Your home’s electrical service is one area that homeowners should avoid doing it yourself. Electricity is a powerful tool that used properly gives us the quality of life we’ve come to enjoy. But even a small mistake when wiring or not understanding the latest electrical codes for your state, could cause a serious situation.
According to the US Fire Administration, “electrical fires in our homes claim the lives of 280 Americans each year and injure 1,000 more. Some of these fires are caused by electrical system failures, but many more are caused by incorrectly installed wiring and overloaded circuits and extension cords.”
Here are 10 electrical safety tips to help homeowners keep their homes safe:
- Routinely check your electrical appliances for cuts and breaks in their cords. Err on the side of caution and replace any appliance that has a bad cord, overheats, shorts out or gives off smoke or sparks. In addition, if a cord has 3-prongs, don’t remove the extra prong. The third prong is necessary to ground the appliance to prevent electrical shocks.
- Ensure your home is equipped with GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlets near any areas that are close to water such as your kitchen area, bathrooms, laundry room, the garage or outdoor circuits. A GFCI outlet will automatically disconnect power when a plugged in electric appliance comes in contact with water or begins to “leak” electricity. These types of outlets can protect you and your family from fatal electrical shocks.
- Examine your electrical cords periodically and discard any which are frayed or do not fit snugly into an outlet. Never secure a cord in place with staples and prevent overheating by not running them under furniture or carpeting, behind baseboards or near baseboard heating.
- Never overload extension cords or wall sockets with too many appliances. If you need more electrical outlets, have them installed. It’s worth the money to have it done correctly and to code.
- Periodically check your outlets and switches to see if they are hot to the touch. If so, get a licensed electrician to come and do a safety check on your entire electrical system. Wiring does wear out which can cause electrical fires to start in the walls and burn for some time before they become obvious. The electrical industry is always designing newer and better materials that increase the safety of your home.
- Never touch electrical appliances or switches with wet hands, ensure electrical appliances in your bathroom do not fall into water and keep extension cords and portable appliances away from the bath or pool.
- No wiring should be exposed from behind outlet and switch cover plates. Make sure your outlets have outlet covers throughout the entire house including the basement and garage. Replace cracked or broken covers and then cover unused outlets with plastic plugs. This is one area the homeowner can safely do it yourself and protect your children and pets from accidentally touching live wires.
- Never try to extinguish an electrical fire with water. Make sure you have approved fire extinguishers in your kitchen, garage and laundry room and know how to use them. Make sure everyone in the family knows how to manually turn off the electricity if needed.
- Never use bulbs that have higher wattage than recommend for the lamp or light fixture and take caution when using halogen lamps. These lamps operate at high temperatures and can create a fire hazard so keep them away from curtains, rugs or other furnishings that are flammable.
- If fuses blow, circuit breakers trip, switches get hot or people are shocked, something is wrong. Don’t put off getting a reputable licensed electrician to come fix the problem.
Following these simple guidelines will help keep your family safe. And although better safety standards have reduced electrical hazards that cause deaths, injuries and property damage, the Electrical Safety Foundation International reminds us that good safety habits are still the best prevention against electrical hazards.
What’s your tip for keeping your home electrically safe?