For 58 years, Irma Gaines has lived in her home on Natural Bridge Road in North St. Louis. She and her late husband bought the home in 1961 and raised four children there. But at 84-years-old and on fixed income, her home had become a burden. Like a lot of St. Louis’ aging, low income housing stock, the house had electrical issues and had fallen into disrepair. Then Saturday, April 27, 2019 came with a knock on the door from volunteers with the Electrical Connection. Gaines’ home was getting a free electrical upgrade curtesy of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 1 and the St. Louis Chapter, National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) partnership.
Gaines’ home was one of 21 homes that received free electrical repairs and much needed improvements as part of a 16-year commitment by Electrical Connection to help Rebuilding Together St. Louis. More than 150 IBEW electricians and 13 NECA electrical contractors fanned out that morning into low income communities in the city and St. Louis County to make repairs.
“For many of our members, these were neighborhoods they grew up in,” noted Dave Roth, business representative for IBEW Local 1. “So it was great to not only make these homes more electrically safe and functional, but their service improves the overall quality of the neighborhood. That helps our entire community.”
For Gaines, powering a chair lift for her stairs was particularly important. In addition, the Electrical Connection IBEW/NECA partnership fixed a number of electrical hazards in home, including exposed wires and addied GFCI receptacles to mitigate shock hazards. They also added new light fixtures and energy efficient LED lighting. See the complete story on the repairs to Gaines home on KMOV-TV.
“These are life changing improvements that the Electrical Connection is making to these homes and we are grateful to the skills they donate and the quality of their installations,” said Dave Ervin, executive director, Rebuilding Together St. Louis.
Since 2003, the Electrical Connection has donated labor and more than $875,000 in materials to improve more than 540 homes for low-income, disabled and elderly St. Louisans.
The annual effort is also reminder to all residents living in older homes in the area to be aware of issues with aging electrical infrastructure. Studies have shown the frequency of electrical fires is higher in homes more than 40 years old. Because older homes are the dominant housing stock in St. Louis, the Electrical Connection offers the following advice:
- Aluminum wiring was introduced to homes in North America in the mid-1960s as a cost-efficient alternative to copper wiring. Be aware that aluminum is softer and if wrenched into junction boxes and switches can be more easily damaged.It also tends to expand and contract with heat as it conducts electricity causing the wiring to become loose at connections. It is not code compliant in all jurisdictions and should never be integrated with copper wiring. Homeowners need to be a aware that insurance companies charge higher rates in homes with aluminum wiring.
- Knob-and-tube wiring was commonly installed in homes built before 1940. It may still comply with code, depending on the jurisdiction, but it has no grounding wire and connections are not terminated in a junction box. The wire sheathing can decay after many decades of use. The Electrical Connection recommends that knob-and-tube wiring be replaced with modern wiring that meets up-to-date electrical code requirements.
- Flickering lights, switches that feel warm to the touch or buzzing switches can be a sign of a hidden electrical hazard.
- Wiring should always be properly terminated in junction boxes with wire caps securing connections.
- All electrical outlets installed close to a water source (think bathroom, kitchen, laundry area) should have a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)
- Older electrical infrastructure was not designed to handle the load of today’s modern home appliances and technology and is not always suitable to optimized energy efficiencies. A licensed electrical contractor can provide recommendations and install electrical upgrades to meet load requirements. Electrical consumption has increased 70 percent over the past 25 years.
The Electrical Connection offers the largest number of licensed commercial and residential electrical contractors and skilled electricians in the region with a searchable data base at www.electricalconnection.org.
NECA contractors who donated service trucks and tools in the Rebuilding Together effort this year included:
- Bell Electrical
- Guarantee Electrical Contractors
- Concept Electrical Services, LLC
- Grasser Electric
- Fusion Electrical Systems
- J Bathe Electric Co.
- MR Bathe
- PayneCrest Electric, Inc.
- Riley Electric
- Sachs Electric Company
- Schaeffer Electric
- Vision Electric & Systems
- Kaiser Electric, Inc.
Members of the Electrical Connection provide safe and reliable electrical construction, maintenance, repair and replacement services across Missouri, the nation and the world. Find a contractor near you in the Electrical Connection contractor database.