When Should You Look At Rewiring Your House Electrical System?
If you have been living in your house for more than 20 years or are buying an older property, you should think about having the electrical system inspected and/or rewired.
This article is intended for those readers who have lived in their current home for more than 20 years, or for those considering buying an older home, even one that has an Electrical Compliance Certificate. Because electricity cables and wiring are hidden, it's 'out of sight - out of mind', and most people tend to forget about electricity and the potential for danger that comes along with it. But electrical wiring, particularly in older homes, is a leading cause of fires. If your home electrical supply has not been inspected and you suspect it may be old or faulty, it is urgently recommended that you call in a professional to do an overall inspection.
I mention this particularly because a friend of mine was thinking about adding additional switches to her home and, after inspection, the electrician informed her that the wiring done was of sub-standard quality and she was lucky that a fire hadn't already happened. If she hadn't been obtaining quotations for work to be done, the safety of her family could have been at serious risk of harm.
Below, we list some of the common causes for electrical fires in the home, in the event that you may have already experienced one or more of these, or to know in the future that you need to take immediate action.
1. UNKNOWN BURNING SMELL IN THE HOME
If you know that your home electrical wiring was installed more than 20 years ago, the wiring materials used are not as advanced as those used today. Add to that the fact that we rely more on appliances small and large to make life easier and you are putting a larger load on a wiring system that was designed for less.
A burning smell in the home is an indication that coated-wires are under stress. They are heating up because they are unable to hold up to the demand of our modern homes. 20 years ago you probably had a washing machine, a tumble dryer and a fridge, but nowadays most homes also have a dishwasher and a much larger refrigerator or fridge/freezer combination. While these newer appliances are energy efficient to a degree, they still put additional strain on a home's electrical system that wasn't installed for this type of power output. This is when wiring is put under strain and becomes overheated.
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2. FAULTY WIRING
As electrical cables age, they become brittle and more susceptible to damage. Add the overload due to more appliances and electrical devices in the home and the possibility of electrical cables overheating and you have the perfect situation for shortages caused by faulty wiring.
If your Distribution Board is fitted with the correct protection switches, were overheating or overloading occurs on electrical wires the respective switch will trip. That's what is supposed to happen and it is designed that way to specifically protect your home and your family. But factor in that the Distribution Board installed is also old and the switches themselves are taking extra heat and those switches intended to keep you safe may no longer work properly, causing an electrical fire.
3. TOO MUCH LOAD ON AN OLD ELECTRICAL SYSTEM
In any home, at any given time, there is bound to be at least one plug socket or extension lead that has too many plugs in use. We tend to overlook the fact that there is a limit to the number of amps a single plug outlet can take and that it is important not to overload them.
Plugging too many electrical devices or appliances into one plug socket or extension lead will lead to overheating. And that's not even including appliances that pull a lot of power such as heaters, tumble dryer or dishwasher or appliances with a heating element such as a kettle.
4. WHEN TO CALL IN AN ELECTRICIAN
For absolute peace of mind and to ensure the safety of your family and your home, should any of the following events occur do not hesitate to call in a qualified and reputable electrician:
1. Burning smell that comes from power outlets or for which you are unable to find a cause.
2. Wiring or plugs on appliances or electrical devices that feel hot to touch.
3. Constant tripping of a switch or series of switches on the Distribution Board.
4. Earth Leakage Switch fails to trip Main Switch on Distribution Board.
5. WHAT TO DO IN THE EVENT OF AN ELECTRICAL FIRE
Every single home should have at least a single small fire extinguisher for in case of an emergency. This should be maintained in working order and replaced as specified. One thing you should NEVER DO in the event of an electrical fire is to throw water on the fire.
Should an electrical fire occur in the home, unless it is a small fire, everyone should get out immediately. If a small fire occurs at a power outlet or plug socket, spray with a fire extinguisher but leave immediately if this does not put out the fire.
Place a call to the local fire department and move your family to a safe location until they arrive.