It’s Electric, Boogie Woogie to a Safer Home
5 ELECTRICAL SAFETY TIPS TO ALWAYS REMEMBER
Since its discovery, electricity has changed the way we live our lives. Thanks Benjamin Franklin!
We use electricity to light up our rooms, to keep our food cold, to keep us cool or warm, to power our gazillion appliances, or just have a good ol’ fashion dance party. For better or worse, it has become such a significant part of our day-to-day that it is now impossible to imagine a world without it.
But, alas, that which glitters - or sparks - is not always gold.
Did you know that 31,000 home electrical fires occur every year? Unfortunately, all of our modern day convenience comes with added risks. In fact, in the United States, every year, on average 400 people die from electrocution and 4,400 are injured due to electrical hazards. Clearly, how we treat our electrical appliances and infrastructure is just as important as the other home safety precautions we take.
That’s why we’re here to remind you of the top 5 things you need to remember to protect yourself, those you love, and your home from electrical emergencies.
1. Extension cord fiascos do happen
We love the convenience of extension cords as much as you do, but unfortunately these bad boys can get you into all sorts of electrical trouble. If they’re not taped to the floor and placed carefully around furniture, they’re easy to trip over. If they’re placed under carpets or rugs, they can overheat. If they’re overloaded with too many appliances, they can cause a fire.
What you can do:
- Don’t plug a bunch of stuff into one outlet or extension cord at once.
- All major appliances should be plugged directly into the wall (a.k.a. your fridge, microwave, TV).
- Only plug one heat-producing appliance into the outlet at a time.
- Test before you touch. A good habit to form is to regularly check the temperature of the extension cords when you are using them. If it is hot to the touch, disconnect the appliances immediately as this is a sign of overheating.
- Block unused outlets by changing to a solid cover plate or using childproof caps.
2. Vintage power cords are not a collectible item
Damaged and worn out power cords should either be repaired or replaced immediately. Go on a quick trip around the house and observe the wires of your cords and appliances. Check for any cracks or frayed sockets, loose or bare wire, and loose connections. This is super important because such damages can increase the chances of electrocution, fire, power surges, arc faults (sudden sparks), and other serious consequences.
What you can do:
- If you see a lot of serious damage, for your own safety, you may be better off purchasing a new cord instead of attempting a repair.
- If the damage is superficial, you can use electrical tape to fix it. Although duct tape works too, electrical tape is the best choice because it is designed to work on electrical components.
3. Water + Electricity = Recipe for Disaster
This one should be a no-brainer, but any amount of water around electricity is extremely dangerous. Avoid it always.
What you can do:
- Avoid cleaning around electrical appliances or outlets with a wet cloth.
- Keep your extension cords and electric appliances away from wet areas such as sinks, pools, bathtubs, or overhead vents that may drip.
- If you must use electric appliances in your bathroom, garage, outdoors, or anywhere near water or moisture, you should be using a ground fault circuit interrupter.
- Immediately unplug electric shavers, hair dryers, and other appliances after use in the bathroom.
- Do not handle electric appliances with wet hands.
- Always wear shoes when you are in wet areas around your home.
4. Not all fires are created equal
TRUE or FALSE: Electric fires should be put out by water?
We know, it’s intuitive to think water will always put out fire, but this isn’t the case with electrical fires. Remember, water is a natural conductor of electricity, so if you throw water on an electrical fire, you can actually get shocked or electrocuted. Not only that, but water can also fuel the fire, making matters worse.
What you can do:
- Keep a Class C fire extinguisher on site at all times.
- If the fire is small, you can put it out using bicarbonate (baking soda).
- Install a smoke detector. If you already have one, this is a good sign to check on those batteries right now!
5. Be kind to the earth, and unplug
If you’re reading this, you’re probably used to consistent and reliable power (except when those rolling blackouts happen). One way we can appreciate that power - and reduce our carbon footprint - is to pull out appliances to save energy. Remember, never pull an item from an electrical outlet by the cord. Instead, always pull from the base.
Not only does this protect your unused appliances from overheating or potentially acting as a fire hazard, but it also saves you power by reducing what we call phantom drain (the amount of energy the device consumes even when not actively in use). Plus, the energy costs of plugged-in appliances can really add up, and unplugging these devices could save you up to $100 to $200 a year.
No matter what, don’t worry, be ready.