With electricity powering homes for over a century now, you might say that it has lost a degree of magic. The fact is, we mostly take it for granted. When that happens, it’s easy to forget its power and inherent danger. So, here are some quick reminders of how to keep potential electrical hazards in check!
Electrical Hazard Checklist
1 – Outdated or Poor Wiring / No AFCI Protection – If your lights flicker or dim, outlets feel warm or spark, or breakers repeatedly trip, don’t ignore it. Outdated, loose, or damaged wiring can be extremely hazardous, and these are the tell-tale signs that electrical issues are taking place. Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) are key to stopping that “wild” or misdirected electricity from starting a fire.
2- Damaged Cords and Wires – Whether the damage is in your home’s internal wiring, to an extension cord, or an appliance wire, any broken, frayed, or exposed wires can be dangerous and should be addressed immediately. Oh, and please don’t ever nail or staple wires to the wall!
3 – Leaving Appliances Plugged in Near Water Sources / No GFCI Protection – Make it a habit to unplug appliances when not in use. Also, be sure that any near water sources are plugged into ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected outlets. Most homes have GFCI protection, but if you have an older home, it’s a good idea to have its function checked. If someone starts to receive a shock, GFCIs can sense the overload and immediately cut the power before they get seriously hurt. Better yet, keep appliances away from water sources in the first place!
4 – Wrong Wattage Light Bulbs – If you use a light bulb with a higher wattage than recommended, it can cause the lamp’s wiring to overheat and start a fire. Never exceed the wattage printed on the lamp or light socket. It’s also a good idea to unplug the lamp before installing a new light bulb. And, of course, keep lamps away from curtains or anything else potentially flammable.
5 – Overloaded Power Strips and Outlets – Use only UL rated power strips and do not overload them. Just because they have room for 6 plugs, doesn’t mean they can handle all that electricity. Consider how much power each device requires. For increased protection from overloading, use the kind with a breaker built in.
*A surge-protector strip limits the electrical load when surges happen. A power strip with a built-in breaker will cut the power when overloaded.
6 – Unprotected Electrical Outlets – If you have children in the home, you are probably familiar with the plastic babyproofing covers you can pop onto outlets. Did you also know that tamper-resistant outlets with built-in shutters are now required by code? They not only keep foreign objects out of outlets, but also damaged plugs.
7 – Mismatched Plug and Outlet – There is a reason why some plugs have three prongs and others only have two. Never break off the third prong to fit it into a two-prong outlet. The third prong is for proper grounding and there are much safer than the others.
8 – Improper Use of Extension Cords – Extension cords are designed only for intermittent use and should not be considered a permanent solution for your electrical needs. If you do use extension cords, be sure not to overload them or run them under carpet. Make sure they are UL-rated, in good condition, and used for what they were designed for. For example, never use an indoor extension cord outdoors where it could be more easily overloaded by high-powered equipment, damaged, or exposed to water.
9 – Operating an Unsafe Appliance – If it smokes, emits a burnt smell, or trips the circuit breaker, don’t use it! Be especially cautious if you’re using a second-hand device that may already have some hidden damage.
10 – Broken Smoke / Carbon Monoxide Alarms – Smoke alarms are an important line of defense when it comes to fire. If yours aren’t working, it’s a simple fix that could save your life and home. And, while you’re at it, get one that also warns you of the presence of Carbon Monoxide.
In An Emergency
Always turn off the power at the circuit breaker in an emergency. Do NOT touch a compromised appliance, cord, or plug. In the worst-case scenario, don’t attempt to put out an electrical fire with water. Make sure you’ve got either a Class ABC or Class C extinguisher in your home, in good working order, and conveniently located. These classes are specifically designed for electrical fires.
We’re Here If You Need Us
If you have concerns about the safety of your home, consider having us come out for an electrical maintenance check. We’ll make sure you can rest at night, knowing your electrical system is sufficient and in good working order.