It is easy to overlook electrical code violations, especially if you live in or purchase an older home. It is so important not to get complacent, though. The codes written under the National Electrical Code (NEC) are an important part of electrical safety. They prevent shocks, electrocutions, and electrical fires.
The most common violations include unlicensed workmanship, installation of the wrong circuit breaker type, lack of neutral wires, use of non-tamper resistant receptacles, employment of the wrong electrodes and use of the wrong outdoor receptacle covers.
DIYers can complete electrical work on their own homes, provided it passes inspection. However, a license is required for anyone to do electrical work on any home but their own. Each home and job are different, and a licensed electrical contractor understands how to complete the job safely in any circumstance. DIYers are unfamiliar with situations they have not encountered before, and this often leads to accidental fires that cause great property damage and injury.
Installation of the Wrong Circuit Breaker Type
Circuit breakers are designed to protect home equipment and wiring. Standard circuit breakers have been found to provide limited protection against fires, so they have been largely replaced by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Standard circuit breakers should only be used for a few large home electrical appliances.
Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters
Electricians use GFCIs in areas where household members use small appliances or where water is likely to collect. Electric codes require this type of circuit breaker in places where water is commonly in use, such as bathrooms, kitchens, outdoor spaces, garages, crawl spaces, unfinished basements and wet bars. GFCI panels must be accessible because they frequently need to be reset.
Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter
AFCIs are designed to prevent fires in rooms where appliance cords can become pinched or crimped. They are also effective against the dangers of cords that have been chewed by pets. Once only required in sleeping areas, the NEC now requires AFCI circuit breakers in all living areas. Whereas a standard circuit breaker only detects problems after a fire starts, AFCIs detect hazards before they reach the acute stage. AFCI circuit breakers must be installed for new construction and when branch-circuit wiring is altered, replaced or extended.
Wiring Switches Without a Neutral Wire
All switch locations must have a neutral wire, as required by the NEC. Electronic switches need small quantities of constant electricity, which the neutral wire provides.
Forgetting Tamper-Resistant Receptacles
The NEC requires tamper-resistant plug receptacles in all locations. These inventions prevent the insertion of dangerous objects. For example, a child could insert a bent paper clip into a non-tamper resistant receptacle.
Using the Wrong Electrodes
At one time, metal underground piping was thought of as the best grounding electrode. However, nowadays most subterranean piping is plastic, which provides little effectiveness as a grounding electrode. Rebar in concrete footings or the home’s foundation are far more effective grounding systems. When available, they need to be used as the grounding electrodes.
Using the Wrong Cover on Outdoor Receptacles
Flat covers on outdoor receptacles are a big mistake because they provide protection only when a receptacle is not being used. Often, plugs remain in the receptacles for long periods of time unattended. For example, holiday lights require plugs to remain in place for weeks at a time. To meet electrical codes, homeowners need to switch to bubble covers, which offer full-time protection.
In addition, flat covers fail to provide the protection needed against water. The NEC defines a wet location as anywhere subject to saturation or exposed to the weather, so all outdoor receptacles need the bubble covers to conform to code. Bubble covers provide the protection needed when in use, so you do not have to worry about a sudden snowfall wreaking havoc on your holiday lights display.
Homeowners should also bear in mind that the NEC requires all 15- and 20-amp receptacles have a water- and tamped resistant rating, regardless of whether they are located in dry or wet locations.
The NEC establishes codes to protect property and lives. By adhering to these requirements, homeowners protect their families. Licensed electricians understand the importance of these codes and how to make older properties safer and more efficient.