While most people understand that electricity can be dangerous, they usually think of that danger in terms of electric shock. However, electricity poses an additional type of hazard: electrical fires. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), an estimated 51,000 home electrical fires occur each year and result in roughly 500 deaths, 1,400 injuries, and $1.3 billion in property damage.
Fortunately, you can prevent electrical fires in your home by learning a few safe behaviors: what to do, what NOT to do, and when to call an electrician.
SAFETY TIPS TO AVOID HOME ELECTRICAL FIRES
Following these safety guidelines will help reduce your risk of an electrical fire at home.
Use extension cords as they were intended.
Misusing extension cords can have deadly consequences, including electric shock and fire. These cords are only meant for temporary use, and you should only plug them into a wall outlet or hard-wired power strip. Never use an extension cord plugged into another extension cord or a portable power strip (like the ones you can buy at an office supply store). Also, to avoid electrocution, make sure you never use an indoor-only extension cord outdoors.
Don’t ignore buzzing light switches.
If a light switch buzzes when switched on, you know that an arc fault is occurring--and that’s bad. An arc fault happens when electricity sparks or “arcs” between corroded or loose wiring connections, which creates that hiss or buzz when you turn on the light. Arc faults can generate enough heat to destroy the electrical wires’ insulation, increasing the risk of a fire. Bottom line: if you hear that buzz, don’t wait to contact a certified electrician to investigate the wiring.
Don’t plug high-powered appliances into power strips.
Large, powerful appliances (like refrigerators, washing machines, driers, and space heaters) can easily overload a power strip and start a fire. However, the same can be said for smaller appliances, like electric coffee makers and microwave ovens, which draw a lot more power than most people realize. These items should be plugged directly into a wall outlet to avoid overloading.
Avoid overloading your wall outlets.
As mentioned above, there are certain items you should never plug into a power strip, but by that same token, plugging multiple items into one wall outlet can also put your safety in jeopardy. Multi-outlet converters can be convenient for areas like your bedroom, where you might plug in a lamp, digital alarm clock, phone charger, etc. Still, by plugging in several items at one location, you risk overloading the outlet.
So what happens when you overload an outlet, and what should you do instead? When you overload an outlet (meaning too much electrical current is passing through the circuit to that outlet), a fire can start. The biggest problem is that the fire usually begins behind the wall, where you probably will not detect it right away and where you cannot access it to put it out with an extinguisher. If you find that you don’t have enough places to plug things in, stay safe by hiring an electrician to install more outlets for you.
Don’t overlook a strangely behaving electrical panel.
Your electrical panel is the heart of your home’s electrical system, and it plays a critical role in protecting your house from power surges that could cause fires. If there’s something wrong with your panel, your home is at a significantly greater risk of catching fire.
If you experience any of the following problems with your electrical panel, an electrician should inspect it as soon as possible:
Your home’s lights flicker for a few seconds, even after you turn them off.
There are visible burn marks on the electrical panel.
The panel is hot to the touch.
The panel is making crackling or hissing noises.
Electrical switches and outlets are shocking you.
You see sparks from an outlet when you plug in an appliance.
One or more circuit breakers trip frequently.
The sooner you get these issues looked at, the sooner the electrician can help you make your home safer.
Share these tips with your household!
These safety precautions are meant to keep everyone in your home safe, so naturally, everyone in your household should get a rundown on what to do, what NOT to do, and what electrical warning signs to report. With everyone looking out for each other, it’s easier to keep your home hazard-free.
At My Electric Works, we offer thorough electrical safety inspections in Columbus to help you identify and solve potential dangers before they cause accidents. Give us a call today at (614) 515-4520 or contact us online to schedule your appointment.