The technology of household electrical safety has come a long way, but to prevent accidents such as electrical fires, us humans have to do our part. That means making sure the electrical infrastructure in our homes is safe and well maintained, and that we’re making smart choices when using things like extension cords and heat-producing appliances. Here are a few tips to make your home safer.
Start at the Source
When it comes to electrical fire safety, your outlets are among the most important components in your home. Since you interact with them often, they can become loose, worn or damaged over time. And because it’s the point of contact for electrical devices, sparking is a possibility. As a result, faulty outlets are a common source of household electrical fires.
If you have outlets that frequently produce sparks or appear loose or damaged, contact a licensed electrician to have them replaced. While you’re at it, consider ordering a full electrical audit of your home to identify any other faulty or failing equipment that could increase your fire risk.
If you find yourself tripping a circuit breaker often, that could also be a sign of a major electrical problem that may pose a fire risk. But if you have several appliances on the same circuit -- especially heat-producers like stoves, microwaves and coffee makers -- if could be that you’re just overloading it. Try spreading the appliances across multiple circuits or only using one appliance at a time to avoid tripping the breaker.
Cut the Cords
Extension cords and power strips should ideally be used sparingly or temporarily, though long-term use may be necessary in areas like computer stations and entertainment centers. All cords and strips -- but especially those in long-term use -- should be inspected regularly and replaced at the first sign of damage or defect. As with outlets, avoid overloading power strips and extension cords.
Be Careful With Heat
Heat-producing appliances are also common causes of fires, but they often aren’t strictly electrical fires -- the heat can potentially ignite nearby combustible material. As a general rule, you should always keep combustible materials well away from any sources of electricity or heat.
If you use space heaters, be sure to always follow all of the manufacturer’s safety instructions, especially if you have an older model. Newer space heaters generally have better fire prevention features, so consider buying new instead.
Another appliance that can increase fire risk is the clothes dryer, because dryer lint is highly flammable and dryers produce significant heat. To guard against this, empty the lint trap after every load, and thoroughly clean the whole machine inside and out once a year.
Prevention is key to household fire safety, but detection is just as important. Be sure to test your smoke detectors regularly, keep their batteries fresh, and replace them when they expire. And for more help with electrical fire prevention or any other household electrical issue, get in touch with your trusted local electricians.