Adulting 101: Electrical Advice for All First-Time Homeowners
By Victoria Figueiredo
Buying your first-ever house is extremely exciting, but also kind of terrifying! There’s a lot to learn and you as a homeowner need to learn it all pretty quickly. Between applying for a mortgage, discovering all the extra costs associated with purchasing property, orchestrating your move on the big day, and dealing with the emotional aspects of becoming a full-fledged adult, electrical safety and maintenance may fall by the wayside. We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen! Below is a handy guide for getting caught up with and staying on top of all the electrical aspects of your brand-new home:
- Become Familiar with Your New Digs
Before you settle in and make all your Pinterest décor wishes come true, you absolutely need to get to know the ins and outs of your new home! Make sure you know how to turn off your water supply, gas, and electricity. Find your service panel and label each switch if they aren’t already – you never know when you’ll have to turn off power to a specific room and trial and error probably isn’t the best way to go with that kind of thing.
- Budget for Trouble (Especially if You’re Buying an Older House)
Old houses can be very beautiful, but also very mysterious and dangerous. Like a young Italian widow. When you’re budgeting for your new home, your mortgage and insurance aren’t the only costs you have to consider. It would be very smart and proactive of you to set aside money for any repair problems you may run into. Electrical projects are often necessary, but their costs can add up quickly. Assume that if your home is old enough to make you wonder if anyone has ever died in it, you’ll need to repair or replace your wiring, panel, outlets, etc. at some point. Save up now so your bank account won’t give you dirty looks later.
- Take A Look at Your Breakers and Fuses
Fuses that blow easily or often can be a sign that you have a larger problem. Same goes for your breakers – make sure that the ones you have can handle the loads you’re putting on them. You may have to update your panel, but an investment in a new one now can save you a lot of headaches down the road. Just think of all the Advil you won’t have to buy!
- Check Out Your Wiring
It’s super common for older houses to have wiring that’s frayed, torn, or just unsafe. Wires have a more limited lifespan than most people think. Loose or frayed wires, and wires that are near sources of heat and moisture need to be replaced ASAP – but that’s not a DIY job unless you’re a licensed electrician who just happens to enjoy reading beginner’s guides. If you come across any dangerous or dubious looking wires as you check your home, call up an electrician to come take a look. Worst case scenario, the wires can burn down your house. Best case, you won’t have to do anything. I’m not sure about you, but I’m willing to take those odds and just schedule an inspection.
- While You’re Near Your Walls, Inspect Your Outlets
Loose outlets are not cool! Make sure all your outlets are snug on the wall and don’t jiggle when you plug or unplug something. Outlets that are acting weird can cause sparks, damage your appliances, or burn down your entire house. Repair or replace any outlets that don’t seem right, and don’t try to convince yourself it’s no big deal if they’re not perfect. We recommend replacing old outlets with ones that have surge protectors built in so you prevent future issues. Make a trip to your kitchen and bathrooms and take a walk around your yard – make sure that all the outlets near water sources are GFCI and any outside outlets are actual outdoor outlets. To be extra safe, we also recommend that you make sure all of your outlets are properly grounded. You can buy a simple tester for about $5 at your local hardware store, or have your home inspector do it, and check every outlet.
- Just Check Your Electrical System on The Regular, Okay?
Are we sensing a pattern here? You’ve just moved in and things are great — it’s important to make sure they stay that way. Check your electrical system at least annually. We recommend hiring a licensed electrician for that job, since they’re trained to recognize things you may not notice on your own. This may seem like an optional step, but it’s really not. Annual inspections catch small problems before they become big problems, and can prevent disasters from happening. No one wants to talk about that pretty house you used to own before it burned down in an easily preventable fire. Good as a cautionary tale, but not a great anecdote on dates and in the coffee line. Think about it.
- Install Ceiling Fans in Your Rooms
Ceiling fans don’t cool rooms, they cool people. Because of that, you can turn your thermostat up in the summer and, as long as you’re under a fan, you can’t even tell the difference in temperature. If you have a fan in each room you sleep in or habitually sit in, you can save pretty big bucks on your electric bill. “But what about the winter? Won’t having a fan on just make me colder?” Wrong-o, pal. Most ceiling fans come with a switch on the motor that allows you to reverse the direction of the blades. When you’re feeling chilly but don’t want to throw money at your heater, turn your fan on reverse so it sucks cold air away from you. You won’t even have to think warm thoughts!
- Consider Installing Energy Efficient Appliances
It’s not that your original 1950’s mint green dream refrigerator isn’t cute and aesthetic, but it’s definitely not doing you any favors in the money department. Energy efficient appliances can save you up to 30% on your electric bill, and that kind of saving can really stack up over time. Eventually you’ll make back everything you spent updating your appliances. If you can’t afford to get all new everything right off the bat, the best things you can update are your refrigerator, your washer/dryer, and your oven. Even switching one or two of your appliances to energy efficient models can make a difference on your bill if you switch what you use most often. Your wallet will thank you.
- Search Your New Address on Your County or City Permitting Site
This one’s an oddball, but it’s a good idea to check whether your home has any open permits pulled on it. This can tell you whether any projects on your home were left incomplete by previous owners or if the contractors they hired frauded their way out of an official inspection.
- Develop a Home Maintenance ChecklistA+ format, but make sure you actually write down the things you need done before you get highlighter happy.
The best way to stay on top of your growing list of responsibilities? Treat them like a literal list! Make a monthly and annual list of the things you need to stay on top of, and set a monthly reminder on your phone or calendar. The first of every month or so, go through your house and check for any loose outlets or glaring issues. It doesn’t have to be anything serious – just a quick walk-through is good enough. Set a date every year for a licensed electrician to come by and inspect your home. That’s the best way to catch small problems before they get bigger and prevent problems from forming at all! Not sure who to call? Duh — Lucky Devil Electric! We’re the best in the biz and we’re more than happy to share our knowledge with you.
Now, go off and adult! We believe in you.