“We change, whether we like it or not”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
We don’t often enjoy having to concede to nature’s law that dictates to us that all things change, all of the time. But as Mr. Emerson keenly observes, it happens, regardless. Depending upon one’s perspective, change can be a good thing, or it can be bad.
As most of us have come to understand this fact with regard to our aging bodies, we at times need to be reminded that the same principle is at work within those inanimate things that exist, such as the buildings in which we live, we rent, we do business, we buy and we sell. With a building, age-related changes are usually not for the better. In fact, the older a building, the more likely it is to have serious defects, particularly in critical building systems such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC and roofing. Of these aging-related failures, none can be more potentially devastating in terms of physical destruction, bodily injury or death than a building’s electrical system gone bad.
QUESTIONS THAT WE NEED TO ASK, AND WHAT WE CAN DO
As buildings and electrical systems age, the three fundamental factors that need to be recognized, evaluated and ultimately attended to are:
1. The Age of the Structure’s Electrical System
A building, or an addition to a building, should be considered “aged” at about 25 years. That is the average amount of time that a reasonably well-maintained building’s exterior and interior components begin to wear, weather-out and fail. A 25-year cycle for electrical system evaluation and updating is a standard recommended by most building maintenance contractors and professionally licensed electricians.
2. The Capacity of the Building’s Electrical Service. Does The System Meet Needs of the Occupancy?
With continually advancing technologies, the use of an ever-increasing number of electronically-operated convenience and entertainment items is placing greater electrical demand on an aging and often under-designed electrical service. This continually growing electrical load demand could be a recipe for an electrical fire.
Key warning signs that might indicate a usage demand greater than the capacity are:
- Lights that routinely flicker or dim when major appliances are switched on.
- Light switches, outlets or an electrical panel that are hot or warm to the touch.
- Repeated blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers.
- Electrical outlets that once were but are now not working.
- An outlet receptacle that is dead due to a tripped GFCI that won’t reset.
- Three-way switch malfunction.
- Discolored cords, outlets and switch plates.
- An acrid, burnt smell created by wiring insulation being cooked.
3. Electrical Component Maintenance and Updating.
Many fires begin in electrical systems because they are rarely inspected and are often poorly maintained. As it operates behind the scene, a building’s electrical system is usually taken for granted until a failure occurs. Often, fires caused by electrical deficiencies could have been prevented by periodic electrical inspection and maintenance.
Because the failure rates of older electrical technologies are high, it is important that older buildings be retrofitted to replace old, unsafe wiring with modern, safer elements. Aluminum wiring, “knob and tube” wiring, outdated fuse and certain brands of circuit breaker service panels commonly found in older buildings that have not been updated are known fire hazards.
Inspection, maintenance and updating of your electrical system should always be done by a professionally licensed electrician, or licensed master electrician. With an average of ninety percent of electrical system components hidden behind walls and within concealed space, many electricians have the capability to make ultrasonic and infrared thermographic evaluations to identify arc and hot-spot hazards that a standard visual inspection cannot. A professional electrician is trained to identify transient voltages, non-compliance with electrical codes and outdated or faulty equipment and more importantly, make the appropriate corrective updates. Considering the possible consequence of property and lives lost, it is a wise preventative investment.
As we are diligent in sustaining our physical health, so should we be as conscientious toward maintaining our building’s electrical well-being. Our, or someone’s life may depend on it.
Acadia is pleased to share this material with its customers. Please note, however, that nothing in this document should be construed as legal advice or the provision of professional consulting services. This material is for general informational purposes only, and while reasonable care has been utilized in compiling this information, no warranty or representation is made as to accuracy or completeness. Distribution of this information does not constitute an assumption by us of your obligations to provide a safe workplace. Maintaining a safe workplace in accordance with all laws is your responsibility. We make no representation or warranty that our activities or recommendations will place you in compliance with law, relieve you of potential liability or ensure your premises or operations are safe. We exercise no control over your premises or operations and have no responsibility or authority to implement loss prevention practices or procedures.