Like plumbing and HVAC systems, electrical is another system in your home that requires regular inspections to make sure everything is working properly. Problems with the electrical system can cause injury to family members or damage to your home, so the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends doing an electrical home inspection every six months.
In this electrical safety inspection checklist, we'll walk you through what to look for on:
Outlets and light switches
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Outlets and light switches
Take a look at every outlet and light switch in your home and note any that:
Aren't working. Make sure an outlet isn't connected to a light switch before having it professionally inspected. It also helps to check for bad bulbs when testing light switches.
Don't have faceplates or safety covers (if you have children). Wall plates cover all wiring to avoid any risk of electrical shock or fires. Plug covers are also important so children don't suffer electrical shock by inserting objects into outlets.
Are warm or hot. All outlets and light switches should be cool to the touch. If they're not, that's a sign of faulty wiring or an overloaded circuit and should be inspected by a professional immediately.
Has changed color or has dark spots that look burnt or brown. These indicate that the switch is overheating so much that it's burning the plastic covering the switch or outlet.
Make buzzing or humming sounds. When wiring becomes loose (more common in older homes) the power of the electrical current running through it can cause the wires to vibrate, creating a humming or buzzing sound.
Are loose or falling out of the wall. This is a serious safety hazard, since loose outlets can cause plugs to partially fall out and outlets or switches falling from the wall can expose wires—both of which can cause electrical shock.
Any switches or outlets that show signs of damage should be inspected and repaired by a professional ASAP.
Check that all electrical cords:
Are in good condition. Any signs of splitting, fraying or cracking is a safety hazard because it exposes people and pets to the electrical current running through the internal wiring. Plus, the exposed wires can cause a fire.
Aren't compressed by furniture or other objects. Compressing electrical cords damages the internal wiring and causes the cord to wear out faster than normal.
Don't have any staples or nails that compress the cords. Electrical cords are insulated (usually by a plastic coating) to prevent electrical shock and fire risks. Metal nails or staples can pierce the insulation and expose the internal wiring, increasing those risks.
Run around or on top of rugs. Electrical cords that run underneath rugs can overheat and eventually cause a fire. Plus, it also means the cord will likely get stepped on and compressed, causing the cord to wear out faster than normal.
Run in a straight line. Electrical cords that are wrapped around anything (lamp posts, table legs, etc.) will damage the cord's insulation faster, which can expose the wiring within and create a safety hazard.
Are plugged into extension cords sparingly. Excessive use of extension cords is usually a sign that you need to have more electrical outlets installed so you don't overload circuits and trip breakers.
Any cords that show signs of damage should be replaced immediately to avoid injury and damage to your home.
When inspecting appliances (especially those in the kitchen):
Stop using any appliances that shock you. Any shock that's not from static electricity is a sign of a serious electrical problem. Unplug the appliance or turn off its circuit breaker and call a professional for help immediately.
Make sure large appliances aren't plugged into extension cords. Extension cords can easily overheat if they're drawing more voltage than they're designed to handle, which often happens when they're used for large appliances (refrigerators, ranges, etc.). Plus, some extension cords don't have a third ground wire, which can be very dangerous—especially if you don't have surge protection.
Keep cords away from heat and water. Make sure that the cord to countertop appliances (coffee makers, air fryers, blenders, etc.) are far enough away from the stove and sink to avoid damage. Also, make sure to keep cords of hair styling tools out of the bathroom sink.
Unplug appliances that aren't in use. This not only keeps your home safer, but also saves on utilities because appliances and larger electronics still draw small amounts of electricity when they're turned off but plugged in.
When inspecting lamps and light fixtures:
Make sure bulbs are the right wattage. Installing a bulb with a wattage that's higher than the recommended use—like putting a 200W bulb in a fixture rated for 60W bulbs—can ruin the fixture and cause bulbs to shatter due to overheating.
Note any dimming or flickering lights. If this happens when an appliance (like your HVAC system) kicks on, that's usually a sign that the lights are on the same circuit as the appliance, which can overload the circuit.
Keep lamps one foot away from flammable objects. Light bulbs, especially incandescent or halogen ones, can create a lot of heat. To avoid the risk of fires, keep lamps at least a foot away from anything flammable.
When doing electrical checks on your electrical panel (also called a breaker box):
Take note of breakers that frequently trip. Tripped breakers or blown fuses are often signs of an overloaded electrical circuit. You can learn more about signs your electrical panel needs upgrading.
Turn off breakers when doing any electrical work. Turning off the breaker cuts off electricity to the circuit, avoiding the risk of electrical shock if you need to do any work or make any repairs.
If you have any concerns with your electrical panel or system in general, call a professional for an electrical inspection so they can diagnose the problem and get it fixed immediately.
Need an electrical inspection? Call Reliable Heating & Air.
Call us today at (770) 594-9969 or schedule an appointment for a free in-home estimate.
Our trained electricians will give you the most reliable electrical home inspection in the Atlanta area. We'll inspect your entire electrical system to make sure there aren't any potential problems. If we notice anything, we'll recommend the best solution to ensure your home's electrical system is as safe as possible for your family.