August 2004 (Palm Springs, Calif) — The California Real Estate Inspection Association (CREIA) wants homebuyers and home sellers to be vigilant in their watch for electrical hazards. CREIA offers the following advice to help avoid common causes of electrical accidents. Most electrical accidents occur because of unsafe equipment, installation or improper use. Here are some tips to keep your home safe:
- It is better to not use extension cords. If you feel you must use one, make sure that it is not frayed or worn; do not run it under a rug or twist it around a nail or hook.
- Never overload a socket. Avoid using "octopus" outlets; outlet extensions that accommodate several plugs are strongly discouraged.
- Do not use light bulb wattage that is too high for the fixture. Look for the label inside each fixture, which tells the maximum wattage.
- Check periodically for loose wall receptacles, warm to touch cover outlet and switch cover plates, loose wires, or loose lighting fixtures. Sparking means that you've waited too long.
- Allow air space around the TV to prevent overheating. The same applies to plug-in radios and stereo sets, and to powerful lamps and electric-powered equipment.
- If a circuit breaker trips or a fuse blows frequently, immediately cut down on the number of appliances on that line.
- Be sure all electrical equipment bears the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label.
- In many older homes, the capacity of the wiring system has not kept pace with today's modern appliances. Overloaded electrical systems invite fire. Watch for these overload signals: dimming lights when an appliance goes on, a shrinking TV picture, slow heating appliances, or fuses blowing frequently. Call a qualified electrician to get expert help.
- Remember, only state licensed electrical contractors and qualified electricians should perform electrical system repairs, modifications and upgrades.
A professional home inspector can evaluate the electrical wiring in the various breaker or fuse panels, as well as inspect the outlets for safe and proper wiring. When safe and accessible, the home inspector checks the electrical system by removing the cover from the electric service panel. Once the wiring is exposed, the home inspector will look for conditions in the panel such as burned wiring or over-fused circuits where the fuse or circuit breaker is too large for the wire size. Improper wiring connections, unsafe openings in the panel, rust, corrosion, and improper homeowner installed wiring are also reported on by a professional inspector. A representative sampling of electrical outlets, when accessible, is checked for open ground and wiring reversal conditions, as well as dead-ended wiring and exposed wiring.
You owe it to every occupant to learn as much as possible about the safety of your home and to make sure you retain a quality, professional home inspector. To locate a qualified CREIA inspector near you, call CREIA at (800) 388-8443, or visit their website at www.CREIA.org. Since 1976, CREIA, a non-profit voluntary membership organization has been providing education, training, and support services to the real estate inspection industry and to the public. Inspectors must adhere to CREIA's Code of Ethics and follow the Standards of Practice developed by the association. These Standards of Practice have been recognized by the State of California, and are considered the source for Home Inspector Standard of Care by the real estate and legal communities.
CREIA requires its members to successfully pass a comprehensive written examination of property systems and complete 30 hours of continuing education each year. Members can accumulate credits through various sources of education including monthly chapter meetings, conferences, and other approved activities. CREIA keeps records to ensure that members are complying with the requirements. Educational topics cover a variety of technical subjects including updates and advances affecting the profession of real estate inspection. CREIA is dedicated to consumer protection and education.