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Common Electrical Code Violations: A Guide to Safer Homes


Electrical systems are the life of modern homes, powering everything from lights to laptops. However, when electrical installations are not up to code, they can become a source of danger. To help homeowners and DIY enthusiasts navigate the complexities of electrical work, we’ve compiled a list of common electrical code violations and how to avoid them.

1. DIY Dangers: Unlicensed Electrical Work

Many homeowners take pride in tackling home improvement projects themselves. While DIY can be rewarding, it’s important to understand the limits of what you can do legally and safely.
Always hire a licensed electrician for any electrical work. Verify their credentials and ensure they have the appropriate ROC number for the specific trade. Unlicensed work can lead to improper installations, which may result in fines and pose serious risks such as electrical fires or shocks.

In many areas, only licensed electricians are permitted to perform electrical work on someone else’s property. In Arizona, the law is clear: all contractors must be licensed. Those caught contracting without a license will likely face a fine and a surcharge on the price charged for the work. Moreover, contracting without a license is considered a class one misdemeanor.

Whenever you hire the services of a professional, like a handyman, it’s crucial to verify that they are properly licensed. They must possess a valid ROC number that corresponds to their specific trade. A handyman who has one ROC number and license but offers services in multiple trades like plumbing, electrical, etc., is not legally contracting. This is because the ROC number is tied to the specific trade for which they are licensed, ensuring that the individual has the necessary expertise and qualifications for that particular type of work. Contracting across different trades under a single license is a violation of state regulations and can lead to legal consequences.

It’s crucial for homeowners to verify the licenses and ROC numbers of any contractors they hire to ensure that the work performed is legal and up to code.

2. Choosing the Wrong Circuit Breaker

Circuit breakers are crucial for preventing electrical overload. Using the wrong type can lead to serious safety hazards. For instance, Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) are required in wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens, while Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs) are necessary in living spaces to prevent fires caused by arcing in damaged cords.

Consult with a licensed electrician to select the correct type of circuit breaker for your home’s needs, ensuring GFCIs and AFCIs are installed where required. Incorrect breakers can fail to protect against overloads or electrical faults, potentially causing appliance damage or fires.

3. Overloaded Circuits: A Hidden Hazard

Overloaded circuits are a common mistake, especially in older homes not designed for today’s electrical demands. Signs of an overloaded circuit include flickering lights, buzzing sounds, or outlets that stop working. Overloaded circuits can lead to frequent tripping of breakers, damaged appliances, and in severe cases, electrical fires. To prevent this, ensure that a professional evaluates and upgrades your electrical system to handle the load.

4. The Grounding Gap: Ensuring Electrical Safety

Proper grounding is essential for the safety of your electrical system. It provides a path for electrical current to safely dissipate into the earth in case of a fault. Inadequate grounding can lead to electric shocks or even fires. Make sure all electrical installations have proper grounding connections.

5. GFCI Protection: An Essential Safety Measure

GFCIs are designed to protect against electric shock by shutting off power when a fault is detected. Not having GFCI protection in required areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens, is a violation of the electrical code. Regularly test your GFCIs to ensure they are functioning correctly. Replace any non-functioning GFCIs immediately. Lack of GFCI protection can lead to electrical shocks, particularly in wet areas.

6. Clearance Around Electrical Panels

Electrical panels need clear space around them for safe operation and maintenance. Storing items too close to the panel is not only a code violation but also a safety risk. Maintain at least 30 inches of clearance in front of the electrical panel to allow for emergency access.

7. Extension Cord Exploits: A Temporary Solution

Extension cords are meant for temporary use, yet some homeowners use them as a permanent fix. This can lead to overheating due to continuous use, especially if they are not rated for the power demands of the connected devices. If extension cords are covered by rugs or furniture, heat cannot escape, which may result in a fire. Instead of relying on extension cords, consider installing additional outlets where needed.

Stay Safe and Code Complaint!

Understanding and adhering to electrical codes is not just about compliance; it’s about ensuring the safety of your home and loved ones. If you’re unsure about any aspect of your home’s electrical system, it’s always best to consult with a licensed electrician. Remember, cutting corners with electrical work can have serious, even fatal, consequences.