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R-e-s-p-e-c-t your power source

Interior designer Kimberley Seldon teams with ESA to promote functional, safe and ‘pretty’ renovations

It’s like eating your vegetables. You do it because you know it’s good for you.

That’s how design expert Kimberley Seldon wants homeowners to approach electrical safety. After 25 years in the business, she’s seen enough mistakes to know “what’s behind your walls is just as important as what you put on them.” Which is why she’s partnering with the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) to launch Power Your Reno, a new education program that sheds light on electrical implications too often overlooked by consumers when undertaking home renovations.

The number one mistake, she says, is failing to plan upfront. “Often you’ve got a builder or contractor and you start doing the electrical work before you have all of the answers, and it’s always a mistake,” says Seldon.

Instead, Power Your Reno encourages consumers to involve a licensed electrical contractor (LEC) early on in the design process. Ask your general contractor who will be doing the electrical work specifically, and insist on both an electrical permit and a closing inspection, she says.

“The onus is on the consumer to make sure the electrician has the proper qualifications and a lot of people are not aware of that,” says Seldon, noting that if an electrician doesn’t mention the inspection or says it isn’t necessary, it should be considered an immediate red flag.

Hosted at, the new program offers room-by-room advice on electrical implications related to home renovations, beginning with the kitchen. It also serves as a resource of important information to consider when hiring an electrician and a link to find an LEC in your area.

The campaign aims to get homeowners thinking about electrical considerations at the design stage so that costly mistakes can be avoided altogether, says ESA General Manager Steve Smith. “It’s very unfortunate when our inspectors arrive on site and they have to tell people that it doesn’t meet the code,” says Smith. “… What scares me is when you get the jack of all trades who has a bit of knowledge and you have no idea what they’ve done behind those walls because all you’re looking at is a receptacle and a cover plate.”

Just as car safety has evolved to include air bags, backup cameras and smart detection systems, the electrical code is updated every three years to introduce advances in technology. For example, ground fault circuit interruption is now required in any area where electricity and water may come into contact, including any outlet within 1.5 metres of a sink. Also, there must be an outlet within 900 millimetres of any given point along a kitchen backsplash.

Pot lights are popular in kitchen renos. But did you realize there are two distinct types of housing, one intended for an insulated ceiling and the other for a ceiling with no insulation? “If you use the wrong one in the wrong spot, it could lead to tragedy,” says Smith. “Electricity is an energy source and you have to respect it; if it gets out of its containment, it could lead to a shock or fire.”

To ensure your home renovation project is both stunning and safe, here are Power Your Reno’s top six tips for a safe and functional kitchen:

  • Put a proper lighting plan in place at the design stage. This will help to avoid ill-placed outlets and lighting controls.
  • Take advantage of newer options such as pop-up style outlets or switch plates designed to blend in with a backsplash.
  • Don’t forget your island or peninsula. Outlets will need to be installed in the cabinet structure itself and that means wiring will need to be accommodated.
  • Ensure your appliance garage, super pantry or coffee station is equipped with a special interlocking switch that automatically shuts off power when the door is closed.
  • Make sure your electrical system from yesterday is ready to power today’s latest and greatest appliances. Hard-wired espresso machines, sub-zero fridges or double ovens may require additional circuits and/or amperage.

Author:  Kimberley Seldon

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