You power your home with energy, but do you know electrical safety? The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that 31,000 home electrical fires occur every year, and with over 180 cases involving electrocution or electricity-related incidents that could have been avoided, home electrical safety is too important to ignore. At Constellation, we care about the safety of our customers, and by following these electrical safety tips you can protect your home and your family.
What causes electrical fires in homes?
The National Fire Protection Association notes that faulty or damaged wiring and related electrical equipment cause 69 percent of electrical fires, followed by lamps, light fixtures, cords, plugs, transformers and other power supplies. When looking for potential fire hazards in your home, always be sure to consult with a professional.
10 Electrical Safety Tips for Your Home
Many electrical fires can be prevented by following some simple electricity safety tips. Below are 10 household electricity safety precautions every homeowner should know and follow. Always remember to ask a professional if you’re uncertain about the safety of an electrical outlet or appliance.
1. Check that you’re using the correct wattage in all your fixtures and appliances.
Using the right bulbs can prevent electrical problems, so check all lamps, fixtures and appliances to ensure you’re using the correct wattage. If a light fixture has no wattage listed, use 60-watt bulbs or less. For unmarked ceiling fixtures, choose 25-watt bulbs.
Pro tip: LED bulbs consume less power and reduce the risk of fixtures overheating. Learn more about LED light benefits.
2. Watch out for overloaded outlets to protect your home.
Overloading an electrical outlet is a common cause of electrical problems. Check all outlets to ensure they are cool to the touch, have protective faceplates and are in proper working order. According to ESFI, you can follow these electrical outlet safety tips:
- Do not use extension cords or multi-outlet converters for appliances.
- Only plug one heat-producing appliance into an outlet at a time.
- Hot outlets should be checked by qualified electricians.
- Remember that power strips only add outlets—they do not change the amount of power the outlet receives.
- Smart plugs can be used to monitor outlet power loads and even shut off appliances should an outlet begin to overheat.
3. Replace or repair damaged electrical cords to keep your home safe.
Damaged power cords are a serious residential electrical safety risk, and they are capable of causing both fires and electrocution. All power and extension cords should be checked regularly for signs of fraying and cracking, and they should then be repaired or replaced as needed. Power cords should not be stapled into place or run under rugs and furniture. Cords under rugs pose a tripping hazard and can overheat, while furniture can crush cord insulation and damage wires.
The use of extension cords on a regular basis may mean that you don’t have enough outlets to fit your needs. Have a qualified electrician who understands electrical safety rules install additional outlets in rooms where you often use extension cords. When purchasing a power cord, consider the electrical load it will carry. A cord with a load of 16 AWG can handle up to 1,375 watts. For heavier loads, use a 14 or 12 AWG cord.
Pro tip: AWG stands for “American wire gauge.” The lower the number, the thicker the cord!
4. Keep your used and unused cords tidy and secure to prevent damage.
Electrical safety rules don’t just apply to power cords when they’re in use—cords also need to be stored safely to prevent damage. Keep stored cords away from children and pets (who may chew on or play with the cords). Try to avoid wrapping cords tightly around objects; this can stretch the cord or cause overheating. Never rest a cord on a hot surface in order to prevent damage to the cord’s insulation and wires.
5. Unplug all your unused appliances to reduce potential risks.
One of the simplest electrical safety tips is also one of the easiest to forget: when an appliance is not in use, unplug it. Not only does this save you power by reducing any phantom drain (the amount of energy the device consumes even when not actively in use), but unplugging unused appliances also protects them from overheating or power surges.
It’s often difficult to remember to unplug unused appliances, but the new generation of smart plugs offers a solution, allowing you to set power schedules for each outlet.
6. Keep electrical devices and outlets away from water to prevent shock.
Water and electricity don’t mix well. To follow electrical safety rules, keep electrical equipment dry and away from water prevents damage to appliances and can protect against personal injury and electrocution. When working with electrical appliances, it’s important to have dry hands. Keeping electrical equipment away from plant pots, aquariums, sinks, showers and bathtubs lowers the risk of water and electricity coming into contact.
7. Give your appliances proper space for air circulation to avoid overheating.
Without proper air circulation, electrical equipment can overheat and short out, and can become an electrical fire hazard. Make sure your appliances have proper air circulation, and avoid running electrical equipment in enclosed cabinets. For best electrical safety, it’s also important to store flammable objects well away from all appliances and electronics. Pay especially close attention to your gas or electric dryer, as these need to be situated at least a foot from the wall to function safely.
