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Playing it safe with your electricity during Arizona monsoon season

There are still a few weeks left in Arizona’s monsoon season.

When those storm clouds roll in, they can bring electrical blackouts or surges that can mess up electronic devices in your home as well as your appliances. Here are some ideas for coping safely with electricity problems during a storm:

Prevent electrical surges due to lightning or power problems by hard-wiring a whole-house surge protector directly to your electrical service panel.

These devices operate like a giant version of those surge protector strips that many homeowners use to protect PCs or flat-screen TVs, and they often come with guarantees. We recommend hiring a trusted electrician to install these units since working with wiring on your electrical service panel can be tricky and sometimes dangerous. Installation should cost a few hundred dollars.

If the lights start flickering or dimming in your house, don’t assume that it’s because the wind and rain is blowing outside.

Sometimes this problem can be the result of loose connections or other problems in a receptacle/outlet, a switch or your electrical panel. The panel is the box in the garage or on the side of your house. If the flickering happens when large appliances turn off and on, like your air conditioner or dishwasher, a repair person may need to check out the appliance. If an electrician can’t find the problem pretty quickly, don’t start redoing all the wiring in the house; it might be a situation your utility company has to solve in its transmission equipment.

Don’t assume that your electrical panel will last forever.

Believe it or not, the entire panel can burn out. They don’t last indefinitely. The breakers can overheat and damage the panel. The extreme hot and cold in much of Arizona is partly responsible. But the good news is that the panel can be replaced. If the size of your panel is inadequate, it can also be expanded to provide new circuits. An electrician can refurbish your old panel to give it a longer life.

Be careful with the wattage on light bulbs.

If a manufacturer recommends a particular wattage for a lamp or a fixture, don’t stick in a bulb that has more watts. The bulb’s extra heat can scorch or melt the socket and insulation on the fixture’s wires and may lead to an electrical fire.

Relabel the circuit breakers on your electric panel.

In most older homes, a few marks or labels have been scratched next to the breakers on the panel, but often the labels are nearly unreadable. Then when you have to shut down electricity in an emergency, you can’t find the right breaker.

Have two people on cellphones – one inside the house and one outside – who can talk back and forth. One person turns on all appliances and lights in the house. Then the person at the panel turns off the circuit breakers one-by-one and the person in the house can report on what areas go dead. Or someone turns off all the breakers at once and turns them on one by one.

One worker needs to draw a sketch of the box and then indicate which breaker serves what appliances and what areas. Once a service panel is labeled, you will know how to turn off the power in a particular area if you need to in an emergency. You will also be better able to identify which areas of your home are having an electrical problem when you have to reset a circuit breaker.

For more electrical safety tips, and help on your DIY projects visit RosieontheHouse.com, Arizona’s largest collection of homeowner DIY advice and information.

And if you are in need of a contractor you can trust, visit our list of Arizona’s very best contractors or service providers for your home improvement projects at RosieontheHouse.com, Arizona’s most trusted referral nnetwork.

Tune in to KTAR every Saturday morning from 7-11 a.m. for the Rosie on the House broadcast!