Electricity has become such a fundamental part of our modern lives that we tend to forget the hazards and risks associated with its use. Every year, tens of thousands of homes report electrical fires that cause damage to lives and property. A majority of these occur due to situations that could have easily been prevented.
The most effective way of minimizing the chances of electrical fires is to take appropriate safety measures beforehand. These are seven easy and helpful tips you can follow to keep your home safe:
1. Practice Good Appliance Safety
When you buy a new appliance, always make sure you read the manufacturer’s instruction manual that comes with it. In order to reduce the chances of an electrical fire, it’s important to check that all your appliances and light bulb fixtures are using the correct wattage.
Before you use any appliance, ensure that it’s in working condition. If there are any sparks or smells, or if the cord is frayed, unplug it immediately. After you’re done using it, or if you’re going to clean it, unplug it so that you completely cut off electricity to the appliance. Just turning off the switch isn’t enough.
2. Keep Outlets And Electrical Equipment Away From Water
Water is a good conductor of electricity. So, if you touch water that’s touched electricity, the electricity can travel through you and cause injury or electrocution. To stay safe, it is vital that all outlets and electrical equipment are installed or kept away from water sources like bathtubs, showers, sinks, fish tanks, and plant pots.
If water gets into an outlet or an appliance, it can also start fires. So, whenever you’re plugging something in, touching switches, or operating appliances, ensure your hands are dry and that you’re not standing in water. This also means you should avoid using cell phones, hairdryers, or a radio in a bathtub or swimming pool.
If an electrical fire occurs due to an oversight, don’t pour water on the flames. Turn off the main switch and call the fire department instead. Or, if you can, use a multi-purpose fire extinguisher.
3. Don’t Overload Electrical Outlets
Something most of us are guilty of doing is plugging in too many devices to one outlet using multi-socket extensions and adapters. This overloads the circuit and is one of the major causes of electrical fires in residential areas.
Unless your outlet is designed for multiple plugs, don’t plug in more than one heat-producing appliance. Power-hungry items like your heater, dishwasher, oven, kettle, refrigerator, and air conditioner should not be on the same circuit.
4. Don’t Cut Off The Third Prong On A Power Cord
Pretty much every appliance in your house that has a metal casing has a three-prong plug. The right and left prongs of the plug are called “hot” and “neutral,” respectively. The third in the middle, directly connected to the metal case internally, serves as a grounding receptacle and is an important safety feature. In case of a power surge, it provides the excess electricity a safe escape route.
In case something goes wrong inside the appliance, like say a wire gets loose, the third prong helps ensure that you don’t get an electric shock when using it. So, if you cut it off in an attempt to fit it into a two-prong outlet, you are putting yourself at risk for great injury from electric shocks and risk starting an electrical fire. Very few two-prong outlets are grounded by a metal conduit, and so you shouldn’t use a ground plug adapter either.
5. Upgrade Your Electrical Systems
A lot of electrical fires occur due to faulty or outdated circuits in electric panels. Homes older than twenty years are especially at risk, because of old wiring that cannot handle modern demands. If you notice signs of faulty wiring like sparks when using outlets, the excessive heat coming from electrical devices, or frequent power surges, consider upgrading your electrical system. Moreover, you should invest in a good power cord that passes all certifications and grades of security.
The only time most of us think of the electrical systems in our homes is when something goes wrong. Fixing something that’s broken can be expensive and tedious, which is why it’s best to prevent hazards from occurring in the first place.
6. Use Extension Cords Wisely
Extension cords are a blessing when the cord of our appliance won’t reach an outlet, or when we only have one outlet but multiple devices to plugin. But they are a potential fire hazard, which is why it is important to use them wisely.
Just like wall sockets, you should never overload an extension cord.
Use it only to connect one appliance at a time. Before plugging in something, make sure the power strip is able to handle the wattage rating of the appliance. If it feels hot, stop using it immediately.
If you’re constantly dependent on an extension cord, it means you don’t have outlets where you need them. Talk to a qualified electrician to help you install new ones.
7. Hire A Certified Electrician For Inspection And Repairs
When it comes to electric work, it’s best to call in a professional. Attempting electrical repairs on your own or going for somebody who’s unlicensed is a huge no-no. Making even a small mistake can lead to fires, shock, or electrocution.
A certified and qualified electrician can perform inspection and repairs to prevent electrical fires from occurring. They can also help you upgrade your electrical systems, label fuses, install smoke alarms, remodel or rewire rooms, add additional outlets or change existing ones, fix short circuits and more.
One of the most dangerous and damaging forms of combustion is an electric fire. It can grow out of control and spread very rapidly. To significantly reduce the chances of it occurring in your house, follow the seven safety tips mentioned above.