With the amount of electricity we use at home on a daily basis, it’s important to recognize the potential dangers that can occur if electrical equipment is not properly handled and maintained. Here are the most common household electrical hazards to watch out for, along with some safety tips for avoiding them.
Damaged Cords and Wires
Wires and their insulation need to be in good condition in order to function properly and safely. Frayed cords and pierced wire insulation can increase the risk of an electrical accident.
Safety Tip: Check the cords and wires around your house regularly (and carefully) to see if any have corroded, cracked, melted, or have otherwise become damaged. Because there is always some wiring that’s hard to get to or easy to forget, getting your wires checked by a professional electrician is recommended.
Bad Lightbulb Placement
If you’ve ever touched a lightbulb that’s been on for a while, you’ll know why this is a problem. Lightbulbs can get hot and sometimes even shock you. For these reasons, when lightbulbs are left on too close to flammable objects, such as upholstery, curtains, faux plants, etc., they may cause an electrical fire.
Safety Tip: Lightbulbs are also prone to overheating if they are not the correct wattage for the fixture to which they’re attached. Always double-check the wattage on the fixture to be safe.
Outlets Near Water
Even though most states have residential codes for how many feet an outlet must be from a source of water, in some older homes outlets may still be in close proximity to sinks, showers, bathtubs, and pools. Water is a powerful conductor of electricity, and an outlet that’s too close to water can pose a serious risk to your safety.
Safety Tip: The best way to avoid this hazard is to contact a professional electrician to move the outlet location and/or replace it with a GFCI outlet. A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) outlet protects you by detecting any interruptions in the electric current (such as when you drop a hair dryer in the bathtub) and cutting off power--which may just save your life.
Bad DIY Workmanship
With Do-It-Yourself sites, forums, and shows enjoying more popularity than ever before, some people decide to try their hand at some electrical handiwork around the house. Sometimes this works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. The chances are, if someone hasn’t had the proper training to install quality wiring that also conforms to safety standards, they are going to install some poor wiring--which is one of the leading household electrical hazards.
Safety Tip: Avoid performing your own electrical repairs and installations unless you are a certified electrician. Without the holistic knowledge of a house’s electrical system and without years of training and experience, you could pose a risk to yourself and others in your household by performing your own electrical work. Poor wiring can result in devastating power surges or even electrical fires, which can cost a lot of money and maybe even cost a life.
Handling Plugs, Switches, and Appliances with Wet Hands
While busily going about your business in the kitchen or bathroom at home, it can be easy to move from one task to the next with hands still wet from the sink. However, handling any electrical devices, appliances, plugs, or switches with wet hands increases your risk for electrocution.
Safety Tip: Always make sure to handle anything electric with dry hands. This rule applies when changing lightbulbs as well.
Overused Extension Cords
Aside from being frequently tripped over, extension cords can also pose a risk to safety when too many appliances are plugged into them at once. Doing this can cause the extension cord to overheat and burn. You should also never plug multiple extension cords into each other (daisy-chaining), or you will risk overloading the circuit.
Safety Tip: It’s best to only rely on extension cords occasionally, rather than using them daily as a replacement for an electrical outlet. If you need an extension cord for outdoor use, buy one specifically meant for that purpose--never use an indoor extension cord outside.
Old Internal Wiring
If your house hasn’t been rewired in the past 30 years, it’s likely that the wiring is outdated and damaged. Over time, wires suffer heat damage, which cracks their insulation (arguably their most important safety feature). Insulation allows wires to conduct electricity safely; if the insulation around your home’s electrical wires is damaged, this increases the risk of electrical hazards in your home.
Safety Tip: If your home’s wiring is 30+ years old, avoid electrical fire hazards by rewiring.
Covered Wires that Overheat
Wires and electrical equipment need proper ventilation to prevent overheating. If wires are covered by carpets, drapes, upholstery, or other flammable objects, an electrical fire could be the result.
Safety Tip: Make sure wires have room to breathe. As an extra precaution, make sure there is enough ventilation behind TVs and computer monitors, as they are prone to overheating as well.
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If you’re worried about potential electrical hazards in your home, it never hurts to call in a professional. At All Electric Services, our electricians can perform an electrical safety inspection of your home and offer solutions to any needed repairs. Contact us at (407) 638-8719 or use our online form.