Homeowner’s Manual: Branch Circuits (Updated for 2021!)

VERY IMPORTANT! NEVER WORK ON THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM WITHOUT CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF ELECTRICITY AND WITHOUT FIRST TUNING OFF THE POWER. YOU COULD SERIOUSLY HARM YOURSELF OR OTHERS. IF YOU ARE NOT TRAINED AND QUALIFIED TO WORK ON ELECTRICAL SERVICE EQUIPMENT OR DEVICES, DO NOT DO IT. CALL A LICENSED ELECTRICIAN.

 

Branch Circuits

Check interior and exterior receptacles and switches for broken or missing wall covers, broken parts, and for those not working or hot to the touch. Replace broken or damaged receptacles and missing or broken covers (for weather protection). Dimmer switches or switches controlling multiple lighting fixtures may need lower wattage bulbs to prevent overheating. Carefully read and follow instructions when installing dimmer switches or rheostats on lights or ceiling fans. Before attempting any electrical repairs, be sure the power has been shut off at the appropriate breaker and that you are properly observing safety precautions. Also, the light fixtures in your home are designed for 60-watt bulbs. Continuous use of higher wattage bulbs may eventually burn up the light fixtures. Also, the use of a high-watt bulb in wallpapered vanity areas may cause wallpaper to peel from the walls.

 

Ground Fault Protection (GFCI’s)

Electric outlets called Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacles save lives by cutting power to appliances that may short out and shock you. Current safety standards require ground fault protection at all receptacles serving kitchen countertops, in all bathrooms, within six feet of sinks or water-using appliances, in laundry areas, all of the garage receptacles, and all outdoor receptacles. Many older homes lack this protection. GFCI receptacles should be installed by a qualified electrician at all required locations. Periodically test GFCI receptacles by pressing the “test” button to interrupt power and the “reset” button to restore it. A lamp or other small device plugged into the receptacle should turn off and on accordingly. Inexpensive circuit testers with GFCI testing capability are available at most home centers and hardware stores. Defective GFCI receptacles should be replaced by a qualified electrician. We recommended that you do not connect large appliances (such as freezers) to a receptacle on a GFCI circuit.

 

Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans can fall. Any fan weighing more than 35 lbs. needs special support equipment like braces, steel outlet boxes that grip the ceiling joist in the saddle fashion. Most of our problems with ceiling fans pertain to pre-1980 models and the use of antique, heavy Casablanca units without ceiling bracing. Other than the above listed items, your ceiling fan is nearly maintenance free. Most fans have sealed bearing and do not require oiling. To keep your fan free from dust and dirt build-up, periodically vacuum the blades with a soft brush attachment or gently wipe clean with a damp cloth.

 

Smoke Detectors

Each month press the test button on your detectors to be sure they work, and at least once a year (the start of daylight savings time is a good reminder) change all batteries. To check a detector that does not have a test button, simply blow smoke into the detector to trigger the alarm. Recycle the alarm batteries in entertainment remotes or kids’ toys, where their possible failure isn’t a life-or-death matter. If you don’t have smoke detectors, install one in each bedroom and in bedroom halls. Smoke detector units should be vacuumed cleaned every 30 days to prevent dust build-up, which could activate the alarm.

 

Carbon Monoxide Detectors

If you have gas-burning appliances, one or more fireplaces OR an attached garage, consider installing carbon monoxide detectors within 10-feet of every sleeping room/bedroom.

 

Fire Extinguishers

Every Home Should have at least one fire extinguisher, if not multiples. Be sure the fire extinguisher is suitable for all types of fires (it should be marked “A, B, and C” to indicate this) and is conveniently located. Make sure all family members know the location of the extinguisher, and how to operate it. Each month check that the fire extinguisher is fully charged and has not passed its expiration date.

 

THIS IS SO IMPORTANT, WE PUT IT AT THE BEGINNING AND END OF THE ARTICLE: NEVER WORK ON THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM WITHOUT CLEAR UNDERSTANDING OF ELECTRICITY AND WITHOUT FIRST TUNING OFF THE POWER. YOU COULD SERIOUSLY HARM YOURSELF OR OTHERS. IF YOU ARE NOT TRAINED AND QUALIFIED TO WORK ON ELECTRICAL SERVICE EQUIPMENT OR DEVICES, DO NOT DO IT. CALL A LICENSED ELECTRICIAN.

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