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Electrical Risks, Safety and Solutions for Older Homes Presented by: PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services September 2009
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Older buildings: Higher risk!! As buildings age the risk of accidental electrical fire significantly increases. The frequency of fires in residential electrical systems was disproportionately high in homes more than 40 years old (CPSC, 1987). With an electrical check up by a qualified person, electrical fires will be prevented.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 What causes electrical fires? Electrical work done illegally, without electrical permits (aka. Handyman tinkering) accounts for the vast majority of electrical fires. Handyman tinkering is found rampant in older buildings. Handyman tinkering tends to accumulate over the years resulting in older buildings being particularly at risk. ALL TOO COMMON. These types of hazards are commonly found, independent of knob-and-tube replacement or service upgrade.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 WIRING HISTORY IN HOMES Knob and tube: pre-1950 Installed in nearly all homes built before Still present in most pre-1950 homes today. Designed for two-prong receptacles. Two-prong receptacle
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Knob and tube: Qualities Identification: Two single conductors Supported by porcelain knobs and tubes A well designed system: Heavy gauge conductors Spaced well apart All connections soldered Work seldom done by non-professionals Behind the walls, knob-and-tube wiring provides power for lights and receptacles throughout an older homes. knobs tubes
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Knob and tube: Hazards Original 2-prong outlets swapped for modern 3-prong: Hazard: NO GROUND PROTECTION Original lighting exchanged for recessed lighting (pot lamps) Hazard: INSULATION BREAKS DOWN Due to limited number of outlets: Hazard: DANGEROUS ADD-ONS ALL FIRE HAZARDS! In nearly all older homes, the original 2-prong outlets have been found swapped for modern 3-prong without the proper wiring, which falsely presents that the home has been rewired & outlets grounded.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Knob and tube: Solutions 1. Rewire: $20,000 or 2. Have wiring checked by an electrical specialist: Vast majority of homes: Old wiring = Excellent condition! Therefore, GFCIs can provide the necessary ground protection: $20 each AN EXCELLENT SOLUTION! GFCI receptacle provides excellent ground protection. It disconnects the power if leakage to ground exceeds 5 mA.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Knob and tube: Findings In 99% of homes built pre-1950: Knob and tube wiring is still live today Usually not visible due to new panel and finished basement. Knob-and-tube wiring is in excellent condition No need for expensive replacement, but: Original 2-prong outlets found swapped for modern 3-prong Falsely presenting that the homes have been rewired and outlets grounded. Cost to correctly bring these homes to LOW RISK: less than $500 RESULT: SAFE AND HAPPY CLIENTS!
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Wiring of the 1950s NEW cable and new method of wiring introduced Eliminated the need for knobs and tubes. Fire hazards remain No ground protection Not for recessed lighting Due to limited number of outlets: Dangerous add-ons still rampant Introduced in 1950 a new twin cable, called NMD1. Still for 2-prong outlets. It had cable temperature rating of 60 degrees. Not suitable for recessed lighting.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Wiring of the 1960s NEW cable introduced in the 1960s provides ground protection. Modern grounded outlets become the standard. Fire hazards remain: Cable not suitable for recessed lighting Due to limited number of outlets: Dangerous add-ons still rampant Introduced in the late 1950s: NMD3. Same characteristics as NMD1 but provided ground protection: Still not suitable for recessed lighting.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Wiring of the 1970s through to today NEW cables rated with higher insulation temperature become the standard. Suitable for recessed lighting. Fire hazards remain: Dangerous add-ons Due to the rapid rise in basement suites, kitchen renos and powering of garages: Unauthorized electrical work continues to thrive. This is encouraged with the proliferation of self-help guide books and easy access of electrical supplies. Modern wiring, NMD7 & NMD90 become the standard, but along with it comes do-it-yourselfers.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Aluminum wiring: 1968 – 1974 In vast majority of homes built 1968 – Still present today in most homes built 1968 – Designed as a cost- effective solution due to the high price of copper during these years. An aluminum-rated receptacle was required with the installation of aluminum wire.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Aluminum wiring: Hazards Aluminum wiring can be fine, but 2 concerns: Original aluminum-rated outlets do get loose in time HAZARD: LOOSE CONNECTIONS Original aluminum-rated outlets swapped for modern, non-aluminum-rated outlets HAZARD: CORRODED CONNECTIONS ALL FIRE HAZARDS! Original aluminum-rated outlets are commonly found swapped for modern, non-aluminum-rated outlets: Creates corroded connections.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Aluminum wiring: Solutions 1. Rewire: $20,000 or 2. Have wiring checked by an electrical specialist: Vast majority of homes: Aluminum wiring = Not in good condition! 3. Regular maintenance: Many authorities recommend regular maintenance every 15 years. Typical cost: ~$1000 If home [with aluminum wiring] has not been checked since new, it is high time overdue (NFPA).
