Electrical Mistakes in Indianapolis

Cable_closet White's Electrical Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana

Let’s be honest: contractors sometimes do shoddy work around Indianapolis. And homeowners in Johnson and Marion counties can’t always perform repairs well, no matter how many YouTube videos they watch. A lot of their poor work goes unnoticed until a home inspection reveals the mistakes … and dangers.

There’s a reason why fire and building codes are in place in Indiana and why people who purchase homes hire inspectors. Electrical safety is important. Poor work can result in electrocution, fires, frustration, and power outages, among other problems.

There seems to be a trend to the types of mistakes (and plain bad work) that people in central Indiana make when working with a home electrical system. We’ve identified a number of electrical blunder trends and now present them to you.

Mistake No. 1: If only I had another plug …

extension cord nightmare Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalExtension cords shouldn’t be used other than the way they’re intended. In other words, don’t use 3, 4, 5 … 10 cords to try and power all your blow dryers, trimmers, extra lighting, phone charger, etc. If you need more places to plug in, have a qualified electrician install some more outlets. Or charge up your phone in the other room.

Also, don’t use extension cords in place of permanent wiring. That means you don’t plug in a cord, run it through the wall, and plug in your lamp in the other room.

Mistake No. 2: Let’s break it down …

bad wiring fuse box Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalElectrical breaker boxes and control panels tend to be another place where homeowners and less-than-reputable electricians in the Indianapolis area make electrical flubs. For one, electrical boxes aren’t toolboxes. Nor are they cabinets. You should not store toxic chemicals or canned food next to your breakers. If you need extra storage space, install a cabinet.

Breaker boxes also tend to be locations for wiring nightmares: Uninsulated wires. Unattached breaker switches. Multiple splices per wire. Lack of grounding. For some reason, poor electrical work tends to culminate around these boxes. Again, contact a good electrician to help you here. You don’t want to get electrocuted when the lights go out and you’re flipping breakers in the dark.

Breaker boxes also tend to attract mice and rats. The boxes provide a cozy nesting area. And because of the electricity flowing through it, it can be nice and warm. It’s not uncommon, therefore, for inspectors (or horrified homeowners) to find live or electrocuted vermin trapped in these boxes. Just make sure the panels are well sealed and that the back is flush against the wall. Remember, mice can get in cracks as small as ¼”.

Mistake No. 3: Electricity doesn’t travel through water … or does it?

bad wiring plumbing White's Electrical Mooresville Indianapolis IndianaCentral Indiana might not have any large lakes, but yes, electricity does travel through water. Although this fact is fairly well known in our region, certain Hoosiers tend to ignore it when installing electric cables, junction boxes, and breaker boxes. They do this because maybe a pipe is in their way. Or maybe they think the pipe will make a good mount. Whatever the reasoning, it’s never a good idea to secure your breaker box to a water inlet pipe. Nor should you hang your breaker box over the sump pit. You might also want to avoid resting a junction box on top of a cold water pipe.

Oh, and you might want to have an experienced electrician relocate that breaker box from above the sink in your bathroom.

And don’t ever put an electrical disconnect box under a working faucet.

Mistake No. 4: Oh, oh, oh, oh, stayin’ alive!

exposed cable Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalWiring, in general, tends to get messed up when a homeowner or bad electrician does the work. It’s not uncommon that they’ll run bare wires, which they’ve stripped for one reason or another. These wires post a significant risk for electrocution and might cause fires.

Mistake No. 5: Thinking outside of the box

Burned junction box Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalJunction boxes are yet another place where local, do-it-yourself electricians fumble. They will sometimes replace junction boxes with cardboard (yes, cardboard). You should not do this. Some Hoosiers in central Indiana sometimes also replace the proper boxes with ammunition boxes. Yes, ammunition boxes are common in Indiana, but they aren’t meant for electrical applications. Nor should you use old, plastic oil cans. Those cans are meant for one purpose, and your electrical system isn’t it.

Only use proper electrical equipment when working on your electrical system because the equipment designed to function safely. And it won’t get soggy. Or burn.

