Jon Eakes

Weekly Maintenance for your Home

July – Week 28

Just like preventative maintenance on your car, if you take care of a few small items around the house every week, you can avoid many emergency breakdowns and expensive repairs.

Electricity

The electrical system does have early warning signs for problems. Aside from avoiding electrical shocks, our concerns with the electrical system almost all relate to avoiding house fires. That means that we have to avoid heat and sparks. In some provinces, all electrical work must be done by licensed electricians, in others, homeowners can undertake work with permits and in others, it is permissible for homeowners to undertake standard maintenance anytime. If you are not absolutely sure about what you are doing, defer all work to an electrician. But a homeowner can and should undertake an annual inspection themselves, looking for the following danger signs.

Fluorescent lights that flicker are not really dangerous. It just means that the bulb or the ballast is dead and needs replacing. Incandescent lights may flicker just before burning out, but incandescent lights that flicker often usually indicate a poor connection. The most common problem is the easiest to deal with, just screw the bulb in firmly. If that does not solve the problem, there is probably a loose wire someplace, most likely at the base of the light fixture. Loose wires can become very dangerous as they will create hot connections that get hotter with time.

Lights that dim when some household appliance goes on are an indication of an overloaded line. Have an electrician check out the circuits to see if some re-wiring might be necessary to return all lines to safe limits.

All electrical wires and fixtures will warm up a little when used, that is the nature of electricity moving through wires. If you actually touch operating outlets, avoiding of course touching any exposed conductors that could shock you, you will feel what is a normal warm outlet and what is a hot outlet. If it is warm enough that you feel you need to remove your fingers immediately, it is too hot. Either there are simply too many or too powerful things plugged into a single outlet, or there are loose wires in the back of the outlet. Both conditions can create elevated temperatures.

If you have screw-in type fuses, all the ordinary lines should be fused at 15 amps and no more. With proper wiring, some lines will be fused at 20 amps. The presence of 30 amp fuses is probably a sign that the lines are overloaded and someone has increased the size of the fuse because it was always burning out. Remember, fuses burn out to save you from a potential house fire. If you have 30 amp fuses in your fuse box, I would recommend having an electrician come in and analyse the box. If it turns out that 30 amps is proper for any particular line, put a label to that effect inside the fuse box door. You can install little plastic rings called 'excluders' before installing fuses which will prevent anyone from putting in a fuse larger than what is proper for each line.

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