The ancient Romans referred to summer’s hottest, most humid days as “dog days.” The Romans connected the hottest summer days with Sirius (“Dog Star”), the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. Regardless of when it greets us, hotter weather always has us seeking ways to stay cool inside and outside the home. Remember these safety tips as you seek to keep you and your loved ones cool (including pets!).
Window & Portable Air Conditioners and Fans
- Window and portable air conditioners should be plugged into walls, never into an extension cord.
- If you have not used any cooling device for some time, carefully inspect the cord and plug to ensure no cracks or exposed wiring.
- Ensure the device is clean and free of dirt, dust, and debris.
- Make sure that the circuit and wiring are appropriately sized for the size of the unit, as overloaded circuits can damage devices and could create a fire hazard.
- If any cooling device appears to operate erratically in any way, please do not use it.
- Keep fans away from loose materials (like curtains), keep them clean, and locate them so they are stable and are not readily accessible by young children.
- If an outlet feels ‘loose’ in any way, do not use that outlet, and have a qualified professional inspect it, as it may require replacement.
- If a device plug feels loose or has trouble staying firmly in the outlet, don’t use that outlet. However, if this happens in all outlets for a given device, it is the device cord; avoid using it.
- Don’t use more than one portable or window air conditioner in a single outlet; avoid using more than one on a single circuit. If you have more than one outlet along a wall or in a room, they very well could be on the same circuit, depending on the age of your home.
Extension Cords/Power Strips
- Do not use these for plugging in the above cooling devices.
- If you use extension cords for other purposes, such as yard work, inspect them for any damage and only use them if necessary.
- Avoid overloading them. The energy ‘draw’ matters most, not necessarily the number of devices. Example: 4 mobile phones and a laptop temporarily plugged into a power strip is OK; however, connecting a single portable air conditioner to a power strip would overload it (see the first bullet above!).
Around the Pool or Sprinkler
- Keep kids and pets away from electric pool equipment — pumps, filters, vacuum, etc.
- Music and TV can be great additions for outdoor entertainment – keep radios, stereos, TVs, and other electrical products away from water.
- If your pool has underwater lights built-in, have them inspected if they are flickering or suddenly stop working – and if so, stay out of the pool until they can be addressed.
- Keep your senses tuned to potential hazards, like sounds of sparking, electrical smells, and erratic flickering from lights.
- Be aware that older devices may not have the same safety mechanisms as modern devices (overload protection, auto shut-off, etc.)
- Watch out for ‘sagging’ plugs: periodically check to ensure the plug and outlet have a firm, tight connection.
- A warm cord or outlet is to be expected for heating devices. Periodically check a device’s cord and the wall around the outlet – if it feels ‘hot’ and not just warm, discontinue use.
Why is this important? Air conditioners can stress your home’s electrical system. Devices like these that use a lot of power can increase fire risk. Sometimes a home’s electrical system is ill-prepared to handle these demands, which in some cases can lead to hazardous arcing occurring at a loose connection or where an electrical insulator has been compromised. In other cases, a device is not plugged in correctly or is faulty due to age, wear, or poor design. Also, we spend more time around water to stay cool – and we all know water and electricity are not a safe combination – so stay aware, be smart, and stay safe!