So, you’ve been living in your home for several years now and even though it is over ten years old, you’ve never run into a problem – and you’ve certainly never heard of anyone you know having an electrical fire or getting electrocuted.
Other than flickering or dimming lights when you turn on the vacuum cleaner, you have experienced nothing remarkably dangerous, right?
Millions of people think this way – they tuck away the thought of addressing the hazards immediately. They know they should and will get to them soon… eventually… just as soon as they… whatever.
Procrastination is very typical amongst us humans, isn’t it? We are not going to do anything until absolutely pressured into it!
We all know though; delaying action rarely helps any situation. Black mold growing in a bathroom or rotting wood on a deck are obvious signs you must take action soon. A recurring tooth pain will get worse and will eventually overwhelm any procrastination and/or fear of going to a dentist. A howling baby demands an immediate and effective reaction. Ignoring squeaky brakes in your car can result in a catastrophe if not addressed now.
Of course, the common element of these problems is that you know about them. There is a visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory (it stinks!) or taste aspect of the developing problem and you soon will have no choice, but to act!
Unfortunately, the hazards of old and outdated electrical wiring, outlets, switches, breakers, panels, etc. do not present obvious signs of deterioration. They are invisible since they are most often behind walls or within the devices themselves.
Electrical terminology sometimes describe the events leading up to an electrical failure as ‘faults’ – as in ‘ground faults’ or ‘arc faults’.
Ground faults are a result of improper grounding in an electrical system. Since electricity is always trying to go to ground (literally the earth beneath our feet) along the path of least resistance, it may find another wire – or family member – as most convenient for its journey.
This can result in disastrous consequences of fire or electrocution.
An arc fault is what you would commonly know as a short or a spark in a loose or incorrectly wired electrical connection. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how this can lead to fire.
These perilous conditions develop as a result of years of deterioration in all things electrical in your home. It is important to note that these devices, wiring, fixtures, safety features and the methods to install them were state-of-the art back when your home was built or renovated.
However, as technology races at break-neck speed, the old services are straining to keep up with the demand of modern appliances and other electrical devices.
Much like airplane crashes, our governments learn from, and legislate new rules and regulations to prevent, the disastrous consequences of outdated electrical devices and practices. A parallel discovery was that most fire related deaths occur not as a result of fire directly, but from inhaling poisonous fumes after the victims are rendered unconscious in their sleep. This revelation gave rise to the regulation that requires smoke detectors to be installed immediately outside bedroom doors. They must also be powered by the AC current from your home with battery back-up. Additionally, they must all be wired together so they all scream danger when smoke becomes present anywhere in the house.
Since both of these changes in the Code were implemented, deaths arising from electrical fires were reduced dramatically.