Poorly insulated cables are among the leading causes of electric shock and other related issues in most homes and businesses today. But if an average electrician installs the electric cords in good condition, what tampers with their insulation, exposing their conductive wires?
Read on to understand how electrical insulation works, its importance, and the need for regular inspection to prevent any electrical issues.
The Basics of Electrical Insulation
Electrical insulation involves using high-resistance, non-conductive materials to prevent unintended electrical contact and other potential hazards.
Although safety assurance in line with electrical shocks and fires is the primary reason for electrical insulation, proper use of electrical insulators extends far beyond immediate safety concerns. Correct insulation also comes with an assurance of guaranteed efficiency and sustainability of homes and businesses. This makes it a critical need for responsible property ownership and management.
The idea around electrical insulators is that they do not transfer electrical current to the surroundings. Even then, standard insulators’ ideal nature varies depending on their properties’ intensity. Some common electric insulating materials you can encounter are Teflon, rubber, paper, mica, plastic, glass, etc. The choice of either of these materials depends on the application requirements, operating conditions of the electric cords, and environmental considerations. The primary properties of insulating materials that you must know are:
- Resistivity: This is measured by the ability of an insulating material to oppose the flow of electric current. Typically, a good insulating material should have a higher resistivity.
- Dielectric strength is the ability of electrically insulating materials to withstand electric stress without subduing or breaking down.
How to Identify the Signs of Electric Insulation Wear
Electrical faults can be unpredictable in the sense that they may occur unexpectedly. However, most electric issues are preventable and can be controlled by regular maintenance. For example, in this case, prompt repairs and immediate replacement of damaged insulation can avoid electric issues that arise from exposed conductive wires due to damaged insulation.
Here is how you can tell that your electric insulation is compromised, whether at home or around your business premises:
Inspect the Cables for Fractures and Discoloration
You must visually inspect the insulation surface of your electric cables for visible cracks or fractures. If any are present, this indicates aging or physically stressed cables. Similarly, discoloration around electric cords may be a sign of overheating of the cable or overexposure to extreme environmental factors.
You may have also noticed that the insulation crumbles upon touch, which is a clear sign of the insulation’s structural integrity. This is especially common in rubber and plastic insulation materials.
Recognize the Smell of Burning Material Around Electrical Equipment
Electric cables have an unusual burning smell of the insulation material, indicating a possible overheating issue or short circuits within the electrical system. This demands immediate attention to prevent further damage and risk of fire.
Note the Reducing Insulation Resistance after Electrical Tests
As a home or business owner, conducting the insulation resistance test on your own can be challenging. Instead, look for a local Arvada electrician qualified in electrical matters to do the testing and then analyze the results from the megohmmeter (insulation resistance tester). The acceptable range from these results depends on the electrical applications in the system.
Note that high-voltage systems need higher insulation resistance, so a decrease in the insulation means potential damage to the insulation. The drop in the readings could result from aged wiring, among many other factors.
There are many other ways to look for damages in electrical insulation, but they are electrician-oriented duties. While the above issues are what you would observe when going around with other duties, you must schedule regular electrical inspections to inspect the wiring for any insulation wear.
Common Causes of Electrical Insulation Deterioration & Failure
Regular inspection, timely repair, and replacement of damaged insulation help avoid potential risks. But you must also know some of the leading causes of electrical insulation damage and learn how to manage them in advance.
Some of these include:
Like any other item, electric cables experience natural aging due to different environmental factors and temperature fluctuations. These factors combined lead to a reduced effectiveness of any cable insulation. To counter this effect, the best you can do is to set regular inspections with a proactive maintenance plan where aged cables get replaced before their insulation becomes a problem.
Extreme bending of electric cords during installation damages the insulation, affecting its effectiveness. To avoid this, you need to hire professional electricians from renowned electrical companies near Denver for all your installation work. A well-trained and certified electrician will use appropriate cable support and employ conduits to minimize stress on the cables.
Whenever you exceed an electrical circuit capacity in your living room, kitchen, office, or work, you overload the whole circuit, causing heat generation that degrades the insulating material over time. Additionally, depending on the material used for the insulation, the generated heat softens up the insulation, making it more susceptible to mechanical damage. This may lead to cracks and fractures if the cable is bent or twisted and hardens after heat generation.
