Safety Publications – US Consumer Product Safety Commission.