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Home electrical systems 

Add safety to your must-haves when buying a house

MAY IS TRADITIONALLY A BIG MONTH for buying and selling homes, but it’s also National Electrical Safety Month. The mostly-hidden electrical system should also be part of your evaluation of a prospective house, along with obvious elements like curb appeal, location, floor plans, schools and modern kitchens. 

Having a home’s wiring, circuit box, outlets, switches and more checked out by a licensed electrician should be high on your list of things to do before closing. After all, a fire is the last thing you need in your new home. 

If you’re looking at purchasing an older home, that inspection by a licensed electrician also will determine if the home has working ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed properly. If it doesn’t, ask the seller to have them installed or compensate in price. 

GFCIs can be installed in a circuit breaker panelboard or directly in a receptacle outlet. They can greatly reduce the risk of shock by immediately shutting off an electrical circuit when that circuit detects a shock hazard. All GFCIs, whether circuit-type or breaker-type, should be installed by a qualified electrician 

If you are moving into a newly constructed home, especially if you have children, make sure electricians installed tamper-resistant electrical receptacles. Each year, approximately 2,400 children suffer severe shock and burns when they stick items into the slots of electrical receptacles. These tamper-resistant receptacles are designed to prevent this. 

Post-moving homework 

Once you have moved into your new home, make sure all circuits in the service panel are labeled correctly for the rooms or major appliance they serve. Make sure adults and teenagers in the home are familiar with the panel and know how to use it, including which is the master switch. While you’re at it, make sure everyone knows the locations of the main shut-off valves for the water and gas lines and how to work those, too. 

Check to be sure the lightbulbs you’re using are the correct wattage for the fixtures. If the wattage is higher than recommended, the wiring in the fixture may be damaged from the excessive heat.

DAVID BRANDON is manager of safety at Jackson Purchase Energy Cooperative.

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