Junction boxes also tend to become rat’s nests of bad connections. No one should splice, say, five or six connections in one box. Doing so increases the risk of fire, and it creates an inefficient system, as well.

Mistake No. 6: Call the … cable guy?

cables not run correctly Indianapolis Mooresville Indiana White's ElectricalLast, people who prefer doing it themselves will often incorrectly place cables. Perhaps “place” isn’t the proper word. They incorrectly route cables. Ventilation pipes, for example, are not the proper place to run cables. If the cable is too short, purchase a longer one. Don’t drill a shortcut through the ventilation shaft.

If you do, you might end up with more shorts than just your chord.

White’s Electrical can help with any home or light commercial project you have and will help keep you safe from the flubs listed above. Call or contact us today with questions or to request a quote.

Leaves & Electrical Hazards

Dry Leaves Electrical Hazard Indianapolis White's Electrical

Leaves are already turning in central Indiana, and autumn doesn’t officially begin until Sept. 22. For this reason, now is a good time to discuss dry leaves and electrical safety.

After falling, leaves tend to dry out and collect in piles around the bases of homes, in gardens, and lawn furniture. While not only unsightly and attractive to insects and other pests, these piles pose a fire hazard if they collect around electrical equipment.

Cords, lights, and outlets sometimes give off a significant amount of heat energy. When dry leaves trap this heat, the heat can actually ignite the leaves, creating a fire that can quickly spread to your home or building.

Prevent Electrical Fires

To prevent fires, make sure to keep leaves away from electrical equipment. Rake dry leaves out of your yard, and remove leaves that collect around the base of your house or buildings. Also, do not run cords and cables through leaves. Make sure your cords and cables are free from obstructions.

More importantly, make sure to inspect the cords you’re using. Frayed or otherwise damaged cords are both a fire and shock risk. And they can be less efficient to use if they’re damaged and giving off lots of heat.

Other Sources of Electrical Fires

Deicing cables are another source that can ignite dry leaves. If your deicing cables are activated and leaves are packed around it, the cables can potentially light the leaves on fire, which will quickly spread across your roof. If your home or business has deicing cables, make sure to inspect them regularly and contact an electrician if they’re damaged or if you’re otherwise concerned.

Pine needles, sometimes called “Pine Straw” if used purposefully for landscaping, is also a fire hazard. Fires have been linked to pine needles when they’re used for landscaping around the base of buildings. Pine needles ignite much more easily than hardwood mulch and burn faster, shooting up flames high enough to lite siding on fire.

If you use pine needles for landscaping, never run cables or lights across it. Make sure your cables only run over nonflammable materials.

Electrical System Maintenance

Maintenance Program Electrical System White's Electrical Indianapolis

When the budget is tight, business owners are forced to decide where to cut costs. Oftentimes, they plan for only what’s pressing their attention at the moment: employee pay, utility bills, material costs — the bare essentials. What they sometimes forget or, when forced to trim expenditures, neglect is preventative maintenance on their electrical systems, the very systems which power about everything needed for them to run their business.

Their choice is understandable. Recurring maintenance isn’t cheap. But by calling upon electricians for minimum maintenance or only for emergencies is a mistake. Not only do managers put employees at risk for accidents and the business at risk for lost productivity, but they risk spending more money than they would if they were to invest in properly maintaining their electrical systems.

Professionals Advocate Maintenance Programs for Electrical Systems

The National Fire Protection Association has for decades advocated businesses to maintain their electrical equipment. According to the NFPA:

“A well-administered Electrical Preventive Maintenance program reduces accidents, saves lives and minimizes costly breakdowns and unplanned outages. Impending troubles can be identified, and solutions applied, before they become major problems requiring more expensive, time-consuming solutions.” (NFPA 70B – 2013, Section 4.2.1)

An unmaintained electrical system is a liability managers cannot ignore. The NFPA isn’t the only organization to suggest this. In Maintenance Excellence, Optimizing Equipment Life Cycle Decisions, John Campbell shows that it costs three times as much for the same number of hours worked responding to electrical emergencies as it does maintaining electrical systems.

