Wired for safety: Avoid electrical hazards when remodeling

April 17, 2010|By Family Features
  • If you're planning on doing any home improvement, take some time to make sure your home is wired for safety.
Family Features,

Whether you're remodeling your home for resale or to improve it for your own enjoyment, safety during the process is a key concern. But one thing that often gets overlooked is the safety of the home's electrical system.

Each year, electrical fires claim approximately 485 lives and cause $868 million in property damage. If you're planning on doing any home improvement, take some time to make sure your home is wired for safety.

Many remodeling projects impact the home's electrical system: tearing down a wall, putting one up, adding lighting fixtures, moving wall receptacles or replacing the wiring. Before you get started, make sure you have a clear idea of what your electrical needs will be and how you can meet them.

Homeowners should obtain the appropriate permits and have the work inspected as called for in local code requirements. Check with your local government to find out what the requirements are in your area. An important note: some jobs are best done by a qualified electrician - it's better to consult one early in the planning stages than to try and take on a dangerous job by yourself.


The electrical needs associated with a bigger remodeling project may require the installation of additional circuits to the home's existing load center. This is a job best done by a qualified electrician.

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) recommends checking your fuse box or circuit breaker regularly - the start of a remodel project is an excellent time to look for the following:

o Is your fuse box or circuit breaker box appropriately labeled? Labeling helps to easily identify what circuits power each room in your home.

o Are you regularly resetting tripped circuit breakers? Circuit breakers that are constantly tripping indicate that the circuit is overloaded or that other electrical hazards exist. Consult a qualified, licensed electrician.

o Is your home protected by Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)? AFCIs are devices that replace standard circuit breakers in the electrical service panel and that greatly reduce the risk of home electrical fires.

Arc faults occur from damaged wiring, overheated or stressed electrical cords, worn electrical insulation, wires and/or cords in contact with vibrating metal, damaged electrical appliances and other conditions.

This potentially dangerous situation creates high-intensity heat - which may exceed 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit - resulting in burning particles that can easily ignite surrounding material, such as wood framing or insulation.

AFCIs are special circuit breakers that detect electrical arcing. They are designed to recognize when arc faults occur and automatically shut the circuit down before it becomes a fire hazard. AFCI technology is already required in all new home construction, according to the National Electrical Code. However, AFCIs can also be retrofitted to older homes, where older wiring and outdated electrical work may increase the threat of an electrical fire.

If you are interested in having AFCI protection added to your home, consult a qualified, licensed electrician. AFCIs can be found at electrical distributors, hardware stores and home centers across the country for approximately $30 to $35 each, not including the cost of installation, which is essentially the same as a standard circuit breaker.

When it comes to remodeling, put the safety of your family and home first. Investigating and preventing potential electrical hazards lets you enjoy your improved home with peace of mind.

For more on AFCIs, visit

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