Winter is Coming: Protect Against Ice, Fire, and Other Cold-Weather Dangers with Farryn Electric
When the weather turns cold there’s nothing better than being warm and cozy inside while the winds bluster and the weather makes you all the more grateful for a safe, secure interior.
But is a safe, secure interior what you’re actually living in? Or could the potential dangers of cold-weather electrical emergencies be lurking behind, or just outside, your walls?
Here’s a shocking assertion: “At least once a week every winter somebody calls us saying, ‘My outlet caught on fire.’”
So states Dan Namerow, Master Electrician, educator on electrical theory, and owner of Farryn Electric, a local full-service provider and installer of everything electric: indoor and outdoor lighting, renovations, entertainment systems, heating, appliances, communications systems, and more. Dan also says that preparing for the cold weather means more than stocking up on cocoa and outfitting the kids with new winter coats.
“We go to the doctor once a year,” says Dan. “We get our cars serviced once a year. But most people leave their electric systems alone and just hope for the best.”
Instead of the best, a lack of maintenance on your electrical system can result in the absolute worst.
With over two decades of electrical work under his belt and more emergency calls on the books than he can tally, Dan’s cautions about winter readiness can be counted on as the voice of experience. Originally educated to be a writer, Dan acquired his expertise under his electrician father’s tutelage, indoctrinated into his field post-college, somewhat against his will. Unintentionally, Dan fell in love with the work, and his ability to effectively communicate and share his knowledge comes into play in his blog, in his six years of teaching on national code and theory, and in his dedication to client care, beautifully finished installations, and home safety.
One of the most important lessons Dan’s lifelong exposure to the study of electricity has taught him? Winter is by far the most dangerous season for electrical systems. Here’s a comprehensive breakdown on winter perils and how to fortify your home against the dangers of cold weather.
Down to the Wire
When it comes to home safety, understanding the dynamic nature of an electrical system is paramount.
“People believe that electrical systems lie dormant in their walls,” says Dan. “This is wrong. With heat comes expansion and with cold comes contraction, and that’s what the wiring is experiencing, especially the connections.”
If we consider this, the winter cold that collects inside our walls, and the warmth applied by our heating systems, this sheds a different light on what our electrical systems might be doing in the dark. Unbeknownst to most, the contraction from cold can lead to loose electrical connections. Without regular maintenance and consultation with an expert like Dan, we may be inviting the possibility of electrical arcing. And with arcing comes fire.
The fix: At the very least, Dan advises, sign yourself on for a safety inspection. Maintaining electrical system health is vital, while doing nothing is dangerous.
A Plug Against Space Heaters
“Nothing scares me more than an improperly used space heater,” says Dan, a strong statement from a master electrician whose experience with faulty wiring and every near-electrical disaster covers a lot of ground.
So what makes space heaters so terrifying? We commonly use them to warm up a drafty space, and while few would leave one running upon leaving the house, and some even go so far as to unplug when not in use, we consider a space heater a useful appliance and ultimately harmless. But nothing could be further from the truth. And the further from your power source the space heater is, the more potential it has for harm.
“Just because a plug fits an outlet doesn’t mean it’s a safe application,” Dan advises.
The problem is the incompatibility between the amperage demand of the space heater and the availability of electricity that flows to a typical outlet. On the other end of the circuit, on the other side of the wall out of sight, the breaker is being taxed, and asked to do its absolute maximum work. That stress on the system means space heaters cause fires, melted breakers, even breaker boxes with internal parts melted and fused to the point of the entire panel needing replacement.
The fix: Choose the rooms in your home that need extra heat to make them comfortable, and decide on best placement for a space heater. You’ll need a dedicated circuit and outlet for appropriate amperage, which will keep you warm and safe for the winter. The bonus? Those highly-powered outlets are perfect to support air conditioning units for summer.
When Heat Rises, So Does Risk
Heating systems in our region cover all bases, including baseboard heat. With no gas or oil to leak, or venting to malfunction, what could the danger possibly be with innocuous metal bars radiating warmth? Again, it’s fire. Outlets are all too often, against code, installed directly above a baseboard heating unit. When you plug into that receptacle, heat flowing upward can melt the cord, and there’s your chance for big problems, including fire.
The fix: If your outlets are installed above baseboard heaters, stop using them immediately. Invite an expert like Dan to inspect, correct, and get your home safely up to code.
Don’t Go Snow Blind
Snow is romantic and fun and can cause every kind of trouble known to humankind. While weather is unpredictable, we know it’s coming, and with snow, ice, and tree branches coming down, every winter has potential to wreak havoc on our homes and safety. What can happen? Snow could pile so heavily on external wires, the service connection might be torn right off your house. After a storm, snowmelt can flow into parts of your electrical system and cause shorts or oxidation. And don’t forget power outages, which can leave you without heat in the dead of winter for days.
The fix: Keep your eyes open! Know the age of your electrical system. Check your exterior wires and connections for wear and compromised sealant. Make sure your exterior lighting is bright enough and well-placed to make walking your property in snowy and icy conditions safe. Have your interior and exterior electrical service inspected and lighting installed by an expert. And consider a generator. Farryn Electric offers financing on generators, making them more affordable and accessible than purchasing outright!
So what’s the takeaway? Winter and electrical systems sometimes don’t get along, and worse, can be a much more dangerous and costly combination than most of us ever consider. But with the right precautions and the kind of care and expert handling that is the hallmark of Farryn Electric, you’ll safely weather this winter and all of those to come.
Dan says, “I believe this in my heart of hearts, no other electric company on the Main Line delivers better service, care, communication, and response than my company. I make sure we are not the typical contractor.”
For winter-readiness, service upgrades, repairs, installations, and all other electrical services, contact Farryn Electric!
This sponsored story by Karen Barbuscia supports the Main Line Parent Community. Photography of Farryn Electric by Amrit Gluck, Perfectly Paired Photography.