Winter is the time of year when you’re plugging in tank heaters, electrical heaters, and doing a lot of work in the shop on the farm. It all adds loads to your farm’s electrical grid. If the subzero temps have been a problem for your power grid, maybe it’s time to bring out an electrician, says Jeff Mahlkuch, the construction manager with A1 Electric in Monroe. Roughly 60 percent of their customers are rural residents.
“Winter time is actually when they seem to notice they have problems,” he says. “Anytime you have concerns about your electrical system or you’re going to be adding a load to your system, you should have it looked at.”
Upgrading your system can prevent a shutdown or an electrical fire.
how to inspect your electrical Grid
Are you using portable heaters or electrical heating devices that haven’t been used in years? Have rodents been around? If it looks chewed up, old or decrepit it can easily overheat or cause a spark.
Examine your farm. If the wiring is overhead, are the poles rotted off at the ground? Is the service falling off the pole? Are the wires bare? This is a project that can be lined up today to be fixed in the spring.
Are the lights flickering or dimming when you plug something in or turn something on? It could be as simple as a bad connection, or it could be a sign of a larger issue.
4. Age of system
Check for old (pre-1980) or cloth-covered wiring. This is a sign that there may not be a grounding conductor. If something shorts out, there isn’t something to trip the breaker or flow the fuse, causing overheating and possibly a fire.
Are the outlets falling out of the wall due to old, horsehair plaster? Are the outlets in your home or barn two-pronged outlets, meaning they lack a third, semi-circle grounding prong? Again, that means there is not a grounding conductor to trip the breaker, causing overheating.
6. Knob-and-tube wiring
This was an early method of wiring in buildings until the 1940s. Mahlkuch describes it as old, two separate wires through the attic or basement held together by what looks like electric fence insulators. Push-button light switches are also a sign that you may have knob-and-tube wiring.
Call an Electrician
Mahlkuch emphasizes that you can bring an electrician out in the winter to take a look at the farm and plan your project date in the spring or summer when construction projects are cheaper. Having this consultation early can also help your electrician order supplies in advance and avoid product delays.
If you’re planning a farm upgrade or addition, bring in your electrician to talk to the rest of your contractors to tackle small issues before they become larger problems later on in the project.
Not only can your electrician make sure you have the electrical load to handle updates, but they can start looking for available dollars to save you money, such as the Farm Electrical Rewiring Program, Focus on Energy, and other state grants.
Talk to your Rural Mutual agent about any changes to your farm to make sure you’re properly protected.