Quick Definition

What: Examine your home's electrical system

Why: To confirm system performs as intended

When: Twice yearly

In Depth

How: Check the main service panel. Look for rust, water or soot stains or melted wires. Check the circuit breakers; see that they are properly labeled. Do a quick check to verify that the labeled circuit is actually the correct circuit by switching off the breaker and trying some of the devices connected to the circuit. If it's not labeled correctly, re-label it and investigate the remaining circuits.

Circuit breakers have three positions: "On", "Off" and "Tripped". They are designed to allow only a certain amount of electrical current to pass through the wires. Circuit breakers will trip, or shut down, if that amount of current is exceeded. If any breakers are tripped, switch them to "Off" and then back to "On". If the breaker trips again, unplug all devices on that circuit. If this corrects the problem, then there are too many devices plugged in to this circuit or one of the devices or cords is faulty, unsafe and leaking electrical current. If the breaker continues to trip, consult a qualified electrician as necessary.

If an electrical outlet doesn't work, see if it's controlled by a switch, GFI switch, or if the breaker has tripped, before calling an electrician. Don't use lightbulbs with a higher wattage than the fixture allows. Avoid changing exterior light bulbs in the rain. Never overload extension cords or use too many when bringing power to a remote device or fixture - check the label for restrictions. Plug sensitive electronics into appropriate surge protector strips. Unplug them during lightning storms. If there are small children in the home, install outlet guards to keep little fingers and paper clips out!

In general, keep tree branches away from overhead power lines. Always call your local utility company to locate underground power lines before digging any trenches or holes.