After study, he devised this formula for how much electrical work costs:

Planned electrical work = $1.00
Unplanned electrical work = $1.50
Emergency electrical work = $3.00

This means that every three hours of preventative work is equal to the cost for one hour of emergency work.

Maintaining Electrical Systems Saves Money

Spending more on maintenance rather than responding to problems on the backend results in money saved. For this reason, it really is best for businesses to hire electricians who can maintain systems full-time or to purchase a maintenance program from a local electrical company.

So, if you’re still unsure whether such a program will result in savings, consider conducting your own study. Gather financial records for the past five to ten years and compare costs for past electrical repairs without a program to the cost of a maintenance program. You can get a quote for a maintenance program by contacting an electrician in your area.

Safe Outlets Available for Your Home or Business

GFCI Tamper-Resistant outlet Indiana White's ElectricalSince 2008, the National Electrical Code has required all outlets at new installations be tamper proof. The reason is that each year about 2,400 children in the United States are electrocuted, burned, and sometimes killed by sticking items in electrical sockets.

To prevent accidental electrocution, several improvements have been made to make outlets safer for children and adults alike.

Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter

One improvement, invented in 1961, is the ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You’ve likely seen a GFCI before — they’re the wall sockets with reset buttons on them, and the National Electric Code requires they be installed in all new bathrooms, crawl spaces, kitchens, most outdoor receptacles, and unfinished basements.

GFCIs work by monitoring the difference between the current going into and out of an appliance. If that difference is greater than 5 milliamps, the GFCI shuts off the electrical flow. The reason it shuts it off when the difference exceeds 5 milliamps is because the difference in flow indicates a possible ground fault, meaning electricity is being directed through a source other than the wiring, that other source possibly being your body.

Tamper-Proof Wall Outlet

Another improvement is the tamper-resistant wall outlet. These are the outlets with spring-loaded shutters inside them that must be compressed at the same time to gain access to the electrical system. The National Electric Code not only requires these outlets at new and renovated homes but at other properties where children are likely present.

If you have children, are remodeling, or simply want to make your home or business safer, you should consider replacing any existing outlets, especially old, two-prong versions, with safer GFCI and tamper-proof versions.

There’s no reason your house’s electrical system should pose a hazard. If you’re concerned about your current wall outlets or electrical system in general, contact your local electrician to schedule an inspection.

Childproofing Your Home’s Electrical System

Childproof Electrical
childproof electrical
One of the biggest joys of parenting is being there for all of the “firsts.” The first word, the first day of school, the first date. Certainly one of these exciting firsts comes when children first learn to crawl and become mobile. As with every other aspect of parenting, this change comes with a set of responsibilities: it’s time to childproof your home.

Electricity is an important part of any modern household, however it can pose a number of dangers to children. Electrical appliances and devices were created for the convenience of the adult using them, not for the safety of the children. We all want to protect our children in every way we can, so while you’re childproofing your home, be sure to childproof your home’s electrical system.

Electrical Outlets

According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), approximately 2,400 children suffer electrical shock or burns when they stick items into the slots of an electrical outlet. Making sure that all electrical outlets are covered is a great first step to childproofing your home’s electrical system. There are a few ways to do this.

Outlet Covers

The cheapest option to keep children out of electrical outlets is to place a plastic cap over the outlets. You can buy outlet covers in any store that carries baby safety items. Outlet covers are small plastic pieces with two prongs (just like an electrical cord) that slide into the electrical outlet. This keeps children from being able to put other things into the outlets. Outlet covers are easy for adults to install and remove, but babies and young children don’t have the dexterity to get beneath them.

Sliding Plate Covers

A better solution to keep electrical outlets covered is to use horizontal sliding plate covers. Sliding plate covers keep the slots of the electrical outlet covered until ready for use. To use the outlet, just slide the cover over to reveal the slots, and then plug in the device. Keep in mind that this type of outlet cover is only for use with outlets that aren’t constantly in use.

