Follow these tips to make sure your electrical system operates safely when you open your cottage:
When you arrive:
- Look for damage to powerlines leading to your cottage. If you see downed or sagging lines, stay clear and contact your local utility immediately;
- Do the trees appear to be too close to the powerlines (within one metre)? Tell your utility. If you own the hydro poles and powerlines on your property, contact a professional to trim the trees; and
- Is there is a transformer on a pole (it looks like a small garbage can)? The powerline that feeds this transformer is high voltage. Trim any branches so they are at least four meters away from the powerline.
Before turning the power on at the main switch:
- Check that all wiring that runs exterior equipment (such as water pumps) is intact. If it’s damaged, remove the associated fuse or turn off the circuit breaker and contact a Licensed Electrical Contractor;
- Make sure all appliances or electrical devices are unplugged or switched off. Clear any debris from stove-top elements and baseboard heaters;
- Fill the hot water tank;
- Check all appliance and extension cords for signs of damage or wear. Watch out for cracking or rodent damage;
- Check that the chimney for your electric furnace is clear of debris such as bird's nests and leaves; and
- Ensure all branch circuits are in the "off" position in your electrical panel. After you turn on the main switch, turn them on one at a time to avoid surges that can damage your appliances. If you have a fuse box, plug in or switch on appliances and electrical devices one at a time.
- Planning to do electrical work? File a notification of work with ESA. We also recommend that you hire a Licensed Electrical Contractor to do electrical work in your home or cottage.
- Get protected. You need Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) for all circuits that supply outdoor appliances and tools. This is especially important around water. Outdoor outlets must have covers that protect them from the elements. You also need GFCIs for outlets located in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Using extension cords? Remember, they’re intended for temporary use only. Permanent wiring is the safest option.
- Cords are rated for interior or exterior use. Make sure you buy and use the right one for the job.
- Never remove the third prong. It’s there for your safety.
- Discard any cords that heat up when in use or are cracked, pinched, frayed or show other damage.
- Keep outdoor cords dry and protected from the weather.
- Darn, there goes that fuse again! Call a Licensed Electrical Contractor to find out why fuses repeatedly blow or circuits frequently trip.
- Are you buying a portable standby generator? ESA recommends you hire a Licensed Electrical Contractor to install it. Read more generator safety tips here.
Getting your cottage’s electrical system ready for winter can help make spring opening safer and smoother. Here are some tips for closing your cottage safely:
- Turn off individual breakers before flipping the main switch. This will help protect your major appliances (including your pump and hot water tank) when you power up in the spring.
- If you have a fuse panel, unplug or switch off all appliances and electrical devices before you switch off the main power.
- Store all extension cords in rodent-proof containers. Or, consider storing them at home where they won’t be subject to freezing temperatures, which can cause them to crack.
- Walk around your property to see if trees are starting to grow too close to overhead powerlines. Remember that evergreen branches hang much lower in the winter due to snow loading. If you own the hydro poles on your property, hire a professional to trim the trees. If your utility owns the poles, let them know.
If you plan to leave your electricity on over the winter:
- Switch off the breakers at your main panel for the circuits that supply power to your major appliances, including your pump and hot water heater. If you have a fuse panel, unplug these major appliances.
- Switch off the breakers at your main panel that supply power to any space heaters. If you have a fuse panel, unplug all space heaters. Otherwise they may turn on during cold weather.
- Don't rely on space heaters in the pump pit for water systems that can’t be completely drained. Unattended temporary space heaters are a fire hazard.
- Consider new technology such as remote control systems. These allow you to check for flooding, freezing and fire as well as operate security lighting and control the thermostat. Some come with video systems that monitor for property security as well as snow loading.
Did your local utility disconnect the power to your dwelling more than six months ago? You must have an ESA inspection before your local utility can restore power.