Electrical hazards are more common than we all realize, and the results can be costly. Last month, students at Kankakee Junior High School had to evacuate due to an electrical fire that was caused by a short in the control board. Back in July, another electrical fire caused an estimated $2000 worth of damage to a home in the 2600 block of East Court Street, and in June, an electrical fire in the attic of a home on East Oak Street in Kankakee caused an estimated $15,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, no one was hurt in any of these three recent incidents. The Frantz family wasn’t so fortunate. In 2001, a fire destroyed their home in Bradley, killing three of their five children. Investigators suspected that faulty wiring may have been at fault, as the family had just completed extensive remodeling on their home, but there were no permits found for the wiring work.

None of these people probably realized that they had an electrical fire waiting to happen. If they did, they would have fixed it. It’s easy to go along from day to day, trusting that everything is fine, when that may not be the case. Everyone’s electrical wiring is aging, and that alone can account for many electrical problems. The more time goes by, the more opportunity there is for components to deteriorate until they reach a point that they’re dangerous. Your home’s wiring may have been installed by an unqualified electrician, such as a homeowner who knew just enough to cobble solutions together and wasn’t too concerned about taking shortcuts. There are too many possibilities to list, from a mouse that chewed through the coating on your wires to that extension cord under the rug that’s getting way hotter than you realize.

What should you do to protect yourself?

It’s easy to justify letting time slip away while you don’t really know whether you need an electrician to inspect your home for potential hazards and repair any faulty or outdated wiring. However, there are things that you can and should do to evaluate your home’s electrical safety and take the proper precautions to keep you and your family safe.

1. Visually inspect your home’s wiring where possible

You can’t see all your wiring, as most of it is hidden within the walls. Walk around your home and take a look at the wiring that is visible in your home. If you see issues that are obviously bad and dangerous, like the wiring that this electrician found on a circuit panel, call an electrician right away. There are enough issues that aren’t obvious to the average homeowner, that only a trained eye would spot. If it is obvious, you should not hesitate to take action.

2. Take a closer look at all your electrical outlets and switches

If you have one or more electrical outlets that is charred or discolored, you should consider that a warning sign. Don’t just pop some plug protectors into those outlets and go on your way. The fact that there is some charring or discoloration indicates that there may be a much deeper problem.

3. Be alert to circuit breakers that keep tripping.

A tripped circuit breaker can happen to anyone, and if it happens once in a while, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a deeper problem. Maybe you just had the oven, microwave, crock pot, and hot water kettle all running at the same time, and then you decided to turn on the toaster. We all have it happen from time to time. What may indicate a deeper concern, however, is if your circuit breakers trip all the time, they trip for no apparent reason, or they all trip at once.

Circuit breakers are a safety device, and if they trip, they’re saying to you, “I’m getting too hot. I need to cut off the power before I catch on fire.” If your circuit breaker trips and you protest, “But I wasn’t doing anything,” or if it trips over the tiniest thing, like plugging in a laptop, you should take this as a strong warning signal that you need to contact an electrician. One of the worst things that could happen if you wait too long is that the circuit breaker could wear out and no longer trip like it is supposed to. Then you would have an overheating power supply with no safety feature to cut it off. That would be bad news.

One of the most common reasons that your appliances might be overloading your home’s wiring is if your wiring is more than 50 years old. Older homes weren’t built for the modern electrical load that we pull. We run a lot more gadgets than they did 50 years ago, and most modern homes are built to handle this, while older homes are not. Up until the 1950s, homes were typically built with a 30-amp panel. In the 1960s, the standard became a 60-amp panel. Today the minimum that’s allowed is a 100-amp panel, and most homes have a 200-amp panel installed. If your home was built in the 1960s or earlier and no one has ever upgraded the wiring, fixing this may be the first step you need to take.

4. Sniff and investigate a little closer if you smell burnt smells

If you just burned your toast, that’s one thing, but if you smell a burning smell and can’t trace it to any identifiable source, you should be concerned that the wiring in your home may be the culprit. If a fire starts within the walls, you’ll never be able to identify exactly where the fire is, but you should not assume that there’s no fire if you smell smoke.

5. Pay attention if your lights flicker when the wind blows

Dimming or flickering lights may be an evidence of frayed wiring, and if there seems to be a correlation to windy weather outside, then the wire could be frayed where it is coming into the house. The outcome? Whenever the cables move, it shorts out. Don’t say to yourself, “Oh, it’s just an annoyance, I can live with it.” The frayed cable can arc and cause a fire. Don’t risk it. (Want to know what an arc looks like? Check out this video for an extreme example.) The arc causes a bunch of “fireworks” — a rain of scattered sparks — which are what cause the surrounding items to ignite.

Contact our Electricians in Kankakee today

If you need electrical work done in Kankakee, please don’t hesitate to call us for your project. We can help you with any electrical job, and we look forward to serving you! Contact us today.