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Electrial Safety in the Home
With an increase in the number of appliances and electrical devices in modern homes, electrical safety should be a primary concern; especially when many older homes aren't designed to accommodate the electrical demand that is consistently placed on them. Couple that with the age, and type of wire that was used, some homes will pose a greater risk of electrical shock and fires, unless you take basic safety precautions.
Electrical Safety Tips
- Always check light bulbs to ensure that you screw them into sockets tightly. Loose light bulbs can be a fire hazard.
- Check extension cord ratings to ensure that you do not overload them with too many appliances or devices plugged into them. Overloaded extension cords are a fire hazard.
- Watch for the following signs of a wiring issue in the home: Having to replace fuses or reset circuit breakers often; hearing buzzing sounds around a circuit box; or seeing sparks, will indicate that a serious problem needs immediate resolution.
- Some electrical appliances or systems have a device called a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) built in for safety. This device is designed to cut-off the electricity if it detects an imbalance in the amount of current flowing through the circuit. Not only could it save you from electrocution, it will also save your appliances from damage.
- For optimal electrical safety, plugs should fit snugly into outlets. Loose plugs can overheat, which is a fire hazard. Make sure plugs fit tightly into outlets, but never force a plug to fit if it is too large.
- Monitor extension cords while using them in the home. Never place cords under rugs or in places where they can be pinched or restricted. This can damage the protective rubber and expose the bare wire, which can lead to a fire.
- Look for the Underwriters Laboratories approval logo, shown as a (UL) on the label. These appliances have received extensive testing to ensure electrical safety, so strive to use only approved appliances.
- Take care when a breaker trips, or a fuse blows. Unplug all appliances in the affected room, and then locate the breaker or fuse. The tripped breaker might have moved to the "OFF" or center position. Reset it by moving it back to the "ON" position. Unscrew a blown fuse and discard it. Replace the fuse with one matching the amperage and rating of the circuit; never use a fuse with a higher amperage rating.
- Examine electrical cords periodically to notice signs of wear. If you find cords with fraying or cracking, unplug the appliance to maintain electrical safety. Replace the cord before continuing to use the appliance.
- Power strips and surge protectors have a Maximum Load Rating, that should not be exceeded. Choose power strips with an internal overload protection feature to avoid electrical fires.
- Always match the light bulb wattage recommendation on light fixtures with the designated light bulbs. Exceeding light bulb wattage in light fixtures can be a fire hazard.
- Always unplug appliances by grasping the plug and pulling straight out from the outlet. Pulling on the cord will cause dangerous damage over time.
- An arc fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) is a device that monitors circuits for electrical issues such as overloads and short circuits. Unlike the GFCI, which will primarily prevent shocks and electrocutions; the AFCI is more likely to prevent fires from electricity escaping broken or damaged wires. That's why all newly-constructed homes are legally required to include them in bedroom outlets.
- If an electrical device plugged into an outlet falls into water or comes into contact with water, never touch the water or any part of the appliance. Go directly to the electrical panel that is providing power to the appliance and turn the power off. Then, you can safely unplug the appliance and move it.
- Make a circuit map to determine the wattage demands you have for each circuit in your home. Check appliances and light fixtures to find the wattage, and add up the items demanding power from each circuit. Once you know each circuit's demand, check the electrical panel to find out maximum wattage to ensure that the demands are less than the maximum.
- If you notice outlets or light switches that become warm with use or see flickering lights, you may have an electrical problem. Call a professional electrician immediately, and discontinue using the fixtures or outlets.
- If you lose power, unplug electrical appliances to prevent fires and damage to the appliances when the power comes back on again.
- A home generator requires more electricity than can be provided by a standard wall outlet. Plugging a home generator into a standard electrical outlet could result in fire, a dangerous situation for utility crews, and extensive damage to an electrical system.
- Limit the number of appliances that produce heat to one per outlet to avoid overloading a circuit.
- Electric shock can cause burns, muscle damage, disruptions to the nervous system, and damage to the heart as the current travels through the body. Avoid combining water and electricity in all rooms of the home and in outdoor situations.
- Mattresses that predate 1973 do not meet current federal mattress flammability standards. Replace older mattresses to ensure safety in bedrooms.
- Using extension cords regularly in the home can result in dangerous wear from foot traffic, swinging doors, and even pets. Monitor the condition of extension cords regularly to prevent fires.
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