Tamper-Resistant (TR) Receptacles

By far, the safest solution to childproofing electrical outlets is installing Tamper-Resistant (TR) Receptacles. If you have a newer home (built in 2008 or later), you may already have TR Receptacles. TR Receptacles have spring-loaded shutters that close off the slots of electrical outlets. The shutters only open when both spring are compressed simultaneously. When a plug is inserted into the receptacle, both springs are compressed at the same time, allowing the shutters to open. But when a child attempts to insert an object into only one slot, the shutters remain closed and there is no contact with electricity. If your home doesn’t already have TR Receptacles, contact a licensed electrician to install them for you.

childproof electrical

Electrical Cords

Being sure that all in-use cords are protected is just as important as keeping the outlets themselves covered. Here are a few ways to protect your little one from electrical hazards when it comes to electrical cords.

Occupied Outlet Covers

For outlets that are constantly in use, such as an outlet with a lamp “plugged in” to it, it is easiest to just place a piece of furniture in front of it to block access to it. If that’s not possible, you can use a plastic box-like cover (such as the LectraLock outlet cover) to allow the outlet to remain in use, but prevent little fingers from unplugging the cords and tampering with the outlet.

Power Strip Cover

If you have your TV, computer, or other devices plugged into a power strip, consider using a power strip cover to protect your child from tampering with it. A power strip cover is a plastic cover with an opening for cords, but that shields the rest of the unit. Keep in mind that with enough work, a little hand may be able to slide into the slot for the cords, so it is not 100% foolproof, but it is a better solution than using nothing at all.

Cord Shorteners

If you have long cords in your house, these are not only a temptation for little ones to pull or chew on, but they can also pose a strangulation hazard. Consider using cord shorteners to shorten the amount of exposed cord. Cord shorteners are usually round cases inside which you can wrap the excess cord.

Use Common Sense

Above all, use common sense. Never leave a child unattended, and be sure that you’re familiar with your surroundings before letting Baby explore.

Electrical Safety Tips for Pool Owners

electrical safety for pools

For most of us here in central Indiana, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. The kids are on summer break, we’re enjoying Indy 500 festivities, and backyard pools are ready for swimming.

Of course, we all know to use caution around pools, especially when children are present. But with all of the excitement of summer and pool season, electrical safety for pools often gets overlooked. Here are a few electrical safety tips to keep in mind this summer if you’re opening or using a backyard pool.

Keep all outdoor outlets covered and dry.

Having outdoor outlets can really come in handy year-round to operate yard equipment, plug in Christmas lights, or to plug in any devices you’re using outside. Just make sure to use outdoor outlets carefully and always keep them covered, especially around pools, hot tubs, or other summer water activities. If your outdoor outlets don’t have covers already on them, have a licensed electrician install some to be sure they are up to code.

Use a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) for electrical devices used outside to help prevent electrocutions or electric shock.

A GFCI shuts off an electric power circuit when it detects that electricity is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or even through a person. This is especially important for outdoor circuits or outlets that are often near water.

Keep all electrical devices and cords at least 10 feet away from water.

It’s usually common sense not to use electrical devices too close to the water, but take extra care to make sure any devices used outdoors are in an area where they won’t pose a hazard to anyone swimming, especially when children are present. When possible, use battery-operated devices around the pool and hot tub to avoid electrocution or electric shock.

Never swim during a thunderstorm.

Water is a great electrical conductor, but you certainly don’t want it conducting electricity through you! Lightning regularly strikes water, and nearby lightning could injure or kill someone in the water. If you hear or see thunder or lightning, always get everyone out of the water and to a safe place.

To avoid electric shock drowning, have a licensed electrician inspect and upgrade your pool or hot tub in accordance with local codes.

Whether this is your first summer in a new home with a pool, or you’ve been swimming in the same pool for 20 years, have a local Indianapolis electrician inspect your pool or hot tub to make sure its electrical system is up to code. This can help ensure your peace of mind and the safety of those enjoying it this summer.

Happy Memorial Day from White’s Electrical!