Spring is definitely a welcome sight for most. The days are getting longer, the temperatures are getting warmer, the inconvenience of big boots, hoods, puffy jackets, mitts and gloves are behind us for another few months. We start to plan our summer holidays, our summer projects and our weekends at the beach. This wonderful season is one of the reasons we live here and endure the harsh winter months. But with spring comes a long list of chores and odd-jobs that need to be taken care of. Specifically the electrical system of your home. This spring time maintenance list is hardly comprehensive, but it is definitely a good start to ensure your home electrical system stays healthy and remains useful and safe for the summer months.
Where Do You Start
The first thing to do is take a walk around your house. Pay particular attention to where there are electrical outlets, lights and pieces of equipment (air-conditioning units, pumps, etc). Most houses have 2 outside plugs. One in front and one in the backyard. Check for lights here too. Lights are typically wherever there are doors, so it should be easy to track them down. Equipment is usually stashed so no one notices it. Like many other things, out of sight, out of mind. Go and find yours. Take a look. Look at where SaskPower has attached to your house. Is it above ground or underground? If you have extended your home wiring into the yard (a shed or garage), take note of where and how those wires are coming from your home.
You know you’re done with your springtime maintenance when you have made a note of where these things are and you are back where you started.
What to Look For
Outside plugs can take a real beating in the winter. They get used in a harsh environment and are only made of plastic. The cold can make the flaps or doors brittle and the sun can degrade the plastic and seals. All of these can lead to bigger electrical problems and possible safety issues.
Go around to each outlet and take a good look. If the door is cracked or broken, time for a new cover. These usually have a foam seal to keep moisture and dust away from the outlet as well. If it’s torn or missing, time for a new cover. If the door or flaps are missing, obviously it’s time for a new cover. These covers are a fairly intuitive thing. They should look like they will do their job. If it doesn’t look like it will, time for a new cover!
When you are finished checking out the cover and before you move onto the next device, check the face of the receptacle. The plugs can get some abuse during the winter as well. Cords being plugged in and out for block heaters and Christmas lights, cars driving away while still plugged in and just the hard conditions of cold, snow, ice and sun. If a cord doesn’t want to stay totally inserted, the plug is worn out and should be replaced. If the face of the plug is cracked or missing pieces, then it should be replaced.
Finally, you should test that each outside plug is GFCI protected. Maybe the plug itself is a GFCI receptacle or maybe it is protected at the panel. Regardless of where, there will be a TEST button. Press the test button and make sure the plug is de-energized. Use a trusty hair dryer or radio. Check all of the outside plugs. If you push the test button and you still have plugs that are energized, you should call a qualified electrician at Kerr Electric to investigate further and ensure that these plugs are safe.
Your lighting fixtures (wall mount) should be sitting straight and be tight against the wall. Obviously they shouldn’t be missing any pieces or be hanging by any wires. Blizzards, snow balls and just winter in general can be hard on your fixtures. If you have pot lights in your soffit, check and make sure the soffit isn’t sagging and that the pot light can is flush with the soffit. As wind blows in and through your soffit, it can cause the clips to slip a bit and cause the pot can to drop. You might as well check the bulbs while you’re at it. Even better, keep note of how many bulbs (and what type) you have, then watch for LED bulb sales and replace your bulbs with energy efficient, cost saving LEDs.
AC units, pumps and other outdoor equipment are often hidden. They are unattractive and generally just in the way. So we move them. Which is good thing. But what makes it a problem is that we tend to forget about them because we don’t see them. The thing to watch for is are they level. Compressors and motors are all designed to work on a flat, level plane. This isn’t to say that if they are tilted slightly that you will have problems, because you won’t, but if you wouldn’t or can’t set a beer on it, you are going to want to get it fixed.
If it is slightly off, you can probably get some gravel or crushed rock underneath. If it’s really bad, you might have to get someone to come and disconnect the equipment so that ground repair can be done. AC lines are made of copper and aren’t very flexible, so if you are moving and leveling your unit, you run the risk of breaking them. If you get a plumber out to disconnect the lines, then there will be no problem.
The other thing you should make sure of, is the breathing space around your equipment. Pumps are often air cooled and need some space to breath. AC units have fans, but still need somewhere to exhaust. Keep bushes and shrubbery away from these pieces. Do not store unused items on or against the units because they can affect how it operates and cools.
We had an awfully dry summer last year. It caused the ground to shrink and move. The ground shift created a very major problem for homeowners with underground services. The ground, as it shrunk, pulled on the service conductors leading into the house. This put an amazing amount of strain on the equipment. The end result was fire. As the cable was pulled tight against the steel equipment, it would short out causing heat and ultimately fire.
SaskPower acknowledged the problem and set out to head it off with 1000s of inspections and service replacements. There is no cost to the homeowner for this repair. Bear in mind that it is not an upgrade. Your service equipment will be updated for wire size and length, not for capacity. Inside your home stays the same, they simply redo the outside to accommodate new wire.
So, if you have an underground service, check to see if the board the meter is mounted to is tight against the wall. It should be flat and plumb. If the board or the meter looks like it is being pulled off the wall, contact SaskPower for an inspection. They will decide on the proper action to be taken.
Extended Home Wiring
If you have power running to a detached garage, shed or the like, check how that power is coming from your home. Make sure that the holes are filled and if they are, that the fill isn’t shrinking away, flaking or cracking. You want to ensure that the outside stays outside. Be aware that the power most likely goes underground to wherever it is needed. Same problem as above. This time though, the cost of repair is on the homeowner. A qualified electrician at Kerr Electric would be more than willing to help.
If your spring list is short and you feel comfortable with these tasks from your springtime maintenance list, then by all means tackle this list. All of the work can be done by a homeowner with the exception of the service equipment. However, if you find deficiencies and are not comfortable with the required work or just simply have a list that is already very long, please do not hesitate to call.
If you’d like to discuss more or have a wiring situation you would like a professional electrician to look at – give me a call at 306-551-5254!