The theme of this year’s National Electrical Safety Month is “Be in the Know about the New.”  Sponsored by the Electrical Safety Foundation (ESFI), a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety in the home, school, and workplace.  This month’s observance is to increase public awareness of electrical hazards in order to reduce the number of electricity-related fires, fatalities, injuries, and property loss.  We often take electricity for granted.  There are new ways of furnishing electricity, such as solar power and wind power.  The electricity that you use in your home travels through an electrical grid, going through an interconnected network of generating plants, transformers, and transmission lines.  

Solar power is derived from sunlight.  Sunlight can be directly utilized, converted in electrical energy, or converted into mechanical energy.  This is an important source of sustainable alternate energy.  Three common types of solar power are:

  •         Passive Solar
  •         Photovoltaic (Solar Cells)
  •         Solar Thermal (Electric Power Plants)

Solar power is advantageous for its cost effectiveness and environmental friendliness.  However, before choosing to install a solar power system for your home there are a variety of considerations.

  •          Your property should have open rooftop space or land that is free of shade five hours per day. 
  •          You should have your home evaluated by a licensed, qualified professional to ensure it can support this new technology.
  •          Only professionals should be hired to install and repair solar panels at your home or workplace.
  •          Building, electrical, and plumbing codes also apply to solar power installations.
  •         Solar power systems present unique safety challenges for fire fighters.  In the event of a fire, inform all officials of the use of solar panels as well as  identify the type used, in order to help them assess the risks. 

Wind power has become more mainstream in recent years.  The power of the wind is harnessed and transformed into electrical energy through the use of wind turbines; when wind blows over the blades of the wheel, it creates lift, causing them to turn.  The blades are connected to a shaft, which turns an electric generator, thus converting kinetic energy into electric energy.

Here again, there are certain aspects that homeowners should consider, such as:

  •          An average annual wind speed of at least 10 mph is considered necessary to make a small wind system economical.
  •          Determine the requirement and costs for connecting your system to the grid by checking with your utility company.
  •          Be sure of your household electricity needs and purchase the correct size wind turbine. 

We have named a couple of new sources of electric energy.  One thing remains: electricity is dangerous.  Here are some things you should know about electrical safety: 

  •          Arcing faults are one of the major causes of more than 50,000 home electrical fires that occur each year in the United States.  This is a dangerous problem caused by damaged, overheated, or stressed electrical wiring or devices.
  •          GFCI’s (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters are designed to protect people from shock and electrocution.  They constantly monitor electricity flowing in a circuit, and switch off power if they sense any loss of current.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, GFCI’s could prevent over two-thirds of home electrocutions that occur each year.
  •         TRR’s (Tamper Resistant Receptacles) look like regular outlets, but are designed with spring-loaded receptacle cover plates that close off the receptacle openings, or slots.  The 2011 National Electrical Code (NEC) requires installation of TRRs in all new homes because they have proven to be so effective.
  •          Every year in the U.S. more than 2,400 children under ten years old are treated in emergency rooms for electric shock or burns caused by tampering with a wall outlet, which could have been prevented by having TRRs in the home. 

It is estimated that electricity causes 140,000 fires each year.  Electricity kills almost 400 people and injures thousands more annually.  Most could have been avoided with an increased awareness of electrical safety.  Power line contact with construction equipment, ladders, and gardening tools are among the leading cause of electrocutions.  Flickering lights, overloaded circuits, and discolored outlets and light switch faceplates indicate the need for electrical upgrades.  By addressing these hazards, lives can be saved, injuries reduced, and economic losses caused by electrical fires will be lessened.

Utility company personnel are required to wear several types of Personal Protective Equipment, such as special safety glasses with dielectric hinges designed without metal parts, hard hats, antistatic shoes and antistatic coveralls (flame retardant).  

This article was shared with Jack Rubinger, 

Source: Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI)