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Common Mistakes New Homeowners Make with their Electrical System

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Buying your first home is an exciting milestone, but it also comes with a lot of new responsibilities. One area that many new homeowners underestimate is properly maintaining and upgrading the home’s electrical system.

Making mistakes with your electrical system can lead to safety hazards, fire risks, damaged appliances and electronics, and costly repairs down the road. Here are some of the most common mistakes new homeowners make with their electrical systems and how to avoid them.

Not Getting an Inspection Before Move-In

Before moving into a new home, it’s critical to get a professional home inspection, including a thorough evaluation of the electrical system.

An inspector can catch any existing defects or risks, like faulty wiring, overloaded circuits, improper grounding, or insufficient amperage for the home’s needs. This allows you to get issues addressed before move-in day.


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Skipping this inspection means you may miss serious problems left behind by the previous owners. Don’t let the excitement of moving in overshadow this crucial first step.

Neglecting Electrical Panel and Circuit Breakers

The electrical panel and circuit breakers are the central nervous system of your home’s electrical system, and most homeowners pay little attention to them. Failure to routinely check circuit breakers and service panels leads to overloaded circuits and greater fire risks.

Homeowners should check for signs of corrosion, debris buildup, flipped breakers, and warm breakers, which can indicate overloaded circuits. Getting your panel inspected by a professional electrician and upgraded to meet modern load requirements should be part of any major renovation. Check it at least annually.


Using Extension Cords and Power Strips Improperly

Extension cords and power strips are designed for temporary, occasional use. When used as permanent solutions, they can overheat and start fires.

Don’t overload extension cords, daisy chain multiple cords and power strips together, or run cords under carpets or furniture. Have enough properly grounded wall outlets in all rooms to avoid extension cord misuse and use surge protector power strips in place of basic power strips for electronics. Extension cords are great temporary solutions but if you need more outlets, you may need to work towards having more permanent, safer electrical solutions installations.


Ignoring Odd Electrical Smells, Sounds, or Signs

Unusual smells, noises, or sights relating to your electrical system are warning signs you should never ignore. Burning plastic smells, buzzing, crackling noises, frequent flipped breakers, flickering lights, discoloured wires, warm outlets or plates, and dimming or brightening lights indicate potentially dangerous electrical issues. If you notice any odd electrical symptoms, get a professional evaluation right away. Never dismiss electrical concerns as unimportant or harmless.


Failing to Update Outdated or Insufficient Wiring

Homes more than 20 years old often have electrical systems that are outdated and insufficient for modern usages. Heavy use of electronics, smart home devices, and appliances can overload an ageing electrical system never designed for today’s energy demands. Upgrading the wiring, service panel, and individual circuits should be part of renovations and modernisation plans, especially in older homes. Don’t take original wiring at face value.


Not Having Enough Circuits or Improperly Using Them

Today’s homes need significantly more circuits than decades ago, thanks to increased energy usage. Too few circuits lead to overload and blown breakers. Improperly distributing high-wattage appliances across circuits also strains the system. Upgrade your panel and have each high-wattage appliance like a refrigerator, stove, washer, furnace, and AC unit on its own dedicated circuit. Consult electricians on optimal circuit setups.


Operating Electronics Near Water

Electricity and water are a hazardous mix, yet many homeowners casually operate electronics near water sources. Never place TVs, computers, or other electronics near sinks, tubs, pools, or showers where they can get wet. Water conducts electricity, raising electrocution risks. Only install water-resistant electrical components in high-moisture areas. Be vigilant about moisture around electronics.


Attempting DIY Electrical Projects

Electrical projects require proper training and licensing in Australia. However, many new homeowners attempt DIY electrical upgrades to save money, often making dangerous mistakes. Never take on electrical projects like rewiring, replacing a panel, or installing a new circuit yourself unless you’re a licensed electrician. Hire pros for major electrical upgrades or repairs. Focus DIY efforts on smaller, non-electrical projects.

Working with a professional electrician is not only the right thing to do legally but it’s also going to be significantly more efficient than trying to do it yourself.


Ignoring Electrical Safety Rules

Basic electrical safety rules exist for a reason. Don’t overload outlets with too many plugs. Insert plugs fully into outlets to avoid sparks and shocks. Regularly check for cords damaged by furniture or pets. Ensure all outlets have proper cover plates. Keep all liquids away from electrical devices and connections. Monitor children and pets near electrical systems. Respect electricity and follow guidelines to prevent accidents. Make electrical safety a priority.


Not Labelling Circuit Breakers

Clearly labelling each circuit breaker according to what it controls is an easy way to prevent confusion and mistakes when issues arise. Breakers control distinct zones and functions, like kitchen appliances, laundry room outlets, upstairs lighting, etc. Without labels indicating what each breaker controls, diagnosing and addressing electrical problems becomes unnecessarily difficult. Take time to accurately label.


Neglecting Electrical Grounding

Proper grounding of electrical systems and certain appliances prevents shock hazards and protects during power surges. Inadequate grounding can lead to electrocution risks, fires, and appliance damage. Ensure grounding meets modern safety codes, especially in older homes. If your home still has two-prong ungrounded outlets, upgrade them to prevent safety issues. Don’t neglect this key protective system.


The Takeaway

Owning a home comes with many new obligations, but electrical system safety should be a top priority. Avoid these common mistakes new homeowners make, have your system inspected by electricians from Mr. Sparky if you’re in Sydney, and fix any issues promptly. Follow all electrical best practices to keep your home and family safe. Maintaining and improving your electrical system is a wise investment that prevents much larger repair costs and dangers down the road.

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