Electrical permits are important to everyone and not just your insurance company. A recent conversation with a local electrical inspector has reaffirmed what our electricians have been explaining to homeowners for years. If regulated electrical work is completed without an electrical permit in place, your homeowner’s insurance policy will be compromised. An insurance claim will likely be denied in the event of a disaster. The inspector stated that this has been a hard lesson for some homeowners in recent incidents in the Lower Mainland.
I know Electrical Permits are Important, but can’t this just be my little secret?
Nope. Electrical permits are important, to the extent that they fall under the public Freedom of Information Act. So your secret is out there for the world to see. This means that anyone, from insurance providers, realtors and potential home buyers to your next door neighbor, can search your property’s electrical permit history by just contacting the regulating authority in your area and providing your street address.
Depending on the age of your home, the first electrical permit may be from when the home was built and subsequent permits will follow in chronological order. Permits will state the scope of electrical work covered by the permit, in addition to the name and qualifications of the person responsible for the electrical work.
The absence of an electrical permit for regulated electrical changes also speaks volumes. It sends a very clear message to an investigator implying that electrical work was likely done by an unlicensed, amateur installer and therefore safety and quality of workmanship are suspect. This gives insurance companies all the reason they need to refuse claim coverage.
Potential home buyers will usually shy away from a home that holds electrical secrets. In addition to your asking price, buyers will imagine a long list of possible expensive repairs to deal with, not to mention the fear of moving into a house with obvious unauthorized electrical changes.
Homeowners need to understand that electrical permits are important and the risks in avoiding the electrical permit to save a few dollars is just not worth it.
An alarming statistic has revealed that modern homes burn faster than homes built 30 years ago. An Underwriters Laboratory study indicates that occupants in newer homes have less than three minutes to escape a burning building versus 17 minutes from older homes. This is a significant difference. With this new information, the urgency to evacuate the burning building as quickly as possible cannot be overstated. Homeowners need to understand that a three minute window does not allow time to gather precious belongings, look for the cat, or try to fight the fire themselves.
So what is Causing Homes to Burn Faster?
Studies show that the cause of house fires today, versus 100 years ago, has not changed significantly. Human error involving unattended candles, smoking in bed, poorly stored flammable liquids and faulty electrical are still the main causes. What has changed in recent years is the speed at which the fire and smoke spread throughout the structure.
Three causes have been identified as main contributors to this difference:
Furnishings: The things we fill our homes with, such as upholstered furniture, drapery and carpeting, consist mostly of fast burning synthetic materials. Decades ago, slower burning natural materials and fibers were more common.
Design: The popular open floor plan, commonly found in modern homes, actually contributes to the speed at which a fire spreads. This large open space provides lots of available oxygen to fuel a blaze versus the smaller rooms with doors common to older style homes.
Construction: Today’s homes are typically dimensional wood frame construction versus the heavier lumber and beams used in the distant past. In an effort to construct safer homes, builders are encouraged to exceed fire rating standards and use more fire resistant composite lumber products, multi layered fire rated gypsum board, and steel studs in addition to concrete and brick. Any construction measure that slows the rate of fire spread provides the occupants a better chance of escape and reduces the degree of structural damage.
Armed with this information, homeowners should always be making decisions that increase the fire safety of their homes in each of these areas. The most obvious and cost effective safety measure is the installation of the common household smoke detector. An up-to-date, functioning, hard-wired smoke alarm with battery backup, will provide the homeowner with the most reliable early warning of fire, giving occupants the best chance to get out safely. For more information on smoke alarms, please check out the following link.
In an effort to address the concern that modern homes burn faster, building codes may soon be changing. A task force, commissioned by the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes, has recently approached the National Building Code of Canada with a recommendation that mandatory sprinkler systems should be included in the Building Code for all new construction as early as 2020. Related industries are now in discussion on how this recommendation would impact the cost of new construction.
Dangerous wiring, hidden behind the walls, is a common find for a service electrician and can result in anything from a circuit power failure to a residential house fire. This problem is a ticking time bomb as the danger can sometimes lay hidden for years before a failure occurs.
A fire requires three things to burn: an ignition source or spark, a fuel source and oxygen.
This was clearly emphasized at a local Fire Department’s training session that our crews attended many years ago. So our electricians explain this to homeowners whenever they come across open splices buried inside walls like this one found today. Everything about this unpleasant find is WRONG and DANGEROUS!
When wiring is properly terminated inside a correctly rated and installed electrical box, it is isolated from nearby combustible materials (wooden studs, beams, etc.) and although an electrical box is not airtight, the amount of oxygen inside the enclosure is quickly depleted should any arcing occur. The spark is also contained and can not reach a fuel source, so it is quickly starved of both fuel and oxygen, and the potential fire dies out.
We’d like to say that this type of find is unusual, but it’s not. Our electricians come across this problem much too often, and in homes of almost any age. If you suspect there may be unauthorized, amateur wiring somewhere in your home, please call us and we can investigate and correct the issue before it becomes a serious problem. We can not emphasize enough the importance of hiring a licensed electrician to complete all regulated electrical work.