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5 Tips From An Electrician | Safety 101

There are a number of items in our homes where we may take safety for granted. With the help of Jon Bolenbaugh, owner of The Mighty Electricians, a Rosie on the House Certified Partner, we explore five instances in your home that should be inspected and remedied if there is a problem.

Tip 1 | Fire Detectors

A persistent question we receive is about smoke detectors in existing homes. Jon tells us you can use two types of smoke detectors in a retrofit situation. The first, and by far the safest solution, is to hardwire a quality smoke detector where the code requires. The locations for the fire detectors, defined by the building codes, are consistent across the state. There should be a smoke detector (a.k.a. smoke alarm) just outside each bedroom, usually in the hallway, and one just inside each bedroom. The objective is safety, of course. Whether a fire starts inside or outside your bedroom, the smoke detectors will alarm you if installed correctly.

There are circumstances where retrofitting smoke detectors and hardwiring are not possible without tearing apart the drywall in your home. In these circumstances, the code makes allowance for utilizing smoke detectors that are solely battery-operated. We say solely because even the hardwired detectors have batteries as a backup should the power fail.

Jon reminds us that you should replace the batteries every year. He also says some upgraded smoke detectors include a battery with a life span of up to ten years, which might reduce maintenance. When you remodel your home or simply want to increase the safety margin in your older home, installing smoke detectors is a wise move.

*Carbon monoxide detectors are required in almost all homes per current building codes. They should be placed in the hallway outside of each bedroom and near the entrance into the home from an attached garage.

**Many municipalities require house smoke and carbon dioxide detectors meet current placement requirements when pulling a building permit. This can be true even if you are pulling a permit for plumbing or other areas of work needed at your home.

Tip 2 | GFCI Outlets

Common questions about GFCI circuits and ARC Fault circuits include code requirements and an interest in understanding how they function.

GFCI is an acronym for Ground Fault Circuit Interruption. GFCI’s detect a difference in the input current on the hot side of a receptacle to the output current on the neutral side. A difference in current would indicate that excess current is “leaking” out. That leak could cause electrocution or fire. The GFCI reacts to the slightest deviation, causing the current to be discontinued at that outlet. It will shut off or “trip” the outlet in 20 to 30 milliseconds. That is quick enough to save a life. The GFCI circuits are required for all outside and interior outlets subject to moisture. Those outlet locations include bathrooms, kitchens, garages, laundry rooms, crawl spaces, and unfinished basements.

Tip 3 | ARC Fault Circuit Breakers

ARC Fault Circuit Breakers (AFCI) are another safety feature that detects high current usage associated with electrical current “arcing” between an adjacent surface and a live wire. Some more common causes of this arcing are damaged wire insulation (such as from rodents gnawing on the wires), loose connections to appliances or devices, or exposed conductors. When an arc is detected, the AFCI shuts down or “trips” the circuit breaker. These circuit breakers are installed where they supply power to most gathering spaces in your home, including:

  • Bedrooms
  • Living rooms or family rooms
  • Sunrooms
  • Dining rooms
  • Kitchens
  • Laundry spaces

Installation of AFCI units might be required by code if you add to or remodel your existing home. Whether you are upgrading your older home or not, ARC Fault Circuit Breakers are a smart safety feature.

Tip 4 | Electric Panels

A discussion of electrical home safety always includes both main and sub-electrical panels. If your home is older than 15 years, schedule a certified electrician to inspect the panels. A good inspection will check that the panel breakers are in working order and are certified UL (Underwriter Laboratories) listed for safety. They should also check to ensure the correct labeling for each circuit is accurate. Upgrading your power supply is needed when adding significant demand to your electrical supply, such as a room addition.

Adding a breaker might be a good idea if you have multiple electric vehicles charging stations. One station will probably suffice with your typical 200 AMP service if you charge in the off-peak hours.

Tip 5 | Lighting Upgrades & Enhancements

On a lighter note, we asked Jon what he sees as a trend in homes. He says folks are making changes for efficiency’s sake. A popular retrofit is removing fluorescent lighting and replacing it with newer, more efficient LED lighting. One reason to do this is that the new LEDs do not pose the same mercury contamination threat as older fluorescent bulbs. Changing out incandescent light bulbs with LEDs is something we can do with most lighting fixtures.  To change just the bulbs in a fluorescent fixture with newer LED type bulbs, be sure the bulb is designed to work with a ballast, or you may need to rewire the ballast in the existing fixture.

Additionally, Jon tells us people are upgrading the look of fixtures, particularly recessed lighting, where the bulb type and the trim are upgraded together. Folks are also taking the time to enhance background lighting, such as soffits or plant shelves. This upgrade conceals the light source, which makes for more subtle lighting solutions. These work great in areas like TV rooms and nighttime hallways as a soft overall light. Providing a soft and subtle light source won’t interfere with our sleep and will keep us from tripping over the dog when we get out of bed.


CONTENT PARTNER | The Mighty Electricians

(480) 854-2005

The Mighty Electricians was established in 1999 to deliver high-quality electrical contracting services in the Phoenix area. Since then, our team has been hard at work helping homes and businesses achieve safe, effective electrical solutions that work. We offer everything from routine maintenance to 24/7 on-call emergency electrical repair service. Our expertise and high level of customer service has helped establish The Mighty Electricians as one of the top names in electrical contracting. Give them a call for your next electrical project: (480) 854-2005



Jon Bolenbaugh is a Mighty Electrician! He discusses everything electrical. Electrical panel inspections and proper upgrades especially for electric vehicles, lighting, fire, smoke and carbon dioxide detectors, GFCI circuits and more tips so you can plug in safely.

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