8. Ensure that all your exhaust fans are clean to prevent fire hazards.
Some appliances have exhaust fans, which can get dirty or clogged with debris and make the appliance work harder. This can shorten the life of the appliance and can cause a risk to the home due to overheating, or even cause a buildup of dangerous gases that can lead to an electrical fire hazard. Cleaning exhaust fans regularly helps prevent such hazards.
9. Always follow appliance instructions for improved electrical safety.
“Read the instructions” should top the list of electrical safety tips at home. Understanding how to safely operate appliances improves both the performance of your device and your personal safety. Should any appliance give you even a slight electrical shock, stop using it until a qualified electrician checks it for problems.
10. Be aware of heaters and water heaters to prevent potential accidents.
Combustible items should be kept away from portable heaters and built-in furnaces. For furnace safety, store combustibles far away from any heating appliances. Portable heaters should not be operated close to drapes, and to prevent tipping, they should only ever be placed on a stable surface.
On a related note, do you know what temperature your water heater is set to? High temperature settings eat into your water heater energy usage and can cause burns and unintentional scalding, especially in homes with small children.
Electrical Safety for Kids
Young children are naturally curious and are quick to explore the world, so it’s important to protect them. Teaching them electrical safety tips for kids can keep them safe and alert.
Install safety caps and covers over all outlets to keep your kids safe.
Installing safety caps and covers on outlets prevents children from inserting objects into the outlet, protecting them from shock.
Prevent accidents by teaching your kids to avoid yanking on cords.
Tell your kids not to pull on electrical cords. Yanking can damage or fray the cord and compromise electrical safety. For kids, show them to pull cords out of an outlet by carefully holding the plug, and not pulling on the cord.
Place dangerous appliances out of reach of small children.
Keep dangerous appliances away from children until they’re old enough to operate them properly and understand electrical safety at home. Tips include storing toasters, blenders and electric kettles on high shelves or in locked cupboards—anywhere children cannot access them.
Electrical safety for kids goes beyond teaching them safe practices. Tell them about what energy is, and where it comes from, with energy facts for kids.
More Residential Electrical Safety Tips
Other electrical safety tips at home range from preparing for severe weather to checking new appliances for Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL) listings. Here’s a sample of electricity safety suggestions that will help keep your home’s appliances running smoothly:
- Look for NRTL listings for your products and appliances. NRTLs such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Edison Testing Laboratories (ETL) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) test appliances to ensure they comply with OSHA’s electrical safety rules.
- Ask a professional to install electrical wiring. Electrical systems are potentially dangerous. Even if you’re a skilled DIYer, consult with a professional before installing new wiring or electrical appliances. Licensed electricians have the skills and knowledge needed to keep your home safe and in compliance with electrical codes.
- Know what to do when the power goes down. Knowing what to do when the power goes out helps you protect yourself from downed power lines and other hazards while shielding your appliances from damage caused by power surges. Check out how to report a power outage to keep you and your family safe.
- Install smoke detectors. Electrical fires often smolder before breaking out into open flame, and the U.S. Fire Administration reports that most electrical fires occur between midnight and 6:00 a.m. Installing smoke alarmshelps alert you to the dangers of electrical fires.
- Run a generator the safe way. A generator can keep the lights on during a blackout—but only if it’s been properly installed by a licensed electrician. Even then, you should learn about the different types of generators and what their various safety features are.
- Stay safe during storms. If you live in an area prone to extreme weather, it’s important to know how to protect yourself and your electrical equipment from floods, hurricanes and severe winter weather. Taking hurricane safety seriously can limit the damage to your home and electronics.
- Get your home inspected for electrical safety. Not sure how safe your electrical system is? One of the best electrical safety tips we can offer is to call your local fire department and ask for a fire safety inspection. The inspection will help identify potential sources of electrical fires, ensuring you make the changes needed to keep your home safe.
Electricity safety is important in any home. From powering your appliances, to lighting your home, electricity is an amazing force worthy of our respect and consideration. By practicing these electrical safety tips at home you can lower your risk of accidents, avoid overworking your home’s electrical system, and keep you and your family safe.
And remember, if you’re unsure about an electrical outlet or appliance, always ask a professional to take a look and keep you and your family safe.