The holiday lights will soon be lit, your heating system will be going on full blast, and an electric blanket will be warming your bed at night. Home electrical systems have a heavy load during the winter season in New England. Below are a few of the most common electrical problems during wintertime and what you can do to solve them.
Problem #1: Old Space Heaters & Electric Blankets
If you regularly use an electric space heater in your home, proper use and safety are key. Many people use a small portable heater to keep a room extra warm without spiking the oil or gas bill. However, most space heaters consume a lot of electricity.
When you decide to bring out the space heater and electric blanket, inspect the cords and the edges of blanket for fraying and signs of wear and tear. General best practice is that it’s best to replace these items every five years because of wear and tear and also to match modern energy consumption. Did you know that your windows could be letting valuable heat escape from your home? If your windows are old, or damaged by the weather, there’s a chance that they are letting you down. Consider getting some replacement windows to see if you could notice a dramatic difference in your energy bills during the winter months.
Practice good space heater safety
Extension cords pose a huge fire risk when used with space heaters because when they overheat it is harder to trip the circuit breaker. You can prevent electrical fires caused by space heaters by following these easy steps:
- Always plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet; never use with an extension cord or power strip.
- Always unplug the space heater when it is not in use and when you leave the room.
- Make sure your heater has an automatic shutoff feature for if it falls over.
- Regularly inspect cords for fraying or wear and tear. Replace your heater if you find damage.
- Consider having a new outlet installed if your cord doesn’t reach where you need it.
- Don’t attempt to heat more than one room with a space heater.
Problem #2: Not Enough Juice
After the temperature drops, your heating system works every day to keep your home warm and your pipes pumping. Holiday lights and portable heaters are tough on your electrical system. Signs that your electrical circuit is overburdened include flickering lights and regularly tripping the breaker.
If you find your system is overloaded, you have a couple of options:
Evaluate power consumption and adjust
Washer, dryer, kitchen appliances — once these machines hit ten years old, you are well due for replacements. Old appliances can draw a lot of power, even if they aren’t on. Most of the year you might not notice this, but choosing energy efficient replacements will make the holidays go smoother and reduce your bills during the rest of the year. Insulating your home properly with residential window installation is another way to cut the cost of your energy bills, as it will help trap the heat inside so that your heating won’t be required as often, and will therefore not cause such a strain on your electrics. Switching out your old appliances when you’ve also switched energy providers with the help of comparison sites similar to Utility Bidder can allow you to save some serious amounts of money on each monthly utility bill.
If your home needs more power to keep up with usage, consider upgrading your electrical system with a “heavy up.” Heavy up is industry jargon for having an electrician increase the amperage coming into your home through the service panel.
For homes more than 20 years old, you might have modern appliances and lighting powered by an out of date circuit board. If you don’t know if your home has been rewired for modern usage, consider having a local electrician inspect your home and check all of the wiring and circuit board. Circuit breakers are crucial to preventing electrical fires, so if your circuits board is outdated or not functioning properly, it puts you at risk.
Problem #3: Electrical fires
Improving home safety is an ongoing struggle for most homeowners. Here are a few red flag areas to monitor for electrical problems during winter.
Extension cords pose a fire risk because they can’t reliably trip a circuit breaker and should never be part of a permanent installation in your home. Circuit breakers are your best protection against electrical fires, and if they aren’t detecting an overheating of an appliance powered by an extension cord, power cords can overheat, melt and ignite a fire. Your best protection to avoid this scenario is to have a professional licensed electrician at Santor Electrical Contractors install more power outlets where you need them.
Damaged holiday lights
Whenever you unpack holiday decorations, take time to look them over for damage and signs of wear and age to your holiday lights. If you discover any damage, it is better to replace these items and not risk a failed DIY repair job. It’s cheaper to get a set of new lights then it is to get a new home. Read the warning tags to know how many strings of light can be safely strung together.
Keep Christmas trees away from heat
The U.S. Fire Administration suggests keeping your Christmas tree (both artificial and fresh) at least 3 feet away from all heat sources, including fireplaces and space heaters. If you buy a real tree for Christmas, plan to discard it the day after Christmas or when it becomes dry. Dried out trees present a major fire risk in December and January.
Reduce static shocks with a humidifier
Running the heat dries out the humidity in your home. Dry air is a good conductor of static electricity, increasing the chances of electrical fires caused by electrical shock. An easy, economical solution to reduce these risks and improve air quality is to place a humidifier in the driest areas of your home or purchase a whole home humidifier for maximum comfort.
Work with a qualified electrician
Whether you are a new homeowner, prospective buyer or simply a person interested in improving the efficiency and safety of your home, turn to the professional electricians you can trust. If you have doubts about your electrical system, call the licensed electricians at Santor Electrical Contractors for an inspection before the holidays start.
To hire a quality residential or commercial electrician, call Santor Electrical Contractors, we are only a phone call away at 860-455-3690.