My First Electric Shock- Exhilarating!
Do you remember your first electric shock?
Somewhere in the mists of my memory, I recall the amazing and horrible sensation of my first shock. I am certain that I was cheerfully sticking metal objects into that fascinating little slot in the electrical outlet (I wonder what’s in there?). I suddenly it felt as though ten thousand springs were bouncing around in my arm and I beat a hasty retreat. AHHHH! electricity.
Since those days, some genius invented those little plastic covers that go into the outlet and now the building code requires a “tamper proof outlet” that has a built-in finger guard. Pretty cool. There are, however, much more dangerous places for little hands and fingers to go. These are the really scary places that will cause severe burns…or a trip to the funeral home. They are all over the place at almost everybody’s homes.
Let’s take a walk around the house to the air conditioning unit. You will notice that there is an electrical conduit that is running to a small gray box attached to the side of the house. This is the disconnect that allows the air conditioning serviceman to turn off the juice before he works on the unit.
Depending on the age of the house, if you open the box cover, you may find an unspeakably dangerous situation. For some years, thrifty manufacturers (spell that cheap!) had a cover inside of the disconnect made of cardboard. This piece of cardboard actually covers the raw 220 volt wiring connection.
Obviously, cardboard is easy to pull back, or more likely, it has long since fallen out of the box leaving hot 220 conductors ready for little hands. The quick and easy solution for this is to buy one of those little padlocks and lock the disconnect box. If you can’t do that then take some stiff coat hanger wire and run it through the hasp of the box and give it a good twist so as to keep that box cover closed and your child breathing.
If your house has a do-it-yourself present or has a few years on it then there is likely another insanely hazardous spot: the big electrical panel for the house. It is usually located in the laundry room, the garage, or the basement. Sometimes it is mounted on the outside of the house.
As time passes and new appliances are added or removed it is common for a circuit breaker to be removed leaving an open spot in the electrical panel cover. Any kid worth his salt will find such an opening irresistible for his exploring fingers. Inside one of these panels those little fingers are going to hit the mother lode of electricity-usually 200 amps.
The best case scenario for this will be that the little fingers short circuit the panel causing the 200 amp breaker to trip and the child will probably only lose his fingers to intense electrical burns or explosion. The worst case would be that that breaker does not trip, and the current will hold him or her until they are found…way too late.
The irony of this is that small plastic rectangular covers are available at all hardware stores and building supply houses that are designed to fill these openings. They run about $2.50 for a pack of three. Take a look at the label to see the manufacturer of the panel such as General Electric, Square D, or Siemens, and select the plastic knockout fillers designed for the specific product.
They will pop right into place covering the opening. If you cannot find suitable covers then lock the panel or screw the door shut …
Remember that I said that these hazards are the norm and not the exception. Do something about it today.
Ned Dominick has been inspecting homes in Macon, Warner Robins, Byron, Forsyth, and all Middle Georgia since 1978. He and his qualified inspectors have examined over 30,000 local homes. If you have questions, check out Ned’s website at www.housetalk.net or give him a call at 478-738-0893.