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DIY home electrical safety tips for new homeowners

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Electricity pervades our lives. From your cell phone to your TV to your porch light, you might not realize how much you depend upon electricity until a blackout. For new homeowners, there's even a steeper learning curve when it comes to electrical safety at home.

That's why Caroline and Jacqueline recently welcomed Brett Brenner from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) to discuss electrical safety precautions at home.

Listen now to the full episode on iTunes and read below for more tips! 

DIY electrical safety tips and mishaps 

As many new homeowners were renters, they're used to calling a landlord to complete any maintenance or repair projects. Now they must pay for a qualified electrician to complete an electric project, or –

"Homeowners start to do things themselves," says Brett. "Most of the time, people know what they're doing, but you cannot cut corners and start to wire or install things incorrectly. Before you know it, there's a Frankenstein of wires behind your wall."

Electrical diy projects completed today can have consequences down the road. In fact, improperly installed wiring can lead to electrical damage, and if a homeowner eventually sells the house, any mishaps in past electrical work can lead to a dangerous situation for the next homeowners. 

Brett Brenner discusses electrical safety tips.

"You see a cascading effect of problems when people get too confident with electricity," Brett warns. "They start to create more problems, and more expensive problems, versus if they would have just hired a professional to do it correctly."

ESFI recommends homeowners hire a qualified electrician to complete any wiring or electrical work. However, there is another reason why homeowners should consider professionals. They can make sure a home is up to "code."

"The National Electrical Code exists to show the best practices of why and how you wire correctly," says Brett. "Typically the reason why we see home electrical fires and any kind of injuries involving electricity is because people have skipped steps and/or somebody before them skipped a step or two or three."

Skipped steps lead to danger.

Hiring a qualified electrician can help to prevent these issues, eliminate any concerns about the state of your home, and keep your family safe.

"Homeowners will have the peace of mind that it was done correctly," says Brett. "They don't have to worry about this issue resurfacing in the future."

Uniquely dangerous electrical hazards and necessary precautions

Call 811 before you begin a dig project.

If you'll be completing any electrical home maintenance projects – from upgrading switches and outlets to replacing a light fixture – you should remember the electrical safety basics. (Turn off the circuit breaker to ensure your safety during the project.)

However, there are a few precautions you may not know in the areas of digging, extension cords, and overhead wires.

"We tell people to always call 811 before you dig," says Brett. "There are buried, energized power lines in your yard. In those same corridors, you have gas lines, water lines, and other utilities."

Even just planting a tree or a mailbox post can be dangerous if a homeowner hits a gas or power line, and dialing 811 helps homeowners get in contact with their utility companies. Professionals will come and mark where the sensitive utility lines are located on the property.

"Then you won't get yourself into trouble," says Brett. "You just would never think the power lines are in certain places, so it's always better to be safe than sorry. And remember to always look up, as there may also be overhead power lines."

Be careful with extension cords.

Another surprising electrical hazard is an extension cord.

Notes Brett, "They might've gotten an extension cord from their father or grandfather, but when's the last time you actually looked over your extension cord to make sure there wasn't a nick or a big abrasion, or bare wires?"

Duct and electrical tape won't fix the problem in the long term. Homeowners should also take measures to not trip or cut the cord with sheers when trimming bushes and trees, to avoid electrical shocks. Always make sure to plug into a GFCI outlet when using an extension cord.

"Whether inside or outside of the home – you need to think about how you're using electricity and how to use it safely," says Brett. "A lot of times we see problems outside of the home where people aren't paying attention."

Look up when using ladders outside.

This happens with overhead wires, where homeowners may be carrying a ladder vertically and inadvertently hit the low-hanging energized power line.

"That could be uniquely deadly," says Brett, who also explains that homeowners don't need to be scared of diy projects.

"You just need to be aware of potential hazards and then take necessary measures to make sure you don't tangle with electricity," says Brett. 

Stay connected!

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Learn how to safeguard yourself and your devices when creating your smart home, precautions you need to take with space heaters, and more about National Electrical Safety Month by listening to the latest episode of the vipHome Podcast now!

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