Electricity is one of the leading causes of house fires in the United States. This is pointed out by the National Fire Protection Association, the same agency that writes the National Electrical Code (NEC), which all electricians are supposed to abide by. Every aspect of the NEC has been developed based on accidents and casualties and is designed to prevent them.
Furthermore, all electrical components used today must have a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) listing on it before it can be sold in the United States. All insurance companies abide by the UL listing, and anything done to void this listing can also void insurance coverage. Additionally, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires all professional electricians to be licensed and all electrical work to be inspected by a local electrical inspector.
Many times, homeowners and handymen tackle small jobs such as changing outlets or installing lights – seemingly easy, trivial projects. However, all too often, the end result is that they put in a grounded (three-prong) outlet where there is no code-compliant grounding. They hang lights without a junction box or put them in a closet where they are subject to damage. They put outlets near water that are not GFCI protected outlets, or worse, they extend a circuit using wire that is too small and is bound to heat up and fail.
Electricity is power moving from one point to another and back again. It will always take the path of least resistance and does not care who it hurts or how.
Over time, I have seen many strange and dangerous situations. The following is a list of things I commonly see done by homeowners and others that lead to shock hazards, UL listing violations and worse:
• Installing grounded outlets where there is no grounding. BX wiring used in older homes is not a listed and acceptable grounding method, but many people assume it is.
• Installing a breaker in a panel that is not listed for that panel or putting a “mini” breaker in a place not designed for it. It may work, but if there is a problem it will void the listing and the insurance company won’t cover any damages. As a rule, all single family homes should have a minimum of a 200 amp service and breakers. Older homes usually have a smaller panel and should be upgraded.
Read more on electrical safety in your home at AngiesList.com