Don’t Underestimate The Dangers Of Electricity
October is Home Electrical Safety Month, and here at On Time Electrical we want to make sure your family is as safe as possible. We use electricity to run our lights, HVAC systems, computers, appliances, music, TV, and even our cars. Electricity plays a hugely important role in our lives. It’s a wonderful thing to have, and it deserves respect.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission and the National Electrical Safety Foundation report that incidents occur every year involving extension cords, receptacles, and light fixtures resulting in the following tragic statistics:
- An average of 51,000 residential fires
- Almost 500 lives lost in electrical caused fires
- Over 1,400 injuries in electrical caused fires
- Electrical fire property damage in excess of $1.3 billion
- Nearly 400 people electrocuted
It’s a tragic reality that is happening every year. But it’s not really difficult to protect your family and your home from being one of these statistics. With a little bit of knowledge that we can share with you right here, along with practicing some basic home electrical safety tips, you can significantly lower your risk of having an electrical related accident at your home
Being Safe With Extension Cords, Receptacles, Lights and Fixtures
Here are some important facts, insights and electrical safety tips on common problem areas that can lead to electrical related accidents.
Extension Cords Are For Temporary Use Only
Extension cords are so useful that we all want to have a couple around for when we need them. The most important thing to remember about the safe use of extension cords is that they are designed for temporary use only. They were not designed to be used as a long-term part of your house’s electrical system. Continuous use of an extension cord will cause it to deteriorate over time, creating a potentially dangerous hazard for fire or electrical shock.
People will often use an extension cord as a long-term solution for the placement of a lamp, computer desk, TV, or appliance, and go so far as to run the cord under a rug, through a doorway, or through ceilings and floors. Doing this creates a significant fire risk because any heat buildup in the cord has no place to dissipate. Even with temporary use, if the cord fells warm to the touch, unplug it and rethink your needs. A warm extension cord is a sign that it is being overloaded and you are creating a fire hazard.
Overloading an extension cord is another common problem. Using those simple multi-outlet adapters to plug in multiple devices into one line creates a risk of overloading the cord, and the outlet it is plugged into as well. Doing this runs a risk of overheating the plug or cord and causing a short.
Don’t settle for convenience when using an extension cord. It’s much better to get professional help to solve your home electrical needs in the proper way without relying on extension cords.
Don’t Take Electrical Outlets For Granted
Outlets can sometimes tell you when they are worn out or have a problem with the wiring connection, and need to be replaced. One way is visual. If there is any discoloration around the outlet holes, this is usually the result of overheating or arcing. Discoloration means the outlet should be replaced, and the wiring should be inspected for what problems are causing the overheating.
Another way to detect a problem with an outlet is to touch it. After an outlet has been in use for a while, unplug whatever you have connected and place your hand on the outlet. If it’s warm that means there is an issue causing heat buildup. It’s possible you have something plugged in that is drawing more amperage than the circuit the outlet is connected to. Or it could be a problem with the circuit. An overly large electrical load on the outlet, undersized wiring or a loose electrical splice can all be suspect. You can check the device rating to see if it is designed for use on a 10 amp, 15 amp, or a 20 amp circuit. Then check your breaker panel to see if that circuit is equal or higher than the device rating. If this checks out, or if you’re not confident in your own assessment, it is best to have a qualified electrician check things out for you.
Over time an electrical wall outlet can get worn out from a lot of plugging and unplugging. When they’re new you can feel the tight fit of the plug. That tight fit ensures you have a good solid connection. When they become loose to the point the plug sags or even falls out, this is a serious problem that can cause sparking and start a fire. If there is not a tight fit when you plug into the outlet, inspect both the plug and the outlet, and replace whichever one is worn or damaged.
Do not overload an outlet by plugging in too many devices. It’s easy to do and there are convenient multi-outlet adaptors made for doing just this. The problem is that this creates an ideal fire hazard by overloading either the adaptor, the outlet, or the circuit. If you have a long term need for multiple devices in proximity of only one outlet, it’s best to have a qualified electrician in Charlotte assess the situation and advise you on better, more safe options.
GFCI Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter outlets
GFCI outlets are supposed to be used in any areas of the house that is near water, like the kitchen and bathrooms. You can distinguish a GFCI outlet because it has the little “Test” and “Reset” buttons. Water is a conductor of electricity and can cause a short circuit if splashed on outlets or on appliances. If you don’t have GFCI outlets in your kitchen and bathroom, definitely have them installed.
If you do have GFCI and they repeatedly trip when in use, there is a problem that needs attention. The cause of this can be a worn out GFCI outlet, faulty wiring, or a problem with the appliance plugged into it. It’s easy to test this by simply plugging the appliance into another outlet and see if the problem continues. If the problem is within the outlet, you will want a qualified electrician to investigate and find the source of the problem.
Lights That Flicker
Do you have a light that is flickering or one that trips a circuit breaker? We can usually just put a new bulb in and fix the problem. If the flickering continues with a new bulb it is very important to determine if it is the light fixture, the outlet, or some other part of the in-house wiring causing the problem. If it’s a portable lamp, it’s easy enough to move it to another room and test it there. If it’s a fixed light fixture you’ll want a qualified electrician to investigate. “Mystery” electrical problems are dangerous problems.
Dancing Ceiling Fans
Ceiling fans are not supposed to wobble and dance around. But we’ve all seen it, and we all agree that it’s kind of annoying. When they are wobbling to the point of bouncing around… it’s kind of scary too. And it should be. This is not a problem you want to leave alone.
So what does that have to do with electrical problems? A wobble in your ceiling fan is not caused by an electrical problem. But it can be creating one! Too much movement of the fan can translate into the electrical box it is mounted to. Any of these moving parts can rub the wiring, cause fraying, and ultimately a short, even an arc and start a fire.
Fixing a fan wobble is not that difficult. It’s usually a loose attachment or an out of balance blade. Don’t let it go… fix it before it leads to a more serious problem.
Basic Electrical Safety Tips
- Check electric cords often for damage. Worn cords can cause shock, short circuit or fire. Have them repaired or replaced right away.
- Pull the plastic housing of the electric plug to take it out of the wall socket; never pull on the cord.
- Do not overload electric outlets with too many items plugged in at once.
- Water and electricity do not mix. Do not operate electric appliances such as radios or hair dryers near a bathtub or sink full of water.
- Never stick your fingers, toys or anything except electric plugs into electric outlets.
- Unplug any appliance that emits sparks or that does not work properly.
- Always unplug the toaster or other appliance when removing a piece of stuck food.
- Remember that a turned-off appliance is still connected to electricity until it is unplugged.
- Limit use of extension cords. Make sure the cord is the appropriate size for use. Some appliances or equipment require heavy-duty cords.
Safety In the bathroom
- Don’t use extension or power leads in wet areas.
- Refrain from touching anything electrical when you’ve got wet hands or bare feet.
- Switch off and unplug appliances that aren’t in use (hairdryers, styling irons, electric razors, etc.).
- In the event that an electrical appliance is immersed in water, discard it at once.
- Never reach to pull it out of the water—even if it’s off.
- Turn off the power source at the circuit breaker box, then unplug the appliance.
- For your own sake, always replace the appliance.
On Time Electrical in Charlotte, NC can help guarantee your family is safe. Give us a call today to schedule time with one of our technicians today!