To prevent electrical overloading, your house needs the correct installation of circuit breakers and fuses that will help prevent the drawing of excessive current. You must also ensure different electrical circuits in the building are designed to handle all the expected loads.
Poor Quality Cables
Another common cause of electrical insulation damage is wiring your house or building premises with poor-quality cables. These often have manufacturing defects that do not meet the expected electrical standards regarding safety. As a result, the insulation on such cables is bound to get damaged at the slightest provocation, compromising the safety of the connected appliances and the building’s occupants.
The best way to avoid this is to source your wiring cables and other components from reputable manufacturers that stick to the industry standards. Your electrician must also conduct quality assurance tests on all cables before their installation to ensure you have quality insulation.
It’s not the first time a rat has chewed up electric cords, exposing your conductors and risking different issues surrounding the exposed connections. If not managed in good time, the exposed wiring can come into contact with the surrounding materials, risking sparking and arcing. You can best keep the rats away by implementing rodent and pest control measures. You may also want to invest in protective coverings in rats-infested areas to shield the cables from damage.
Potential Consequences of Inadequate Electrical Insulation
You need to prioritize proper electrical insulation because of the rising potential hazards when the integrity of insulation is compromised. When the insulation fails to oppose current flow between live wires and its surrounding elements, here are probable electric hazards that may occur:
- Risk of electrical fires that could result from overheated wiring and their insulation, leading to sparks that may ignite surrounding materials.
- Electric equipment damage from the risk of electric circuits that result from electricity taking unintended paths due to the damaged insulation.
- High fault currents and explosions when conductors short circuit with grounded surfaces in a high voltage system.
- Fatal accidents and personal injury from the risk of electric shock.
Regular inspection and maintenance of your electrical insulation will safeguard your electrical systems and promote a safer environment free from these risks.
Tips for Home and Business Owners
Unless you are subscribed to green energy, you can’t avoid the interaction with electrical systems daily. Here are some proactive steps we believe will help ensure your safety and that of your equipment regarding electrical insulation, whether at home or on your business premises.
Hire Qualified Professionals
Improper electrical insulation can have dire consequences if not handled with the seriousness it deserves. You need to hire only qualified electricians to handle all your installation and complex electrical work. This is because professional electricians with expertise in insulation can provide valuable insights, ensuring all insulation work is satisfactory.
Schedule Professional Inspections and Assessments
Go for certified electricians near you who can help conduct regular inspections around the building and look for signs of damaged or deteriorating insulations. They will then recommend the needed repairs or upgrades.
You need to act with speed on all identified insulation matters. Whether it is repairing damaged insulation or replacing outdated materials, you must prioritize them to avoid any potential hazards for the safety of your home or business.
Invest in Quality
During your installation, choose quality materials, including electric cables with standard insulation properties. Remember, having quality insulation is good for the building’s safety and its occupants and efficiency in the overall electrical system.
Educate Building Occupants
Ensure everyone at home and in the office is well-educated on the importance of electrical safety. You must also encourage them to report unusual observations around electrical systems to help counter any issues promptly.
Establish Reliable Emergency Preparedness Strategies
You must always have an operation emergency plan in case of any electrical issues. This may mean educating your family members and employees on the location of circuit breakers, electric panels, and emergency switches for emergency procedures.
Stay Informed and Plan for Upgrades
While it is important to stay informed about the lifespan of different materials, you must also have an upgrade plan in your long-term maintenance strategy. This is due to the evolving technology that may come with newer, more efficient insulation materials that offer improved safety and performance.
Understanding the relevance of proper electrical insulation is important for the safety and efficiency of all electrical-related activities. For homeowners and business owners alike, you must learn to identify the signs of damaged or deteriorating insulation to help make the necessary repairs quickly. Most importantly, the common causes of insulation failure range from mechanical stress and electrical overloading to rodent activity on the cables. To counter each of these, regular inspection is a key factor that you have to prioritize to safeguard your electrical systems and keep everyone in the building safe.