In the U.S., we are addicted to our electricity–it allows us to read, work and play after dark, provides power to time-saving appliances, and (most importantly!) powers our personal electronics such as phones and tablets. However, electricity deserves a great deal of respect and careful treatment to ensure that your home isn’t subject to dangerous electrical fires caused by aging wiring or simple negligence. Electrical fires have caused over 50,000 fires, thousands of injuries, and over a billion dollars in direct property damage in the last 10 years, and these damages are largely avoidable when you follow basic safety tips. Being proactive about how electricity is used in your home is the first step towards ensuring that your home and family are safe from the hidden dangers lurking in your walls.
Dangers Associated with Electricity
Electricity is considered a hidden danger because it’s not something that you can physically see. You see the outcome (a light turns on, the TV works), but you don’t technically see the power flowing through the wires inside your walls. Unfortunately, it’s easy to ignore the need for electrical safety and frequent reviews of your systems until it’s too late. Here’s a few of the challenges that you might encounter with your electricity:
- Decreased lifespan for your appliances and lightbulbs
- Lights that flicker, or turn on/off without touching the switch
Apart from these symptoms, homeowners can also end up with a fair amount of pain and suffering from allowing the problems to go on–an increased risk of fires, reduction in property values when your home goes through a contractor review, and increased spending on maintenance services and repairs as you attempt to pinpoint the problems.
Benefits of a Regular Electrical Safety Review
Many electrical fires and electrocutions can be prevented through taking simple maintenance steps and understanding basic safety principles. Whether you’re a homeowner, a renter or a business owner, keeping safety tips close to hand and reviewing them regularly may be the difference between a worry-free fall and a season of frustration–or loss. Benefits of keeping your electrical system up to date include a reduced risk of damage to your family and to your property, a steadier flow of power throughout your home, a longer lifespan on your expensive home appliances and reduced overall spending on your electrical bills. Perhaps the most important benefit to following simple electrical safety tips is the peace of mind that you’ll have knowing that your family and home are safe from the damaging effects of electrical fires.
Tips for Staying Safe at Home
Even if your lights aren’t flickering, you could still have problems with the electrical flow throughout your home that haven’t shown up yet. Following these tips will help you get ahead of problems before the occur. Knowledge is power, and a solid understanding of your electrical systems and where potential problems may occur can help keep you and your family safe. The good news is that you don’t need an electrical license or a Master’s degree to follow these tips–and while you may have heard a few of these before, you’ll almost certainly find a new idea that can help you save money and stay safe.
Indoor Electrical Safety Tips
- Unplug Battery Chargers. Did you know that your battery chargers continue to pull a trickle of electricity through the wires even if you’re not actively charging your electronics? Unplugging them from the wall completely offers one less opportunity for a fire to start–plus saves money on your next energy bill!
- Keep Electrical Fixtures Clear. Ensure that your electrical outlets are clear of furniture or clothing that could potentially cause a spark or burn if they got hot enough.
- Right-Size Your Bulbs. Lighting fixtures are rated for specific bulb wattages, and exceeding that wattage requirement can cause an overload on your wiring, just as an underpowered bulb can cause stress to the system.
- Replace Damaged Cords. Probably everyone has considered putting duct tape or electrical tape on a fraying cord at some point–but resist that idea! Damaged cords are prone to cause shock, short circuits or even fire.
- Use a GCFI. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (or GCFIs) are commonly used in outlets, and can immediately shut off electric power to reduce the risk of electric shock or fires. They’re intended to trigger when current is flowing through a person or through water.
- Test Smoke and Carbon Dioxide Detectors. An easy way to remember when you need to test your carbon dioxide and smoke detectors is that they should be tested and batteries replaced with each change of the seasons.
Outdoor Electrical Safety Tips
- Cut Back Debris. Outdoor electrical outlets are very handy, but they can also be prone to a lot of different problems such as shrubbery that grows too close to the wall or other debris.
- Review Your Tools. Outdoor power tools such as leaf blowers or trimmers have cords that are more likely to fray due to rough usage. Check them often and replace the cords as needed.
- Upgrade Circuit Panels. When in doubt, call a licensed, professional electrician to upgrade or review your circuit panels.
- Know Your Space. When you’re working outside on a ladder, be cautious of the placement of electrical lines and wiring so you don’t accidentally yank something loose.
These simple tips can help your family stay safe this winter all year ’round! Electricity is a wonderful modern convenience, but taking the time to perform simple reviews of your wiring and electrical systems can help reduce the number of accidents that occur each year.
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