homes’ electrical systems require regular maintenance. Many homeowners do not realize that various parts of their system must be routinely exercised, examined for functional capability and tested, especially during the first one or two years and then after the systems starts to age.
The electrical contractor that installs the wiring in the home should provide a maintenance and instruction book detailing the operational requirements for the electrical system and the warranty of all electrical equipment. This should be given to the general contractor that built the home and then passed on to the homeowner when they take possession. This is also an opportunity for the electrical contractor to explain the complex electrical systems installed in the home and provide their contact information so the homeowner can ask questions and get answers.
For example, the owner might have questions about the structured (network) wiring systems supplying the low-voltage infrastructure for their home. Some of these systems can be very sophisticated and may even be integral for a smart home.
Is there a security system wired into the home from the windows, doors and other areas? Are there home runs from each of the television jacks back to a central low-voltage panel or to a central connection point? What is the size of the coaxial cable installed from the jacks to the low-voltage panel? Structured wiring systems will consolidate all the low-voltage systems into one enclosure so amplifiers can be added, depending on the amount of signal strength needed for the systems.
Many future homeowners are not aware that structured wiring systems are available, and the electrical contractor can educate and sell them on adding the system early during construction. With appropriate cable marking on the wiring within the structured network box, the homeowner can easily understand the system components and can call the electrical contractor in the future for expansion of their low-voltage systems.
A home automation system can be easily installed with 18/2 low-voltage cable run from the header above the windows to the structured network box, which can be used to control automated blinds for each window. This is easy to do at the time of construction for a very low cost by the electrical contractor. The EC can put a notation in the maintenance and instruction book so that the homeowner can call the contractor at occupation of the home to add these features as an after-market installation.
Such automated systems can certainly be used as selling features, especially in high-heat areas of the South and southwest United States. I provided a DC low-voltage blind control system for the nurses’ station of a three-pod dialysis center with a three-position switch (center off) to control the DC motors for the blinds. A similar system could certainly be done for a home. Take care with the length of the control conductors for proper operation of the DC motors.
Something as simple as showing the location and volt-ampere size of the doorbell transformer is extremely helpful for the homeowner. I owned a home in Cary, N.C., and, after about six years, the doorbell transformer went bad. Even though I had been an electrical contractor for many years, I had a difficult time finding the bad transformer to replace. I finally went into the crawl space under my home and found the transformer behind a large joist where the wiring, the GFCI receptacle and the plug-in transformer were totally hidden.
Most homeowners are familiar with GFCI receptacles and some are even familiar with GFCI circuit breakers. However, many do not realize that these devices must be checked every 30 days using the trip and reset button on the device. This should be pointed out and emphasized in the maintenance book, since the electronics of the devices can be damaged by high-voltage spikes from storms and similar problems. These devices must be checked regularly. Circuit breakers in panelboards must be maintained (exercised periodically) based on the manufacturer’s instruction.
One of the least checked and maintained system in homes—and even in commercial and industrial facilities—is the electrical grounding system. Driven-ground rods that are a part of the grounding reference system for the service deteriorate over time and must be checked and replaced periodically, especially in areas of the country with high corrosion issues in the soil.
Most homeowners would be incredibly grateful for tips on understanding and maintaining all of these systems. The electrical contractor’s job is to educate them since the electrical system is only as good as the maintenance provided regularly over the years.