Most people probably don’t think much about electrical safety, but when things go wrong with your wiring, someone could get seriously hurt. Faulty wiring or an improperly used appliance or tool could cause a house fire, give you or someone in your family a real shock, and could even lead to tragedy.
When you know how to use electrical outlets, appliances, extension cords, power strips, and so on safely, you can protect yourself from electrical shocks, house fires, and other injuries related to unsafe use of electricity. In addition to practicing electrical safety in your home, you should also know how to recognize the signs of a problem with your home’s wiring.
Take care to use electricity safely in your home, and you can avoid the shock of an electrical injury or fire.
You probably depend on a growing range of appliances to get through your day. Electrical appliances help you wake up in the morning, stay connected to family and friends, store and prepare food, clean your home, and entertain yourself. But are you using them safely?
Start by making sure that all of your electrical appliances are approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). Whenever possible, unplug appliances when not in use, and keep cords out of the way of pets or children and stowed where they’re not a trip hazard, regardless of whether you leave the appliance plugged in or not.
Many electrical appliances, like computers and televisions, for example, generate heat. Leave several inches of clearance around such appliances so that any heat generated can dissipate safely. Don’t drape clothes, curtains, blankets, or other fabrics over appliances that generate heat, and keep flammable materials away from space heaters, radiators, and other electric heating devices. Keep electrical appliances away from any source of water, including sinks and bathtubs, toilets, showers, and even overhead vents that may drip moisture. Do not operate appliances while standing in water or with wet hands.
Extension Cords, Power Strips, and Outlets
Power cords can present a fire or electrical shock hazard when they become cracked, frayed, or broken, so check extension cords and appliance cords regularly for damage. Use cords only for their intended purpose. When you plug something in, make sure the plug fits snugly into the outlet – if it falls out easily, you need to replace the outlet, and use another one for the time being.
Use tape, twist ties, zip ties, cable clips, or command strips to fasten power cords and Christmas lights to a particular surface; avoid nailing or stapling any cords, as this could damage them. Do not run extension cords across a room; they could present a trip hazard. Don’t run them under the rug either – foot traffic on the cord could damage it and lead to a fire. Instead, run them around the edges of the room and secure them in place.
Do not use extension cords as a permanent solution for areas with insufficient access to outlets. Extension cords should only be used temporarily. Make sure you’re using the right cord for the task at hand. Pay attention to the weight and length of your cord, and whether it’s rated for indoor or outdoor use.
When it comes to using outlets, never try to force a three-pronged plug into a two-pronged outlet. Do not overload an outlet with more appliances than it is designed to handle. If you need to plug more than two appliances into a single two-gang outlet, do so safely by using a power strip or an outlet tap. If at all possible, install more outlets in your home instead of relying on extension cords and power strips to power your appliances and devices.
Practicing electrical safety at home can prevent most electrical shocks and fires. But you also need to know how to recognize signs that there’s something wrong with your home’s wiring.
One such sign is scorch marks on your outlets. These indicate that the wiring behind your outlet plates is getting hot. Dangerous outlets may feel warm to the touch, with or without scorch marks, so check your outlets regularly. Check your light switches for warmth, too, and replace any switches that are warm to the touch or that flicker.
Lights that buzz, flicker, or dim when you use other appliances could be a sign that your home’s wiring isn’t adequate for your electricity needs – you may need to have an electrician expand your circuit panel so it can handle more amperage.
If you can, check your home’s wiring for frays, breaks, or damage. Replace any appliances that cause electrical shocks, even mild ones. If you have an older home, consider having your wiring inspected – it may be time for an upgrade.
Electricity makes modern life easier, and it’s so simple to use that many people forget just how dangerous it can be. Take care to use electricity safely in your home, and you can avoid the shock of an electrical injury or fire.
Are you and your loved ones using electricity safely?
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