Wired For Success: Electrical System Safety
Many churches are guilty of overlooking and updating their electric system. The adage, “Out of sight – out of mind” proves true until there is a problem…and that problem can be the loss of your entire building and everything inside of it. Simple, preventative measures can be taken to keep your organization from being a victim to this threat of an electrical loss.
There are warning signs that indicate your system is due for an upgrade:
Breakers trip frequently
Fuses blowing repeatedly
Lights dim/flicker when you turn on other appliances
Warm, discolored, or sparking outlets
No ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets in various rooms and areas exposed to moisture
Significantly higher utility bill
Constantly requiring use of extension cords/power strips
There are many benefits to keeping your system up to date of which the safety of your congregation is paramount. The #1 cause of church losses is fire, and the #1 cause of fire is electrical. Old and/or overloaded electrical systems create a fire hazard. Also, the risk of electrocution increases. If the wiring is old and has wear and tear, the electric current won’t transfer properly. The lifespan of your appliances will be cut down significantly as faulty wiring can’t manage the power in a safe manner. Furthermore, an old system may not have the capacity to support modern appliances. The amount of financial damage an old electrical system can cause to a church can be pricey and go as far as a TOTAL LOSS of property and potential death.
Focus your electrical preventive maintenance program on the most common and frequent problems leading to electrical fires and equipment failure. That includes inspection and preventive measures to ensure any electrical apparatus is kept clean, cool, dry, and tight. When there is a problem, call the professionals. Electricity is not a good candidate for a DIY project. Amateur wiring is not only dangerous but can also be very costly to repair. You get what you pay for when it comes to hiring an electrician. It is possible to cut corners without you knowing, so don’t choose your contractor based on price alone. And, it is always a good idea to do reference checks with previous customers.
Keep It Clean….Electrical apparatus and equipment rooms should be free of excessive dust and dirt accumulation. Don’t use electrical equipment rooms for storage. Limit access to authorized operations and maintenance personnel. Maintain proper lighting to ensure correct and efficient operation and maintenance.
Keep It Cool…Prevent excessive heat buildup in electrical apparatus enclosures and equipment rooms. Exceeding design temperatures could be a fire hazard and can also shorten the life of equipment. Maintain cooling fans or blowers installed on equipment to provide adequate cooling. Keep ventilation openings in equipment enclosures clean and free from obstruction. Change or clean any installed filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Keep It Dry….Keep equipment rooms dry and protect equipment from moisture. Persistent exposure and direct contact with moisture can cause equipment to fail or shorten its life. Check equipment for moisture contamination. If found, examine equipment for damage and get necessary repairs made. Identify and eliminate the source of moisture.
Keep It Tight….Loose connections are the most common source of electrical equipment failure. Infrared thermographers look for hot spots that could indicate loose connections and other electrical problems. Check all connections and ensure they are kept tight. Follow any applicable manufacturer’s instructions for tightening. Get an infrared imaging survey to test for loose connections.
Between 2010-2014 structure fires involving electrical failure/malfunction killed 432 people, injured 1,580 people, and caused $2.014 billion worth of damage. Our office has had many fire claims traced back to an outdated electrical system. This devastation can be prevented. Go to our website to find our free electrical system inspection checklist to evaluate your organization’s system.
Sources: GuideOne, Safechurch, NFPA, DFLiq., Angies’s List