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services amp service Until the1970s nearly all homes had 60-amp service. 60-amp service is often not identified by home owners. Ask an expert for correct service size and acceptability. Old boxes often have the wordingRated for 100 amps. This refers to the box rating, not service size. 60-amp fuses, 60-amp service Rated for 100 amps
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Some examples: An over-rated circuit breaker… 15-amp circuit breaker 30-amp circuit breaker
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 …can create over-heated conductors
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Sometimes found: No fuses!! This exact scene was found by PowerCheck in an older home in Vancouver earlier this year. Home was sent to us because of knob-and-tube wiring. Here client has replaced main fuses with metal bars, eliminating over- current protection, creating a fire hazard condition.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Exposed electrical connections Exposed connections This scene was found in a older home in New Westminster by PowerCheck last year. Home was sent to us because of knob-and-tube wiring. If connections become at all loose they will arc, easily igniting surrounding wall material.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 No junction box behind electrical device Commonly found in older homes where electrical wiring was done by home-owner or unqualified person. Home was sent to us because of knob-and-tube wiring. If connections become at all loose they will arc, easily igniting surrounding ceiling material.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Extension cords stapled to walls staples Commonly found: This scene was found in a older home in Vancouver by PowerCheck this year. Home was sent to us because of knob-and-tube wiring. Staples put pressure on cord. Over time the cord insulation breaks down. The staple then creates a direct short across the wires, which can easily result in fire.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Detached service conductor support This scene was found in a older home in West-side Vancouver by PowerCheck last year. Home was sent to us because of knob-and-tube wiring. Due to tree branches, or rotting wood, the support for the service conductors breaks away from the house. This creates a perilous situation putting strain on electrical connections. Once they separate the conductors can flash, creating fire. Conductor support Electrical connections
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 A PowerCheck Home Electrical Safety Assessment All of these preceding hazards were identified, precluding electrical fire because Client had had a PowerCheck Home Electrical Safety Assessment. A Home Electrical Safety Assessment prevents fires. It was the referral from the insurance company that got this assessment done.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Not enough homes are checked: Baseboard heater in dangerous location Seven firefighters said the fire began about 1 a.m. near an electric baseboard heater. Three children died, ages 6, 2 and 14 months (Cleveland News, Dec 5, 2007). Individuals installing electrical equipment without being thoroughly knowledgeable on the electrical code, can easily result in electrical fires.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 PowerCheck statistics In 99% of homes built pre-1950: One or more electrical fire hazards were identified 99% due to handyman tinkering 99% had swapped 2-prong outlets for 3-prong Excluding swapping outlets from our criteria: 60% of homes pre-1950 had one or more electrical fire hazards present, almost all due to handy tinkering If home had secondary suite: 84% had one or more electrical fire hazards present
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Specific breakdown of risks Homes in general, pre-1950 Handyman tinkeringOld age Electrical wire
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Homes with secondary suite, pre-1950 Handyman tinkeringElectrical wire
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 Probability of risk increases with age If all homes greater than 35 years were checked. We would catch 74% of homes with electrical fire hazards.
© PowerCheck Electrical Safety Services 2009 How do we do it? Explaining to clients that we are working with them to assure their house is safe, has produced positive results: Clients have been cautious to have their home checked, but with the possibility of reduced premiums, have gone forward with the PowerCheck Home Electrical Safety Assessment. Of 600 clients, upon showing clients the identified hazards: 598 have said it has been the best thing that they have ever done. Clients have been grateful beyond belief that their insurance company assisted them to get their home correctly diagnosed. A HAPPY CLIENT WITH A SAFE HOUSE BUILDS CUSTOMER LOYALTY
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