It’s no surprise that most homeowners are not experts on electricity and how it actually ‘works’. If you are already a Ting customer, you’re likely aware that we’re helping to promote a better understanding of the basic concepts. However, you don’t need to be an expert to stay safe. Knowing what to look for will help you do just that, and help you decide when to reach out to an expert for help.
In a previous article, we provided a brief educational overview of electricity for homeowners. For this article, we’ll provide some of the key areas to keep in mind to keep you and yours safe.
- Keep plugs snug. Plugs should stay put and fit snugly into an outlet. If it sags or droops, it can create a fire and electrocution risk. If a plug tends to sag away from or entirely fall out of an outlet, the outlet likely requires replacement (although in a few cases it could be an old plug that requires replacement).
- Keep your eye on the condition of any cords. If they are worn or don’t fit snugly in a good outlet they can cause shock, short circuit, or fire. Learn more about cord safety here >>
- Keep outlets clean. Those same plug covers can be used to keep out dust and dirt. Consider using them for outlets in areas such as the garage or unfinished basement where an outlet might not receive a lot of use but could accumulate dust or dirt.
- Don’t overload your outlets. If you find you don’t have enough outlets consider having a qualified electrician look at your home’s wiring and suggest a plan to expand capacity.
- Fingers and toys don’t mix with electricity. Install outlet plug covers or install tamper-resistant outlets where they are readily accessible by children. Not familiar with tamper-resistant outlets? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provides a good overview of these, click here to go there.
- Limit the use of extension cords. Wherever possible extension cords should be used for temporary power needs only. Inspect them for wear. Don’t daisy-chain them (meaning, don’t connect more than one in a series).
- If you use an extension cord, do so wisely. Make sure the cord is the appropriate size and length for the intended purpose. This is important because your circuit breakers are designed to protect the home wiring up to the outlet but in some scenarios, they can’t do their job of cutting the power if you use an extension cord improperly. For example, if you use an extension cord that is underrated (not sized) for the power of the device being used, it can draw more power than the cord can handle, but not enough to trip a breaker. This can lead to overheating and fire ignition – while never tripping the breaker in the process. Tip: Here’s a handy one-page guide for the safe use of extension cords >>
- Clean and repair appliances safely. Anything plugged in is ‘energized’, even if it is off. Appliances such as dryers, microwaves, and toasters that require regular cleaning should be unplugged before cleaning. If you are looking to repair an appliance on your own, always unplug it first.
- If it doesn’t seem right, unplug it. If an appliance or device generates a spark, whisp of smoke, or doesn’t seem to be operating properly, discontinue use and unplug it. Learn more about 5 common signs of electrical issues in the home >>
- If trips when trying to reset it, don’t try again. Circuit breakers, arc-fault interrupters, and ground-fault interrupters are designed to trip (cut power) when unsafe conditions arise that each is designed to protect against. If you reset it and it trips again, something is wrong – don’t keep resetting it. The tripping is likely caused by a plugged-in device or devices, the outlet or wiring along the circuit, or even with the breaker itself – all of these are unsafe conditions and should be looked at by a qualified professional.
- Electrical work requires care and knowledge. Electricity is dangerous. Don’t perform electrical work (installation, repair) on your home or a device if you are not qualified to do so. DIY projects are very fulfilling, and there are some electrical tasks that can be done if you are handy and understand electricity. When in doubt, err on the side of caution, and hire a qualified professional. You’ll be glad you did.
- Buy smartly. Only use devices, tools, and lighting that have the label of an independent testing laboratory. Cheap phone and laptop chargers are often too good to be true and are not safe. If using or installing a device outdoors, make sure it is designed for outdoor use; this is especially important for lighting and ceiling fans, and extension cords.
- Water and electricity don’t mix. Never use electrical appliances such as chargers, radios, hairdryers, garden tools, and the like near water, such as a sink, bathtub, pool or wet surface – and never outside during wet weather.
- Take care when using corded yard tools. Regularly inspect corded devices such as electric edgers or hedge clippers. For devices that spin and/or cut, keep the cord away from the tool, and pause your work as you shift position or change direction to ensure the cord stays clear.
- Steer clear of utility electrical equipment. Don’t perform work near any outside electrical feeders or wires. Tools that are long – such as ladders, swimming pool skimmer nets, and tree trimmers – are especially dangerous when overhead wires are nearby. Also, keep your distance when it comes to the electric utility infrastructure – such as transformers and other gear.
Plus – here are a few more seasonal resources we’ve curated on electrical and fire safety: